At a grading a couple of weeks ago, three students tested for their black belts – two for their 1st degree and the third for her 2nd degree.

At CHA black belt testing is a fairly lengthy process. All three may have performed well physically on the day, but over the next few months each will also have to complete a written exam and essay before a final decision is reached. After Sunday’s performance the best they can hope for is a decision of undecided.

Being undecided brings with it a degree of uncertainty, but every black belt I’ve spoken to has told me what an incredibly valuable period of time it was for them.

Depending on a student’s performance they might be asked to improve specific skills. For another person it could be about demonstrating their consistency and commitment or ability to support junior belts. No matter how each performed physically, it should also be a time of significant personal reflection.

At CHA, learning Hapkido has never just been solely about physical techniques. In many ways Hapkido is a tool to help us realise our potential. It’s about personal growth and about letting go of what might be holding us back.

I encourage candidates to ask themselves a number of questions during this time. So what does a black belt mean? What’s the difference between 1st and 2nd dan? How have you developed over the time you’ve been training? And honestly, what do you still need to work on?  How has Hapkido helped you address your fears, habits and patterns, and how do these affect your daily life? All these areas and more need to be considered – with honesty and insight.

It’s been almost 35 years now since I started Hapkido. The training continues to challenge me whilst also helping me to develop valuable positive mental and physical habits. It’s those habits and our values that form our character and determines the kind of black belt we become.

Black belt testing is a time for reflection

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