Earning Your Black Belt (continued)
Attaining a Black Belt in karate requires a substantial sacrifice. Such an achievement is similar to qualifying for an Olympic Team, earning an Eagle Scout award, or performing a music recital at a prestigious venue. Ask an Olympic gymnast about the dedication and countless hours of preparation necessary to perform at that level. Investigate the commitment and sense of responsibility that drives the few who attain the level of Eagle Scout. Can you for one second believe that someone who has not practiced, skipped lessons, and harbored a lackadaisical attitude toward music would have the competence to perform a recital before a large critical audience? Of course not! Lofty goals are not easily attained. Substantial commitment of time, practice and effort is required. Such goals must be paid for in sweat, perseverance, and sacrifice. Failure to pay the price results in failure to achieve the goal. This is common sense; this is a fact of life!
Recently a parent approached me and inquired when their young teen would be testing for black belt rank. I tried to explain how better than average attendance in class was required and how constant at home practice was critical. I pointed out that such a test would require that the student know all of the necessary material and be able to demonstrate this with other, mostly adult, highly motivated candidates. After all, a black belt in karate is an adult achievement. Participation in adult classes with adult partners is required. I pointed out that some teens have the drive and fortitude to accomplish this and therefore are permitted to test. I also pointed out that passing such a test, even after devotion to practice and much class work, is certainly not a given. It is a test… a student must be able to pass it! Having a student take a test as challenging as this would be highly unfair if competence is in question. I explained that just about any student who devotes the enormous energy and commitment necessary is capable of such an achievement. Some students may take longer than others. I began as an adult and it took me years to qualify for my black belt. I began to explain that time is unimportant, it is the learning and the journey that is essential if the reward is to have value. It was at this time that I was interrupted, “My child is getting tired of karate, it is more and more difficult to get up and out to class. Lessons are boring and there is little or no practicing at home.” I just stared at the parent. It was difficult choosing my words without the use of sarcasm. They had just answered their own question. When would their teen test for black belt? Never with that attitude! What in the world do they think the coveted black belt is worth? It is an insult to those of us who have dedicated the time and effort and paid the price for our achievement to even for one second assume that someone disaffected with the program, someone with spotty attendance in our classes, and someone who through lack of practice has failed to even try to develop competence should anticipate receiving this hard earned honor.
I have had parents say that it is too difficult for the teens to commit time and show the dedication needed. There are so many other activities, too much school work, it’s difficult to get them to the dojo regularly, there are siblings that must be taken into consideration, they’re looking into after school jobs, soccer, football, band, swimming, a social life. Yes… these are all stumbling blocks, but they are not excuses! There are NO excuses.
The parent lamented that they had paid for lessons over the years and now it looked as if a black belt was unattainable. First, payment of tuition is for lessons, a guaranteed black belt was never in the arrangement. Can you imagine a piano teacher promising that a student will play Mozart at Carnegie Hall at the completion of a series of lessons? If there was effort put forth during the training, much of value was gained by the student and money was well spent. In addition, with an attitude adjustment, consistent attendance in class, and hours of practice at home the black belt is still something that can be realized!
Karate and self-assurance
Our goal in Karate is to prepare people to remain safe and free in our society; that is, free from emotional and physical conflict, safe in a world that contains people who desire to injure us and affect us inappropriately. This means developing the self-assurance to stand up for ourselves with confidence and to be assertive rather than passive or aggressive to insure our own freedom and safety.
Learning to defend against physical violence is a main focus of a karate program, yet gaining awareness of situations that may cause us harm and learning to act in a manner that will avoid such conflict is equally important.
We teach our students, both adult and children, to speak out loudly to demand their security. Learning to avoid conflict and using non-violent means to mitigate the potential for physical aggression is vital if we are to remain safe in our lives.
Children in particular are vulnerable to the potential for harm from adults. Physical abuse and sexual predation against children are horrific issues that all responsible adults need to address. Adult awareness of these concerns and efforts to bring to light the effects these tragedies have on children is an important goal. Sexual exploitation and abuse of children, something that often has been hidden away, is now becoming common news in the media. Whether this abuse is from a stranger, a trusted adult, or a family member, we are now very aware of the scope and seriousness of this offense. It is our duty to do all we can to bring awareness to adults and children alike. We need to educate everyone to know that these acts are appalling and we need to develop strategies that will recognize the signs of abuse and give children the power to say NO to pedophiles and speak up for help and support.
Karate and your child's development
Karate is an important part of the developing process that your child is going through on their journey toward adulthood. Karate will develop positive social skills, feelings of self-assurance and self-worth, and the tenacity to face life’s challenges and strive for success. The values and skills that Karate instills, linked to a successful education, provide the ingredients that will better assure your child a fulfilling and rewarding life.
We at the Vernon Valley Karate Academy recognize the importance of a quality education. Children must be directed to do their very best and put in the necessary time and effort to assure academic achievement. In an effort to help the children attain their best performance we would like to reward students who are demonstrating positive school performance. In that each child is an individual and an average grade may well represent a greater personal effort than a higher grade from another child, we will look at indicators of effort as our criteria.
Please evaluate if you and your child feel that such an award is in order and if so select something that you feel reflects on the academic efforts being put forth in school. Notebooks, assignment books, comments from teachers, report cards, or anything you feel is appropriate and represents your child’s pride in their schoolwork is suitable.
Please, however, keep the items limited, you are not expected to bring in boxes of work; something small will be sufficient. If you decide to participate in this academic award program, have your child bring the material to class during the second week of April. Selected students will be awarded a certificate of achievement and a special patch to wear on their uniform.
Something that seems to have disappeared these days is commitment. Most children begin programs in just about everything and then quit after a short time. Whether its dancing school, Little League, Scouts, sticking to chore or homework schedules, many children dont follow through on sticking to the activity long enough to reap the benefits. This should not be difficult to understand, just look at the divorce rate! Commitment doesnt have the value that it once did in todays society.
Anyone who has stayed long enough in a Karate program to earn a Black Belt should realize that the achievement, though monumental, is just the beginning of what should be a lifetimeof learning and development. It is a shame to see people give up on what is truly alifetime journey.Some of us have made the commitment to Karate as a lifestyle. We share in all of the wonders that such dedication provide; skill development, understanding, self-enlightenment, and especially the opportunity to share in this experience with others. Iha Sensei once said, You have your friends and you have your karate friends your karate friends are special!
Each of us has the obligation to promote our lifestyle, our activity, by actively participating and urging others to follow. We know the value of our art. By attending class, working out hard, showing through our example, others will stay and learn and discover. Someone was there to do this for each of us! Our commitment is to pay back some of what we gained and to show gratitude to those who showed us the way.