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What A Black Belt Means To Me by Lara Ongan

Typically, receiving a black belt means that one has reached a higher level of knowledge in the field of martial arts. However, to me, a black belt means so much more. Getting a black belt is coming so far – so far, in fact, as to have gone from being a small and weak white belt to what you are now: a strong and independent black belt. Getting a black belt is persevering through the grueling ordeal of a black belt test so that you can wear it proudly. Getting a black belt is remembering each advancement in your martial arts experience and channeling all the energy from all of your being into your forms, your sparring techniques, your everything! Getting a black belt – your junior one, the first one, specifically – is finally having a sense of relief that all the hard work you’ve done in all your color belt years wasn’t worthless.

I started karate because of my brother around seven years ago. I figured it’d just be another hobby that eventually, I’d ditch. I had found this assumption to be correct until 2014. I had just received my green belt, and upon receiving it, I realized that I had a burning passion for martial arts, and I needed to get serious if I was to continue. However, if I was to advance in martial arts, then I needed to spar. The problem with that was that I refused to. After two years, I finally agreed to spar. Not long after that, I tested for my brown belt – and succeeded! I’d discovered a new-found love: that of martial arts.

My two years of training as an advanced belt have flown by, and now I’m testing for my black belt. Throughout those two years, I have made so many friends and my motivation to pass this three-day test grew stronger and stronger as I trained. I want more than anything to receive my black belt because it will signify all seven of the long years of effort I put into becoming the best martial artist I can be. Getting my black belt used to seem like a far-off fantasy, but now I can see it clearly: the blood pumping through my veins, the beam on my face, the tears of happiness waiting to slip out. Getting my black belt means success. Getting my black belt means the ecstatic feeling that I will get while admiring my name, embroidered carefully in red onto the black cloth, my emotional capacity filled to the brim with pure satisfaction.

Everything that I state in this essay would probably drive you to think that I believe that once I receive my black belt, that’s it, I’ve reached the peak of my training. However, I feel quite the opposite. Getting my black belt will only be the beginning of my training, for I have yet to learn everything. Getting my black belt will be a new beginning, a fresh start, a reset back to square one: and I’m rather glad about that.

So, I guess the message I’m trying to convey is: receiving a black belt means restarting your training; but this time, you have a belt signifying the knowledge you have acquired in the years leading up to the new beginning.