By Jose R. Villanueva

As originally published on the Listen & Be Heard Weekly1, June 22, 2005.

There is a certain period of time that it takes to achieve Black Belt, but before I discuss this it would be important to define the meaning of a Black Belt. If a practitioner or potential practitioner does not understand the meaning of a Black Belt, it will increase the time to achieve it. Every system of Martial Art has its own timetable to achieving Black Belt level. Time can be shortened or lengthened due to these factors: 1) Goals, 2) listening to instructor, and 3) practice.

Black Belt is a level of skill that most Martial Artists try to achieve. The belt itself is just a material item, but it represents the potential skill that a practitioner might have. Every system of Martial Art has their own standard of definition for a Black Belt, so I will give my general definition. A Black Belt is a person who upholds the highest degree of honor, integrity, and ethics. He has a tremendous amount of certainty, discipline, concentration, awareness, and presence. He only uses his Martial Art for sport and to protect himself and others. A Black Belt has self-control. He has knowledge about life that he can teach his friends and students. He has speed, power, and fluidity of motion. He is confident, certain, and competent in his ability to defend himself. He does not ever question his ability, but he always strives to improve over his last best.

The amount of time to achieve Black Belt is different in every Martial Art system. The requirements and standards are different. The average time that it takes in my school is 4-5 years of dedicated training. I will use this as a general example. The time it takes to achieve Black Belt can be extended or shortened based on goals, ability to listen and follow the instructor's directions, and practice.

Goals play a significant role in achieving anything in life. If a practitioner does not set goals in the Martial Arts, he will not move in any direction or it will take longer to achieve a goal. The instructor sets goals for his students, and the student aligns his goals with the instructor. Every belt rank has an average time to achieve each level, and every level has requirements and skills that must be able to be performed.

The instructor must be able to teach what he knows. He must be able to wear his hat with his students. A student must take on the role of one who is learning. If the student cannot listen and follow directions from the instructor, it will assuredly cause slowness of progress or an inability to progress at all. If the student thinks he knows better than the instructor who has had years of training, then he ought to pick up and leave. This type of student will never be satisfied anywhere, and he will never amount to anything in the Martial Arts.

Practice is the "life blood" of the Martial Artist because he cannot develop any level of skill without the practical application of the exercises and techniques. A practitioner is constantly trying to improve over his last best performance. The practice helps to iron out errors or incorrect application. One cannot just learn an exercise or technique without practice and expect to be competent when one needs to apply it. Lack of practice will certainly slow the progress to Black Belt.

As one can see, there are essentials to shortening the period of time it takes to achieve Black Belt. One cannot be disillusioned by the idea that one can get away with a lack of any of the above, and expect proficiency and competence let alone Black Belt skill. One is either in training for the duration or one should just get out fast with one's self-respect still intact.