Sensei Neil Prime
January, 1995

I suppose everyone has a different idea about what the Martial Arts are or what they are supposed to represent if they have never been exposed to them before. Of course every new student has dreams and visions about some day getting their black belt. As a matter of fact, the most popular question I hear is "how long will it take me to get my black belt?... or when am I going to be graded?" In general, I love the enthusiasm. It's really great to see but no matter how it's worded it all boils down to the fact that everyone has high hopes and little do they realize that before they should be worrying about getting their black belt they should concentrate on earning their yellow belt first. One of the first things I try to make clear is that everyone is capable of earning their different belts as long as they are willing to work for them. There are many different things for a Sensei to consider about a person before they grade a person to any belt. I try my best as an instructor to bring the best out of people and show them what I know the best I can but it is still up to the student to put forth the effort to learn and want to do well. I can't make you move, or make you block or kick if you don't want to. Coming to class day after day, week after week, and just going through the motions is not going to Get you anywhere. This holds true in no matter what you are doing. If you assert yourself, you will learn. Don't be discouraged if someone gets graded before you because everyone moves at a different pace. Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? With sheer determination everyone will get to reach their goals sooner or later if they want to.

There are clubs out there where you can go and be graded a new belt every six months. I've seen black belts that I would not have graded to green belt. I don't want to knock down all other clubs because there are some excellent clubs everywhere you go, but there are others, as long as you keep paying the dues (which are normally very high) you will be graded to any belt you wish to pay for.

There was a black belt who called me one day and told me that they were looking for a change of pace. I became very curios as to why a black belt would want to leave their club behind to join my club so I told this person that I would accept him as a student but would not wish any type of commitment (financial or otherwise) until he was absolutely sure that this was the change needed for him. I also found out during our conversation that he was graded to his black belt in less than 3 years! This person I had to meet.

Well, it was the very next week that he showed up for his first experience of Wado Kai Karate. I watched his movement and techniques. I looked at the mental discipline as well as the physical. I tried not to prejudge, but I did ask myself what a black belt meant to this person.

After that 1st night I never saw him again. I wondered, what had happened? Did I do something wrong? Did I say something to offend this person when I made a suggestion in a couple of techniques? I couldn't figure it out. I had to call him back and ask. When I finally got hold of this person on the phone again, I asked if he had liked what he saw and what we did. I told him that I was concerned that there was something wrong.

When I heard his reply to why he wasn't going to our club any more I was shocked.

The reason was simply that I had worked him too hard. He thought our workouts were too difficult for him and our style was too complicated to learn. I also learned that he had gone back to his original club where he helps teach. I couldn't believe it. I then took a while to think about what had happened and realized that this person doesn't have a clue as to what a black belt really means. This person had just bought his belt and not earned anything. Because of that reason there is no appreciation as to what it is all about.

When I look at my students I am proud that every one of them has earned their belts. Maybe my standards are too high for some people, but that certainly doesn't bother me in the least. A belt will only hold your pants up. I look at each individual to see what is inside the gi, not what is wrapped around it. I feel better about each student receiving a belt, and each student can be sure that they have something to be proud of every time they are graded.

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