I've Got the Black Belt Blues - and I need some advice....

dd87

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Hey all,

After 4 1/2 years of training, I earned 1st Dan a few months back. After the intense preparation and the grueling test, getting that belt was one of the true highlights of my life. I walked around on a cloud for a few weeks. But then...

I suddenly find myself at a real low point of my training. Without a clear goal ahead of me, I feel disinterested in new material and bored with old material. I never had that problem in the past.

Even worse, I can no longer cut myself any slack for my physical limitations. I work like hell on my flexibility but I know I'll never be able to kick to the head or perform decent spinning kicks. Flopping around like a rhino while trying to do a butterfly kick was one thing when I was a green belt. It's another to do it with a black belt around your waist in front of a room full of orange belts who, 25 years younger, can do them flawlessly. As much as I try to focus on what I do well -- I have fast hands, move well and I love to fight -- my entire self-image is being clouded by the things I can't do. Frankly, I wonder sometimes whether I legitimately deserve to wear that belt.

So what do I do? take a break, or just keep plugging away?
 

Drac

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Hey all,

After 4 1/2 years of training, I earned 1st Dan a few months back. After the intense preparation and the grueling test, getting that belt was one of the true highlights of my life. I walked around on a cloud for a few weeks. But then...

I suddenly find myself at a real low point of my training. Without a clear goal ahead of me, I feel disinterested in new material and bored with old material. I never had that problem in the past.

Even worse, I can no longer cut myself any slack for my physical limitations. I work like hell on my flexibility but I know I'll never be able to kick to the head or perform decent spinning kicks. Flopping around like a rhino while trying to do a butterfly kick was one thing when I was a green belt. It's another to do it with a black belt around your waist in front of a room full of orange belts who, 25 years younger, can do them flawlessly. As much as I try to focus on what I do well -- I have fast hands, move well and I love to fight -- my entire self-image is being clouded by the things I can't do. Frankly, I wonder sometimes whether I legitimately deserve to wear that belt.

So what do I do? take a break, or just keep plugging away?

Don't sweat the small stuff..Few of us can do those kicks that the 25 yr olds do flawlessly, we have other weapons at our disposal..Taking a break couldn't hurt, many here have done it and return refreshed and train with renewed zest..
 
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dd87

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Don't sweat the small stuff..Few of us can do those kicks that the 25 yr olds do flawlessly, we have other weapons at our disposal..Taking a break couldn't hurt, many here have done it and return refreshed and train with renewed zest..

I appreciate that, Drac. I guess what's making the situation come to a head is that we've recently been doing one kicking drill after another, and I just have a continuous feeling of inadequacy. In the past, if we did a drill that gave me problems, but then followed it up with something I was strong at, I'd be able to take a better attitude. But it's really the black belt that's getting inside my head -- I have an inner loop playing that says "a black belt should be able to do this...." and it's wearing me down a bit.
 

AMP-RYU

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Hey like drac said, take a break! When I got my black belt I took a month off just to get my head right! Then came back more than ready for new things!
 

Drac

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I appreciate that, Drac. I guess what's making the situation come to a head is that we've recently been doing one kicking drill after another, and I just have a continuous feeling of inadequacy. In the past, if we did a drill that gave me problems, but then followed it up with something I was strong at, I'd be able to take a better attitude. But it's really the black belt that's getting inside my head -- I have an inner loop playing that says "a black belt should be able to do this...." and it's wearing me down a bit.

I just hit 55 and I fell your angush..I cannot train as heavy as I did in my 30's and 40's , but I still train...I have a lifetime of skills to pass on to the students and so do you, so tell that voice to shut up...I've screwed up my knee on duty last year and I feel it after a few hours, thankfully in our discipline there is no kicking above the waist.
 

Rabu

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Set new goals. Find another thing to reach for.

Something you dont currently have or would be entirely new and different.

Just a thought.

I have to do this every few years in real life. reach a goal, find a new goal. Feels like 'kane walking the earth with out direction'.

You will get through it and find the next horizon.

