Saturday, July 28, 2007

What's After Black Belt

Many times when I mention to friends that I am a third-degree black belt in martial arts I get one of two, (and sometimes both), questions. First, my friends say "wow, so you could take me out, then?" or something to that effect, and second, they say "is that the highest rank you can attain?" In my martial art there are in fact eight degrees of black belt, but in today's society, I think many people are of the mindset that a black belt signifies a "master." This is definitely a myth, and one for which I don't blame the public. I am certainly a fan of "Enter the Dragon," and "The Karate Kid" series, however, these films lead viewers to believe that a Black Belt is the end all in martial arts. In reality, a black belt is the beginning of a new chapter in your martial arts training.

So, you signed up for some form of Martial Art and have spent anywhere from four to six years trying to perfect your skills so that you can obtain the rank of black belt. You stand in front of your instructor as he ties your new black belt around you and completes some sort of ceremony. First of all, congratulations. You've stuck with this martial art and your persistence has really paid off. You've reached a new level of excellence, but this is, whether you realize it or not, a new beginning. So you stand there and ask yourself, "where do I go from here?" I can narrow my answer to that question down into three parts.

Part One: Continue to train...

This one really seems like a no-brainer, but to tell you the truth, myself and another gentleman are the only two people (from my dan-classing), that have continued to train past the rank of black belt. Most of the people who were promoted with me quit training almost immediately, with a steady trickle of people exiting from that point onward. There are levels past black belt in all martial arts, and there are new benefits to training as a black belt. At this point, you've got the basics so far cemented into your memory that hopefully they are second nature to you. Additionally, you can start to get more of an aerobic workout from class. This will help you to shed pounds and help you build muscle to become fit. You can also sharpen your fighting skills to the point where you can become a major threat to anyone who wishes to cause bodily harm.

Part Two: Compete as a Black Belt...

Now that you've earned your black belt, hopefully you can feel confident enough to compete in tournaments. It's best if you start competing when you are a color belt, and it is often very much encouraged. Black Belt competition however, is very good because it forces you to become better. My instructor has always said, "Even if you don't win, the way you prepare will make you a better martial artist."

Part Three: Continue to Test...

This part goes along with part one. As long as you are continuing to train, you are given opportunities to advance past a first degree black belt. I urge any black belt to continue to test. I am of the firm belief that as long as you still go to class and test, you are not losing any of your martial art skills. This will also look good in the eyes of a potential employer. When asked about your hobbies you can say that you've attained a whatever degree black belt, and you continue to go to class. In the eyes of the employer, it shows that you are persistent, which is always a great quality to have.


  1. The thing with achieving a black belt for many people is that it's anti-climactic; there's a big dropout rate after 1st dan.

    The belt system is great for goal setting, but it's the path - the journey - that's the ultimate goal.

    I agree that including a martial arts/black belt credit on your job resume could get the attention of a prospective employer.

  2. Now, I'm only 7th Kyu, so I could be talking about my...ear...but I think that it may help with the shodan drop-out rate if following promotion (and allowing time for healing) the new black belt should probably get his butt kicked by his seniors; to show that they are only an 'expert beginner' and they have so much more to learn.

    And for what it's worth, I'm with you and John about adding martial arts experience to a resume. I have "Training hard in Full Contact Karate" as the last line on my resume and my last 3 jobs have mentioned it in the interview.



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