This is What I Learned About Martial Arts Promotions

After more than two decades of martial arts, I’ve been able to make clearer the requirements of ranking up or getting promoted. My personal experience was grown from getting ranked myself but most importantly ranking those under my tutelage. My students were the biggest teacher in clarifying this evergreen question of the arts. Let’s get into it in this article.

Firstly, lets use an analogy. In this analogy, we’ll use the idea of coloring blocks that represent the colors of the ranking system that leads to black belt. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu happens to be a very potent experience of climbing its ladder so I’ll use those colors in descending order illustrated just below:

When you color from the bottom, let’s say from white to blue, the box begins to fill. At this stage, the feeling of being a white belt is very obvious. Allowing the process to take place because that’s what white belts would already expect. Some students never accept this stage of growing and those are the ones that quit right away. Ego became an obstacle to process. But for those that continue to color their box and reach the middle area, they begin to feel they’re a pretty good white belt and has new aspirations to promote towards blue. I believe at this stage is where perceptions can be chosen.

The first perception is what a blue belt looks like and begin to emulate them. This is the most common one. Students would look up and try to become what they see. It is also a dangerous one because it can lead to comparison and we all know that comparison can be a thief of joy.

The second perception is in choosing the same work that got them to where they are but with more focus and intent. The idea here is choosing to be a fully fledged white belt in the philosophical sense. It is where the mindset is set to just to improve and not to prove. The value is maintained intrinsically and not given away to the teacher or peers who are external sources. This creates the strongest white belt that will reach their fullest potential. The eventuality is becoming a blue belt. Time, relatively, moves very quickly as the mind is no longer concerned with satisfying external controls. Although this is the most desirable way to navigate the process, it is also a very tough one.

Ok so now this white belt has completed coloring their box and the color shifts to blue. If you look very closely at this stage, at that single instance transitioning, the student still can exhibit white belt tendencies and the newer blue belt tendencies. If the white belt keeps the perception of intrinsic values, then the journey simply continues. But if that same student chooses to be intimidated or discouraged that there are higher tiers to strive for, they mentally revert back to day one or worse; falling victim to the dangers of comparison.

This cycle continues at each promotion. All students must pass this cycle endlessly at all colors. It is the nature of the beast but each stage potentially strengthens the mind to deeper levels of understanding the process. It also has great potential in owning the solid principles that martial arts seeks to impart on its students. The seemingly endless act of raising the base of our natural selves instead of trying to break through ceilings. That is an entirely separate mindset to wrestle with all in its own but I digress.

The idea here, after a lengthy article, is simply to enjoy the process of growing. It WILL lead you towards your goals. Happiness is found here in not just the martial arts sense, but in being happy with yourself. Effortlessly push back the noise by choosing to be happy.

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