The first few years of having a bucket list, mine got up to 127 items long and it included reasonable goals like “Graduate with a 4.0” to crazy dreams like “Perform on Broadway”. (side note: achieved the first, NOT the second, although I have BEEN to Broadway…)
One item was “Get my black belt”.
To that end, I took a karate class in college and… hated it.
“Welp. Strike that off the list. Never gonna get my black belt.”
Like with occupations, life directions and other paths up the mountain, there isn’t just ONE martial art which I learned later when working with one of my OG (and one of my fav) clients and his Japanese Martial Arts Dojo.
Life eventually lined up where I started judo and now I’m at the point where the next time I rank up, it will be my first degree black belt.
Even so, and even when that happens… I think my favorite belt will still be my white belt.
White is what you wear when you have no rank and have limited knowledge of the art.
White is beginner.
One day, in the changing rooms after class I was chatting with one of the bada$$ women in the dojo and she made a comment that when traveling, “Always take your white belt with you.” As in, have an empty cup when you go to train somewhere else. Don’t assume you rank means the same thing there as it does here. Be humble.
Now, I don’t remember if we got deep into the life philosophy there or if it came from my musings later but muse I did.
“Take your white belt with you.”– Pam Suino
There is a curiosity to it all when you are a beginner.
There is an open world out there to explore.
You don’t know what’s not possible so you don’t yet have limiting beliefs on what is.
You try and you fail and you get interested. It doesn’t shame you because of COURSE you fail, you are new. This is a strange world into which you are attempting to integrate.
You are encouraged and you are guided.
It’s overwhelming, it’s scary but it’s fun.
There are endless challenges in front of you and you get quick wins because every basic thing that you learn is to be celebrated.
It’s easy to see progress because the jump from 0-1 is HUGE.
You are at the bottom now, so no one expects anything from you so you can experience and play with abandon.
Experts look like magicians and the dream to be like them twinkles in your starry eyes.
When do we lose that?
When do our starry eyes become clouded?
When do we lose our curiosity and become jaded?
When do we learn to say “Oh that can’t be done”?
When do we become fearful of play because the act might leave us looking stupid?
When do we learn to expect so much that our small wins are now disregarded?
When do we transition from that beginner to the intermediate or even to the expert and start foolishly thinking we know it all?
Of course we want to learn and grow and not live as a white belt forever. If you live there forever as a martial artist you are doing something incorrectly, but there is something to be said about taking our white belt with us.
What if we could film a video and allow ourselves to be imperfect?
What if we got curious about what our audience needs without thinking we know?
What if we let a little play into our business and our marketing and didn’t worry that we may appear foolish?
What if we dropped our pre-conceived notions about what IS and looked at the situation with fresh, un-clouded eyes?
What would we see if we were on the outside, if we were new, if there was a brand new world we just stepped into, a brand new mat we just stepped onto?
Can we let our ego relax, untie ourselves from it and acknowledge the things we don’t know? Can we be humble enough to go and learn them?
Can we take our white belts with us?
PS. Did you know that there are 10 official black belt ranks in judo? There are some Japanese stories, though, that say there are actually 12 ranks, and that in the 12th rank, one would wear a white belt.