Martial Arts wisdom as taught by a 14 year old

Last weekend we tested a few high level students for black belt.  One of them is now “Sensei” Jarrod.  At 14 years old, he is the youngest student in our dojo’s history to have earned a black belt.
This past week, I asked Sensei Jarrod to share some insight with one of our beginning kid’s classes.  I asked him to share a secret to a successful journey from white belt to black belt.  What he said is very impressive. … He simply told the class to, on purpose, come every class with the intention to improve…  Always look to improve on something.
 …Simple and yet profound …
Many of our students know that it is considered dis-respectful to ask when they will be tested for their next belt because it sounds as if the student is saying to the Sensei, “I deserve to be tested…when will you catch up and recognize it also?”  Instead, it has been our tradition to encourage our students to ask, “Sensei, what can I do so when you look at me for testing I will be ready?”  This is a better question …but that question may still be lacking…
When a student asks , “Sensei, what can I do so when you look at me for testing I will be ready” it sounds like this: Sensei, what are the minimum standards I must satisfy in order to qualify for my next belt.
When I think about my top students, I can’t recall them ever asking questions about earning the next belt rank because I don’t think belt rank was their top priority.  Instead, they frequently ask direct questions on how to improve in a specific aspect of their training, thus demonstrating that they want to improve as a “martial artist”.  Belt rank did not enter into the question… instead the desire to improve themselves enters into the question.
As Sensei Jarrod stated, “Every class, look to improve.”  This is a much better approach to martial arts and it leads to better questions, resulting in an improved martial artist, and of course, a better, more complete martial artist will have a belt rank that properly represents them.
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