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FW: [SCA-WEST:9257] A neat look...

Poster: Louise Sugar <dragonfyr@tycho.com>

Found this on the West list and thought it quite thought provoking

-----Original Message-----
From:	_  [SMTP:Darrel_VanHorn@msn.com]
Sent:	Friday, June 27, 1997 10:45 PM
To:	Multiple recipients of list
Subject:	[SCA-WEST:9257] A neat look...

I was web suffing one day and found this paper. If you replace Black Belt with 
White Belt and look read from that perspective. I found it held alot of what I 
Just food for thought, anyone hungry?


What Does a Black Belt Really Mean?

By Reverend Kensho Furuya

Through the popularity of this column, I get correspondence from all over the 
country. And the most commonly asked question
is, "How long does it take to get a black belt?"I don't know how this question 
is answered in other schools, but my students
know that asking such a question in my dojo would set them back several years 
in their training. It would be a disaster. 

Most people would be overjoyed if I would say it takes just a couple of years 
to get a black belt, but unfortunately it does not.
And though I am afraid most people would not be happy with my answer, I think 
the general misconceptions about "what is a
black belt?" should be clarified as much as possible. This is not a popular 
subject to discuss in the way I am going to. Indeed, I
warn my students not to ask the question in the first place. The answer is not 
what they want to hear. 

How do you get a black belt? You find a competent teacher and a good school, 
begin training and work hard. Someday, who
knows when, it will come. It is not easy, but it's worth it. It may take one 
year; it may take ten years. You may never achieve
it. When you come to realize that the black belt is not as important as the 
practice itself, you are probably approaching black
belt level. When you realize that no matter how long or how hard you train, 
there is a lifetime of study and practice ahead of
you until you die, you are probably getting close to a black belt. 

At whatever level you achieve, if you think you "deserve" a black belt, or if 
you think you are now "good enough" to be a black
belt, you are way off the mark, and, indeed a very long way from reaching your 
black belt. Train hard, be humble, don't show
off in front of your teacher or other students, don't complain about any task 
and do your best in everything in your life. This is
what it means to be a black belt. To be overconfident, to show off your skill, 
to be competitive, to look down on others, to
show a lack of respect, and to pick and chose what you do and don't do 
(believing that some jobs are beneath your dignity)
characterize the student who will never achieve black belt. What they wear 
around their waist is simply a piece of merchandise
brought for a few dollars in a martial arts supply store. The real black belt, 
worn by a real black belt holder, is the white belt of
a beginner, turned black by the colour of his blood and sweat. 

Training Pattern

The first level of black belt in Japanese is called shodan. It literally means 
"first level". Sho (first) is an interesting ideograph. It is
comprised of two radicals meaning "cloth" and "knife". To make a piece of 
clothing, one first cuts out the pattern on the cloth.
The pattern determines the style and look of the final product. If the pattern 
is out of proportion or in error, the clothes will
look bad and not fit properly. In the same way, your initial training to reach 
black belt is very important; it determines how you
will eventually turn out as a black belt. 

In my many years of teaching, I have noticed that the students who are solely 
concerned with getting their black belt
discourage easily, as soon as they realize it is harder than they expected. 
Students who come in just for practice, without
concern for rank and promotion, always do well. They are not crushed by 
shallow or unrealistic goals. 

There is a famous story about Yagyu Matajuro, who was a son of the famous 
Yagyu family of swordsmen in 17th century
feudal Japan. He was kicked out of the house for lack of talent and potential, 
and sought out instruction of the swordmaster
Tsukahara Bokuden, with the hope of achieving mastery of the sword and 
regaining his family position. On their initial
interview, Matajuro asked Tsukahara Bokuden, "How long will it take me to 
master the sword?" Bokuden replied, "Oh, about
five years if you train very hard." "If I train twice as hard, how long will 
it take?" inquired Matajuro. "In that case, ten years",
retorted Bokuden. 

Finding a Focus

What do you focus on if you don't focus on attaining your black belt? It is 
easier said than done, but you must focus your
energy on practice. However, to think, "I will concentrate on my training to 
get a black belt", is simply playing mind games with
yourself and will ultimately lead to your own disappointment. 

