To get into the right mindset for achieving excellence, one way is to consider how we train as a martial arts student and ask ourselves — Why do we do martial arts? To collect stripes and belts or to be great at something?
Our rational minds will usually answer – “to be great at something.” But we should also look at our actions to see if we are telling the truth to ourselves here. One who works to be great at something continues to train and practice a technique towards perfection, not only in anticipation of a stripe or belt test that’s coming. And those who continue to practice it long after, show true black belt attitude. This is one reason why we try to get all of our students into the good habit of practicing their martial arts at home, or on the go over summer travel times, and to keep a practice log in their notebooks.
Have you ever thought you knew your combos or kicks or forms, but felt stuck and not progressing through the stripe? Why do you think that might be?
Being great at something requires never giving up in making something great. Anybody can learn a 3-count front kick in a 30-second private lesson, but does that mean they’re great at it and should move on to side kick or tornado kick?
Higher belts, especially, need to remember this the most. It takes longer in one place and on one technique or on one form to get it to the highest level of your achievement before you move on through the higher ranks. It is much more than memorization and it requires more perfect details and a higher quality of technique. It takes consistency of your formal training in class and your practicing at home. If you’re not earning that stripe or feel “bored” with what you’re doing, you should reflect on why you’re not moving on to the next thing– Are you not intense or powerful enough? Is your balance not solid? Stances not low enough? Kicks not high enough? Memorization cloudy and not confident? And if you can’t answer that question for yourself, I’m sure your black belt instructors can help you find the piece that you need to succeed. All you have to do is ask and they can help you find direction and set specific goals for your home practice time.
As higher belt students move closer to black belt, we look for those who demonstrate the deeper understanding of what the black belt attitude and the black belt itself represents – just because you’ve earned a stripe, doesn’t mean you’re finished learning about it or making it better. Black belts know this and they also don’t stop practicing basics either. They don’t even get bored of them, because their mindset is to keep striving for greatness (an even better one than they achieved before) and that excellence in martial arts movement is the goal. I don’t think that practicing basics ever becomes easy or boring to a black belt, because they always find a higher level to aspire to with it (KC’s Family Taekwondo).
Martial arts is both a practice of trying to be great and also a practice of never assuming that you already are. Aspire for excellence and never stop trying to get there!