There’s a strange phenomenon that tends to happen when people train in the martial arts. Everyone becomes obsessed with black belts. I mean, I get it… Most people, especially when they start training in martial arts, consider obtaining a black belt to be “the” goal. This is a true falsehood, considering that obtaining a black belt is really only the beginning.
Last week during a karate class I attended, something was said that struck a chord… It’s been said a great deal in the past three years that I’ve been training there, but I really only noticed a problem last Thursday. While practicing some specific techniques, we were paired up with the following words:
“Grab a partner. Make sure that they’re as close to your belt and height level as possible…”
Hmm… Does anyone else see what the problem with this statement might be? I totally understand what the thought may be, behind this thought. By training with someone of your same basic height and build, it guarantees a consistency. By raining with someone close to your own belt rank, it guarantees that speed and skill will be a closer match. Wow, THAT sounds like it’s conducive to learning and improving…
One needs to ask a basic question: What are the odds that someone you may face in a confrontation will be the same height? Same weight and build? Same level of fighting skill? I can almost guarantee that there’s no chance of all those aspect lining up in your favour. That’s why it becomes important to acknowledge that training with a diverse number of different people is of the utmost importance.
I paired myself up with a white belt who has only been coming to class for about a month. Halfway through the drill, he apologized to me and shared his thought that I would be better off with one of the other black belts so I could practice harder and faster. I explained him that he was providing all the opposition I needed and that I could learn as much from him as I could coach.
And that’s the important lesson, here. A variety of different belt levels, skill sets and body types are what will help you to develop your skills and techniques properly. If you only ever train with people of the same skill level, there’s no opportunity for either one to progress. Make sense? So mix those belt colours up! Don’t be afraid to train with someone of a higher rank; they should be able to coach and teach you. Don’t be afraid to train to train with someone of lower rank; not only do we learn by teaching, but they have plenty to teach you as well. ☯