— Chinese Proverb
As my black belt test inches closer, I find myself examining what it means to be a black belt at an intensely personal level. I liked this excerpt from Wikipedia:
In contrast to the “black belt as master” stereotype, a black belt commonly indicates the wearer is competent in a style’s basic technique and principles. Since in many styles a black belt takes approximately three to six years of training to achieve, a good intuitive analogy would be a bachelor’s degree: the student has a good understanding of concepts and ability to use them but has not yet perfected their skills. In this analogy a master’s degree and a doctorate would represent advancement past the first degree.
Another way to describe this links to the terms used in Japanese arts; shodan (for a first degree black belt), means literally the first/beginning step, and the next grades, nidan and sandan are each numbered as “ni” is two and “san” is three, meaning second step, third step, etc. The shodan black belt is not the end of training but rather as a beginning to advanced learning: the individual now “knows how to walk” and may thus begin the “journey”.
— Napoleon Bonaparte