Being a martial artist is hard sometimes. Downright difficult. Patterns to remember, etiquette to follow, constant advice from the instructors. I mean, you knew it’d be hard work, but there’s just so much involved!
You are constantly barraged by the masters and the black belts with advice and tips – the mechanics of kicking, the nuances in your pattern. By the end of a 45 minute class, your brain is fried.
I’ve made it easy for you. I’ve compiled a list of 25 pieces of advice that the instructors want their students to know. Print them out, carry them in your pocket, consult them while in the bathroom – maybe don’t do that, that’s creepy – but definitely definitely keep them in mind!
1. Watch a Black Belt testing. Know what you are getting into. In fact, come to as many testings as you can, black belt or colored belt. See how other people do the same thing you are also doing, see what is expected of you at each rank.
2. Better yet, stay and watch the black belt class. Know what’s expected of you. Know how everything is eventually supposed to look.
3. If your school does social events, GO. Be involved. Learn about the people you are growing with outside of the uniform. Humanize your black belts.
4. Be involved in competition. Go watch. Go help. Go support. Go compete.
5. Volunteer to help teach in your school sometimes. It will make you better.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask the black belts ANYTHING. We are here for you. We are a big happy family. Gone are the days of the hierarchy, where it was poor form for a white belt to ask a black belt ANYTHING. No. Ask us. But don’t be rude. Black belts have worked hard for their rank.
7. Know your stuff. Seriously.
8. Practice. Thirty seconds before class, do your patterns. Seriously. See previous tip.
9. Learn to be okay doing all aspects. You hate sparring? Still learn to be okay with it. Hate patterns? Still learn to be okay with it. That’s more than just martial arts. That’s a life lesson.
10. What you put in is what you get out. If you choose to only give it a half job, you’re only gonna get half results. Bonus Tip: You don’t become a black belt – and black belts don’t become Masters – with half results.
11. Respect your rank: Respect how long it’s taken you to get to this point.
12. Represent your rank: Be an expert in the knowledge you have. The ranks below you are counting on you to help them, and it’s a black belt expectation. Seriously. Can’t emphasize this enough. You ask any black belt to teach you a colored belt pattern and they can and will. They don’t just dismiss patterns that are no longer their ‘rank’ patterns. Know. Your. Stuff. Please. See Tip #7.
13. Etiquette is important. Respect other ranks both above you and below you. You are a role model to those after you, and those ahead of you worked hard to get where they are.
14. Learn how to tie your belt. Learn how to tie someone else’s belt.
15. Black belts are here to support you and your journey, but we aren’t here to hold your hand either. And you don’t want that anyway. You want this journey to be yours.
16. Same goes for parents- don’t hold your child’s hand through the martial arts. They won’t thank you for it. Support, not crutch.
17. “Listen to your breathing.” Seriously. This will pace everything you do. Everything.
18. Everyone loves “Story Time with the Masters”, but don’t be afraid to make your own!
19. In that same vein, don’t expect to be included in Master Story Time right away. It’s kind of a privilege that comes with time, rank, and effort.
20. Keep your uniform clean, and for goodness sake, CUT YOUR TOE NAILS!
21. Own sparring gear, right from the beginning. And bring it to class. A hitter in baseball not only brings his bat, but he brings his glove too, even if he doesn’t plan to use it. Be prepared.
22. “Life gets in the way.” More than that: “It’s OKAY that life gets in the way.” Martial Arts will be here when you get back.
23. FEET TOGETHER WHEN YOU BOW!
24. Black belts are under the assumption that you know your stuff. If you don’t, ASK. If it’s been two months since your last promotion and you don’t know your new pattern, SAY SOMETHING. You are responsible for your own knowledge. See Tip #12 and Tip #7.
25. Don’t run through the ranks. Do not run through the ranks. GO AROUND!