Last month, after years of training and months of testing, one of my students received her black belt. As is the custom, the belt was presented to her at the end of a recent rank test. She was called to the front and asked to remove her red belt. Master Chang then congratulated her and personally tied her new black belt around her waist.
After the applause had died down she was asked to perform the formal (on her knees) bow to her instructor (me). She was asked to do it not just the once, but once for every year of her life. She is 35. Thirty five formal bows can actually take some time to do; but as she performed them the room was silent, falling in to a quite contemplation.
A few students and spectators either came up to me or emailed me afterwards questioning why she had to perform such a task.
Kneeling opposite her, watching her perform the bows, I felt a huge sense of respect for her. I felt impressed by her dedication and commitment, and the seriousness with which she approached this task. Other black belts who have been through the same process have told me that when bowing they felt a sense of humility, gratefulness, confidence, inspiration and pride.
How did I respond to those who questioned? Well…. Black Belt is a huge accomplishment; should it really be over with a nod of the head and a sit down?