A Black Belt or former Black Belt?


A Black Belt or former Black Belt?

Just like we have former world champions, we have former black belts. A lot of times we hear people stating that they have completed their black belt in this and this martial art or system. The view of "completing" doesn't sit well in martial arts or self-defense, since the level needs to be demonstrated suddenly and unprepared. 

Just as athletes winning the world championships. It is a one-time occasion unless he/she can stay at the head of the game and renew it.  Once you stop maintaining the level, stop using the title, or add "former" in front of it😎. So if you want to become a black belt in something and stay there, it means that you won't stop before the line in the heart-monitor is straight.


We all gather physical constraints during the years - how to deal with them and maintain your level?

Looking at the black belt level only from the physiology point of view is a bit too narrow-sighted. Yes, staying in such a physical condition that you can perform is very important but as the saying goes "there is no healthy days for a sports enthusiast".

The psychological, tactical and skill factors can be developed even though the physical constraints won't allow to workout the way we have used to do it. A little everyday is much better option than all in once a week or month.

"My mind thinks I'm still 25 and my body thinks I'm an idiot"😂

The physiological functions will change during the years and we just have to adapt to that. Neck problems, back problems, elbows, knees, ankles, wrists, you name it, affect our performance but The fact that we'll have to consider all these constraints,, doesn't mean that we'll stop developing our skills. 

Keeping up with the game

Looking back at my own personal, 30+ years path, in martial arts, self-defense, military CQB and Law Enforcement/Security use of force training, I also had the idea of "completing" and "getting" my black belt. Belt/level systems are built that way. But the more I trained and especially once I reached the black belt level, I understood that once I stop, I stop being that. 

During the years, I've had injuries as everyone who do any sports. Never stopped training though and never will because even if it is not smart to do physically something, I'm focusing on other dimensions and adapting to the physical constraints and altering the training so that I can keep up. 

Task list for keeping up

Perception action coupling with a partner or a group
The key element of skill acquisition and skill optimization is the perception action coupling. This means that you develop and maintain your "eye" and take it forward all the time. The training exercise in self-defense include reacting and defending against unknown attacks and putting the key principles in use all the time. Shortening the perception (reaction) time and coupling the counters as a natural part of movement is the main theme.

Coping and operating with unstable balance
Adding to perception action training is to challenge oneself to deal with unstable balance and attack effectively from such positions. Ability to hit hard and continue movement is challenging and developing. The movement control gets better, our balance gets better and our body functions better. 

Slow Motion and visualization - "self-defense yoga"
We have shadow boxing, we have kata, we have poomse etc. One, very challenging, form of perception action coupling is the slow motion training. Notice the difference in training slowly and training in slow-motion. In the slow-motion training, that everyone at the black belt level must be able to do, we can visualize the attacks and react to them in slow motion with every muscle in our body. 

The Black Belt lifestyle

Once you become a black belt, you have choices to make: are going to have a black belt lifestyle or are you going to be a former black belt. How to become a black belt is surely a topic for another blog or podcast itself but the lifestyle is quite simple: you just keep up with the game. You may gain weight, you may get physical injuries, you may come up with some serious health issues but you cope with them and find your edge. That's the black belt lifestyle. Never ready, just better as I once wrote already😎🙏

Train Smart and may the skill be with you!

Coach Tommi
Krav Maga 5. dan
Krav Maga Finland

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