THE MEANING OF BLACK BELT
The following is a transcript of a two-minute speech I had to give when I received my second dan in taekwondo on July 9, 2006.
"I have been studying martial arts since the autumn of 1999. Since that time, I have not only learned how to defend myself, but I have also grown as a person. Martial arts has helped me become who I was meant to be. Also since that time, I have come across many different perspectives on what a black belt means.
A black belt is a symbol. A symbol is a representation of something - in this case, it is a level of accomplishment. Each belt in taekwondo represents a specific level of accomplishment. It represents what someone has learned, what someone can do, and how much that person has developed. A black belt, in particular, represents someone who has achieved a high degree of accomplishment and development. The black belt when given to someone, represents the high esteem and honour the Master places on the person. This is why we wear a black belt, it is a symbol of what we are and represents the great honour that has been bestowed on us.
However, the physical belt itself does not define us. It is only a symbol, and even without that symbol, someone can still be a black belt once that level has been attained. What does it mean to be a black belt? Being a black belt doesn't just mean that someone can do flashy kicks and break boards. It goes beyond that. A black belt is someone who has shown growth as a person, and continually strives to grow more. A black belt is a person who constantly works to improve oneself, mentally and spiritually. As well as being physically strong, a black belt must be mentally and spiritually strong. This is why "indomitable spirit" is a tenet of taekwondo.
When I first started martial arts, my focus was never on getting to black belt. At each level as a colour belt, my focus was on what I was learning and how I can improve. Before I knew it, I was set to get a black belt. Unfortunately, I suffered a knee injury and had to postpone my black belt test for a year and a half. By that time, martial arts became such a tremendous part of who I am that once I received my black belt, I knew I would continue studying. I have learned much in the two years since I received my first dan. This is why I am ready to receive my second dan in taekwondo. There is more to learn that only the next level can teach me.
If I could sum up what I have learned in the past two years as a first dan, this is what I shall say, Integrity is DOING what I'd expect others to be able to do. If I can do something, I'd expect others to be able to do it - in fact, I'd expect them to do better. This applies not just in martial arts, but in life as well.
Thanks to all the Masters and Instructors I have ever had. Many thanks to every person I have ever trained with, as they taught me more than they will ever know. Many, many thanks to Master Kim for believing in me and for the second dan. Special thanks to my "better half" for never holding me back."
Copyright C.J. Chow June 28, 2006. Speech given July 9, 2006.