Can you simply think "I will forget about rank completely"? Can you simply say 
to yourself that you will never achieve it? Will
you always be attached to your black belt, allowing the idea to linger in the 
back of your mind? In other words, can you simply
concentrate on your training without regards for anything else? Can you 
finally realize that your black belt is nothing more than
"something to hold up your pants"? 

You should also realise that although you master all the requirements, the 
correct number of techniques, all the required forms
and put in the appropriate amount of hours of training, you may still not 
qualify for black belt. To achieve black belt is not a
quantitative entity which can be measured or weighed like buying string beans 
in the market. Your black belt has to do with
you as a person. How you conduct yourself in and out of the dojo, your 
attitude to your teacher and fellow students, your
goals in life, how you handle the obstacles in your life, and how you 
persevere in your training are all important conditions of
your black belt. At the same time, you become a model to other students and 
eventually reach the status of teacher or assistant
instructor. In the dojo, your responsibilities are greater than the regular 
students and you are held accountable to much, much
more than those junior to yourself. Your responsibilities are great as a black 
belt holder. 

Achieving Training Focus

How do we focus on our training? Successful training means, to a great degree, 
that we look at what we do from a reasonable
and realistic viewpoint. More often than not, we are not looking at realistic 
goals but dreams and delusions. Do you want to
excel in martial arts as a way to improve yourself and your life, or are you 
motivated by the latest cops and robbers movie? Is
your practice motivated by a strong desire to enlighten yourself, or do you 
simply want to imitate the latest martial arts movie
stars? Although experienced martial artists may snicker, it is amazing how 
many inquire about martial arts saying they want to
be just like Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal. But those people are themselves by 
their own efforts. You are yourself. We all
have our hero, role models, and our dreams, but we have to separate out 
fantasies from reality if our training is to be
meaningful and successful. 


Training has nothing to do with rank or black belts, trophies or badges. 
Martial arts is not simply playing out our fantasies. It
has to do with your own life and death. It is not only how we protect 
ourselves in a critical, lethal situation, but how we protect
the lives of others as well. You cannot be another person, whether he is a 
movie star, great teacher or multi-millionaire. You
must become yourself - your true self. As much as John Doe dreams about 
becoming James Dean, Bruce Lee, or Donald
Trump, he can only be John Doe. When John Doe becomes John Doe 100 percent, he 
has become enlightened to his true self.
An average person only lives 50 percent, or maybe 80 percent of his life and 
never knows who he is. A martial artist lives 100
percent of his life and becomes impeccable. This is what the true black belt 
holder must come to realize within himself. He is no
other than himself, and his practice leads to enlightenment into nature of his 
true self, his real self. This is the essence of out
training in martial arts. 

Achieving your Black Belt

Think of losing your black belt, not gaining it. Sawaki Kodo, a Zen Master, 
often said, "To gain is suffering; loss is
enlightenment." If someone were to ask the difference between martial artists 
of previous generations and martial artists today,
I would sum it up like this. Martial artists of previous generations looked 
upon training as "loss". They gave up everything for
their art and their practice. They gave up their families, jobs, security, 
fame, money, everything, to accomplish
themselves.Today, we only think of gain. "I want this, I want that." We want 
to practice martial arts but we also want money, a
nice car, fame, portable telephones and everything that everyone else has. 

Shakyamuni Buddha gave up his kingdom, his palaces, a beautiful wife, and 
everything else to finally seek out enlightenment.
The first student of Boddhidharma, considered the founder of Shoalin Kung Fu, 
cut off his left arm to study with his teacher.
Now we don't have to take such drastic measures to learn martial arts today, 
but we should not forget the spirit and
determination of the great masters of the past. We must realize that we have 
to make sacrifices in our own lives in order to
pursue our training. 

When the student looks at his training from the standpoint of loss instead of 
gain, he comes close to the spirit of mastery, and
truly becomes worthy of a black belt. Only when you finally give up all 
thought of rank, belts, trophies, fame, money and
mastery itself, will you achieve what is really important in your training. Be 
humble, be gentle. Care for others and put everyone
before yourself. To study martial arts is to study yourself - your true self. 
It has nothing to do with rank. 

A great Zen master once said: "To study the self is to forget the self. To 
forget the self is to understand all things." 

Edited by K.W.Pang from "Martial Arts Training" (July 1991)
HTLMized by Stacy John Behrens 

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