Rob
 

Kacey

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You said yourself that you no longer have a goal - so it's time to sit down and pick a new one. Choose several short-term goals (months to years) and a long-term goal (5-10 years), so you don't have this problem again. Review your goals every several months, at least.

In the meantime - you can take a break, lots of people do - but when you set your goals, you can decide if further training is really what you want, and then go from there.
 
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dd87

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Thanks for the wisdom, everyone.

As far as goals, I guess that's the tricky part. Before you get to black, your goals are prescribed for you -- here's what you need for green, here's what you need for brown, etc. Now, with 2nd degree far off in the future, I find myself having to set my own goals, and I'm floundering.

So tell me, when each of you got to 1st Dan, what kind of short term and long term goals did you set for yourselves?
 

Blindside

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I don't think I learned anything new for about 6 months after test for black, I was completely burnt out. I came to class, helped teach, but just had no interest in learning. Taking a break doesn't work for me, I came back more out of shape, my timing would be off, it just doesn't feel good to me.

As Kacey said, pick some good short term goals, work on that back kick, emphasize angular entries in sparring, whatever. Remember that your goals should be quantifiable and achievable. Oh, and have fun.
 

Drac

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Thanks for the wisdom, everyone.

As far as goals, I guess that's the tricky part. Before you get to black, your goals are prescribed for you -- here's what you need for green, here's what you need for brown, etc. Now, with 2nd degree far off in the future, I find myself having to set my own goals, and I'm floundering.

So tell me, when each of you got to 1st Dan, what kind of short term and long term goals did you set for yourselves?

I actually set no goals other to teach when I can and to train as often as my treasonious body allows...I was facing my 2nd Dan test in Nov, however I screwed up my back on duty and I cannot risk further injury by aggrevating the exsisting injury..
 
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dd87

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I don't think I learned anything new for about 6 months after test for black, I was completely burnt out. I came to class, helped teach, but just had no interest in learning. Taking a break doesn't work for me, I came back more out of shape, my timing would be off, it just doesn't feel good to me.

As Kacey said, pick some good short term goals, work on that back kick, emphasize angular entries in sparring, whatever. Remember that your goals should be quantifiable and achievable. Oh, and have fun.

thanks -- your experience sounds a lot like mine. Since getting the belt, I found that I love to teach, and I've been doing more and more of it, in class settings and informally. And I don't want to take a break because I would miss being in the dojo and because I fear I'd lose the motivation to get back in the groove.

Y'know, I've lurked here for a while, but never felt motivated to join in. But tonight I came back from training feeling so low, I thought I'd give it a shot and see if others could relate. Really, everyone who's posted here has given me a real shot in the arm. Thank you all so much.:asian:
 

Drac

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. And I don't want to take a break because I would miss being in the dojo and because I fear I'd lose the motivation to get back in the groove.

I left for about 5 yrs before I started training full time again..I was 40 and training with the intensity of a 20 year old..
 

Korppi76

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When I got my 1st Dan I didn't train for week I just tried to relax. And if I remember correctly I thought I knew something about Martial arts... then I went back to train and my sensei and he showed me how things are done right :)... and I have new goal now, I try to be half as good as my sensei :)

(Bad thing in this goal is that my sensei seems to be getting better all the time, so I haven't been satisfied my others Dan graduations after first.)
 

jarrod

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i actually felt really insecure for about 6 months after getting my black belt. i liked being a brown belt; lower belts listen to your advice but nobody expects you to be perfect. i ended up working harder than usual during that time until i felt like i kind of sort of deserved it.

on a possibly related note, there was no shodan test. when our coach thinks you're ready & you've trained long enough, you get a belt, a certificate, & a hand shake. i can see where if you have a more formal & intense test, passing the test could make you feel like you've accomplished what you're supposed to, thereby unintentionally de-motivating you.

i don't know, maybe train with some people who can really kick your ***. that you usually motivates me pretty well.

jf
 

MJS

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Hey all,

After 4 1/2 years of training, I earned 1st Dan a few months back. After the intense preparation and the grueling test, getting that belt was one of the true highlights of my life. I walked around on a cloud for a few weeks. But then...

