1. Show Up - There is nothing more important than showing up to each and every class with a positive attitude and ready to learn.
2. Listen To Your Instructor - Young martial artists and parents today are sometimes looking for the easy way to get to black belt. There is no easy way! Even the shortcuts very often end up being long cuts. Learn to embrace the toughness of the process. Earning a blackbelt will be one of the toughest things you have ever done in your life but it will be well worth it.
3. Proper Practice - It is critical to receive any instruction and advice from certified black belts from within your school. Blackbelts who have been personally promoted by the head instructor and are products of your schools are the ideal candidates to seek advice from when the time comes. NEVER receive instruction from your peers in class! They are still learning themselves and you are asking for trouble by getting instruction from someone below black belt rank.
4. Getting Uncomfortable - If you find yourself extremely comfortable during your training you are either the top of your class with no one to challenge you OR you are not getting any better. Learn to become uncomfortable in the training process by showing up when you do not feel like it, registering for an extra class even if you do not have time, going to summer camp even if scheduling does not permit, and of course arriving early and staying late after class.
5. Patience - It is extremely rare that the students who start with you at white belt will be the same people who finish with you at black belt. Not everyone makes it to black belt and that is just part of the game. You have to be patient in the process and be willing to continue your training evening if your friends quit. Most people want to rush to blackbelt but time is the one thing you can not short cut. Something magical happens when you let time pass and learn to trust your instructor. You become elite in the process. Always remember, experience is highly valued in the martial arts and you only get it through investing a lot of time in your training.
6. Dealing With Disappointments - Building a relationship with the top instructor you can find is extremely important. This is the person you should lean on when times get tough and you start to experience disappointments. Ask them for their advice and how they have dealt with similar situations. Disappointments are a great opportunity to build up your mental toughness which is an invaluable quality to have.
7. Pace Yourself - In the words of my first teacher Dr. Phillip Hill, "earning your black belt is like running a marathon...not a sprint." Too often I see students start out fast when they are really excited. They show up to multiple classes per week and perhaps even overtrain. I suggest finding a pace you can maintain not just for a few weeks or months, but, for at least a 4-5 year period of time minimum! Having consistency in your training through the ups and the downs is a huge secret to earning your blackbelt.
NEVER FORGET - Anyone can earn a black belt if you simply keep showing up! Your job is to show up with a positive attitude and come ready to learn. The instructor's job is to teach you. In time, and with a lot of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice you can earn a black belt!