By Jenifer Tull-Gauger Shihan, 4th Dan
Those who have tested several times probably have heard several times: “With rank comes responsibility.” It brings to mind the movie scene where Spiderman’s uncle gives him similar wisdom in his last words.
Those of us who have tested for black belt have really had that idea impressed upon us (at least I know our superior ranks have tried to impress it upon us). Great responsibility comes along with the rank of black belt, and the higher the black belt, be it junior or senior, the more responsibility we are accepting. Along with the prestige and the honor and the privilege, of any rank, we must remember the responsibility we take on. What does our responsibility really, practically mean in daily dojo life?
For all students, it means the responsibility to train harder, to push ourselves more, and to become better at “self-starting.” As belt rank goes up, the more initiative we need to take in our own training. That may mean practicing at home more, or it may mean asking a higher rank to go over katas or moves with us between classes. It may mean recognizing that you feel you are missing something at the dojo, in which case it is your responsibility to go to your head instructor and discuss this, with thoughtful solutions on what area(s) you’d like to work on. There is nothing more effective than a student/instructor team to create excellent training.
As belt rank goes up we also have the responsibility of making sure our stances are getting better, our techniques have more power and our kiais are louder.
We also should make an effort to consistently improve our positive attitudes and how we project our attitude to others. If we consciously work on that at the dojo, it will carry over to home, work, and school and the benefit is we will enjoy our lives more.
All ranks below brown have the responsibility of taking karate—taking all you can get out of it, asking questions and practicing and attending classes regularly and soaking it all up like a sponge.
At brown belt and above, a slight shift is required. We still have the responsibility of learning more and remembering all we have learned, but we also need to give back and help others learn. At brown belt you start learning how to teach.
By the time you get to black belt you are taking the responsibility of making karate a way of life, of continuing on, and of guiding others up that mountain (at the top of which is the black belt) that will help them to improve their own lives and allow them to help others in turn. This is how karate came to us, and it is the black belt’s responsibility to keep it going.