Kempo Marinate and Black Belt Stew

Or what black belts don’t understand about advanced training, time in grade, seeping in.

Black belt takes time

Black belt takes time

There’s lots of disgruntled whispering at the Black Belt ranks when they see the long times between ranks and testing. Why is it so long? And what value does it have when compared to the four-month average at the lower ranks? It doesn’t seem to translate well at these advanced levels of training. What’s more frustrating is the work includes a lot of the same material in a new light. It seems like starting from scratch. That’s an accurate statement. Black Belts need to relearn their early material with new insights. This is all valuable.

The time between ranks is something I like to call Kempo Marinate. Just like a nice steak or Carne Asada, you need to let the juices soak into the meat. One of the key elements of becoming very good at martial arts is doing repetitions a lot. By the Black Belt level, you need to do it much more than at the lower ranks. In the kyu ranks, a little change is quite noticeable. At the higher levels, change takes longer. It takes thousands of times to work it in deeper into muscle memory. The time in grade requirement reflects this marinating time.

One of the benefits of this level of dedication is you work on the material in different lights, angles and situations. You work on the variations and the no-mind principle. Work continues with different types of attack styles, adapting it on the fly, and spontaneous work.

This age-old tradition works better than most students think. Don’t fight the tradition just because it doesn’t reflect our society’s “instant gratification” syndrome. Let the material soak to the very marrow of your bones. Great ways of doing this is to become a part time or full time instructor. Teaching opens many little doors in the mind and really improves your art. Thinking about why you do things, explaining it to others and then doing them again is a great way to practice.