Having a Black Belt vs. Being a Black Belt


If you used to study martial arts, but gave up on it, I assure you that no matter what you tell yourself or other people, you have not “still got it.”

When I meet new people and they find out who I am and what I do, they love to tell me how they took Tae Kwon-Do or some other martial art as a kid, but didn’t stick with it. Some of them even hung in there long enough to earn a black belt. They all seem to think that if they had to, they could use those black belt skills again. Even years and years later.

It requires seemingly black belt-level training and discipline not to laugh in their faces. 

The simple fact is that if you don’t train consistently, you are not what you think you are. Getting a belt only means that you are now allowed to train at a certain level, but only as a means to move up to your next belt. 

In our dojang, a belt is merely a label. It tells the world where you are in your Tae Kwon-Do journey. It sets an expectation for your performance level. For instance, if I am a yellow stripe testing for my yellow belt, when I earn that yellow belt, all it is saying is that I am now able to train as a yellow belt. 

But if you stop there and never pick your training back up, you’re not a yellow belt anymore, in my opinion. Yellow belts are students training to become green belts. If you’re no longer training for your green belt, you’re not a yellow belt anymore.

The same thinking applies to all levels, even black belts. Let’s say that, three weeks ago, I took my test for black belt and I passed. Most people would congratulate me and, for the rest of my life, they would call me a black belt. 

I don’t see it that way. The belt means I am merely being allowed to train as a black belt. But if I call it quits after that and don’t continue training toward my 2nd degree black belt, I truly don’t believe that I can be called a black belt anymore. 

In other words, I may have a black belt, but a black belt is no longer what I am. 

I have said time and time again in this blog, and to every student that comes through my door, that the skills that you acquire at our dojang are perishable. If you don’t keep them fresh, they will eventually be gone. That is as true for a yellow belt as it is for me, a 9th degree black belt. 

If I’m not out there every day, kicking the bag, doing my patterns, practicing self-defense, etc.,  I will eventually lose every ounce of ability I have. 

The journey to become a black belt, and what we become along that journey, puts us in the position to earn a black belt and train as a black belt. But no matter who you are, if you stop training, you stop being that thing.

And all you’ll have left is 2 inch strip of canvas to remind you of what you could have been.

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, visit the Contact Us page 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!


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