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

exile

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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.

:lol:

I felt the same way after passing my belt test. I actually relished the time between passing my test and receiving my belt and certificate, because I still had something to look forward to... after all this time, I still found myself in that mode of thinking. But I managed to remind myself of all the other times that I'd finally realized some years-long project, and how, invariably, I felt kind of empty and rudderless once I'd achieved it, and how something new had always come along to revitalize my energy and interest in that work, whatever it was. After a long, sustained effort, a fallow period isn't a bad idea... a lot of our thinking and processing of our experience takes place at a deep level of thought, without our being conscious of it at all, and it's good to give that part of your mind a bit of time to go wherever it wants to as it digests what you've done and how far you've come.

I don't know about other people, but what I often find is that these kinds of problems often feel as if they've kind of resolved themselves—it's that subconscious process of reflection and reordering of what you know, and then all of a sudden, voil, you know what you're going to do next. Having patience is the main thing, and not feeling as though you have to get it worked out this minute...
 

dancingalone

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Part of the OP's malaise might be due to his overfocus on the external side of the art. Any system, 'hard' styled like karate or TKD included, can have softer elements to it that can be emphasized to the betterment of oneself. In my case, as I continue to age, I focus more on energy redirection. This can be as simple as just working 'soft' blocks. Right now, I'm working on merge points with regard to attacks... How can I best meld with an attack and rebound onto my antagonist with his force amplified by my own weight and momentum? It's fun stuff...especially when you get to the point that you have managed to abstract your opponent's limbs from himself, so it just represents "x" stimulus instead of "punch coming from Fred".
 

shihansmurf

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Find something that you find really cool about the type of martial art that you do and begin to explore it in depth.

If your art has a particular weapon you like, dig into it. Find someone in your school that knows it well and pick their brain clean for knowledge on it. Pick up some good videos (with all the caveats that exist for that subject) on it. Go to a camp or two that has a guest instructor that is well versed in it.

or...

If your art has a body of locking techniques that you are interested in, study it in more depth. Find someone in your school that knows it well and pick their brain clean for knowledge on it. Pick up some good videos (with all the caveats that exist for that subject) on them. Go to a camp or two that has a guest instructor that is well versed in them.

or....


If your art has a body of kicking techniques that you are interested in, study it in more depth. Find someone in your school that knows it well and pick their brain clean for knowledge on them. Pick up some good videos (with all the caveats that exist for that subject) on them. Go to a camp or two that has a guest instructor that is well versed in them.

Notice a theme?

I can't answer from any other instructors point of view but from mine. The way I see things is that a Black Belt means that a student has developed a solid foundation of martial arts skills that allows them to perform self directed study. More importantly, the looming goal of earning your shodan is out of the way. Now you have the luxury to focus learning the nuances of the system you study. Consider also that since you are not so focused on the belt that means you should have the freedom to focus more on the parts of the system that you are interested in.

If all the above fails try a different sport for a bit. Sometime we need a change of pace all around.

Best of luck and a belated congrats on the shodan grading.

Mark
 

KELLYG

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I totally understand where you are coming from. I seem to have a period of appx 6 mo after a major test where every thing seems like an effort. It almost feels like some of the life force has been sucked out. I mean you worked so hard for so long then bam there is an empty spot the you don't quite know how to fill. During this time I have felt as if I am a poser not really deserving of the new current belt.

I also understand about looking around at other people at my same level and seem to be lacking. I am also in my 40's and have some flexibility issues. Most of the other students at my current rank are less than 25 most being between 18 and 20 and absolutely astounding at there skill. I even thought to myself "why am I beating my self up day in and day out when other's skill seem to have passed me by". Then I had a conversation with a fellow student who said that she liked training with our adult class because we were not perfect and still worked on things to get them right. She said that if she had not found our group that she may have quit MA altogether.

There is also something liberating about training for the pure fun of it with out any concrete goals for a while until the fire starts burning again.
Question are you personally better at MA than you were 6 mo ago?
How about tomarrow will you strive to be better then. This is your journey in MA not anyone Else's.
 
