Judo Blog: Being a Black Belt

Black Belt

Being a black belt in a martial art has become an impressive status symbol. Recently on the Black Belt website the question What does being a black belt mean to you? was posed as a discussion topic.

Here are some of the many responses. Mine is at the end.

Clarence Sheets

Means I don't have to have a rope to keep my pants up.

Jeremy Drenning

I was a wrestler first, so not much. No belts in wrestling. You just work.

Steven Taylor

It means I now fully represent my school and my teacher, and how ever I act will be reflected on those who trained me.

Jim Nagy

A black belt to me, means a thorough understanding of the basics (I'm assuming you mean shodan, ... first level) i agree with a lot of what Nick Moralez has written as well. Representing your style, your school and all. A good bit of truth to that. Also I've heard that the word sensei can be translated to mean: "one who has been there before." So I see a black belt as one who is attempting to educate and possibly enlighten someone else who is ignorant in what the black is skilled in.

Lori Biletnikoff

I got my black belt at 56. To me it was a long journey. I stayed with it even though I had anL4/L5 fusion, 2 knee surgries, another back surgery, a hand & foot surgery in between all the training. It took me 8 years but I did it..Plus I have exercise induced asthma...Yes yes know I'm a wreck....lol.

Nick Moralez

It is a huge responsibility since it is a black belts job to teach the students proper effective techniques to protect themselves and others if anything should ever happen in their daily lives. Whenever I compete in tournaments I am there representing myself and my school so I must show proper protocol and respect to everyone at the tournament fellow competitors, their instructors and the spectators. It is just the beginning so much more to learn at black belt ranks and even more to teach to lower black belt ranks as well.

Chris McDaniel

To me it means one has got the basics down... Now time to learn more techniques...

Alistair Adamson

Responsibility in giving back to my club what they gave to me, it was hard earned and as a senior instructor. The responsibility is being a benchmark to my fellow instructors and students!

Char Musillo

Holds my pants up. In traditional styles it means you have mastered the basics. It's a starting point not an ending point.

John Ives

From the very first lesson with the beginners belt. To the grading for the honor of wearing the coveted black belt years later. It made me the man I am calm and collective.

Stephen Harvey

It means that I'm the baldest man on earth and could beat up Mike Tyson. (Joking)…

Steve Young

It means that I've learned enough that I realize I don't know much...

Russ McWhorter

For me... it meant achieving a goal... I now had the basics off of which to build myself into a better fighter and a better person. I knew even then; it wasn't the end but only the beginning...

Daniel Horák

Without respect, this- the black belt - means nothing!

Justin Quaid

It means absolutely nothing. I have a black belt in San Soo. Originally Jimmy Woo didn't have belts, but he adapted it to compete with the commercialization of karate at the time. I've been training in Filipino Pangamot for 24 years and not once have I've seen a belt. Bruce Lee didn't have any black belts. The black belt is a commercialization for the west taking from Japan. In China there are no belts.

Nicholas Slayden

That you mastered the basics and finally beginning to learn what it means to be a real martial artist.

Bob Howell

That the white belt was never washed.

Joseph Eagar


Charlie Gell

It means I can stop worrying about what belt I am and focus on enjoying the art.

Joseph Woodward

Being a black belt is a way of life. Not just a rank in martial arts.

Marko Hyytiäinen

Nothing anymore, when i got it in 1994 i was waiting at least be next from god and be immortal and ninja, now i know that means nothing, because you can get grades from cereal boxes, it's just means that you know how to tie your belt right.

Rick Davies

It means it's a little more embarrassing to still be a beginner.

Harjit Singh

It means you've excelled in the art you've studied. To the standard set by the founder. However, whether you're ready for real street combat... that's a separate matter.

Mikee MaTechno

Self-improvement and skill development is now a truly personal goal with great expectations.

John Hill

A lifestyle like no other, allowing me to lead by example for a better world.

Thomas Carroll

It means I can teach and I can fight! Osu.

Edilberto Santos

The beginning of understanding the mental and spiritual aspect of The martial arts . Not just physical training!

