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The Meaning of Black Belt

Daniel Berard

                Taekwondo is not just a sport; it is a way of a life, a journey. Nearly everyone who begins this journey as a white belt has the dream to one day become a black belt­­­. I certainly did. At the very beginning, it seemed as though black belt represented a mastery of Taekwondo and the end of this journey. But it never truly ends. In fact, there are more Dans than there are coloured belts, and they take much longer to attain. You can never truly master everything in Taekwondo. There is always more to improve on and to learn. Black belt is not the end of the journey. It signifies that one has reached a proficiency in the basic aspects of taekwondo and is now ready for more advanced training. It is simply the beginning of a new phase of this never-ending journey.

                                A large part of becoming a black belt is being able to push and challenge yourself during intense training and keep going without ever giving up, realizing that everything can be improved with enough effort and striving to do so. This requires a huge amount of mental effort and a strong will to do your best no matter what. It also shows a strong dedication towards mastering the art of Taekwondo. Everyone has the potential to do this. Everyone has the potential to become a black belt by challenging themselves and developing the courage and willpower required to keep going.

                There is much more to black belt than physical fitness and skill. With black belt comes a lot more responsibility. Other students look up to black belts and expect to learn from them. They look at black belts as what they want to be when they grow up. Also, others should feel safer in the presence of a black belt. Black belt symbolises the death of the flower (colour belts representing its growth) so that it falls to the ground and its remains can nourish the other growing plants. Becoming a black belt means accepting these responsibilities, and I am strongly willing to do so. I want to inspire others and help them on their own respective journeys towards black belt.

                Another important aspect of black belt is the understanding of the five tenets of Taekwondo and how they apply to Taekwondo as a way of life. Courtesy is about showing respect by bowing, being polite, thankful, helpful, etc. This is necessary in Taekwondo so that we are willing to work together and ensure successful learning of Taekwondo by respecting instructors and black belts. Integrity is about being honest and good and living according to certain moral values. This is important in everyone’s lives. A black belt needs to be able to judge right from wrong when evaluating a situation. Perseverance is about trying your best and never giving up when it comes to achieving your goals. Challenges should be seen as opportunities for growth, reaching your goals and becoming a better person. This is clearly required to reach the level of black belt. Self-control is required for being able to evaluate a situation and to decide when to fight and when not to injure the opponent. Good self-control is required for all aspects of Taekwondo, particularly in sparring and self defence and in order to demonstrate proper technique. Indomitable spirit is about never giving up, showing no fear and standing up for yourself. It is also about having the will to constantly push yourself and never giving up during intense training.

                I have learned an immense amount of things on my journey. Taekwondo has greatly changed me as a person and as a result I now feel that I am ready for black belt. I have become much more physically fit and agile. I feel healthy. I have gained the courage and willpower to push my limits and I have learned how to defend myself. I have become a more calm, relaxed and peaceful person but have also developed a greater sense of awareness. Taekwondo introduced me to meditation, which I now try hard to practice every day. This has significantly changed the way I look at life and continues to do so, leading to a heightened sense of inner peace, greater happiness and knowledge of my own mind, which increases my will to challenge and push myself in Taekwondo. The list of things I have learned just goes on and on, and all this learning is far from over. In fact, black belt marks a new beginning, the beginning of training in the more advanced aspects of Taekwondo. Reaching the highest level of the colour belts leads to the lowest level in a new stage of training and learning. Taekwondo is by far one of the best things I have done for myself in life. It has hugely contributed to changing it and continues to do so at an increasing rate.

                Black belt has a lot more meaning behind it than is obvious. It is not the end, but the beginning of serious training. It is a sign of experience and proficiency in the basics of Taekwondo and signifies a physically, psychologically and spiritually well developed individual that other students can look up to. Everything I have learned from Taekwondo has come together and I feel I am ready for black belt. This is where the real training and the real learning starts.

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