The absolute most common misconception about becoming a black belt is that it mostly about physical skill- nothing could be further from the truth.
A black belt is not something that comes from any physical ability, though there is certainly a physical aspect to it. The keys to earning a black belt have much more to do with the inner strength that comes from mental and emotional growth than it does from becoming muscular, strong and athletic.
In the journey to become a black belt, what most people find most challenging isn’t mastering the physical movements, rather it’s mastering their emotional selves. We must face our fears during martial arts training. For every martial artist, no matter how skilled and confident he or she may be, there comes a point when they feel intimidated by the process. Working past that feeling of intimidation is what gets a black belt to the top of the process, and it is the MOST rewarding part of the whole thing. Muscles do not offer us the reward that we strive for, it’s strength of will that gains mastery over our emotions.
The focus that is required to become a black belt is nothing short of amazing, and yet it is absolutely attainable by anyone who steps into the training hall. This is perhaps where the physical portion of being a black belt comes into the process, not in the sense of strength and athleticism but rather in the sense of control. The mind must learn to control the body in very particular ways. The hands need to be placed correctly, the position of a knee must be accurate, the body lean just so, etc. etc. When training for black belt, this is a place that most people arrive at naturally during the process of learning, in large part because it comes so slowly and stealthily through the training process. Mental strength is intertwined with the physical training, and as the mind learns to control the body more precisely we find that the mind is actually under our control! This revelation is an integral part of self-mastery and of becoming a black belt.
Keep in mind that no one forces us into training. Most people who begin the martial arts journey at some point become emotionally overwhelmed by the process and simply walk away. It’s the easiest thing in the world to do! What separates a black belt from the rest of the pack is not that they are able to do a thousand push ups, but rather that they are able to stick with the process from start to finish, even on days when they don’t feel like training or are apprehensive about what faces them. It is always the drive that comes from within that gets them there, along with mental strength and emotional strength.
The fire within is what makes a black belt, not the outer appearance.
Snr Inst Margaret Dicks 5th Dan