Tag Archives: confidence

How Do You Wear Your Rank?

Our rank designation will naturally or should change as we continue to train and advance through our martial arts studies.

As in karate, we start as a white belt and expectations for a period of time are low.  We are inundated with new terms (maybe in a foreign language), stances, etiquette, technique, movement and so on – 95% physical and 5% mental!   Our heads are spinning and not a lot is expected of us for a while!   Our rank is apropos — for now!

We’ve been training for say, 6 months now and we’re about orange belt level, the dojo is starting to really feel like something special.   Not quite in our element yet, but the atmosphere is slowly permeating and expectations are still minimal.   Around the year mark, with luck and determination, we are now green belt.   Our niche in the dojo is being carved as we are recognized as a serious student in the making!   At this juncture of our training, expectations are made as our confidence and self esteem grows.   Others may notice that we perhaps carry ourselves a little more assuredly.   This is the beginning of an intermediate student and as such, an awareness of how we carry our rank is important.  Are we good examples of a martial arts student?    Gut check time.  Yes, we’re all in!

With consistent and regular training, ah, now around 4 years, maybe we’ve attained brown belt!   No one works harder than a brown belt!  Bright coloured belts are gone and now we are within striking distance of the all elusive black belt!   We work hard to prove that we deserve this rank and we work hard to prove that we are legitimate contenders for that Black obi!!   The Martial Arts culture is in us!

So how do brown belts wear their rank?   Brown belts are senior students that lead by example on and off the dojo deck.  They wear their rank with humility recognizing that they are constantly being watched by all up and coming students, as well as their seniors in rank!   Brown belts wear their rank off the dojo deck in everyday life carrying their positive attributes developed in the dojo beyond their training venue, at all times.

We’ve been learning, training and have embraced our art to the point where we are now rewarded with Shodan (1st degree black belt)!   Congrats!   Black belt brings responsibility.   We are now, more than ever, looked up to, to lead, mentor and demonstrate how a martial artist wears his/her rank!    And now another reality hits us… we realize that we are actually just starting to learn in earnest AND share.

From Shodan on up, any black belt is not only viewed and judged by physical prowess, but more than ever by how they present their rank, whether by teaching and leading, but also by good character always!   Our ranks and the responsibility attached to it, is how we present ourselves in all aspects of our lives.  Our training through the ranks with lessons learned, make us accountable – the higher the rank, the more accountability.

Wear your rank well.


Intake a deep breath and relax, you’ve found your martial art, your place of training (dojo) and a competent Teacher! I honestly envy you and your journey on the path up the mountain to training in your chosen art.  Lucky you!

Do we ever reach the summit of the mountain?   I doubt it, there’s so much to learn and discover, besides, the journey itself is so worthwhile and satisfying!
Again, I’ll use Karate as my point of view platform (my chosen art long ago).   I smile as I recall for the first time, entering the dojo change room and putting on that fresh and crisp, brand new white gi and then wondering what the heck was I going to do with that long, white belt.  Lol!  Nervous, but excited trepidation!

Onto the floor, thinking everyone was looking at me… weren’t they?  Well, maybe a little bit, my belt was dragging on the floor (wrapped around once!) but then each was back to their own pre-class ritual, stretching, kata, makiwara, etc.  I anonymously slinked into a corner until Sempai Mike came over and showed me how to tie my obi! — My first step on the path!

I am quite sure that many will recognize their own first step much the same (maybe without the obi faux pas!)
Starting an art is one of the hardest things you’ll do, no doubt.  With a few tips, this start can be a little less intimidating and a little more palatable.
First, bring an open attitude.  In other words, enter the dojo with an empty cup (figuratively speaking) and be receptive to the knowledge your Sensei imparts, to fill your cup!

Not all, but generally, males are more inclined to walk into a dojo with a half filled cup, thinking that karate is all about fighting and so therefore by virtue of their own reservoir of testosterone, they are already halfway to mastering this art. Haha!  I say ‘No!’   Nice try guys!  Frustration will at some point, set in because the realization that learning karate is hard work and their cup wasn’t half full after all.  This is a bit of a reality check.  No biggie, readjust attitude and move forward.

Females, generally (in my opinion) tend to enter a dojo with an empty cup, inasmuch to say, ‘Here I am, I’m interested in learning.   Teach me!’ – a great attitude!

Anyone entering the dojo with an empty cup, will learn quicker with this ’empty cup attitude’ and will be fulfilled much sooner and will therefore, thrive for the duration.
Secondly, make mistakes with a smile on your face!  Get frustrated with a spring in your step!  Be as embarrassed as you can!  It all makes your journey that much more interesting!  Revel in the good and bad of your training!!  Frustrating, embarrassing mistakes are tools that handled well and learned from, bring you back to the straight and narrow of training and solidify your resolve.

If we all did things perfectly, it would all be pretty boring with no ups or downs to ride.
Thirdly, accept the fact that to get good at any endeavour requires hard work and the martial arts are no different.  The self satisfaction derived by your hard work and the success gained thereby, will develop good self esteem and of course, confidence.   Positivity is borne of positivity.

The last item I’ll reveal (there are more, but I’m stopping here to save something for later blogs) is share, share and share again!  By share, I refer to the positives gained by your journey’s study.  Martial arts study has so much going for it and the practitioners involved.  Physical prowess, self defence and mental acuity are but three of many attributes we develop within training and therefore share with others.

Training will never start on entering or on leaving our dojos.  We share our training attitude at all times whether by being polite, doing volunteer work, assisting others or any other worthwhile service for others.
Too often martial artists are seen as those who learn to fight, when in actual fact we actually are learning to conquer ourselves through that journey up the mountain over many, many years.  Enjoy the scenery on the way!

Yours in the arts, Gary Christensen