I recently realized that my anniversary as a Black Belt passed by. I was promoted by my teacher to Dayang Isa on August 17, 2013.
When I did the math, I was a little surprised. 7 years already?
I only knew it because an old photo taken on that day popped up in my Facebook memories. This is the first time it occurred to me that I don't actually mark or measure how long I've been a Black Belt.
I do talk about my anniversary of when I started training (April 2008) and when I started Arnis (June 2008). Those dates are really important to me, as they mark my pre- and post-martial arts life (and it changed things for me big-time).
For some reason, I just don't note the anniversary of being promoted to 1st Black.
Not that I'm not discounting it, not at all. If you recall, Mr. Chick and I were secretly tested and surprise promoted by my current teacher with my first one, and that was a very, very special weekend.
But literally until now - 2020 - I didn't think to celebrate that anniversary at all.
We hold that milestone in such high regard, don't we? Becoming a black belt?
For people who haven't made it yet, it seems like some magical, sometimes nearly-impossible-to-reach rank. And when you get there, usually it's one of the most important rank promotions you will ever experience in your martial arts career.
I was talking with a friend about the black belt rank just the other day. She's not even close to being a black belt yet, being very new to training, and I noted to her that the old saw about how "black belt is just the beginning" seems like bullshit but it's actually 100% true. It's not as far away or as hard as it actually seems to her right now.
I am still close enough to the place my friend is in that I remember being her, and remember thinking how far away and unattainable black belt seemed. The day I was surprise promoted, I remember never wanting to take that belt off. I wanted to sleep in it.
I can vividly recall how that day felt (it was AMAZING). And yet, since then, I don't really note the anniversary of it.
I wonder why that is?
Maybe it's because I'm not super-tied up in rank. I've never been denied anything because of being the wrong rank in Arnis, not once. While we certainly respect rank and am super happy when I get promoted, we don't have a lot of responsibilities and privileges associated with it that a lot of other organizations do.
These days, I just study what I can as much as I can, and if I get promoted, I get promoted. If I don't, I don't - it doesn't really change things for me on a daily basis.
That belt I wanted to sleep in when it was given to me? I only wear it on really fancy training occasions. I usually train in a t-shirt and shorts or training pants (I have a pair with pockets in 'em that I love).
That's a privilege that comes from being a certain rank, I guess...?
That's why the gyrations and rigamarole people go through to buy or make up fraudulent rank just seems so darn silly. It's not the rank that ultimately matters, not at all. You don't need a bunch of certificates and titles and highfalutin' fancy-pants belts for validation or to be in authority or in charge.
You just train, and if you're so inclined, teach others what you know, as best you can. If you have something that others think is worthy, they listen. Not just because you're such-and-such rank.
In any case, my 7th anniversary as a Black Belt passed by this week. It seems like so long ago, but also, just last year. I've grown a lot - exponentially - since that day.
I'll keep growing, because I'll keep training, no matter what rank I hold.
But, I think I'll start celebrating August 17, too.
Do you have any special martial arts anniversaries? If so, which ones are important to you? Let us know in the comments!