What does it take to be a Black Belt?

How many of us train so hard just to be able to say the words, “I am a black belt,”? We’ve all seen the movies, games and TV shows showing how the great black belt defeats the bad guy. No wonder everyone looks at you in awe if you can utter those words.

In movies, it always starts off with a young boy/girl who is a trouble maker. After a couple of minutes of screen time they are transformed into Black Belt Extraordinaire but you and I both know there is a lot more to it than that. So what exactly does it take to be a black belt?

#1 TRAINING— It requires a minimum of 2.5 years of training (3 to 4 times a week) to be able to take the exam to be a black belt.

#2 THE EXAM—The exam itself has 2 parts to it, the practical and the written (yes, there is a written test for TKD). The practical test takes into account all the training and techniques that have been practiced throughout the coloured belt training. As most of you would have seen when Mr. Ben
Southall took this black belt in August this year. This includes breaking of boards, all 9 IFT and 5 Ki-do Kwan patterns, jumping kicks, one-step sparring, 2 or 3 vs. 1 sparring… takes about 2 hours. Then there is the written exam. This exam mostly comprises of questions regarding the principles of TKD. You know, the oath
that we take every grading—Humility, Justice, Peace, Integrity and Indomitable Spirit and all that. Plus the meanings of TKD terminology in Korean ( Hana, Chunbi etc.) and the origins of pattern names as well.

#3 THE FINAL TEST—If you do well in all that, there is still something else required to obtain your black belt. Something that you have to demonstrate throughout your training for the right to wear a black belt. That of a person who is mature, responsible and dedicated. In short, the final test is a test of character. It is only when you have passed all these tests, have you truly earned the right to say “I am a black belt.” So when you do get your black belt, and I have full confidence that everyone can, wear it with pride. Later on, if you decide to continue the ‘belt race’, it is a whole new ball game to get above 1st Dan. There are in
fact 9 levels (or Dan’s) of black belt. Besides the fact that black belt grading are much harder, it is
also difficult to find someone to teach you. Getting a higher Dan means a lot of hard work and time. You need at least 2- 3 years of practice to go for your 2nd Dan and this keeps increasing as you go higher. This is why they say that getting your black belt is just the beginning, not the end. As a color belt, you go to class, train hard, take your grading and that’s about it, for the most part but for black belts, the story doesn’t quite end there. This is a quick checklist on the other things we are expected to do.

  • Participate—You are expected to take on the responsibility of promoting the Art and Philosophy of
    Taekwon-do by participating in activities such as seminars, training camps, tournaments and so on.
  • Role models—We are required to act as role models to the junior belts. It wouldn’t do to have a black belt
    constantly interrupting the class by fooling around would it?
  • Teaching—Black Belts have a responsibility to help and share their knowledge with junior belt holders as
    part of their ongoing personnel development and TKD advancement. It’s a challenge and the best method of self improvement as “The best way to improve oneself is to teach others”

That’s about it really. Doesn’t sound like much but wait ‘til you try it. It is a brand new experience.