[part 1]

Before Christmas I surveyed some of Chang’s Hapkido Academy (CHA) black belts to discover what keeps them coming back after achieving their black belt.  I’ve received over a dozen responses now from black belts across four of our schools, which gives me quite a bit of data to start noticing various recurring themes.

So why do CHA black belts continue to train?

Many black belts agree that the long years of training has meant that Hapkido, and CHA in particular has become a big part of their identity.

  • Hapkido is like a relationship.
  • CHA has become a part of me.
  • Hapkido is part of my life and it is part of me
  • I want to live as a practicing black belt for as a long as I’m physically able (it’s who I’ve become, it’s part of my identity (not all my identity though – that’s important too)

An overwhelming theme was that of the fun, enjoyment and feel good factor that Hapkido practice gives.   

  • It’s fun
  • I enjoy training.
  • I enjoy coming to class and get satisfaction from practising as hard as I can.
  • An upcoming test can focus the intensity of training but I have found it’s not the reason for turning up to class.  I do it simply for the love of doing it.
  • Often times I’m tired from work, I have an injury or I just don’t feel like exercising, but I force myself to go to class and 100% of the time I am so glad I went.
  • CHA is very simply a place where I want to be, with people I want to be around.  I didn’t stop liking it just because I got my black belt.

The black belt itself was never seen as an end product.

  • I never intended it to be the ultimate goal
  • Black belt was never really my goal
  • Didn’t really have a goal of getting my black belt
  • When I received my black belt I knew I didn’t know it all.  I have found that my horizons continue to expand and that there is always going to be more to learn.

There is this consensus that there is always ‘more to learn’, and the experience of CHA is one where personal growth matters.

  • I was really proud to become a CHA black belt and I would agree that since then it has been a real personal growing experience.  This in turn has made me appreciate class even more and amplified my motivation.
  • My new goal became conquering myself.
  • Through CHA I am able to discover and define who I am.
  • Helps light the way for my journey.
  • What is as important to me as the Hapkido training is continued participation in ki meditation class.
  • What has been a constant source of strength for me has not been the physical lessons, but the philosophy that underpins the training.

The discipline of practicing Hapkido and the ethos the school stands for helps students tap into that ‘better version of themselves’.

  • I think the discipline of going to Hapkido and going to ki class in and of itself is something that makes me feel good about myself.  It makes me more disciplined in other areas of my life.
  • I’m CEO of my company.  I know I have a tendency toward arrogance. CHA reminds me to be humble.  It is the ethos of the school and what it stands for that is important to me.
  • For an hour or two every other day I am forced not to think about anything else.
  • Because I love the confidence it brings me
  • I agree with the values that underpin the school and so I have the feeling that by going to class it’s good for me.
  • If I had the worst day at work or at home, somehow everything was ok after class.
  • Hapkido helps me maintain balance and it remains one of the tools that helps keep me in touch with a better version of myself.

It’s not all about the mental side though.  Black belts enjoy the constant physical challenge; as well as deeply understanding that, ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’.

  • I am humbled  by the limits of my physical capabilities
  • I remain motivated to train myself because the value of self-defence has gone up.
  • I love the tremendous physical fitness it brings me, and I love the physical challenge of trying to stretch my body’s capabilities, even as I head into my elder years.
  • I feel that if I do not practice regularly I will lose the skills I have gained
  • Just because I have a black belt now doesn’t mean I can stop exercising.

It takes a lot of time and practice to achieve a black belt.  There is an appreciation for the help and support they have received along the way, and desire to give back.

  • We have some kids who have some hard lives.  I think that I provide some sound leadership for those students who might not receive what they deserve at home.
  • I focus more on the improvement of other students – this actually improves my own technique.
  • I would like to support others who are in the same position that I was.
  • I feel that I owe something to the school; it’s the idea of ‘pay it forward’.

Thank you to all who contributed to this black belt exploration; it’s been a fascinating and familiar read.  I’d like to end with another quote, one that personally resonates.   “First and foremost  I love Hapkido and Ki Meditation and it’s my passion. For me there is pure joy in the actual act of training. I feel completely alive when I train. I’m not sure there is any other reason at the root of it all – I simply can’t imagine not training – it would be like part of me is missing.”

See you all in class!

Training beyond black belt (part two)