I have always been a fan of Martial Arts as a source of understanding and wisdom on the journey one takes from novice to expert. There is a tremendous book called “Zen Guitar” by Philip Toshio Sudo, I highly recommend, even if you’re not a music enthusiast. In the book, Sudo tells the story of the young man who 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 is so impatient to ask this question does not have the discipline required to be 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. With that being said, it takes patience, will and discipline to be deserving of the black belt in the game of 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.
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 of getting golfers to set the stage for their aims and ambitions. In martial arts, every student begins their journey at the white belt level. This is something most people are aware of. Mostly unknown, is the term black belt was born from the fact the white belt over time 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 to get better.
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.