Responsibilities of a Black Belt
by Sensei Bill Bressaw, 8th Dan
I would like to clarify some areas of concern regarding your image to the student body and how to handle certain methods of teaching, motivation and student control. As you know, we've had a large influx of Juniors. It has caused some stress on instructors and other students. It is difficult at times to wear a black belt and live up to that special and expected level of loyalty, expertise, and wisdom that students look to you for and are deeply and profoundly influenced by. Indeed, you all have an extremely important role in our community and especially to those who realize that the BLACKBELT can help them live with some dignity.
Recall some of the students you have already met that were filled with the lifelong fear of confrontation and how through time in our dojo with the guidance of the BLACKBELTS learned to deal with it and sometimes actually embrace their fears and turn it into strength. Yet another type of student is one who has an average dull existence burdened with responsibility without the reward of a personal adventure. An adventure that brings them to the brink of understanding what powers are hidden in the human spirit. That is to say the good and evil of all of us and what our ancestors encountered to survive whether it be economically or physically Not to mention the ability to discipline themselves to do things that seemed outside their realm of understanding or courage.
Don't forget that young junior student who looks to you like a sports star and mentor. They all need that good image to follow.
The desire to learn a philosophy and martial art in depth with personal attention and guidance from the BLACKBELT is the single most motivating force in recent history for people to seek an endeavor that is strenuous, psychologically demanding and forever changing their understanding the nature of things.
Do not under estimate your importance to every student who you have helped and to those who were watching you from the side before or after class who copied how you handled confrontation (strenuous workouts, sparring, detail improvement of technique, your respect for the instructor, the struggle to make each class even after many years of training, self denial of excuses for performance that is sometimes not as good other times, criticism from myself and Sensei Kimura and so on).
The survival of the dojo is dependant upon you and how the students perceive the BLACKBELT - Some suggestions on what your duties are and how you can help.
- On a steady and reliable basis help teach at least one day a week letting nothing come between that day and your assistance. This is the only way to share the knowledge and attitudes you have attained with the upcoming students.
- Train with me once a week on a Monday, Wednesday or Saturday class.
- Support all of Mr. Kimura's training sessions and visit his regular class frequently to occasionally as your schedule permits.
- Never bring yourself down to the level of behavior, understanding or attitude of a student. You have the training and wisdom that they seek. However, never be demeaning or disrespectful as they may be more wise in other areas such as the president of a large corporation, professional or Senator etc. Never be indignant, just be knowledgeable and confident about what you say and do. Don't intentionally show or discuss your weaknesses or problems with them.
- Don't show aggravation just show disappointment if there is misbehavior, disrespect or lack of effort.
- Treat students differently. Don't expect a 6 year old to know how to control their blows or their energy or a female or executive to take impact or injury . Just smile and control the situation.
- Break up large classes into small groups hopefully with some assistance from brown belts. Make sure to do kata and ippon kumite for their requirements.
- Always before teaching any detail do some strenuous exercise such as basic combinations, kata and calisthenics. Students may be uncomfortable at first but if the above is done in moderation they will become accustomed to it. A good gage is to get their heart rate up to a steady 140 per minute for 10 minutes or more.
- Rather than sparring, teach timing training which is more controlled, safe and developmental.
Remember, Karate can be for everyone. But not everyone wants to break bricks with their head or have their blood spilled on the mat. Those who are to do just that are not the average citizen. Neither will everyone be in the same physical shape.
You are a leader. You must be kind and considerate as well as stern and confident. There is a lot of responsibility to lead properly and make the right decisions for the student training that is in their best interest to meet safety as well as obtain the ability to survive combative situations. Help teach from respect for what you can do to an attacker rather than have the student fear you. Only your enemies should fear you, no one else. Of course some students will mistake this kindness for weakness but to remedy that do stronger techniques, kill the heated air around their body or demonstrate a move that leaves them breathless. Be patient, they'll come around. Don't forget you've been given a special power through your training that others don't have.
The above is only a basic reminder of who you are, your duties and responsibilities. I owe Sensei Kimura for much of my knowledge and I have long ago pledged my loyalty to him and his way. This is not to say that I don't question or create. Its a good life that we the BLACKBELTS can have with some communications, continuous training and clear direction.