Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Originally uploaded by tommrkr
Over the weekend, I was officially promoted to 3rd Dan by the World Tang Soo Do Association. While I received my certificate and notification in the mail a few weeks ago, it wasn't until our Regional Director tied on the belt that it was official. It was a nice feeling to receive my promotion at "Black belt camp" amongst my peers and a few of my advanced students.

It's amazing the difference a little stripe can make in the perception of others. I don't really feel any different about my own abilities. My right spinning hook kick, for example, didn't seem to notice that I had one extra stripe and suddenly improved.

The Dan system has been an interesting experience for me thus far. While on one hand, it's just another step in the process, it's amazing to see the differences between one rank and another. It might be easy for someone to look at a 3rd and 4th dan and say "wow, they are pretty darn close to each other."

You couldn't be further from the truth. The difference between a 3rd and 4th dan, especially a junior of the former and senior of the latter can be 10-15 years of training. As it turns out, that's probably about how long the new 3rd dan has been training. (please do not email me haughtily and tell me how it takes 40 years of training to get a 3rd dan in your vastly superior organization: I honestly don't care.) My instructor, a 4th dan, has been training for over 25 years. Just because "one piece of tape" separates us in rank, doesn't mean we are contemporaries.

I once heard someone ask a colleague if they were a black belt. My friend wanted to explain that he was, in fact, a 2nd degree black belt. He was obviously proud of this distinction and wanted to make sure that it was understood: he was no ordinary black belt. For a brief moment he had succeeded until the follow up question:

"Oh, how many degrees are there?"
"Ah, well, 9."
"oh, so you're pretty low then?"

Funny how someone completely uninvolved with the martial arts can take the air out of the balloon like that. The more I think about it, 2nd dan meant diddly-squat in the big picture, so 3rd is only slightly more valuable.
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