Why You Don’t Have a Black Belt

You’re lazy.

The truth is, we’re all lazy. But some of us earn black belts while others don’t. Most people who try out a martial art quit after the first week or two. Why is that?

My teacher always said, “the hardest part of training is getting in the car”. It’s often been said that of those who start training in karate, less than 1 in 100 will ever attain black belt. Less than 1 in 100 of those will ever stay long enough to get a second degree black belt.

Why the high drop-out rate?

Like many people, I was drawn to martial arts as a boy by watching martial arts movies. I dreamed of having superhuman powers. Then, I started taking karate and realized – holy crap this is hard work! You don’t take a month of classes and become Chuck Norris. Oh yeah … did we forget to mention there are a lot of push-ups and sit-ups involved?

One of the first factors that cause people to drop out is the school not meeting expectations. Some money-oriented schools have caught on to this and have created fast-track black belt programs, leadership academies, and watered down promotion requirements to keep students from quitting. Unfortunately this is missing the point completely.

The next issue is one of habit. Like I said, humans are lazy. We are habit building machines. In order not to think too hard, every day we tie the same shoe first, we lead off with the same leg when we start walking, and we loop our belt in the same direction. This is actually a good thing most of the time. As habit machines, we don’t have to dedicate much thought to daily minutia. Unfortunately, habits are hard to break, and new habits take time to develop.

Training regularly has to become a more important habit than catching your favorite TV show, or going to bed at a certain time, or going out with friends. It takes three weeks to a month to build a new habit – this is why I think most people quit a martial art in the first month.

Another factor is simply enjoyment. Some people enjoy martial arts training and others don’t. that is why it is really important to find a school you like – bacsue that is going to be key to your success. Do you think Seth Wescott ever says, “dang, I can’t believe I have to go jump on that snowboard again”? I doubt it.

For me, I found training that I resonated with – that I really enjoyed. I trained myself to enjoy even the tedious repetition of basics. I know there are some schools out there where you can get a black belt in 18 months, but not with me. It took me the better part of 9 years to get a black belt in ketsugo jujutsu, and I earned it. If I didn’t love what I was doing, there would be no way I would have lasted that long.

The final factor is priority. The two biggest complaints I hear with training revolve around time and money. Both are ridiculous. If you want to train, you’ll find both the time and the money. You may have to sacrifice some things. You may have to work out a deal with the instructor or school.

I see a lot of people who complain about money but who have large flat-screen TVs with expensive cable plans, the newest cell-phones, a newer car. In this economy, some people really are struggling to make ends meet. Most instructors will understand this and put you on a sliding scale or let you do work around the dojo to help defray costs.

The following is a cute animated video which displays the mentality I’ve seen around this.

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