Why I will need dedication and commitment to be a black belt

The following is an essay I wrote for my April 27, 2012 belt graduation at my tae kwon do school, UMAC in Warwick, NY. I’m graduating from a green to blue belt (intermediate), and my daughter is graduating from yellow to orange (beginner-intermediate).

Why I will need dedication and commitment to be a black belt
By Teresa Edmond
For April 27, 2012 graduation

Whenever people watch martial artists perform “cool” or “awesome” or “sick” kicks, moves and stunts on TV or in movies, views would think, “How do they do that?” and might want to learn those “sick” moves too. But those viewers may not understand that it takes years to master those moves. The reason those martial artists appear effortless in their actions is that they continuously hone their skills. And the reason they continuously hone their skills is that they’re committed to the art.

From the moment you don your uniform, tie that white belt around your waist and step onto the dojang mat, you’re indicating you’re willing to learn whatever lessons necessary to become a black belt. The truly dedicated students know that over time, these lessons are ingrained into their bodies, minds and spirits, almost becoming second nature. Even the simplest tasks we need to get through life — eating, reading, writing, walking — must be repeated to get superior results. Those skills are easy for us to do now, but they were difficult to accomplish when we were babies and preschoolers.

It’s said that it takes 10,000 hours for someone to master a skill. Once in a while in tae kwon do class, I hear the Beatles used as an example of this concept. They practiced and played all day every day and night in European clubs before making it big in America. The Beatles are now arguably the best band in pop music history because they were so talented. The reason they were so talented was because they practiced. The reason they practiced was because they dedicated themselves to music.

The UMAC masters know that dedication and commitment are needed to become a black belt. When new students sign up, they’re only required to show up two times a week. Some new students may be enthused to attend more classes (like I was when I first started out), but it’s understandable why the masters require what they require. If a new student can’t show up for two 45-minute classes per week, how is that new student expected to attend three classes a week, to the weekly leadership classes, to the demo performances, or to everything else that’s required of all black belts and future black belts in this school?

A black belt is not something that’s handed on a silver platter. If you don’t even dedicate yourself to mastering the basic white belt requirements like maintaining a horseback riding stance, the 10-elbow strikes, or Ki cho il bo, there’s no way you can get a handle of the yellow belt requirements, let alone the black belt skills. It’s all about baby steps.

My daughter and I are UMAC students. Sometimes, we don’t refer to ourselves as colored belts, but rather “future black belts” because we are that dedicated to getting there some day. We’re hardworking people who love tae kwon do, this school and everything it represents, and our fellow classmates and instructors. With love comes dedication, and with that dedication comes a desire to never give up.

As Kwan Jang Nim would say, “A black belt is a white belt that never gives up.”

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