Reaching The Next Level

Column by Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong
January 2001 Issue

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So you've reached black belt level and wonder, "Where do I go from here?" Is it the end or beginning of my formal training?

In most martial arts, black belt or advanced-level students are now ready for the serious training that makes them true martial artists. Advanced students in any martial art have responsibilities far exceeding those of students who have not yet reached the advanced level. And, while they have reached black belt level or its equivalent, they have much more to learn themselves.

Advanced or black belt students have completed basic training for the foundation of their art and are now ready to learn the depth of their martial art. However, they are not yet masters of their arts. Rather, advanced students are the serious students of martial arts.

You can think of beginning and intermediate levels in martial arts as the equivalent of prep school. Advanced training is where you go to college and if you stay long enough, receive your Ph.D. in the martial arts.

Advanced martial art training is going back to the basics and learning how to make those basic techniques effective by understanding every facet. That understanding includes having good power and control. It means each form practiced is done with flowing accuracy and precision. The advanced or black belt student learns how to efficiently and effectively use the art of self-defense.

Advanced students are the ones who should set examples for beginning students in both techniques and how to respect the teacher and the art. They have a positive attitude, gained from study and accomplishment. They demonstrate sportsmanship in competition and respect for other martial arts, teachers and students.

Advanced students learn to teach their martial art correctly and are willing to master the art so they can hand it down to the next generation of students. They easily show their own confidence in their art by doing public exhibitions.

Every time you teach someone else you solidify that knowledge in you own mind. As you explain principles and techniques to lower-belt students you understand those techniques better yourself.

Of course, besides the responsibilities, there are the benefits of reaching black belt or advanced level in your martial art. Advanced students gain more knowledge by learning higher-level hand and weapon forms. There are often special advanced or black belt classes that cater to those who have put the hard work and training necessary to reach advanced levels. Advanced-level students are encouraged to use their minds creatively when understanding self-defense techniques.

Part of the excitement of reaching black belt is the knowledge that now the real training begins. It's far more than merely being a senior student to the many beginners in your school. It is the time in your training where the principles and philosophies of martial arts become an important part of your everyday life.

Doc-Fai Wong writes a bi-monthly column for Inside Kung-Fu.

January 2001 ? Inside Kung-Fu