Your Path to Black Belt: Top 10 Tips For Reaching Black Belt

No matter what the style or the person, if you are have started or getting ready to start a martial art program then deep down inside you’ve wondered… “what does it take to get a black belt?” Let’s face it. We all have had that thought in the beginning, it’s normal.  Reaching the rank of black belt is a huge milestone and if you get there, that’s an amazing feat.

aikido student throwing another student

So what are the steps …

The basic aim of a person unskilled in martial arts or moderately skilled in their respective martial art is to accomplish the desired coveted rank of black belt. The black belt is a reflection of the dedication the student took to attain their rank. It reflects their attention to detail in their martial study, technical superiority, moral character, and dedication to overall excellence. Many people view the black belt martial artist as “more” than the average practitioner of their chose art but if you ask a black belt in any style how they feel about being a black belt, they’ll often reply with….

“A new level of understanding begins” – I’ll explain this mindset later but know that the black belt practitioner remains a student of the arts for life.

So what exactly does it take to successfully reach the rank of the black belt?

I’ll be laying out the steps our students take based on our expectations and curriculum guidelines that will help you better understand the martial arts path to reaching a higher rank. If you follow these steps and take these tips to heart you will significantly improve your chances of success as a martial artist.

Tip #1: What Does Being a Black Belt Mean to You?

Have you ever heard the saying, “if you don’t know where you’re going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”? In layman’s terms, you need to define your WHY. Why, are you even doing martial arts and why do you want to get a black belt? Understanding your WHY will keep you focused and will keep your purpose front of mind. People are motivated by different things and you must define why this martial arts journey is important to you. Once you do that you are more likely to stick with your goals.

Tip #2: Set SMART goals for your training

Many of you know what SMART goals but for those who don’t, a SMART goal is a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. So how long will it take to get a black belt? That is going to be dictated by the style your train in and by your sensei, for the most part. By sticking with setting SMART goals for every stage of your training, not just for the black belt, you will stay motivated, excited, and look forward to training. Setting goals are important so you avoid plateaus and boredom. If you have something to work towards you’ll oftentimes work through the obstacles and challenges.

 

Tip #3: Break your SMART goal into smaller digestible goals

“A mile is a trial, but an inch is a cinch.” All the techniques needed to attain the rank of black belt will be different depending on styles but one thing is for sure…it’s A LOT to learn. So don’t get too caught up on the “black belt”. Break up your training goals into much smaller goals. This is basically addressing the “A” (attainable) portion of the SMART goal. When you can accomplish the smaller goal it’s going to feel good and it’s still going to be meaningful. Because it’s yet one small step in the direction you want to go.

Tip #4: Understand What You Need to Know

Wherever you’re training they should have a roadmap for you to follow. They should have a curriculum that is clearly defined and one that would aid you in planning out your goals. Could you imagine not having a map and being told to go to address A to unknown address B? Guess what… you would never get there. You would have no idea where to go first.

That’s the same in this case. If you’re not sure then ask your sensei what you should be focusing on and ask them to help you make a plan for success in your training. If they are not willing to do that then you are at the wrong school.

Tip #5: Network with other black belts at your dojo

“If you surround yourself with successful people, chances are you too will be successful”. That was one of the smartest things I ever heard and it’s true. This is your chance to get to know the higher-ranking students and learn from their experience and their advice. The dojo you train at should have a welcoming environment and this should be quite easy to do.group photo of martial art students in mesa, arizona

It takes a little courage at first to reach out but a assure you that they are probably some of the most approachable people you’ll get to know. Learn from their mistakes and heed their advice. They will notice if you are genuine as well so be sure you take action on what they say.

 

Tip #6: Attend Class and Train Consistently

“90% of success comes from ‘showing up.’” When it comes to finding success in anything you do if the journey and the end result have value to you…then there are no shortcuts. I’ve always said that hard work, time, and consistency equals results. That is true every time. Consistent and persistent practice will lead to your martial arts growth. There’s a saying that “the secret of success is the consistency of purpose”. That’s why you find a school and an instructor that you like and who’s on your side. A team and an instructor who wants to see you succeed.

Tip #7: Repetition is the Mother of Skill

black belt instructor helping students in classIf you really want to make progress in your martial arts journey you need to practice outside of the dojo whenever possible. This is especially important if knowledge gaps have been identified in your skillset by either you, a training partner or your sensei. There’s only so much you can get done during class time, that’s why it’s so important to establish great relationships with your fellow classmates to plan times to train together outside of the dojo when possible. Any at-home practice should also be documented and videotaped if at all possible for reference.

 

Tip #8: Use other resources such as books and videos to learn more about martial arts

If your dojo has an online library of techniques and philosophical teachings then you definitely want to use those resources. Also, if your instructor has authored any great books that directly relate to your martial arts training would be a fantastic way to deepen your understanding of everything you are learning. Ask your sensei for guidance on this.

Tip #9: Keep Yourself Accountable

There are a couple of ways to do this but the most fun and engaging way is to get connected with one of your training partners. Friendly competition and accountability are quite motivating and keep things fresh and fun. If you can find someone in your dojo who best aligns with your skill level and your goals then this would be optimal. Having a training partner who also has the goal of becoming a black belt will be beneficial to each of you. You both can stay focused on smart training efforts, outside goals setting and building each other leadership qualities that are very important for the level of black belt.

Tip #10: Never give up your goal of becoming a black belt

Marital art success can be tied to one simple but powerful phrase… “Always a Student.” If you stay focused on the previous 9 tips to attaining your goal of the black belt then know that even when you do get to the black belt, there is yet more to learn. It’s like starting at white belt over again but with a different focus and elevated goals. The process of learning and “always being a student” never goes away. There is always something new to learn.

The process of becoming a black belt, in any system, is a long and arduous journey but if you stick with a plan and don’t stray from your goal, it will be one of the most rewarding life accomplishments. It’s something you can really be proud of. Not everyone who starts training in martial arts gets to the rank of black belt. In fact, they say… 1% of people who start ever reach that level. Crazy to think.

Will you be a part of the 1%? I think so. If you’ve read this far then you may be ready to give it a go.

Join our community and start on your path to black belt today!

In Oneness,
Kaiso

Head instructor sitting with two senior students

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