What Does It Mean To Be A Black Belt? (Part #2)

What Does It Mean To Be A Black Belt? (Part #2)

Last blog post I discussed what it means to be a black belt at Adrenalin. This blog I want to explore what training should look like after black belt. As I said in my previous article “If you want to truly master the martial arts, you have train for over 20+ years, minimum. Can you do it in less time? Yes. Are you going to be a master of every range of combat? No. So what do you do? You do everything you can to fill the gaps and inadequacies in your arsenal. And always be prepared to learn and grow. If you can consistently chip away at your game for life, you are a true black belt. If you get it then quit, you only just got out off the starting blocks.”

Black belt or not, if you make a choice to train for 20+ years in the martial arts, there are certain things that you need to work on and watch out for. This is my 32nd year in the martial arts and my 23rd year of running a full time school. In these 32 years, I have done lots of things right but I have also done things wrong. Here are my top 10 tips for being in the martial arts for 20+ years:

Safety First

I have always been super safety conscious. Both for my own personal training and in the teaching of students. A lot of my early training partners would scoff at my safer approaches to training and teaching. Now thirty-two years down the track these same people are either not training or training on a very limited scale simply because they are full of injuries. If you want your body to train for life, you have to look after it. Every aspect of what you do needs to be self managed so that you can keep training. I have spent over 40,000 hours on the matt training and teaching and have only had two major injuries. Every week I am able to hit pads, spar, jump in the scenario suit, grapple on the ground and do everything I was able to do 20 years ago simply because I have been safe. 

Keep Your Ego In Check

This was one of my flaws. As a young martial artist I thought I was pretty awesome. Truth was I was nothing more that slightly above average. It wasn’t until I met martial artists outside of my comfort zone that I realized how far down the food chain I was. My first reality check was in boxing and my second was in grappling. Both of these systems gave instant feedback to my ego. We can all be great in our comfort zone but how good are we out of it? And what does that mean? Externally it’s about trying to fill as many gaps in our inadequacies as possible and internally it’s about recognizing that there are a bunch of people who are way better than us and that’s OK. This doesn’t diminish or downplay your ability but rather keeps your ego under a little more control. So that your training doesn’t become you verses everyone else but more about you verses you. What can YOU do to improve?

Know Less – Do More

We live in an age where information about how to train is freely available. YouTube has changed martial arts forever. If you want to know 400 different ways to do an armbar, just jump on YouTube for half a day and you will see them. One negative of learning this way is that there is a massive difference between knowing and doing. If I had the choice between learning 55 different techniques on You Tube and getting my training gear on and doing 55 minutes on one technique, I would choose the later. Nothing replaces getting down to business and working on one thing at a time. Martial arts are a physical skill that have be experienced and developed physically. Sweat is your ally. Sitting at your computer at the expense of training is not.  

Maintain your Central Game

Your central game is the foundation material that you learn in the first 1-2 years of training. For stand up: it’s your basic hand strikes, basic kicks and basic defence and for the ground: its basic positional control, basic escapes and basic attacks. For self-defense: it’s doing everything from a fence structure and maintaining your awareness. Basic doesn’t mean easy. Basic means that it’s stuff you are going to have to rely on and use more than anything else. Whilst it’s great to be able to do all the fancy stuff, maintenance of a good solid foundation is essential and should never be ignored or under trained.  

Work Around Injuries

Every now and then you are going to hurt yourself training. Overuse, mistakes, accidents and a twist here and there are going to happen. My advice with injuries is to find a way to work around them. Of course you need to use your brain. If you have a sore back you shouldn’t be attempting takedowns or jump kicks. But there is always something you can do. Make a list of everything that you can do in and out of class that don’t irritate your injury and do that. A few years ago I had a back injury for about 6-weeks, which made it difficult for me to stand up, let alone do anything else. So what did I do? Lots of stretching, extremely light exercise and walking all contributed to a relatively quick recovery. Focus on what you can do – not what you cant.

Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.


Chinese Proverb