One of the reasons Martial Arts training brings so much satisfaction is that it teaches a way to look at things as well as a way to do things. To be sure, a complete training program involves all the technical moves you’ll need to advance through your training. On the other hand, a true Martial Artist cannot expect to make much progress without changes in character to complement physical training. The development of strong character has come to be known as Black Belt Excellence.
What, then, are the qualities associated with Black Belt Excellence? Let’s begin with a familiar (though rare) character trait: Courage. You may think of courage as daring, or the ability to do things that people find scary or dangerous. Some dictionaries even define courage as “the ability to disregard fear.” Courage within the definition of Black Belt Excellence is something else entirely. It is the capacity to overcome fear. It’s one thing to pretend you’re not afraid of something (to “disregard” it); it’s quite another thing to face a frightening situation and do what you can to surpass the fear. For instance, it takes real courage to tell somebody you don’t want to do the wrong thing, even though it’s considered “cool”.
Another quality of Black Belt Excellence is Self-control. Self-control is the ability to stay on top of your emotions when it might be tempting to get mad or frustrated. When you lose control of your emotions, you give power to your opponent. Even when you’re so mad you can barely hold yourself back, remember that losing Self-control is exactly what your opponent hopes you will do. Real Self-control is a sign that you are the only one who decides how to react.
Finally, Black Belt Excellence includes the essential quality of Respect. Respect is the attribute by which you honor yourself and demonstrate that you honor your opponent. Bowing to your opponent, and treating a weaker opponent with compassion are two ways to demonstrate respect. You’ve probably already noticed that respect is partly about how you treat others. Being respectful will earn you the respect of others, and will help you to develop a lasting respect for yourself. You may have also noticed that the three attributes of Black Belt Excellence are related. For example, it takes courage to maintain self-control. And at times it takes self-control to show respect for your opponent. This is why we say that Black Belt Excellence is about the development of character. When you achieve Black Belt Excellence, you’ve built a foundation that’s made a solid mixture of Courage, Self-control, and Respect.