Recently my Kyoshi asked when I worked (evenings and nights) because he wanted to test one of my class mates for black belt.
He has been training for just as many years as I have, but just wanted to be a good fighter and has never been concerned with rank. He truly believes that the belt is "just a piece of cloth"
True as that may be, I want you to think about is this way: It represents a milestone.
Websters online dictionary defines milestone this way:
In a previous post on self confidence I conveyed the story that when I was a novice (yeah... I still feel like one 27 years later as well!) the black belts would tell me "A black belt means that I am just beginning to learn"
They were right. A black belt means you have learned the basics to an acceptable degree of the martial arts school curriculum that you are involved in. The senior instructors in the school / organization will review your abilities and confer on you that "piece of cloth" we call a black belt.
Now, depending on the school, the test may be rigorous or . . . shall we say less than rigorous. I say this because there is a common occurrence in martial arts schools that a person can "purchase" their way to black belt with no real-world skills. We have all heard the story how a person that claims to be a black belt in Karate easily loses a fight to a person who has never stepped on the mat a day in his life. I readily admit that there are good street fighters out there than hold their own and win against a person trained in the arts.
So, what is my point? My point is to simply state that this "piece of cloth" represents a milestone in your training and, for that matter in your life. Although there are many programs out there that teach martial arts and self defense, and a person can "buy" a black belt, you my friend have paid for this through blood, sweat and tears!
That piece of cloth is a representation of those years of sweat and practice. It is a representation of your dedication and development and marks an important event.
That event being "you are just beginning to learn."
I am by no means an expert in Japanese or Okinawan traditions, customs or culture but I do understand a few things. An upperclassman in a school (Japanese: Senpai) has a responsibility to look out for and encourage the class mates in the ranks below him (kōhai). As Westerners we have a difficult time understanding collective societies that value the group over the individual. In America, it is all about us. In other cultures the family name, or group affiliation is more important.
I am encouraging you to test out. In many many ways, you have already earned it. Oh, and being Senpai I offer my help in practice at the inconvenient times, when I work until midnight and come to the Dojo with only 3 1/2 hours of sleep under my . . . belt (pardon the pun).
To my readers, I say this: any event that marks a milestone in your life should be stepped through and taken. If you have "done the time" in training and work, treat that pinnacle event as what it is: a milestone!
In other words, you earn(ed) it!
Your Brother in Christ
And Senpai in Karate先輩