Knowledge and Application

What sets a black belt apart?

The first thing people often think of is the area of knowledge, particularly in the area of kung fu. It is true that there is always more knowledge that can be obtained, but a vast amount of the knowledge you need is shared early on in your training careers. The instructors at Silent River are free and giving of this knowledge. They share concepts with white belts that they may have little hope of truly understanding but the seeds are planted for the future. If you listen in class and ask questions, you cannot help but grow in the area of knowledge.

The area where a black belt shines is in the application of this knowledge. They take the information that they have received and they translate it into how they move their bodies. We can all sit there and recite how to do some of the more basic techniques but can we consistently perform that technique over and over no matter the situation. The example used last night was the side heel kick. This kick is one of the most basic building blocks of our art. We all know how a bladed foot should look. We all know what we should look like in this kick and how our body is to be aligned. We all know that the chamber is critical. By the time you reach black belt, the expectation is that this kick will be thrown properly every single time.

Another area of this applied knowledge is in our applications. As we are learning each technique, we will have a few different intents as we move through the sequence. A black belt's intent is to always be in the present moment and is constantly shifting as the moments unfold. The difference is two or three intents versus a thousand intents in one technique. This can only come through repetition, repetition, repetition..... As this is developing, it is common to see that the intents are clearly broken up. Often the intent to finish the technique is so strong that the intent to block the very first attack is missed or not executed well. This first block is vital because if you don't survive the attack, the rest of the technique is unnecessary.

The final area where this is evident is in the harmonies. A black belt has the internal and external harmonies working together and not fighting each other. There is an unbroken relationship within the harmonies that allows chi to work for you. As we grow in this area, we use our growing eye for detail to analyze how movement feels and then look for the relationship (harmony) that is out of balance. A black belt has the eye for detail to be able to self correct. As we walk our journey towards black belt, this sensitivity is to grow but can only do so if we are consciously focusing on it.

There is a huge difference between a white belt and a black belt. This gap is able to be overcome through consistent and intentional practice. The closer you get to stepping over the line of having earned a black belt, improvements will feel incrementally smaller and smaller but this is where the consistent and intentional practice is even more important.

Karen Bergstreiser