Thursday, December 27, 2012

A State of Mind: On Being a Black Belt

Most people who know my husband and I know that we both earned black belts in a martial art. While I am incredibly proud of the work that we did to achieve this goal it makes me equally as uncomfortable to talk about it with new people we meet. Inevitably I will hear


  1. Who outranks who?
  2. Who would win in a fight?
  3. Who HAS won the fights?
  4. Can you show me some moves? What would you do if I grabbed your arm RIGHT NOW?!
  5. Wow! We won't mess with you guys.


So let's clarify.


  1. We are the same rank. Hubs will surpass me someday as he has the desire to continue training and currently I do not.
  2. Hubs. But I'd put up a good fight. And honestly, I'm so out of practice that I'd have to resort to dirty tactics. In the street, that'd be fine though.
  3. I don't keep tabs.
  4. Ah. Well you see, that depends. Do I like you? If you're a big tough guy looking to inflate his ego by grabbing my arm so hard that your veins pop (this has totally happened) then you're escalating the situation to where I would have to A) hurt you or B) do something that might hurt me because you're an idiot or C) perform Jedi mind tricks on you. None of these things excite me as much as they excite you. Also, knowing someone has a black belt is not an open invitation to touch that person without his or her permission. Social and personal spaces still apply.
  5. I think the last statement bothers me the most. Really? First, would you have messed with me if I didn't have a black belt in a martial art? Second, do you think I go around saying "I'm going to totally bloody your face if you don't agree with me or do my bidding?" Bollocks. Totally.

Ok another thing... Let's say someone you know with a black belt makes a Facebook or Twitter update to the effect of "Someone totally ruined my day by " and then you see someone else comment "What an idiot! Good thing he didn't know who he was messing with!" or "I thought that person knew you?! You could totally take him so he's a fool for stepping on your foot."

This? Silly. While I (or other black belts) thank you kindly for your friendship and support, I don't go around saying "I'm going to totally bloody your face if you don't agree with me or do my bidding." It would also be really, really, really egotistical of me to assume and then assert my "betterness" over another (which I am not) just because I might, if life-threateningly necessary, be able to break him six ways from Sunday. I personally don't go around categorizing people I meet in to "I could kick his ass, or not" files. Sometimes that is a fun mental game. Most times it is a waste of thought. I think most black belts would agree with me too. To us being a black belt is a state of mind, not primarily a physical accomplishment. However, there still might be a few out there who don't agree, who like to assert their pummeling skillz over others. Perhaps those martial artists have more training to do, to feel comfortable in their own skin. I don't know. They confuse me.

So. There you have it. It is pretty cool what martial artists do, have done, and will continue to do. It's a great conversation topic in the right situation, with the right people. I'm happy to share too. But I am not currently doing any physical martial art training and I'm really rusty. I would rather have a conversation with you about the philosophies of martial arts and the things I have learned about myself and others along the way. The ego puffing and bruisings are the least important parts of the story.