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dd87

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Question are you personally better at MA than you were 6 mo ago?
How about tomarrow will you strive to be better then. This is your journey in MA not anyone Else's.

I'm better at what I like to do -- fight. When I spar those high kicking kids, I usually dominate, thanks to my patience and timing. that's when I feel at my best as a black belt.

Material wise -- to be honest, after preparing and working so hard for the BB test, it's a bit of a chore right now to go through my old material, so I've probably slipped a bit in terms of certain techniques.

But, overall, I do find myself acting without having to think so much and, when I teach, I discover how much of the art I've thoroughly absorbed. So yes, I do feel like I'm improving. And that's gotta go to the fore of my thoughts.
 

Phoenix44

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I found that at any rank, it took me a couple of months to "settle in" and not feel like an imposter!

Just out of curiousity, have you talked to your instructor about it? Does your school have higher ranks, or people who've been shodan awhile? What do they do? Are there special classes just for black belts? Extra classes, like grappling or weapons? I mean, you're shodan, but still, you've been training for 4 1/2 years--any decent instructor of any decent martial art should have more to offer you. And of course, you can continue to work the same punches and kicks, and get really good at it. You'll probably find that some of those "hard" techniques feel easier now.

BTW, I started training at age 41. Maybe I'll never be able to do a split or a tornado kick, but so what? I can throw a bitchin' reverse punch!
 

Xue Sheng

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I got the blues.
He's got the Black Belt blues.
I got the blues.
He's got the not-brown belt blues. :D

Congratulations on the rank and it is fine to take a rest for a bit but think about it for a minute, what does the belt actually mean. If you don't wear it are you still skilled or are you only a skilled MAist if you wear the belt.

You got yourself there, you worked hard to get there and you will continue to do much the same. You may need a break, you may need another style but if all you were after was the belt (and I doubt that was all you were after) then you have achieved it and you wouldn't much care about goals or the lack there of.

You will find more goals and although none of my styles have belt ranks I look at my teachers and work towards their level of skill and it is likely since they still train all the time I will never reach where they are at the same time they are there so I got a lot of catching up to do.

Don't worry about it, take a rest and one day (soon) you will find yourself sitting there going nuts because you are not training
 
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dd87

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I found that at any rank, it took me a couple of months to "settle in" and not feel like an imposter!

Just out of curiousity, have you talked to your instructor about it? Does your school have higher ranks, or people who've been shodan awhile? What do they do? Are there special classes just for black belts? Extra classes, like grappling or weapons? I mean, you're shodan, but still, you've been training for 4 1/2 years--any decent instructor of any decent martial art should have more to offer you.

We do have black belt training sessions, and we have some excellent BBs who've had their ranks for a while. the school hasn't really been the issue -- it's me. This thread confirms that what I'm experiencing is pretty much par for the course.

As for whether the black belt was my final goal, and that's why I'm stuck: no, not really. When I was a lower rank I thought "When I get my black belt, I'll go off and study another art". But as I got closer, I realized that the notion of a black belt as an "advanced beginner" really is so. There's so much more I need to learn and incorporate in my style (it's kempo) and I stopped now it would be like pushing yourself away from the table after the appetizer. The main course is coming, I just need to get hungrier for it.
 

KP.

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For the flexibility stuff, if you're in or near a larger metro area, find a flexibility trainer.

Most people, even most athletes, don't stretch correctly. And even if you know how to, often bad habits creep in.

That's not to say you'll gain the legs of a 25 year old, but you can probably improve from where you're at if that is something that really bothers you.
 

IcemanSK

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You've got a lot of good advice here. I don't know you, but it appears that you're wanting to take a break & re-tool a bit. As Kacey has said, setting goals in key. BB is a huge one. The next one may not as easy to figure out.

I've been training since I was 14. At 41, I certainly can't do the things I have video of me doing at 17, 19 or 26. For reasons I won't share here, I was a 2nd Dan for 19 years. When I finally tested for 3rd Dan in 2007, I trained 3-5 hours a day in addition to teaching for months. After I tested, while I still taught my classes, I didn't train at all for a month. I had no energy, & little desire. I had to set new goals, rest my body & mind, & fall in love with the Art again.

