How Long To Get A Black Belt?
This is a common question in the martial arts and one that I frequently get asked from new students entering the dojo. Let’s take a look at the reply since there are many layers to asking the question, both good and bad.
New students ask this question because of the cultural significance a black belt holds in our western culture. They may not know much about the martial arts, but they know a black belt equals mastery- after all aren’t many teachers a black belt?
From an eastern perspective and one of the Japanese martial arts this conclusion can seem quite puzzling since a black belt there equates to being accepted into the school and having a fundamental grasp at the basics of the art- now the “real” training can begin!
Hardly the sign of a master.
But over here in the west we still have that hold over, one that needs to be addressed.
As a student of the martial arts with a few years of practice under my belt, “How long to get a black belt” or any rank for that matter is a question I would never dare to ask, because I know better, from being told and shown better.
A new person to the training doesn’t know, so their question is one of general inquiry and needs to be addressed. Juniors in the arts can get away with a lot more than their seniors.
What makes it even harder is that the time, requirements, and definitions differ from martial art to martial arts, something they further might not understand since all black belts are the same.
So what I do with such a question is explain to them what a black belt means in my school- for both my students and myself as the main instructor.
On a basic level a black belt holder is a student that has an understanding and proficiency of the base skills required for our martial arts- ways of punching, kicking, locking, and moving the body. Of course they can’t do it “perfectly” yet, but they understand why, and are working to fix any little issues in the movement.
If you are an “average” student and train each week, along with practicing at home as best you can, the time to reach this base level of proficiency is about five to six years, leaning more towards the six side.
This is the “omote” (outer) section of the training that you can see, but there is also an inner (ura) portion of becoming a black belt.
While you are plugging away at learning the basic skills, as a teacher I’m also looking at your heart in training- do you have a fighting spirit, area you patient and compassionate to your fellow training partners and people in general. Are you ready to contribute to the school and the art or are you only at the dojo to “take”.
I’m judging if you have the character to go the distance. The lessons of the dojo, and the culture are slowly taught in support of these goals alongside the basics…
…which leads to the question of how long DOES it takes to get a black belt?