Monday, 1 February 2010

The Black Belt, what Next?

There are martial artists every day who achieve their 1st Dan grade. This is usually the time where one is given the “magical black belt”. Does it all stop here? Is there more to do after this point, or can one quit, thinking to themselves that they are now masters of their art.

A lot of martial artists feel that achieving 1st Dan and wearing a black belt is like climbing the top of a mountain. From such a height they can look back at all their encounters over the years and think now they have reached the peak of their training they have nothing but easy times ahead.

Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!.... (Excuse me)

The reality is im afraid, that once one posses their black belt they have just started their climb at the bottom of the mountain. All the training before hand, all the sweat, the blood and in some cases the tears was merely the time spent preparing for such a harsh climb to follow.

One must learn the basics of martial arts which includes techniques and attributes, before they can even think about putting it all into practice, in a way which is unique only to them. This is what all the colored belts are about. Levels of learning which have been grasped but not in any way perfected. The perfection (or as close as possible) of these basic techniques comes from even more years of harder, more vigorous training.

So what are the training requirements after Dan grade? Well, firstly one must never think that they have learnt every technique. There will always be something new to learn plus the endless variations attributed to that technique. It is very easy to forget this once a black belt is obtained.

Secondly, one must now start to think about techniques which work specifically for them. Chances are that one will not have the physical abilities to perform certain techniques and must realistically find out what works for them. This is not to say that the techniques which are not suited for ones style should not be practiced. This should never be the case. One must simply find out what works best for them and what does not. This takes time and plenty of training.

Thirdly, one will now start to think about aspects of their art that maybe were not considered before hand. One of these aspects that usually crops up is relaxation. For example, have you ever sparred with a Dan grade who has been training for years and years. Most of the time, these types of martial artists seem to be completely relaxed, almost lazy like, but still also dominate. They have learned that through years of tense sparring, where a lot of energy has been used, that this leads to nothing but tiredness which then brings sloppiness, carelessness and ultimately, defeat. The more experienced martial artist knows that relaxing their muscles and using up energy only when required, relying more on technique rather than brute force, is more beneficial and more practical.

There are so many new aspects of training that a new Dan grade must consider. Ultimately however, they all lead to one finding their own style. Their own way of doing things which works for them. This is the unreachable goal that one must aim for. Unreachable in the fact that being a life long process, the martial artist will soon discover (if not already) that nobody is perfect, mistakes will always happen and because of this there will always be a chance to learn from ones mistakes. One must never ever think though that they have achieved a level where there is nothing new to gain from martial arts training.

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KarateStudent said...

KarateStudent ("KS") on, "The Black-Belt, what

MARKS, this post and your January 2010 posts on martial arts training, basic & advanced, reaffirm KS's stand that you would make a good advisor, coach, particulary MMA [Because the need is there].

Many of the MMA coaches are good at training the physicality end of the sport, some are expert in their own approach. Just as you answered one of my (KS's) comments regarding Tang Soo Do's '1-STEP SPARRING,' the MMA emphasis seems to be on, "punching, kicking, grappling, etc.," i.e. the physical techniques used in the "Octagon." What I do not see is the PROGRESSIVE nature of training (particularly mental) presented by the traditional martial arts curriculums (karate, judo, etc.).

Your broad-based view on basic & advanced martial arts training, along with your knowledge of what it takes to advance to, and through, what the black-belt signifes; I do not see this represented by the casual contact I have had with the preponderance of MMA coaches and trainers.

We've got Lyoto Machida and his Shotokan Karate base. It would be very interesting to see, say a Wado Ryu stylist. Perhaps those in MMA would have to broaden their opinions towards traditional martial arts (so often criticized as impractical, etc.). Equally, most traditional martial artists may not see MMA as the way to showcase their traditional MA skills.

MARKS said...

KS- Many thanks for your kind comments. I think, in the world of MMA, many fighters do actually have a high respect for "traditional" martial arts. Most of the current champions do come from a background of mastering one "traditional" art before cross training with other styles (eg Silva - Muay Thai, Machida - Karate, GSP - Karate, Fedor - Sambo).

Tom McIntire said...

Though earning a black belt may mean different things to different people,it generally indicates that a student has learned how to train. When one achieves dan level they then can begin the mastery of their particular art. In fact, in some dojos until one receives a black belt they are a "guest" and not yet a student

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