I suddenly find myself at a real low point of my training. Without a clear goal ahead of me, I feel disinterested in new material and bored with old material. I never had that problem in the past.

Even worse, I can no longer cut myself any slack for my physical limitations. I work like hell on my flexibility but I know I'll never be able to kick to the head or perform decent spinning kicks. Flopping around like a rhino while trying to do a butterfly kick was one thing when I was a green belt. It's another to do it with a black belt around your waist in front of a room full of orange belts who, 25 years younger, can do them flawlessly. As much as I try to focus on what I do well -- I have fast hands, move well and I love to fight -- my entire self-image is being clouded by the things I can't do. Frankly, I wonder sometimes whether I legitimately deserve to wear that belt.

So what do I do? take a break, or just keep plugging away?

I would keep plugging away. :)

First, congrats on your new rank. This really is the new beginning of a long journey. Depending on your art, there may/may not be anything new. There comes a time when instead of learning new things per se, its giving something back and time in grade.

As for being able to kick head height and do certain kicks. Hey, not everyone is built to do those things. You should have an idea how to do them, especially if you're going to have to teach those kicks to others.

Keep training hard and don't give up. :)
 

MJS

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Thanks for the wisdom, everyone.

As far as goals, I guess that's the tricky part. Before you get to black, your goals are prescribed for you -- here's what you need for green, here's what you need for brown, etc. Now, with 2nd degree far off in the future, I find myself having to set my own goals, and I'm floundering.

So tell me, when each of you got to 1st Dan, what kind of short term and long term goals did you set for yourselves?

As the tests go on, many times its not so much the physical aspect, but the thinking aspect. For example, you may be required to come up with a few interpretations of some katas. This is the thinking, as its forcing you to really understand what you're doing in the kata.

As for the old material...just keep working it. Know it inside and out. Be able to adjust on the fly, so to speak. In other words, you have a technique for a punch. I'm sure you could do that just fine. Now, work on adjusting to something else that may happen during the course of that technique, ie: your opponent moves, not allowing you to finish the textbook tech., throws another attack, etc.
 

exile

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As the tests go on, many times its not so much the physical aspect, but the thinking aspect. For example, you may be required to come up with a few interpretations of some katas. This is the thinking, as its forcing you to really understand what you're doing in the kata.

As for the old material...just keep working it. Know it inside and out. Be able to adjust on the fly, so to speak. In other words, you have a technique for a punch. I'm sure you could do that just fine. Now, work on adjusting to something else that may happen during the course of that technique, ie: your opponent moves, not allowing you to finish the textbook tech., throws another attack, etc.

DD, Mike's advice is absolutely on target. I know what you're talking about, because I just tested for Black last month, after a shade under six years of training. And I'm 61 years old. I'm pretty flexible, but no, I wouldn't be able to do what the 19 and 20 years olds can do. No matter how good shape you keep yourself in, there are definitely limits! :rolleyes:

But as Drac pointed out, we have other weapons at our disposal. You know the old platitude: Youth and speed are no match for age and treachery. (I'm not saying we're not young, just not as young :lol:) I interpret this to mean, we have a general view of how to achieve our goals with patience, indirection, and cunning, based on what life in general has taught us over that time. Pancho Gonzales was famous for blasting hot young players with 90mph forehands off the court well into his 40s, simply because he outplayed them, and that's what experience gives you to compensate for the overall slowing down that comes with getting older.

But beyond that, the right way to think of a black belt is that it's like a Ph.D. in an academic discipline: very impressive to outsiders, but everyone on the inside knows that it's just the very first step in your career of discovery. Yes, the thesis itself may make a modest (or even significant) contribution to knowledge; but the real point of a Ph.D. is what you had to learn about the field, the research problems in the past that laid the basis for current knowledge, the strategies and tactics for solving them, and how to push beyond the limits of that current knowledge. Doing a Ph.D. teaches you how to make new discoveries, and for most people, no matter how good they are in their graduate school careers, their best work—the stuff they'll be remembered for, the stuff that gets them included in author indexes and lists of cited references in other people's articles—comes way, way after their doctoral thesis. A Ph.D. thesis is a real achievement, but it's really a kind of 'dry run' for the major work that scientists and scholars are going to be doing down the road.

