Building Your House: Advancing Black Belt Degrees
I have a confession to make. I didn’t think I was ready for 8th Dan.
A true martial artist never feels ready for the next rank. Especially as you move through the degrees of black belt.
Schools with a decent educational program require 3-4 years to achieve a first degree black belt. First to second degree is about two years. Second to third is three. A fourth degree will take four, and so on up to seventh degree.
Eighth and ninth become a little less physically demanding as far as testing goes, but they still may go eight or nine years. Ultimately, the Grand Master decides when you are ready.
We like to say that when you start Tae Kwon-Do, you’re like an apprentice. Those first few years you’re getting your tools together and learning how to use them to build your house.
When you’re a black belt, you move beyond your apprenticeship. It’s time to get to work.
Each successive black belt degree takes longer to achieve for several reasons. Of course, there is more to learn with each progression. You’re constantly maintaining and perfecting previous material as well.
You’re expected to mature as a person, of course. But it’s much more important to mature as a martial artist. That means contributing something to your martial art, other martial arts, and the world in general.
Every time that you achieve a higher rank, you are also being placed in higher esteem. People are going to look up to you more. You must accept that, cultivate it, and learn not to abuse it.
The process of getting ready for a rank grows more difficult with each degree. In the beginning, you focus on patterns, requirements, perfecting techniques, getting ready for your next test, and just improving as a martial artist overall.
Going from sixth to seventh Dan, you’re concerned with more than just test requirements.
At this point, you better be damn good.
Your focus is loftier and more widely-ranged. You concentrate on how to make your dojang better, help your grand master, improve the art, and change the world.
You need to gain wisdom. The amount demanded to get from first to second isn’t nearly as much as sixth to seventh, or higher. That level takes a great deal of time and maturity.
Which is why it baffles me when I see schools offer full black belt ranks to students at very young ages. If you have a 14 year-old who is technically eligible to become a “master,” that’s too soon.
Remember, when it was first conceived, Tae Kwon-Do was only taught to adults in the Army. Changes had to be made to prevent premature ranking. In our dojang, I have installed a system that keeps kids in kid ranks and teens in teen ranks until they are 17 or 18. When they’ve achieved the necessary maturity, they advance to an adult black belt.
Only then are they ready to move forward. Only then can they start building their house.
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!