Black belt in a year? Here’s why not

Some students think that becoming a black belt isn’t going to take much time. These are usually students who are fast learners, and they become emboldened when they can learn basic forms with ease. This is a great level of intellectual skill and enthusiasm. So please do not misunderstand this post.

Consider this – the student says that he/she knows Basic Form 1. Great! This person knows the stances to do, the techniques, the turns, and where the ki haps are. But then I’ll start looking at the details.

  • Arms aren’t fully straight on the low blocks.
  • No breath control
  • Ki haps aren’t strong enough
  • Eye contact isn’t there
  • Footwork isn’t tracing out crescent moons on the ground
  • Very little power in the techniques
  • Front knee isn’t bent enough in front stance

Then I’ll do Basic Form 1 in front of the student and each and every one of these details are met, plus I know the moves, turns, and so forth. And no, this isn’t another “details, details, details” post.

Did you know that the average person can remember at best 7, give or take 2, concepts/ideas simultaneously? This is a cognitive limit of humans. I’m human. So how can I possibly remember the list above, which is already 7, plus the form itself, all at the same time? That is too much already.

The answer: I don’t. Through practice and repetition, the details I gave above as an example are ingrained in my muscles and my subconscious. I have done them so many times that I do not need to remember to do them. I just do them. It is second nature.

This is uniquely human. Machines don’t behave this way. I write code for a living. Machines do exactly what I tell them the first time because they are not human. They are actually quite dim. I do all of the learning for them in the form of code. It takes machines 0 hours to learn something. But humans require practice, and lots of it.

This is really the key difference between a master and a novice, and this applies to anything. There is absolutely no substitute for repetition. Here’s another interesting tip – a famous theory states that it takes 10000 hours of deliberate practice at any craft or technique to become a master. How long is 10000 hours?

There are 24 hours in a day. Take out 8 for sleep and 8 for school or work. You are left with 8 hours of possible practice time. Realistically, let’s say 1 hour a day, every day, is spent on practicing karate. This is basically 10000 days, every day of the year, to become a master. This adds up to over 25 years.

This is why I still train. I have been doing karate, coincidentally, for almost 25 years myself. I am the only instructor at DFK that teaches and trains. If I don’t keep it up, then I have no right, really, to be teaching, because there isn’t any substitute for practice and repetition. This is why, honestly, I don’t think I’d ever become a manager at my job.

So, I didn’t mean to bum any of you out, but rather to inspire you to take a lifelong journey with us!


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