Chart your own path to Black BeltBy Kathy OlevskyToday I was speaking with one of our Black Belts, Michael West. He talked about how he quit smoking a few years ago and how much Karate has had an impact on his life. In the same breath, he spoke about how he worried about not keeping up with some of the other Black Belts in class. He realized recently, however, that he is on his own journey, at his own pace.Some would say that since he is a Black Belt, he should know everything and feel great about his skill level.
The truth is, everyone is on their own journey and comparing yourself to anyone else is pointless. We are our own worst critic anyway. Mr. West was in a class, thinking about how he was not quite doing the same thing as others in the class. I explained that everyone in the class was likely thinking the same thoughts. There was not one person in there that had the thought “I am awesome and clearly the best one in the class”. The culture in our dojo prevents that kind of thinking. Most likely the person standing next to him was admiring Michael for his ability.
To some it will seem strange that a Black Belt is having any doubts. Well, we are all having doubts. Here are the doubts of an 8th Degree Black Belt.
“I wonder if I can still do those kicks at that level”.
“I wonder if my stretching will improve this year, I used to be more flexible”.
“I remember when I was faster”.
So, when you are a White Belt, your mind is flooded with thoughts about how you can improve and become a Gold Belt one day. When you are a Green Belt you wonder if you will ever learn all of the techniques well enough to become a Brown Belt. When you are a 1st Degree Black Belt you think of the day you will become a 2nd Degree Black Belt. Those thoughts are normal. The thoughts that you should get rid of, are those that compare you to someone else.
When I was a Brown Belt, everyone in the dojo was bigger and stronger than me and most students were men. I compared myself to them, but that was not fair to me or them. Quite frankly, my katas were probably better than theirs and their sparring might have been better than mine. The truth is, I was on my own journey and although others could help me, no one person could be responsible for my success. That was my job and I got to be proud of myself when I got there.
We all need help on any journey and the journey in the martial arts is filled with people who want to help. So, if you are just starting on your path, just do the best you can. The only comparisons that are acceptable should be, with you. Are you doing better than you were doing last week? If you are a Green Belt, you are roughly half way through to your goal of Black Belt. Remember these words, “Never, Never Quit”. Those were probably the most important words my instructor, Mr. Wellendorf, shared with me. If you are a Black Belt, you should know that others around you admire you for how hard you have worked to get to that goal. Keep moving forward and offer your help to others.
If you are a parent one of our students, the important lesson for you, is that your child is on their own journey too. Don’t compare them to other kids. If you communicate your concerns, we will address them and help your child get to Black Belt. As a parent of a karate student, your job is simple…keep bringing them to class. We will take care of the rest!