A little brother of one of our brown belts came in to his brother’s grading. I asked the child why he quit training and he said “I was bored”. Fair enough. But I added, “Not everyone is cut out to be a black belt”. He looked up at me with a bit of irritation on his face and stated, “If I wanted to be a black belt I could, I just don’t want to”. I left it at that, because I did not want to insult him or crush his self-esteem.
But I thought to myself, if someone is bored by the journey, the process, and the day-to-day work that it takes to get to the top in the martial arts, they are not cut out to be a black belt. It is not any reflection on them, but a person has to be passionate about it. Nothing less will sustain them over the long journey to black belt.
Lacking Determination and Persistence
In our system brown belt is the first real challenging belt. A good many of the candidates don’t pass it the first time around. But more importantly, this is the first test of determination and persistence. Many give up after not obtaining it, thinking it is too hard, or maybe they thought they should have passed. Some quit because their friends passed and they did not. But the ones who eventually make it to black belt get more determined and sometimes put forth the most impressive efforts of their classes the next grading. It is an inspiration to see. They have passed the most important test on the way to black belt.
Only five percent of the people who walk through the door will ever make it to black belt. Many of the ones who quit have exceptional talent. In fact, some are so good they look like a black belt at purple belt. But they lack one important quality—desire to be a black belt. My football coach used to tell us “You have to want it”, and it is the most truthful statement I have ever heard about desire.
Not everyone is cut out to be a black belt. That little boy truly did not want to be a black belt. Hopefully those that quit are able to find other sports or activities where they can excel and where they have enough passion, determination, and desire to get to the top. The black belt is, and should be an exclusive club.