John Moriarty

It holds your pants up and you're a master of the basics of that martial art.

Mauro Kalule Bustamante

Means nothing, it's just a belt... what really means is the effort we put in being worthy of using it...

Robert Chambers

It means years of endless studying and grueling work, tempered with patience, self-discipline & respect for life... have culminated to the point that I can now become a student.

David North-Martino

It means you're an advanced beginner. Earning a black belt means you've reached the beginning, and can now really begin to learn the art.

Don Hughes

Hmmm, Jitz, krav, karate, or Aikido? Online or in person?…

Tyree Bell

To me, everything before receiving my Black Belt/Sash was preschool. Once I earned it, that was the beginning of kindergarten. I was able to achieve and grow my skills.

Stephan Glanzl

Responsibility! Being a good role model for my Kohai and representing my Style/Sensei/Dojo... Osu!

Rabie Lkl


Tom Smotherman

Understanding of how to overcome myself!

Mitch Mitchem

It means I have so much more to learn.

André Sanarov

Feels awesome to know you've come long way studying "Shaolin Kempo ".

Dan Carroll

Attractive women will notice me.

Jack D Williams Jr

Once you get your 1st black bell, it's time to really start learning the art of being a warrior, I am 76 today and I am still learning about life. It's fun, enjoy life.

Tim W. Leonard

It means you know the basics. Now the learning begins.

Jesse Guzzetti

Striving for excellence in all that I do! And BB is just the beginning!

Gunnar Davis

It means the true journey has only begun.

Anthony Hayes

My patience and persistence paid off... I was so close... but found the San Diego beach and wacky tobacky LOL.

Dishan Dev Thakur

Self-motivated & satisfied .... Nothing else.

Jackie Harrah

Only has meaning and relationship with its owner. Means nothing to anyone else.

Sean Cardenas

It means the work has just begun.

Derrick Bouges

It means I know a thing or two about throwing a punch or a kick.

Ertan Zeki

It means I've stayed on a path of truth . . . for a long time. If I stray, it always brings me back.

Jim Christian

The challenge given to me when graded never to cease growing in this martial art, physically and spiritually.

Phillip McKnight

It means that you're participating in a martial arts economy.

David Storey

Getting a black belt is easy, keeping it is the hard part.

Ravi Suman Ludreta

Black belt means a responsible a disciplined and a brave personality. your dedication make you superb and extraordinary and mentally and physically fit.

Charles Arnold

It's a reminder to me that i am to be the example of dedication, modesty, courtesy, integrity, self-control, and the indomitable spirit for those who look up to me.

Gary Goltz

Gary Goltz Judo

Me in the mid-1970's as a young black belt.

In judo, shodan 1st degree black belt means student. Achieving this rank is the gateway to serious practice. In fact in Japan you rarely see adults with anything less than a shodan. To Kano, shiai competition was 5% of judo, kata prearranged forms 5%, randori free practice 80%, and the other 10% was falling, self-defense, along with exercise.

The most important aspect of judo to Kano was giving back to society and improving one's character. Kano knew that competitors were an issue that's why he created the philosophical principles to try to curb their enthusiasm. He dealt with serious brawlers like Maeda. Competitors are by nature always out for themselves, is what my late friend and mentor Karl Geis a 10th degree black belt would say. On other hand, big-name competitors are free advertising for judo especially in countries were judo has a large fan base and commercial following.

The late Harold E. Sharp another 10th degree black belt once told me that his good friend Charlie Palmer, who was the first President of the International Judo Federation (IJF), use to say after you get your shodan, it's all downhill! Funny how that now makes sense to me.
San Diego BJJ and Judo

Kata Clinic at Paulo Augusto's Dojo, San Diego BJJ & Judo this past weekend

Shodan Promotion

Shodan Promotion (1st degree black belt) of our student Ismael Mercado.

I've come to realize with each higher rank, our time here on earth grows a bit shorter. As we age it's time to move beyond the competitor mode and realize your role in judo as a sensei, coach, referee, leader, contributor, and or mentor / advisor.

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