Black Belt Level Responsibility
on JUL. / 06 / 2011 | 0 comments
Aspiring Taekwon-Doists enter the dojang for the first time and typically view the Black Belts around them as possessing some ancient golden key allowing them to unlock a door to the mystical wisdom and power of the Eastern Traditions! While conceptually, this makes for great Saturday night “Kung-Fu” flicks, I think, in a more practical sense it is better to humbly portray us as the “elder keepers of knowledge.” For better or worse, the Black Belts in any martial arts school are oftentimes the most influential elements on the mat and since earning my rank as such in the early 1980’s never conferred with it the ability to levitate at will, it makes more sense to view our role with new students in a more pragmatic manner. I have seen the arrogance displayed by some senior students and this ultimately has a very damaging effect on those of lower rank. What I am writing about here today is Black Belt Level Responsibility!
Black Belt and senior students must set a proper example and reflect the schools’ standards of etiquette at all levels of interaction. When we fail, our juniors follow and as such the entire dojang risks being compromised. Leadership with humility is far more impressive than exhibitions of athletic skill and, as it turns out, a very important attribute for Black Belts to master. As Lao Tzu puts it:
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, but of a good leader who talks little when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, “We did it ourselves.”
No matter how many stripes we have on our belts, we are all students of TKD and must never lose that original sense of learning and growth. At my own school a particular student likes to compliment and imitate me on my forms practice, and while I appreciate this my answer to him is always the same, “I am also learning.” This is the only way that we can “grow up” our junior students. We must guide them gently and on their own time schedule towards mastery. We must meet them where they are and encourage their growth beyond such by example, not with words or worse admonishment! If they are the seeds we must be the nutrients that support their healthy growth towards the sun so that they may provide nourishment to those that follow. This is Black Belt Level Responsibility!
More than possessing sheer physical ability, the level of skill that I reference here compels us to act in ways that elevate others both inside and outside of the dojang, but without taking credit for doing such. The purpose of our training is to make us better human beings and when we lose sight of this we are no different than a person that has never trained in martial arts. This is how we move others in a positive course! This is our responsibility.