My thoughts lately have been diggling in the meaning of the black belt.
I have been a black belt for about 3 or 4 years now and although achieving that rank of shodan (and last year nidan) was exhilerating and quite a milestone worth of recognition, I also found that elated feeling doesn't last for long and got replaced by a feeling of dread and one is left pondering the question "now what?!".
Boy that was a long sentence…
Point here is that once I got the rank, all I could think of is getting that next stripe but then, I was thinking "is that it?". All I get to look forward to is another little line on my belt and spend my time teaching?
There's got to be more than this …
And this is how the journey actually begins.
I remembered something a good friend of mine told me "get your black belt and do whatever you want!" And that reminded me of how I felt when I graduated university. I was done and now what?
It led me to see a parrallel between my professional career and my martial arts career.
My thoughts are that a black belt is synonym to finishing school and getting your degree. And quite frankly, when I graduated, I still didn't know what I wanted to do and I was kind of lost in the masses until I slowly discovered what I want to work and specialize on… and once you discover that, you also discover how little you actually know.
You achieve the first part which is learning the basics of your chosen profession. You are not an expert yet but you know the base.
Then as you progress in your profession you specialize in a specific field in your profession and that's where the fun begins.
You use what you learned in school to develop your career and move into the field you wish. You might need to learn other skills, go back to school to specialize or learn a specific skill or go through an appretince type program to learn and work under someone you want to learn from.
This would be similar to cross training in a different martial arts or style, look for a new teacher or start reading books and watching DVDs and youtube videos of what you are interested in.
Then dan grades would simple be the different levels of expertise you achieve as you train, learn and grow which can be the equivalent of getting a job promotion, get a leadership position or start your own business.
This thought was then reinforced by my sensei who told me a few weeks back (and this is paraphrased from spanish) "you are only limited by your imagination, and so, work on what you want to develop."
This to me is what "black belt is just the beginning" means. You know how to walk, now go.