Attaining the rank of black belt, or any belt, is a source of pride, a goal that everyone would like to achieve. However, rank should not be seen as a destination that one is in a hurry to reach; rather, it should be regarded as another stop on the journey of karate, a means of going even farther in one's training. It is a journey of many miles, and one must be prepared to go the whole distance, without looking for shortcuts.
Let us look at the significance of rank and advancing belt levels. As already mentioned, reaching black belt should not be the end goal of one's training. Having a black belt does not mean one has mastered everything in karate; rather, that is when one realizes how much there is still left to learn and understand. That is when one truly begins to gain a deeper understanding of one's strengths and weaknesses. Each stop provides us with something to aid our journey, and we must in turn endeavor to go the extra mile.
And indeed, we must be willing to travel far, no matter how difficult the journey. There are no shortcuts in karate. One can easily memorize what a technique should look like after a thorough explanation and a few repetitions. But mental understanding is just the first step; the body needs to understand the technique as well for it to be truly effective. This requires constant training, to build up muscle memory, as well as to refine finer points such as timing, speed and power. Straying from the path will only take you further from where you need to go.
It doesn't matter if you are just a beginner, or if you have been training many years. In karate, the destination is unimportant; one must love the journey, for it lasts a lifetime. So for those of you who haven't 'mastered' your technique within weeks of learning them, do not be disheartened. Those that are hoping to attain their next rank, do not be idle. And those that have already attained a higher rank, do not be complacent. For all of you, I only have two words: Keep training!
Submitted by: Arpan Ghosh, Shodan