A distinguished colleague of mine, upon learning that I have a black belt, asked me if I had ever used it. The sardonic side of me wished to reply that I use it every day – to hold up my pants.
But he was referring to the fact that I hold the rank of black belt in karate and what he is really asking is if I have ever had to use my karate skills to fight. The short answer to his question is “no”. But I figure the least I can do is provide a longer, somewhat philosophical answer.
I am a passive person. If I found myself in a potentially dangerous situation I would be more likely to negotiate my way out of it, walk away, or better yet, avoid it altogether. So the practical answer to the real question (have I ever used my karate skills in a fight) is still “no”. However, the real answer to that real question is not that simple.
the black belt, like the university degree, is integral parts of my being
I started my karate training in my second year of university. As I progressed in my university studies, I also progressed in the art of karate. While I enjoyed the great physical benefits of practicing karate, I also considered it an academic pursuit. The personal growth that I experienced during my university years were influenced as much by my time in the dojo as by my time in class. This, in addition to the fact that I trained at a university club, means that for me, karate practice and university studies are more tightly intertwined than they would normally be.
With this in mind, I suggest that the black belt, like the university degree, is integral parts of my being. So when my colleague asked if I ever use my black belt the real answer should have been “yes – I use it every day”. The same way I use my degree every day.
Another way of looking at the question would be to reverse the two accomplishments; what if my colleague had asked, upon learning that I had a degree, if I ever used it? Would you find that a little odd? When I enter into a conversation with someone I do not decide if I am going to use my degree or not. The skills and knowledge acquired through the acquisition of a degree cannot be turned on and off like a light switch. The same applies to the skills and knowledge acquired through the acquisition of a black belt.
A degree is much more than an accumulation of knowledge. Comparatively, a black belt is much more than a series of punches and kicks. All our experiences shape the way we see the world. A black belt, like a degree, or another life-changing experience will have an impact on how one carries oneself, how one approaches each day, each challenge, or each relationship.
The influence of karate training, symbolized by the belt colour, permeates all aspects of life. It is visible in the physical fitness of the participant; it can be witnessed in the way they carry themselves, in their posture, and in the way they move. It can be witnessed in the way they interact with others and face life’s challenges. The black belt is also made evident in the way that it keeps a karate practitioner’s pants held neatly “up”.
Join me at the Charles Fink Karate Dojo so that we can share our knowledge and experience with each other.