Monday, March 14, 2016

What does “Black Belt” mean to me? - Bill Reaves

What does “Black Belt” mean to me?
Bill Reaves

When I walked through the front door of Strickland’s TKD the very first time, I was looking for a way to stay in shape while engaging my mind.  I was bored with running and lifting at the gym.  It had become mindless to me.  There was nothing about it that stimulated me mentally.    Now that I have found an environment that educates me and keeps me fit while being surrounded by a great group of people who challenge me to get better all the time.  
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what achieving a “black belt” would mean to me.  I started by looking up the definition:

black belt
1.       a black belt worn by an expert in judo, karate, and other martial arts.

When I began this journey almost three years ago, I would have agreed with this definition.  I thought earning a black belt would have a beginning, a middle and an end.  To me the term ‘expert’ means that there is no more to learn, nothing more to gain.  I no longer believe this definition is accurate.  I have discovered that while there is a beginning, there really isn’t a middle or an end.  I believe that when it comes to TKD, the real “expert” is the individual that continues to seek knowledge despite whatever status he/she holds.
I believe that earning my black belt is similar to graduating high school.  I have now learned the basics of the discipline.  I think that the additional degrees of a black belt can be viewed as a college
degree, a master’s degree and even a PH D.  Again, the continued desire for knowledge makes the “expert” in all of us.
I have been exposed to other disciplines over the years (a karate course in college and I learned to box in my 30’s) that provided me with certain skills and goals, but there was always an end point that established the completion. Once I completed these endeavors, there was nothing else to gain.
 Now I look forward to class for the endless knowledge as much as the workout.  I enjoy the competition and the additional clinics and seminars as it provides me with more information to apply.  I see no end to this process.
                Despite everything I have said above, the one thing I keep coming back to is the black belt does not represent who I am, it represents the potential in me and what I can become.    A good example of this is when I failed the red belt test.  Simply put, I was not prepared.  I did not “master” the form.  In that instant I realized the only person that beat me that day was myself.  It has driven me to dedicate the time to prepare, something that we all should do to earn the things we want and desire in or lives.

                In closing, I have enjoyed this journey and I look forward to what the future holds in my pursuit of more knowledge and its’ applications.  I look forward to pursuing the always elusive “expert” status!