Take a break if you feel you need it. Set some new goals.

All my best!
 

Rich Parsons

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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?

Young guys in shape come into our club. Take a look at me and smile, and think they are going to show me a thing or two. (* They do but do not realize it think it is what they thought they were going to show me *). But after working with me and the others they realize that having skills for timing and experience on when to move and how to set up are just as important as being able to run and be in shape.

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.

You have to realize that the Black Belt is NOT the end. It is the beginning. The rest was just getting you an alphabet and vocabulary so you can now begin to speak and write and learn to communicate with others. So, while one should feel good about what they have learned, they should also realize that black belts get hit. That senior instructors and masters get hit as well. There even comes a point where the top masters might get beaten by lots of people but they have the experience and skills to pass on what they know to others.

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?

If there is nothing "NEW" for you to try to learn or concentrate on, then work on the basics, and how would you teach them to the different levels based upon their skill sets and knowledge.

Create your own Form or sequence of moves. The moves need to flow from one to the next and you need to be able to explain it and teach it to others. Of course if a move is more advanced in the form then a more advanced student would be your subject. The point here is not to teach the form but to be able to look at the foot work and the body and hand positions with the foot work to understand movement and flow of technique to technique.

Pretend you are happy and continue to show up and teach, and work out and practice your own timing. Be a helpful partner with another student who may be looking to test in a few months or mentor a student who seems to be having a problem in an area you are doing well in.

Best wishes
 

yak sao

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When I got my 1st Dan, I also felf this weighty sense of having to uphold this image of what a BB should be.
But I also felt like I had earned the privelage to step off the "conveyor belt" and work on mastering what I had learned.
Instead of constantly chasing the carrot for the next belt I was now able to train specific things I wanted to develop.
 
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dd87

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Thanks all for your great advice. It's definitely had an effect.

I was actually eager to get to the dojo today. Went in, sparred a bunch. Got hit, hit some other people. It was all good.

The main adjustment I've made is the realization that I'm now in charge of my training to a significant extent. I'll work on setting goals for things are important to me, and not just wait for those goals to be handed to me. And I won't sweat the things I can't do well.

I'm reminded of a quote from Bruce Lee which now makes real sense to me:

"You cannot do all things perfectly. But you can work to perfect the things you can do."

That's my new motto.......
 

Deaf Smith

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I'm now in charge of my training to a significant extent.

YES! And that's one of the greatist things you will find out. You can now expore other ways of training. I promise you dd87, no matter what instructor you have been under, you will find at other schools and other disiplines that the way they train is different. And like Bruce Lee said, "pick what is useful, discard what is useless".

I'm a JKD at heart dd87. Sure TKD is my base, but I am in change of my training and there are many ways to train!!!

Keep it up.

Deaf
 

exile

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YES! And that's one of the greatist things you will find out. You can now expore other ways of training. I promise you dd87, no matter what instructor you have been under, you will find at other schools and other disiplines that the way they train is different. And like Bruce Lee said, "pick what is useful, discard what is useless".

I'm a JKD at heart dd87. Sure TKD is my base, but I am in change of my training and there are many ways to train!!!

Keep it up.

Deaf

QFT!
icon14.gif
 

bluekey88

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Been there. It happens...training can seem stale after working so hard to achieve a goal. Almost anti-climactic. Especially when you realize all thos things that were hard before getting tha belt are still (maybe even getting harder as age creeps up).

There's lots of things I've done. If I'm feelign physically worn out, I'll take a break from training...but I ALWAYS schedule when I'm going back. I avod a break turning into quitting that way.

When I'm feeling mentally bored ort unmotivated... i keep training but I look for ways to change things up. Generally that means finding something that appeals to me and learning about and practicing it. Maybe a kick...most recently it was in-depth study of poomse for SD techniques.
I also gave myself a very concrete goal of getting in shape so i could compete at nationals once before I turned 40. This forced me to ramp up my conditioning and this has benefitted all aspects of my training.

There's no one answer...really whateever works for you is a good thing. hang in there and take charge of your training. as a blackbelt you are more than qualified and able to do so.

