The Belts and the Remarkable People Who Wear Them
Tabula rasa is the notion that humans are born a blank slate, and all knowledge comes from experience or perception.
The White Belt symbolizes this. Purity. Innocence.
The Yellow belt symbolizes the sun. A source of light and warmth, and new beginnings.
The Green belt symbolizes growth. Like blades of grass.
The Blue belt symbolizes the sky above; what the green blades of grass are reaching for.
The Red belt symbolizes danger. As you move closer to Black belt, you are becoming more dangerous.
Then, the Black belt. A symbol of power so highly revered that some schools do not even offer a true Black belt. For instance, in Tang Soo Do, the highest level is midnight blue.
After people get to Black belt, they often quit because of what a huge accomplishment it is. It’s like when Olympic athletes win gold, then retire. You don’t know what to do after that.
Well, there is plenty to do after your first Black belt. Believe me.
We have adult Black belts, teen Black belts, and kid Black belts, and each have different responsibilities.
Children Black belts are awarded after two-thirds of the adult curriculum. Then, they complete the full curriculum to become teen Black belts. Teen Black belts do the full adult curriculum to become adult Black belts, but a red stripe remains to remind them that they are not adults yet.
At our school, the Black belts and color belts have an interesting relationship: Black belts are leaders, color belts are future leaders.
Color belts are striving to become Black belts. Black belts are striving to be the best Black belts they can be, deepening their relationship to Tae Kwon-Do.
You could say that color belts are moving upward, while Black belts are moving inward. Color belts are in medical school, Black belts are performing surgery.
At our school, there is what you might call a “pecking order” between color belts and Black belts. That’s ok, there needs to be. Rank is a symbol of achievement, knowledge, responsibility, and power that needs to be recognized and respected. The color belts need to know that if they put in the work and commitment, they too will achieve what the Black belts have.
All of the Black belts have very different styles, personalities, and approaches to martial arts that will appeal to and inspire people differently. Color belts should look up to and find Black belts that they are impressed by.
Color belts should also look up to Black belts because, frankly, Black belts are very special people. They have accomplished something that most people can only ever hope to do.
Think of a child making a three-year commitment to something, then seeing it through and achieving it. Nowadays, that’s almost unheard of. But it happens in our dojang.
Here, it is the responsibility of a Black belt to serve as a mentor. We talk a lot about the four times you will want to quit in Tae Kwon-Do. Black belts can attest to that. But they have also overcome it. And, they are in a unique position to reassure and coach others through those adversities.
Black belts must provide a clear path for the color belts. It can’t just be a nebulous thing. And each color belt is different, so if you have twenty different color belts following you, you need to come up with twenty different ways to get them to Black belt.
As they receive their Black belt, we encourage each person to say something at the ceremony. One student, an adult, yelled out, “this is the greatest moment of my life!”
His wife was in the crowd. With their child. Needless to say, that didn’t go over very well.
However, the story speaks to the magnitude of the achievement. Grown men and women routinely cry when they’re receiving their Black belts. These are purely tears of accomplishment. They just did something amazing.
The test itself is about two and a half hours. Enduring that alone is an accomplishment unto itself.
We also have a book at the dojang that we have every new Black belt sign. They are encouraged to write down how they felt after passing their test, so that they may look back on it to see how far they have come.
Every Black belt since day one has signed the book. I am very proud to say that we’ve filled up one and started a second.
Master Gorino’s Tae Kwon-Do offers a trial program for individuals and families in Buffalo, NY and the surrounding areas that allows you to get a feel for the different classes, meet our instructors, and experience our dojang. It’s a great way to see if Tae Kwon-Do is right for you. To learn more or to sign up, register online or call (716) 836-KICK (5425) and a member of our team will follow up with you on next steps. We look forward to helping you achieve your goals. Pil-Sung!