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Black Belt in ____ Months

Sometimes I see advertisements for programs in which a student is assured of "earning" a black belt in a certain number of months. Sometimes the black belt is "guaranteed."

I am afraid that I cannot offer such a program. How long it will take for a student to obtain a black belt depends upon a number of factors. I used the term "obtain" because I don't think that a student really earns rank -- rank is awarded by the sensei. The student does his or her best to learn. Learning is the reward. In recognition of the student's level of ability, the sensei might give rank (or not).

But to say that a black belt can be expected in a certain time period is questionable, at least it is to me. Some students might learn the specified curriculum within that time period, but others might not, despite their best efforts. If the belt will simply be awarded on the basis of time, then it is a time belt, not a recognition of ability.

Students should not worry about belts. Worrying gets in the way. Trying to earn a belt gets in the way. The student should simply try his or her best. It may well be that a white belt is more skilled than black belt holders in other dojo, perhaps even in the same dojo. Who cares? We should not compare ourselves to others. We should simply strive to be our best -- which may be far superior to the people to whom we thought of comparing ourselves.

Imagine if you were in Physics class with Albert Einsteen. Do you think he was trying to get a better grade than the person he sat next to... or do you think he was already pondering the mysteries of the universe?

Many of the seniors I have met tried to avoid getting black belts. They thought that it was unnecessary or would interfere with their training. Once black belts, they would have to spend more time teaching. I heard of one sensei who only received a black belt (3rd dan actually) because it looked bad for a white belt to be teaching the black belts! Another senior I know received a black belt only when he was asked to help teach a class. He never received dan ranking... but did receive a Shihan No Menkyo (instructor's license).

Don't worry about rank. It is far more productive to strive for ability.


Charles C. Goodin