But the same kind of letdown is legendary amongst new Ph.D.s. When your life has been so strongly focused on what started out as a far distant goal, and after years of work you finally achieve it, that whole focus is removed from your life—and since you've organized your life around that goal, it's like removing the capstone of an arch: it feels as though the whole thing is now unstable. It doesn't feel as though you've only reached the first rung of the ladder... but you have to think of it that way. The difference between working toward your BB and what you do after is that the BB was set as a goal for you by the ranking system, you knew what you were aiming for, everything was well-defined. Once you reach BB—just as once you do your Ph.D.—it's all up to you where you go with that training. There are no preset goals or objectives to be reached. You have to define the next step yourself, and that's a lot harder than going on to the universally-recognized 'next step': purple after green, blue after purple, brown after blue, etc.

There's a lot of good advice in the previous posts about what direction to focus you next efforts on. I personally like Mike's suggestions about studying kata (or hyungs or whatever the 'formal' elements of your system are) and trying to extract the serious combat meaning from them—there's a huge, growing and high-quality literature out there on this already. Or exploration of novel teaching methods. Or experiments with standard techniques and seeing if you can find effective innovations, e.g., what happens if you try to make the chambering phase of a strike the actual strike itself (high kicks are turned into knee strikes; down blocks into elbow strikes, etc.) But whatever it is, the trick is to find something that appeals to your problem-solving instinct, and pursue it. Now that you're at BB, you have the tools—your next task is to find a domain of activity in the MAs that's worthy of them!
 
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KempoGuy06

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Hey all,

After 4 1/2 years of training, I earned 1st Dan a few months back. After the intense preparation and the grueling test, getting that belt was one of the true highlights of my life. I walked around on a cloud for a few weeks. But then...

I suddenly find myself at a real low point of my training. Without a clear goal ahead of me, I feel disinterested in new material and bored with old material. I never had that problem in the past.

Even worse, I can no longer cut myself any slack for my physical limitations. I work like hell on my flexibility but I know I'll never be able to kick to the head or perform decent spinning kicks. Flopping around like a rhino while trying to do a butterfly kick was one thing when I was a green belt. It's another to do it with a black belt around your waist in front of a room full of orange belts who, 25 years younger, can do them flawlessly. As much as I try to focus on what I do well -- I have fast hands, move well and I love to fight -- my entire self-image is being clouded by the things I can't do. Frankly, I wonder sometimes whether I legitimately deserve to wear that belt.

So what do I do? take a break, or just keep plugging away?
hey man, keep your head up. Im 23 and cant do those kick because of my knees. I concetrate on my strong points like my quick hand, good base and strength. They allow me to overwhelm the kicker at my dojo. By focusing on that it has put me on a level playing field with the rest of the people near my rank.

like Drac said at the beginning dont sweat the small stuff. Train for who you are, who you want to be and where you want to go. Thats all that matters

B
 

crushing

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What a great OP/questions along with great feedback. I feel better that I wasn't alone in getting the black then blues.
 
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dd87

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What a great OP/questions along with great feedback. I feel better that I wasn't alone in getting the black then blues.


Absolutely -- I really had no idea that what I'm going through seems to be the norm, rather than the exception. Needless to say, I feel a good deal better about things now than I did last night.

I see now how my problem stems from doing what I vowed never to do as a lower rank -- comparing myself with others. For some reason, as I train with other new black belts -- guys who, as I said, are 25 years younger, can kick to the sky and are lapping up the new material with gusto -- I'm judging myself based on their abilities and mindset.

Now that I know that my own personal experience is so common, I can relax and just go back to enjoying my own journey. really, that's a major relief.

For the time being, I'm going to forget all about new material, and go back to the forms and techniques I already have and break them down, piece by piece, to master bunkai and determine alternate applications.

So, my mind is getting right. thank you all, ladies and gentlemen.
 
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