Ten Years to Black Belt

Bill Mattocks

Sr. Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
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Last night, we promoted a young man to black belt. He's been coming to our dojo for ten years; he's 26 now.

He's not very good. He lacks coordination, he's sloppy and his footwork leaves a lot to be desired. But he completed all the requirements for black belt. He is one of our Sensei's black belts now, and our Sensei has never put a black belt on a karateka he wasn't pleased to call one of his.

He came here with his family as a child, fleeing from oppression, I won't say from where. Suffice to say English is not his first language.

His parents, despite not earning much money, have insisted that he keep training, and he's done so. Through thick and thin, he's been in the dojo every week. Sometimes he's a bit late; he works menial jobs and sometimes has to work late. His uniforms are not fancy; he wears them to rags before replacing them.

When he started, he was afraid of being hit. He could not spar, because he'd jerk his head back to avoid being hit; he could not even do basic practical instructions unless ordered to 'stand still' and accept a technique, he was so flinchy. He doesn't have that problem now, he can be aggressive when the situation calls for it.

Over time, he got better. Sometimes, he even shows flashes of excellence.

He perseveres. This is one of the traits we ask for in our dojo. Perseverance is my favorite. I'm slow, I'm old and creaky, lack speed and balance, and my best katas are behind me now. But I persevere. And so does he.

We tested him over a period of weeks. We saw good and bad kata, weapons, and sparring. But we also saw him doing his best. Focus, determination, and best effort at all times.

We took a vote. Unanimous vote for promotion from all yudansha present. No objections.

Ten years to black belt is a long journey. But the point is, it was his journey, and he made it. I'm as proud of him as I could be.

Don't give up.
 
Through thick and thin, he's been in the dojo every week.

He perseveres.
Sounds easy, but to keep showing up and subjecting oneself to facing their own fear and physical limitations week after week is something not many are willing to do.
it was his journey
Internalizing one's commitment, making it a personal quest, perhaps even unconsciously, serves as an anchor to one's life. I think this is one of the differences between doing MA and being a martial artist.

In many ways this young man's journey was similar to mine.

Focus, determination, and best effort at all times.
This guarantees progress. Not much more you can ask for.
 
Last night, we promoted a young man to black belt. He's been coming to our dojo for ten years; he's 26 now.

He's not very good. He lacks coordination, he's sloppy and his footwork leaves a lot to be desired. But he completed all the requirements for black belt. He is one of our Sensei's black belts now, and our Sensei has never put a black belt on a karateka he wasn't pleased to call one of his.

He came here with his family as a child, fleeing from oppression, I won't say from where. Suffice to say English is not his first language.

His parents, despite not earning much money, have insisted that he keep training, and he's done so. Through thick and thin, he's been in the dojo every week. Sometimes he's a bit late; he works menial jobs and sometimes has to work late. His uniforms are not fancy; he wears them to rags before replacing them.

When he started, he was afraid of being hit. He could not spar, because he'd jerk his head back to avoid being hit; he could not even do basic practical instructions unless ordered to 'stand still' and accept a technique, he was so flinchy. He doesn't have that problem now, he can be aggressive when the situation calls for it.

Over time, he got better. Sometimes, he even shows flashes of excellence.

He perseveres. This is one of the traits we ask for in our dojo. Perseverance is my favorite. I'm slow, I'm old and creaky, lack speed and balance, and my best katas are behind me now. But I persevere. And so does he.

We tested him over a period of weeks. We saw good and bad kata, weapons, and sparring. But we also saw him doing his best. Focus, determination, and best effort at all times.

We took a vote. Unanimous vote for promotion from all yudansha present. No objections.

Ten years to black belt is a long journey. But the point is, it was his journey, and he made it. I'm as proud of him as I could be.

Don't give up.
lol I thought this was the norm. If someone had told me how long it would take for me to be a black belt, I would have said somewhere around 10 years.

The first step to winning a race: Show up
The second step to winning a race: Don't quit
 
lol I thought this was the norm. If someone had told me how long it would take for me to be a black belt, I would have said somewhere around 10 years.
Not at all. BJJ is known for the exceptional length of time it takes to make black belt, and THAT is ten years (give or take).
 
Is he sticking around, or was his goal black belt? Not asking in a disrespectful manner - I know plenty of people who set bb as a goal. They'll put in all the work to get it, and then leave feeling they've accomplished something. Others have different goals, I'm curious what his goal is to keep him coming (and his parents for keeping him in training at their own hardship).

Where they there when he received his bb?
 
Last night, we promoted a young man to black belt. He's been coming to our dojo for ten years; he's 26 now.

He's not very good. He lacks coordination, he's sloppy and his footwork leaves a lot to be desired. But he completed all the requirements for black belt. He is one of our Sensei's black belts now, and our Sensei has never put a black belt on a karateka he wasn't pleased to call one of his.

He came here with his family as a child, fleeing from oppression, I won't say from where. Suffice to say English is not his first language.

His parents, despite not earning much money, have insisted that he keep training, and he's done so. Through thick and thin, he's been in the dojo every week. Sometimes he's a bit late; he works menial jobs and sometimes has to work late. His uniforms are not fancy; he wears them to rags before replacing them.

When he started, he was afraid of being hit. He could not spar, because he'd jerk his head back to avoid being hit; he could not even do basic practical instructions unless ordered to 'stand still' and accept a technique, he was so flinchy. He doesn't have that problem now, he can be aggressive when the situation calls for it.

Over time, he got better. Sometimes, he even shows flashes of excellence.

He perseveres. This is one of the traits we ask for in our dojo. Perseverance is my favorite. I'm slow, I'm old and creaky, lack speed and balance, and my best katas are behind me now. But I persevere. And so does he.

