What if Black Belt were like running the comrades?
Our recent Dan (Black Belt) grading fell over the same weekend as the Comrades Marathon – one of the toughest and best loved races in the world, this got me thinking …

11 192 : total number of entries, 8 613 : total number of finishers = 76.96 % finished the race!
Women entrants 1 743, finished 1 406 = 80.67%; Men entrants 9 449, finished 7 207 = 76.27 %
Martial Arts Statistics say that around the world roughly 5% of people who start make it to black belt.
So if we applied these figures to comrades …

If 11 192 people started training 4 years ago, at the finish line (exhilarated, empowered, self confident and self disciplined) we have a mere 560 people … whew! Not many: only 500 in every 10 000! Imagine running a race where only 560 people out of 11 192 actually managed to finish?
Like the comrades, when you start Martial Arts, a lot of people think you are just plain crazy, many of them just don’t understand your decision! Like comrades you usually need the close support of friends and family, no-one does it alone, you join a club and have a number of training buddies over the course of the four to six years to your Dan grading, these come and go, until you find those other exceptional few who stick with it and go the distance.

Now you’ve won a COMRADES MEDAL, or earned a BLACK BELT. Suddenly all those people who thought you were mad are unbelievably envious, so they tell how easy it actually is, to make themselves feel better; some tell you how they would have done it if only they were as lucky as you, if only they hadn’t had this or that challenge to overcome. What a load of nonsense, the only difference between them and you? They don’t have what it takes – THEY QUIT, some with out even starting. A few though are inspired by your efforts and sign up! The good news is that 5% of those will make it …
Once you have run the comrades / graded to black belt everyone is full of congratulations; they can’t quite believe it (in reality no-one is more surprised than you), and they keep asking: ‘So how does it feel to have … Done it?’. For the Comrades guys, I would imagine that its all quite unreal and damn painful, then a few weeks/ months later you pass the mantle-piece and you spot the ‘thing’, you pick it up and realisation dawns – you, yes YOU, YOU actually conquered the monster, slew the beast whatever you want to call it and you sit down hard in the nearest chair, quite awestruck with the reality of your own achievement. That’s how it is in the martial arts – you never feel like a Dan member when you have just graded, however a week or six later you are getting ready for class and you pick up the ‘old’ black belt that you’ve had for a whole month, you slip it around your waist, measure the ends and tie a perfect knot smooth the ends down to make sure everyone can read your name. You straighten up and glance in the mirror and you see someone you’ve never seen before – there’s a black belt staring back at you. Pretty cool and thrilling!

How does it feel? Sorry guys you can’t describe it, if you haven’t run up Polly Shorts after 70 agonising kilometers and down the other side, woken up early for months on end, bought 6 different pairs of running shoes and broken them all in – with six sets of new blisters – how could you possibly know the feeling of crossing that finish line? Similarly if they haven’t done a thousand pushups, squat kicks and up chagi’s; sweated blood, faced weekly, monthly and yearly challenges, sometimes quit and come back, had failure and success and just held on even when it got unbelievably tough – how do you explain? How can they relate? So the only person who truly knows how it feels is another black belt. All I’ll say is I highly recommend it!

To those of you who have the dream, turn it into a goal today, make the decision that you will be a black belt – no matter what, and remember most people just don’t get it – how could they? Only you can prove you are exceptional, that you belong in the top 5 % – GOOD LUCK.

Master Gregory Hart

PS Congratulations to our new Black Belts – Very Awesome, Totally Cool – welcome to THE club!

Bevan, Sue and Christelle new 1st Dan Black Belts, just the beginning;
Matthew Christopher new 2nd Dan and, the equivalent of a Gold Medal in Comrades,
Xander Davis a new 4th Dan – brilliant!