Some students, mainly youth students, believe that reaching shodan (1st degree black belt) is the end of their studies.
They could not be more wrong. Shodan is where your most important studies begin.
Reaching shodan level is like graduating from high school. Like that educational milestone, it is a great accomplishment but you really don’t know as much as you might think. High school graduation means that you are ready for advanced learning, whether that’s college or some other training. High school education is a foundation, not an end.
In martial arts, to get this higher learning you must remain active in the dojo!
It is common for some new black belts to reduce their dojo attendance. Where as an under belt they might have attended 2-3 classes per week they now only come maybe once a week. Some schools, like ours, provide a special intensive monthly back belt class where students are trusted with high-level material. This three-hour class explores what we know in more detail, and discover for ourselves new ways and new applications.
Regardless of how many days you come to the dojo it is important that you do continue to come. True growth comes through learning and learning occurs in the dojo. This is why we practice on our own, so we can make the most of our time on the dojo floor.
Attending seminars and assisting your Sensei by teaching classes are also great ways to increase one’s knowledge of technique application, not to mention sharing what you have learned with those you are following in your steps.
So you are a shodan! Now what?
Don’t stop learning!
Come to the dojo as often as you can. Help your teachers and the other students striving for a shodan understanding of their art. Your interest in generously sharing what you learned, your setbacks, and your experience, gives others students great encouragement and also helps you understand your karate studies with a fresh new perspective.