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When a Kyu Asks “What does it mean to be a black belt?”

Black Belt is a relative term dependent on the dojo and the Sensei. In my view “Sho-dan” is merely a sign of a novice in the martial arts with a particular emphasis on the system or style that awards that grade. As a kyu you are a beginner. In my view a person who remains diligent and steadfast in training and practice is recognized when they receive a first level yu-dan-sha. It is a sign someone is serious about being a martial artist and it is a sign that the person is ready to really buckle down and begin to study and learn MA.

It is NOT a sign of mastery, it is a sign of seriousness, dedication and diligence to become a mere “Novice” in the system or style practiced. It means they have achieved a level of fundamental basic understanding so that this base can be used to build the full system as symbolized in the “Shu-ha-ri and Shin-gi-tai, etc.” of said system/style. 

It is NOT a level or grade that gives one the perception or belief they are ready to teach the system/style, far from it. It is a level that allows at the discretion of the dojo Sensei to assist in teaching and practicing the kyu levels of go-kyu to ju-kyu (fifth kyu to tenth kyu only). Ni-dan usually assists with Ik-kyu to go-kyu levels. 

Black belts don’t take up a personal dojo until at least San-dan levels and the caveat is they should remain connected with their Sensei or at least Sensei of Go-dan or higher for guidance until they too reach Go-dan level. 

In reality one should get to a point where the belt and color are the lowest common dominator in training and practice because a mind to set on “winning and accumulating dan grades” is less focused on those aspects of fundamental principles of martial systems they tend to lose site of the systems/styles ultimate goal, i.e adhering to the principles of theory and philosophy while supplementing the principles of physiokinetics and techniques. 

Traveling the road of a martial system starts out with such goals but a black belt means they have transcending those egoistic and pride driven goals for something way more personal. 

Considering the question in general it is best to recommend one forget the black belt and simply get back to learning and achieving proficiency in the fundamental principles of martial systems, i.e. those principles that transcend any individualized symbolic meaning of a system or style in particular. 

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