Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What does it mean to be a Black Belt in Chayon-Ryu?

My dobok and belt.
What does it mean to be a black belt?

This is a question that every martial arts student ponders from the first time they tie on their new white belt.
For me, it was something I thought about constantly. I studied the black belts who were my instructors, and the ones I would see at rank exams and combined training events. You see a lot as a student, when you are wide-eyed and eager in your first year of training. You tend to put everyone on a pedistool, and see them as larger than life. But, in reality, black belts of Chayon-Ryu are for the most part, reasonably humble people.

A position of responsibility vs. a position of power:

Chayon-Ryu Outdoor Training in the park held twice a year.
The role of a black belt in Chayon-Ryu is very service oriented. We are taught from early on that with greater rank comes greater responsibility. We are expected to teach, and help students learn; to set a good example by cleaning the dojang and observing all of the dojang rules of conduct. We are expected to show a positive attitude toward our Chayon-Ryu family, and actively participate in all aspects of the school, whether teaching, or volunteering for the many combined training events or activities throughout the year.

We are expected to volunteer our talents and time to further Chayon-Ryu. One example is, I keep this blog as a way to reach people and help educate them on Chayon-Ryu; and to help introduce Chayon-Ryu to the world.  I also produce instructional material for Grandmaster in the way of DVD's, and other collateral. It gives me great joy, personally, to help promote the system which has enriched my life so much. Once we achieve our black belts, which is an accomplishment in and of itself, we begin to pay it forward. There is much joy in giving, which to me is one of the greatest lessons Grandmaster has to teach.
When we as black belts teach classes, or give one on one instruction to another student; not only are we helping someone learn life changing skills, we are improving our own skills and cultivating deep mental insight. Grandmaster tells us, "You teach to share your knowledge, and this increases your own understanding." 

Black Belts who volunteer to judge rank contests pose with
students who tested for rank.

Even in the humble act of cleaning the floor there is wisdom to be gained, and a feeling of accomplishment. I think of a Native American saying, "leave the earth better than you find it."  This ideal is present within me when I help clean, sweep and organize the dojang before and after class. The space is there for us to use to increase our skills, knowledge and enrich our lives. Keeping it clean and orderly is a show of respect for the space, and the people who have come before us, as well as an example to those who follow us.
We have to be mindful of who is behind us, because they will be watching and studying us, just as I studied the black belts who stood in front of me.

Recently I received my rank certificate, even though I had my belt for some time. The certificate is the official recognition of rank in martial arts. Seeing it framed on my wall prompted me to think about my role as a black belt.

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