Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why does it take so long to get a Black Belt?

In 1985 my wife and I bought the home of our dreams - if you define 'dreams' as an unending money pit of despair, toil, and loathing. For 23 years I spent every Sunday at my local religious outlet, a.k.a. Our Lady of Home Depot. I am now a Deacon of said house of worship having learned a wide variety of skills such as never trust a 1" x 1" color sample no matter how good it looks in the store, and that standard sizes for plumbing fixtures weren't really established until after my house was built.

Funny thing about plumbing - half of your house is under constant pressure to leak, while the other half is the docile partner of gravity. Leak - what a plain and simple word that by its single-syllable phonetic seems to imply gently calming flows of relaxation and peace. Trust me when I say, I never had a pipe leak in my house - they always exploded, and not in the acceptable big boom, mushroom cloud, dust settles kind of a way. No, my pipes exploded and then kept right on exploding, sending laser controlled, skin piercing, eye stabbing, guided missiles of water spears towards freshly painted, newly drywalled, recently carpeted rooms. At night.

I became reasonably skilled at pipe hacking, and learned how to use a propane torch, the silly plumber's wax, and solder. My joint repairs usually held, and if they didn't, they tended to weaken quickly so I could fix them right away. At some point in the 23 year flip of the "house-of-while-you're-at-it," time became more valuable to me than money and I actually hired a plumber.

Plumber - I just like the sound of that word. 'Plum', silent 'b', 'rrrr.' The fact is, no one visiting that house could have cared a lick if I soldered the pipes myself, or if a highly trained, dedicated, focused on one speciality professional technician did it. So long as the water entered the appropriate receptacles in the manner, location, and intensity it should, and exited in an equally appropriate clockwise rotation within the confines of Newtonian mathematics - everybody's happy.

For me, the lesson was that time is more valuable than money. As a practitioner of a martial art I can attest that it is possible to buy a black belt; but having a black belt and being a black belt are two very different things. One takes only a little time and some money, the other (being a black belt) requires time. It just takes time to infuse reflexive reaction into the spontaneous muscle memory of the body - not just movements, but correct ones. Movements which are immediate, appropriate, powerful, pinpoint, and fast.

It takes time to train the mind and body to operate so seamlessly that thought and action are simultaneous. If you want to have a black belt, then join a school and dabble. Dabble like I did with plumbing; attend some classes, cram for your tests, and pay for your progressively darker belts. If you want to be a black belt, that will take time, time in the training hall going over the techniques again and again - with effort, sincerity, and patience.


  1. Nice post.

    Thanks for the effort you took to expand upon this topic so thoroughly. I look forward to future post.

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    now-a-days people have started using internet for finding a good plumber because it is much easier. You can visit different websites and collect numerous information about them. Blogs and forums could also help you in knowing different plumbers. You just need to do the search using your favorite search engine.
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  2. Very interesting, as usual Eric. If I may add something about repetative training. There are things to remember. When I practice on the piano or organ I MAY hear my mistakes. Maybe. When I do I should stop, go back a few measures and try again, several times to get it right.

    But consider this. I may not realize I am making a mistake. I may play the right notes but my tempo may be off or I may play without feeling. There are many things only another knowledgable person would detect.

    I can record my practice but I can be fooled becasue I may hear what I expect to hear.

    I guess what I am getting at is practice is good, but it takes an expert in the field to provide feedback.

    I have watched your instructors guide someone thrugh a move. Sometimes I have to look really closely to understand the importabce of small changes in postiton. But I am not an expert.

    A musician will practice finger movements to strengthen muscles that are only used in certian music. Since that particular move might only be used in one peice of music the musician must continue to practice just to be ready for the time the move is needed.

    I guess its a little like parallel parking. if you don't practice it once in a while; well, you know the panic when you have to do it.

    A long blog I know but when was the last time you practiced parallel parking?


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