What a black belt used to mean, matters less, far less, than what you make your black belt –or your quest to earn your black belt –mean today.
(Some of) The Rules:
- There’s no hurry. A black belt earned as fast as you can earn it isn’t something to brag about, it’s a statement of impatience, of confusion about the potential of the training to deeply and permanently empower you and those around you. Your black belt isn’t fast food, it’s the slow food movement, where the process of finding, preparing, and savoring your food, enjoying the company you’re eating it with, and paying close attention to the details, the celebration of living it, is far more important than hurrying through it all. Join the slow belt movement.
- Being a “great martial artist” is nearly, if not completely, a monumental waste of your time. Being a martial artist is a very small slice of the pie of your potential; it is easy to be a great martial artist and/or to be a “master” of the martial arts, look how many of of them there are. The challenge isn’t to be a great martial artist, the hardest work is to be a connected, compassionate, engaged, forgiving, participative human being. You learn the martial arts so that you may take what you practice so diligently on the mats –and then apply it to things that genuinely matter in the world.
- The higher your rank, the greater your responsibility to lead –and to follow; to both respect tradition and to innovate, to hold onto and to let go of. The higher your rank, the more connected you should be; a peace-maker, a change-maker, a creator, a supporter, a fountain of enthusiasm and patience and drive. The higher your rank, the more you should feel the value, the deep spiritual value, of being engaged with others, with seeking out and solving problems, with joining forces to do, with many, what might never be done alone. The higher your rank the more you respect the novice, the process, the conflict, the hardships, and the simple pleasure of stepping on the mat, working on yourself, helping those around you, and finding meaning in the effort.
Because we haven’t put ourselves through all of this training, all these hours on the mat, talked all this talk about “the journey” and being “warriors” and about our “philosophy,” to be self-absorbed, superficial, disconnected, ego-maniacs. Because we haven’t done all of this training not to have it ground us, to have it really mean something more than just our ability to fight or perform handsome routines or make money in our schools. Because we have to be smart enough to look beyond the reward, the name of our style, our political affiliations, our desires to line our own nests, our petty conflicts, and our need to look and feel important and valuable. We haven’t done all of this training, dedicated all of this time, and put in all this practice to be any less than we’re capable of –and we’re capable of a lot, despite the fact that we so rarely see people take their practice to that place.
- Tom Callos