Peace,
Erik
 

Ninebird8

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When I received my first equivalent in 1986, after 8 and a half years of training, I had several goals. But they have changed over the years. When I received my Masters level in two of my kung fu styles, I was really thinking about it. Two things came to me: first, I have tried over the last 10 years or so to incorporate the internal and external into converting a myriad of techniques into natural movement. In other words, move without thinking but doing it the right way. I have also concentrated on my foot movement, my breathing, and when fighting, using my styles as they were meant to be used rather than just kick and punch. As I have gotten older, I can still do the split but my kicks are different now, more direct, always directed to pressure points rather than just blasting, etc. In other words, if you are burnt out after 4 and a half years, then the attainment of knowledge beyond the physical should be your next goal. As one of my masters told me long ago, " I give all you Americans a black sash as a beginning rank, so you can get over it and learn something, but still be able to brag about it....then, once you understand that having a black belt means you now know the basics, time to learn the really cool stuff like using your mind." Also, try converting from training to practicing: training is the daily repetition of all your techniques until they become automatic and smooth. Practice is the APPLICATION of the what you havea learned in a natural and non-sequenced way. This is the transition you must make now, it is extremely hard, and should challenge you for say, oh, the next 20 years or so in your practice....LOL!
 

jks9199

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Lots of good suggestions. Here's mine...

Take your basics apart. Study them. Examine them. Go back to the first punch or kick you learned. Is it really "black belt level" when you do it know? Do you have all your principles transferred into it? Go to your forms the same way.

When I learn a new principle or new element to technique, I know I'm looking at several months of study and application as I take that element through all of the basics...
 

Geeba12

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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?

You are experiencing what all Black Belts experience after entering the Yudansha (or equivalent) rank structure. Since the Arts are set up like a caste system, you have entered a new era in your Martial life. I felt very uncomfortable at Shodan rank and it started the very first class after passing the exam. At Mudansha grade, students are led by the "nose" so to speak. Yudansha grade means more freedom of thought, technique etc. but carries with it a whole new level of responsibilities and expectations. The good news is, you are experiencing exactly what you should. This means you are where you should be emotionally. I agree with the responses that suggested taking some time off. Some do and some don't. I didn't but brother and sister students have. That is an individual decision. This is perhaps the most important phase of you training. The high drop out ranks are white, brown and 1st degree Black Belt. In the '70's the illusions were to either stop at brown belt so you wouldn't have to "register" your hands as deadly weapons (not true). Or stop after 1st Dan as you are now an "expert". Martial Art study is a life long endeavor, there is no end. This is why they are Art forms, you can't put a "tag" on or finalize an Art form. A Martial Artist is not measured in how they perform all techniques. We all have specific strengths and weaknesses. None of us are 100% effective with all the techniques of our styles. That is impossible. Don't self evaluate based on how high you can kick etc. Believe it or not, those concerns have nothing to do with being a Black Belt. Know your syllabus, perform at your best and live the life of a true Martial Artist. That's all that can expected from anyone.
Enjoy your new rank and understand that you cannot continue to grow unless you are free to be your own person, that's what being an Artist is all about: self expression as an individual. How you deal with this new found freedom will determine how far you will go in the Martial Arts and more importantly, how you will develop as a person.
Best regards,
SJG
 

7starmarc

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First, it would be OK to take a break, but be sure to maintain some physical regimen.

More importantly, I think you might need to give yourself a break. Some of what I read in your OP sounded like you were questioning whether or not you deserved your belt. Your instructor tested you, s/he found you worthy, and promoted you. What I found after attaining BB was that nothing changed :erg:. That's right, I was the same person I was prior to wrappnig the black piece of cloth around my waist. I still have my strengths and weaknesses, like anyone else, and still have plenty to improve on. But I, too, felt like I should now be somehow better at everything. After all, I've got this fancy black belt that everyone make a fuss over.

Take it easy, work on your old material (you weren't perfect, even on the day of your testing, were you?), learn some new. Explore the art. Realize that 1st Dan, or whatever the entry level black belt is, is very often the beginning of a new stage of your growth. Maybe talk to one of your instructors about where those new goals might lead you.

And congratulations!
 
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