How to get a black belt in 10 minutes, guaranteed!
By Robert P. Coble, Jr., Instructor

It's easier than you might think. Just go to the nearest martial arts supply store, whip out about eight bucks, buy one, and you're done.
Of course, the belt wasn't earned. That's the point. Too many people in today's fast paced world want everything NOW. It cannot be that way with martial arts training, any more than I can play piano like Beethoven in 5 easy lessons. When a beginning student or parent asks me how long it takes to get a black belt, my answer is this: "Do you want to be a black belt, or do you want to be a martial artist?"
A very common complaint I receive as an instructor is "Hey, I can go to this school down the street and get a black belt in less than two years. Why should I spend four to six years at your school?" Fair enough. Most of my students only reach blue belt, maybe green belt, inside of two years. But if I take a martial artist that averages three classes a week for two years and compare that person to a martial artist that averages three classes a week for five years, who has more experience? All black belts are absolutely not created equal. It's no different in the real world. Compare a job applicant with a two year degree from a community college with an applicant with a four year degree from Harvard or Yale. Both have a "degree." Which applicant do you think will get hired?
Rank should never be the goal when studying martial arts. Many people don't like to hear this, but paying for a black belt contract does not guarantee the actual achievement of the rank of black belt. Only the opportunity is guaranteed.
Every now and then, one of us instructors will fail a student going up for promotion. I don't particularly enjoy seeing a student fail a test, but it beats giving a belt to a student that didn't earn it or isn't ready for it. Giving away rank lowers standards, and it doesn't do the student any favors. The student will simply be ill prepared for the next set of challenges, which can cause much more frustration than failing a test. When one student fails, the other students then realize nothing is going to be given to them, which can make them take their own training more seriously. If no one ever fails, it becomes common knowledge that promotion will be granted regardless of performance. Rank then becomes worthless.
Something else few martial artists understand is that the rank of first degree black belt is simply a beginning. Just like a college degree, it's wonderful to have, but it is only the beginning of a career. Employers want real world experience, as do martial arts students. The question is, once you get the degree, how do you plan to apply it?
When looking at a school, pay attention to the quality of instruction. Are the techniques being broken down in a manner that the students are able to comprehend? Are the techniques effective against someone that is putting up resistance, or are they just choreographed and flashy? Is control and safety practiced and enforced? Are techniques and drills repeated to the point that the learned skills become second nature? Are the instructors willing to offer assistance outside of class? Do the instructors maintain control and discipline at all times while still making class enjoyable and rewarding for the students? Do the instructors continue to learn new material themselves, or do they reach first degree black belt and suddenly become "all knowing"? Do the instructors periodically go back to the basics? Many people fail to realize that just because a person may be a good martial artist does not necessarily mean that person is good at teaching.
My best advice to my students is not to focus on the goal, but rather focus on the journey. Don't think of the next belt rank, think of what you can do right now to become better at your art, whether it be Karate, Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, Kung Fu, or any of the other martial arts. Push yourself harder and kiai louder than the person next to you. Do more than your instructor asks of you. Try your best, even if you think your instructor isn't watching. Remember, perfection is unattainable. Practice does not make perfect, practice makes permanent. Practice sloppy and weak, you will become sloppy and weak. There is always more to learn, no matter how many stripes you have on your belt. Be open minded towards other schools and other styles. Always try to learn more. Believe me, when you focus on the learning process, you will achieve rank sooner than you may think. And as ironic as it may seem, the rank itself will no longer be important.


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