Black Belt is not the goal.

I think there is probably a time in anyone’s life journeys where they’ve said: “Damn, I wish I could just fast forward to when I’m X.”

I don’t think that Jiu-jitsu is any different. Many a practitioner has hoped for a quick(er) promotion or felt frustrated at stalling or slow progress. But I think something that is worth explicitly saying is this: Black Belt is not the goal. It’s only a part of it. I want to explore this and explain why we should be looking at more expansive goals for ourselves. 

I’m not here to say that success (and it’s acknowledgement) doesn’t feel good. Everyone remembers the day that got that hard earned promotion, or the day their results came back and they achieved a high grade on a test they worked really hard for. These are good things and deserve to be celebrated… but they are only physical things. 

Since studying my first martial art (Judo) as a kid, I was transfixed by the beauty and gravitas of the Black Belt. It seemed like such a monumental human achievement to attain, and it certainly is, but the actual physical act of getting the belt is not the ultimate goal… Being worthy of a Black Belt is. We should all strive to be the kind of person who embodies the values of being a Black Belt, not just being someone who wears a black belt. 

Each of us, as humans as well as martial artists, walk unique journeys in our lives that offer to teach us so much through the huge spectrum of human experience. If we ignore these learning opportunities- opportunities than can make us better people- we are skipping important lessons on our way to becoming a Black Belt in life.

Anyone can be a Black Belt, but what else are you? Are you a good friend? Are you a good father or mother, sister or brother? Do you do something productive for your community? What makes you worthy of wearing a Black Belt? 

I think so often we are still victims to the pitfalls of a world that celebrates physical achievement. Even as martial artists we sometimes lose sight of what really matters. Is a gold medal as important as making sure you can preserve your body to train for years to come? Is getting that next belt more important than appreciating how amazing your journey has been already and being happy with how much you’ve already learned? Outside of martial arts, I believe that we should have the same attitude towards things like our jobs and other hobbies; how important are these things compared to the kind of person that we are? 

I suppose you could read this as a kind of “soft” look at goal setting. You could also understand that there is a real sense of satisfaction and achievement in knowing that you lived your life in a way that, when you’re remembered, people speak of you as a positive influence to others. 

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