As martial artists, we begin our journey by donning a white belt. Gradually, as we move upwards in rank and knowledge, the color of the belts become darker. The black belt is the rank everyone dreams of and hopes to achieve. Unfortunately, many end their training at that level of proficiency, thinking, “I made it.” In this, they would only be partially correct. The rank of 1st-degree black belt is truly just the beginning of a lifelong road that leads to mastering the art of self-defense.
Occasionally, newly promoted instructors will notice that some masters will choose only to wear that first-earned black belt and will follow suit. In doing so, they will find that, over time, the belt’s rich black color will shred and work its way toward becoming white. As children, our hair is generally darker, and as we age, that same hair inevitably becomes lighter; some will turn gray or even white. In comparison, the black belt changes in color, going full circle from black back to white, just like the hairs upon the crown of the warrior who wears it. When young, we have boundless amounts of energy, a fearlessness that leans more towards foolishness, and a body full of muscle that can effectively take a beating and heal quickly. Yet as we age, our energy wanes, our fearlessness is replaced with caution due to common sense, and we realize that we are no longer immortal as the injuries sustained years back are still with us. And, all too often, we are offered advice by elders- warnings about long-term health and injury sustained while training that, foolishly, we ignore. As the years move along, our physical capabilities, which once bordered on amazing, now comparatively, are replaced with quiet thoughts of “I probably shouldn’t do that.”
Reminiscing about our glory days of being superhuman, we acknowledge that what we now lack in physical ability has been replaced with wisdom and acceptance. Perhaps, this is a more powerful force, teaching and guiding the young through experience as opposed to the old game of “follow the leader.” As we mature in the arts and life, we become knowledgeable in many things. Even in subjects we didn’t know we were learning; this is called wisdom. Keyoke is a fictional character in the “Empire Trilogy” books, written by renowned authors Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts. Keyoke, an old warrior and general of armies, lost a leg after decades of winning countless wars. On his deathbed, he readied himself as his final moments were nearing, holding his battle sword in his weakening grip. In his society, old and crippled warriors are of no use. However, a friend told him that their Mistress no longer needed his sword arm. She, however, needed his wisdom as an advisor to lead from behind and teach the new warriors their craft. The role of an “Advisor for War” was unheard of, yet he accepted the new position and assisted in her rise to greatness. In this, I say to you that as we get older, our legs don’t kick as well, our shoulders hurt from throwing that reverse punch, and our back and knees no longer allow us to stay in deep stances. However, we still can offer the wisdom we own from decades of training, fighting, and teaching. Our journey has not ended; it's just changed the way in which we share our knowledge. So let the young black belts and newly appointed masters teach on the floor as we correct them without further injuries. That’s not to say that our training days are over, merely that we must adjust it as we must adjust ourselves to the grey hair, or even lack thereof, and gracefully accept our new roles. Don’t allow pride to stand in our way of aging gracefully. Be like Keyoke, advise for war, not lead the charge. This is the DAOS OPINION. OSS.
Written by Glen Beck & Nathan Ingram