How I Envision The ULTIMATE BLACK BELT
From the moment in 1988 when I first read author Stephen Covey's book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I adopted the phrase, BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND. This post is about that, beginning with the end in mind --and the end result of martial arts training, in general, and specifically around the idea of what would make someone "the ultimate black belt."
The ultimate black belt would be in great physical shape --as the practice requires, you know, PRACTICE. Someone who is a black belt but doesn't embrace the physical training and thus isn't training-fit, isn't a great representative of the benefits of the study and practice of the martial arts. They might talk the talk --but the ultimate black belt is someone who would walk the walk too.
The ultimate black belt would be someone who is intellectually fit --and training to grow and expand his or her knowledge and understanding of --things of interest. This work would be done in a way that inspires others to do the same. I think that part of the way this happens is thru engagement --not thru disengagement. The ultimate black belt practices engaged budo-ism of a sort that keeps him or her growing, learning, and investigating.
The ultimate black belt, in my mind, is someone who conceives of and executes PROJECTS that benefit other people, places, and things. This is the concept that the highest level of martial arts achievement comes when the practitioner practices the art of taking the work out of the dojo and putting it to work in the world.
The ultimate black belt is someone whose attitude and actions esteem the martial arts as a tool for the betterment of people --and society. The ultimate black belt would be a man or women who stands up for others in need, speaks out and takes action against social injustice, cruelty, and --in general --man's inhumanity to man.
The ultimate black belt is someone who makes mistakes, like any human being, but who seeks to right those mistakes --and develops an attitude of wisdom over winning, of humility, and of forgiveness, both for self and others.
In other words, the ultimate black belt is someone who seeks to be a good, just, fair, and engaged human being. I dislike seeing martial artists who engage the training, but not the wisdom of the practice, who embrace the violence of the martial arts --but fail to explore and embrace non-violence in equal measure. I dislike the practice of the martial arts engaged as a commodity to be exploited for the purpose of becoming "rich," for promoting extravagance, and/or for the purpose of defining "success" and "mastery" from a "how much can I own" point of view.
The ultimate black belt is someone who uses the training to be the change he or she would like to see in the world.