"Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." - Tim Notke What does it take to become a black belt?
The other day someone called inquiring about classes. The first thing he wanted to know was, "How long does it take to get a black belt?" I answered, "About 5-15 years depending on how hard your train." His next question was, "How long did it take you?" I answered that, "That is not relevant." He retorted, "It is for me." He then said, "You're not going to tell me?" I said, "No. You should just focus on training and not the attainment of black belt." He said, "So you're not going to tell me?" I said, "No." He said, "Maybe I should go someplace else then." I said, " You can, there are many different Aikido schools around that might suit you better. This school focuses on training and not rank." He then hung up.
This is a typical phone call that I get about once a week. This desire for rank could possibly be a a product of modern thinking or maybe even western thinking - I am not completely sure. But, it is something that people today really covet. When I was a student rank was the last thing you talked about. Anyone who talked about it was severely chastised by Sensei. Budo (martial arts) is not about the attainment of rank, status or wealth. Budo is about self-development.
I want my students to be concerned with improving themselves and not with attainment or accolades.
I have uploaded a video about the 8th dan Kendo examination in Japan. It has a passing rate of less than 1%, but for this particular test the passing rate was 0.4%. In order to be qualified to take the test you have to have been 7th dan for at least 8 years and be at least 46 years old. They say that 1 in 5000 people ever pass the test, but at least 2000 people challenge the test every year. In this video they profile a guy who has taken the test 24 times. He might have been initially concerned with attaining the rank but now it is all about his personal growth as a human being. They say the Way is in training. They don't say the Way is in getting promoted or attaining rank. Please continue to train hard.