Some students think that they have “made it” because they reached brown belt level. They believe that black belt promotion is so close they can taste it, and because it’s that close, it will automatically happen.
Don’t fall prey to that thinking!
As I like to say, “close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades but neither are used in black belt tests.” In many traditional karate styles it takes 4, 5 or more years to prepare for a shodan (1st dan) test, which is much different than many of the “McDojos” that seem to be on almost every corner.
While working through brown belt requirements in the quest for shodan, some students, especially young students, can feel a little burned out. This is the time when parents, friends, fellow classmates, and their instructors must find ways to encourage them and keep them going.
I have seen many students reach brown belt and lose the desire to continue. That is like dropping out of high school in the 11th grade. There is no GED in karate (well, perhaps at the McDojos, but I digress).
I encourage all advanced students and black belt candidates to dig deep and practice.
Don’t just go through the motions but practice with a purpose (read the How to Practice article in the January issue). Put in all of the extra time that you can. Ask your sensei and the other black belts to work with you. You might be surprised that the same ones who work you so hard in class will bend over backwards to help you to join “their” club.
Parents and students should stop thinking that shodan rank is the end of the journey. On the contrary, it is the beginning. I know of students, usually young students, who stop training as soon as they receive their black belt. This is a big mistake!
The door to advanced knowledge is about to open and they are not there to take advantage of it. A week or two off to recoup from the test might be in order but it is important to get back into the dojo as soon as possible. A black belt’s relationship to martial arts should last a lifetime. A change in dojo might be a necessity because of moving, going away to college, or other reasons, but quitting should never be an option. Brown belts need to push on to Black and Black belts should never stop their quest for learning! They should always keep practicing, but when they’re not near a dojo, they can add to their knowledge in other ways. There are many excellent and highly readable books about martial arts techniques and the history of the arts that will expand their horizons and deepen their interest, which will improve their skills.