We tested him over a period of weeks. We saw good and bad kata, weapons, and sparring. But we also saw him doing his best. Focus, determination, and best effort at all times.

We took a vote. Unanimous vote for promotion from all yudansha present. No objections.

Ten years to black belt is a long journey. But the point is, it was his journey, and he made it. I'm as proud of him as I could be.

Don't give up.

Bravo!
Congrats to him.
 
Is he sticking around, or was his goal black belt? Not asking in a disrespectful manner - I know plenty of people who set bb as a goal. They'll put in all the work to get it, and then leave feeling they've accomplished something. Others have different goals, I'm curious what his goal is to keep him coming (and his parents for keeping him in training at their own hardship).

Where they there when he received his bb?
He sounds like someone who has found a place where he belongs. I would be surprised if he would leave after getting a black belt. The presentation of the story didn't read like someone who only cared about the black belt.
 
Is he sticking around, or was his goal black belt? Not asking in a disrespectful manner - I know plenty of people who set bb as a goal. They'll put in all the work to get it, and then leave feeling they've accomplished something. Others have different goals, I'm curious what his goal is to keep him coming (and his parents for keeping him in training at their own hardship).

Where they there when he received his bb?
They were not there; they both work days and nights. He will continue attending, his goal was never the kuro obi. He's one of us.
 
Sooo nice to hear Bill. Thank you for sharing this, seriously it's really nice to hear :). A very well done to the young lad
 
Is he sticking around, or was his goal black belt? Not asking in a disrespectful manner - I know plenty of people who set bb as a goal. They'll put in all the work to get it, and then leave ...
That was me. I wanted to get to the equivalent of "Black Belt"/Instructor in my system and then move on. But when I got there, I wasn't satisfied with my skill level. So I stuck around a while longer. That was about 1983. Honestly, at one point I did take a long time off ...a "hiatus" of about 15 years, but eventually came back. I felt there was more to do ....more to learn. Always more.
 
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Yeah. They hilarious keep promoting me for the same reason. I just won't go away.

It's even funnier as I hit 50. I am probably getting worse.
 
I think people get hung up on comparing apples to apples when comparing one marti arts student to another. I have a friend who has cerebral palsy that after many years of training achieved 1st and 2nd dan in Kukkiwon Taekwondo. He cant kick above his thigh but he has improved HIMSELF over that period of time. Ive seen children with physical and mental challenges that have done the same. Do I compare them with the Uber athletic kid who learned how to 540 at blue belt? No. Congratulations to the young man. A hard fought journey to get there!
 
Last night, we promoted a young man to black belt. He's been coming to our dojo for ten years; he's 26 now.

He's not very good. He lacks coordination, he's sloppy and his footwork leaves a lot to be desired. But he completed all the requirements for black belt. He is one of our Sensei's black belts now, and our Sensei has never put a black belt on a karateka he wasn't pleased to call one of his.

He came here with his family as a child, fleeing from oppression, I won't say from where. Suffice to say English is not his first language.

His parents, despite not earning much money, have insisted that he keep training, and he's done so. Through thick and thin, he's been in the dojo every week. Sometimes he's a bit late; he works menial jobs and sometimes has to work late. His uniforms are not fancy; he wears them to rags before replacing them.

When he started, he was afraid of being hit. He could not spar, because he'd jerk his head back to avoid being hit; he could not even do basic practical instructions unless ordered to 'stand still' and accept a technique, he was so flinchy. He doesn't have that problem now, he can be aggressive when the situation calls for it.

Over time, he got better. Sometimes, he even shows flashes of excellence.

He perseveres. This is one of the traits we ask for in our dojo. Perseverance is my favorite. I'm slow, I'm old and creaky, lack speed and balance, and my best katas are behind me now. But I persevere. And so does he.

We tested him over a period of weeks. We saw good and bad kata, weapons, and sparring. But we also saw him doing his best. Focus, determination, and best effort at all times.

We took a vote. Unanimous vote for promotion from all yudansha present. No objections.

Ten years to black belt is a long journey. But the point is, it was his journey, and he made it. I'm as proud of him as I could be.

Don't give up.
10 years to Black Belt caught my eye. That was around how long it took to get a Black belt in the style I trained in when I was a teenager in New York. Actually it was more like 10 years to get a Brown belt and another two years and two stripes b4 u would test for ur Black belt. But this was only if u lived n breathed training and I mean training hard. All other styles at the time had Black belts after 2-3 years. Suffice to say, the competitions and tournaments were very lopsided and the front window of the supermarket turned Karate school dojo in the back and weightlifting gym in the front 3/4 of the building. The school was in Lynbrook, N.Y. and it was called RAB's American Combat Karate. It was definitely pretty bad ***. U would basically just do a **** ton of drills and spar. A lot. The drills were designed to try to get u to never b able to achieve the highest level of endurance or stamina, power, technique, agility and resistance to severe physical punishment. I know I might b making it sound like Shaolin and I admit it wasn't quite that brutal. But we did get the **** beat out of us 5 or 6 days a week. I have so much respect for the brotherhood that we had in that school and what it taught me of how to fight. We didn't do very many Kata's. Just drills and sparring really. With 5 or 6 combined styles like Tai Zen, Tae Kwon Do, Ju Jitsu and others but mostly it was all about self defense based street fighting with the goal of using perfect techniques and ending the fight in a few seconds. There were I think 7 or 8 or so Black belt instructors who were all friends and fought together in Vietnam as well as a lot of big club venues as bouncers. Richard Anthony Barathy (no longer in the flesh) was and still is a legend. I save posting anything else about that school, the instructors and the students that were no less than absolutely insane and amazing if anyone from that school seems this post,..... much love n respect, Tony Barberi. Oooosh!
 
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