There are grades in martial arts for a reason. Right now from my level, i can see taht there are a few brown belt grades, and black belt grades, (not dan grade, rather 1 or 2 kyu, which allows them to wear a black belt, but not a hakama.).
The grades is supposed to represent a certain level of proficiency, well, we all know in reality that sometimes that there is some gap between proficiency and the grade that determines the proficiency. So we have a situation where a practitioner can ‘chase’ the grade, or let his/ her skills determine the grade. so either the status quo defines us, or we define the status quo.
As a junior belt, we often unwittingly get caught up chasing the grade, and that drive some brownies to up their learning curve. Well, face it, at a brown belt grade, you are still climbing the learning curve, rough around the edges, still defining and making major adjustments to the technique and style. there is still a majority of uncharted territory to cover. Let’s say an abstract number of 30%.
Let’s look at a black belt then, just a grade or two shy from a dan. practitioners here would have passed the brownie stage, or long passed it. Yes, blackies are still climbing the curve as well, but at this stage of the journey, some got tired. and decided to rest. they thought they’ve covered a large part of the uncharted land, say maybe a 50%. so they got l-a-z-y.
Between the two, brownies and blackies. the Brownies are still defining status quo. and the Blackies, letting the status quo define them.
It is this impression of a ‘junior belt’ and ‘senior belt’ label that adds to the poison. the Brownies are always striving to shake off that ‘junior’ belt label. whereas the blackies are already considered ‘senior’ belt and is already ‘there’.
But reality tells a different tale. I see for myself, that some elements of the blackies, struggling to handle the younger, faster, ‘junior’ brown belts. the drive is there, for the brownies, where the complacency is there for the blackies, to think that they have arrived. The blackies have reached status quo, and would very much like to keep it that way, unfortunately, the brownies came along, and challenge that status quo.
This is where the beginner’s mind comes into play. We wear the grade, but we must never be the grade, neither do we let the grade be us. We must always define status quo, define it to our best ability, and keep rewriting and challenging our skills, our standards.