I have been thinking a lot about the subject of being a black belt. Last week in the dojo, my husband had an excellent discussion with a 1st kyu student about the process of being a black belt. Yes, there is a test, a list of requirements and long hours needed in the dojo. But, there is something more. It is the hard to describe, intangible quality that he referred to as "becoming" a black belt. It is something you know...when you see it.
I think of students who passed through our dojo and earned the rank of black belt. Some students continue to train, learn and teach. They have become my training partners and together we continue to learn and explore.
Other students quit a few weeks or perhaps months after receiving their belt. I imagine their belt hanging on a display like a prized trophy. It was something they wanted to acquire not become.
I believe there is another group. The students trained, earned their black belt but for some reason (family, work, school, injury) can no longer actively train. Even though they do not walk through the dojo door on a weekly basis, I still consider them part of the dojo. They "became" a black belt. The lessons learned in karate class became part of who they are and shaped the person they became. These students could step on the floor at any time and be a black belt. Sure...they may need to re-learn the patterns or the drills but the essence of their training and study is still part of them.
What do you think....once a black belt...always a black belt? If the training stops... should the rank stop with it? Or does it depend on the person and if they actually became a black belt rather than acquire one?