The journey to blackbelt is a long expedition, full of many ups and downs. The process is meant to be difficult and isn’t for the faint of heart. One can say that getting your blackbelt can be a lot like trying to climb Mt. Everest (the highest mountain in the world). Let’s explore those similarities.
For both of these tasks, most people would consider them unattainable goals. They are ‘beyond’ the reach of most mere mortals. But, although they are big undertakings, they are doable. They require planning, training, persistence and determination, and with proper training and proper guidance, they are achievable.
In both cases, the proper gear is essential. In karate, having your complete uniform is not just for the look, but also to help you understand how you are doing. Listening to your gi pop, and hearing your belt swish back and forth can be instrumental in refining technique. Having the proper sparring gear is key to protecting yourself and your partner so you can progress without injury. Just like you wouldn’t want to climb Mt. Everest without your gloves, you wouldn’t want to show up to class without your uniform, belt and all your sparring gear.
For both tasks, lots of time needs to be invested in training at home. For karate, practicing your base techniques in a mirror and against a bag/dummy is essential to hone your skills. Likewise, working on your kata at various paces and repeating the sequences is mandatory for improving your moves.
One of the biggest similarities to achieving these two feats is having the proper guide. For most people, they are trying to accomplish something they have never done before. Having someone to show you how to do it is essential! Not only will they help you avoid mistakes, but also they can show you the optimal way (through years of experience themselves) on how to proceed.
While you are at the base of the mountain, you cannot see all the terrain towards the top. However, your guide who has been up to that level, has seen the terrain up towards the peak, and knows what it is like. Their job is to come back down and help you navigate knowing what lies ahead. As you get to higher and higher levels, you will see and understand details that you couldn’t possible see from the lowest level. Let your guide help you as you ascend and you can avoid pitfalls that you didn’t even know were there. Listen to your guide’s advice and follow it, and you will help yourself find the best way to make progress.
Climbing up Mt. Everest is a very difficult challenge and can be deadly. Although there is usually very less risk of death in obtaining your blackbelt, it is a very difficult and demanding task. You need both physical and mental discipline, and a strong will to get to the top. With the proper guidance, a positive attitude, and a huge determination to never stop trying, you can accomplish what most people think of as impossible. Keep climbing!
P.S. There is a big difference between a guide and a Sherpa. The guide will show you how to do it and help you plan your way. He will lead you but not do it for you. The Sherpa is there to haul your stuff, literally carrying your weight for you. In martial arts you definitely need a guide to show you the way, but you need to do all the heavy lifting yourself, as there are no shortcuts to blackbelt.