When I first became a black belt, that belt looked really, really black to me. I remember walking through the dojang and looking in the mirror. For a second, I wondered who the new guy was with the black belt. Then I realized it was me. I wasn’t a color belt any more.
Earning my black belt took on a new level of importance. I had to maintain and then excel in everything I knew. When you’re a black belt, everything that you’re good at, you suddenly feel compelled to become great at.
Becoming a black belt typically requires about a 3½ year commitment. It’s not easy. But anyone who is wholeheartedly devoted can do it.
Right before your black belt test, you are put through an intensive set of pre-tests. You have to remember everything you’ve learned from the time you were a white belt, all the way up. Some will train forever and never make it through the pre-tests. That’s what we refer to as a “BoJoDi” belt.
When you’re a color belt, the feeling of learning and achievement is a big deal. You’re learning new kicks, new punches, everything is new, new, new. After you achieve black belt, though, not only is there new and exciting material but you must now master all of the things you learned on your journey.
All of a sudden, you start to raise your own expectations. The challenge is that sometimes you reach a point where you stop noticing your own progress. You don’t feel like you’re getting any better. We call this the “Black Belt Wall.” Some black belts can’t handle this, and they end up quitting.
That’s why all of our new black belts have to make it through a probationary period. When you pass your test, you are given a plain black belt and a probationary certificate. If after nine months you have proven to us that you are living the Black Belt life, you will then receive your embroidered belt and your full certification.
Once someone passes their test and makes it through their probationary period, we know that they are very likely to move on to their second-degree black belt. They also have learned to better appreciate the improvements that they have made. They have plowed through the black belt wall, so to speak.
As they’re doing that, though, something interesting happens. At that level, you’re training consistently and at a very high intensity. Over time, your belt starts to become shredded and worn down. As it does, the black starts to turn white again.
Grand Master Park has two different belts. He has the belts that he got as he graduated, but he also has his original black belt, and it is almost completely white again. I keep mine on the wall of our dojang as well.
I can’t think of a more appropriate symbol of the Tae Kwon-Do journey. It means that no matter how much you achieve, you are still always a student. That’s one thing that the true Grand Masters all have in common: humility.
Grand Master Park might be the most humble person I know. (If you are familiar with his story, you know he has every reason to be proud.) When he is teaching a seminar, he never talks about himself. He speaks almost always of those he learned from. Having him as a mentor has been great for me, because his demeanor is a constant reminder that we are all still white belts.
In my mind, a Black Belt is just a white belt that never quit.
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!