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Do You Have The “Black Belt” Mentality?

Martial arts has helped me understand the journey one takes from novice to expert and has left me with some wisdom on the subject. In the tremendous book “Zen Guitar” by Philip Toshio Sudo, a young man enters the Dojo and asks his master, “How long until I will be a black belt?”

To his dismay, his master replies, “You will never be a black belt, for anyone who would ask this question does not have the patience and discipline required to become a black belt.”

The lesson is, many people lack the patience required to be great at something. I believe that any golfer, with the proper blueprint, can improve immediately. But it takes patience, will and discipline to be deserving of the “black belt” in golf. I often get this same type of question when someone for the first time engages in lessons. “When will I be able to break 100? 90? 80?” My answer: “When you deserve to.” Not what most people want to hear, but it’s the only honest answer I can give.

To his dismay, his master replies, ‘You will never be a black belt, for anyone who would ask this question does not have the patience and discipline required to become a black belt.’

For those who struggle with the idea of a challenge, I try to instill in them what is known as the “Black Belt Mentality.” It’s a lesson adapted from the story above and is a useful way to get golfers to set the stage for their aims and ambitions. In martial arts, every student begins their journey as a white belt. This is something most people are aware of. What’s not common knowledge is that the term black belt was born from the fact the white belt became black from the hours, months and years of continual training. The “black belt mentality” is to understand the training never ends, and the practice never ends. There will never be a day when you say “I have it” and you can stop practicing and learning.

Many assume the black belt is the highest level of martial arts, when, in fact, the true black belt continues his training eventually turning his belt back to white. How does it become white? The fibers tear and fray and the white inner cloth is once again exposed. The white belt returns the black belt to the beginner’s mind which is always fresh and open to learn, embracing the journey and the opportunity for improvement.

For those who love the game, the pursuit of playing better golf will never end. The secret to finding enjoyment and fulfillment within the process is to embrace the challenge for what it is and always will be. The true black belt, rises each day saying, “Show me something new to learn, show me a way I can achieve greater understanding and success.” Let this be your mantra too.

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