Last night I was teaching one of my competitive students, working on padachugi or slide back round kick. As I watched this student I noticed that while he normally transitions between the slide back and round kick very smoothly and with no extra steps in regular classes, last night during our drills in sparring class, he was adding many extras steps. After correcting him a few times, it reminded me of the fact that while I may make corrections, ultimately he has to improve his skills.
What is the difference between a blue belt and a black belt?
The answer could/ should be: The black belt is better
This is not always true. Usually the black belt has trained longer, but that does not necessarily make them better. Both the black belt and the blue belt will make mistakes. The difference is their desire to improve their skill level and correct their technique. Sure, the black belt will have memorized more curriculum, but skill level is not determined by memorization, but application.
When it comes to application, the student who works harder to improve technique, timing, fitness, etc. That is the student who will be better. It is not the value of the belt that they wear.
Our belts; blue belt, black belt, have intrinsic value, meaning we see the value of the work and effort that we have put into the belt, but they do not have extrinsic value, imparting some kind of magical ability. Rather we give them value by the work that we have put into achieving our rank.
The work that we put in is our journey in Taekwondo, martial arts, is the destination. This makes black belt no more than one more milestone in our process of self improvement. Our journey through Taekwondo teaches us focus, self-control, discipline, teamwork, etc. But, those life-skills and our physical skills do not finish improving when we reach black belt. Rather, black belt is just an out word reflection of the work that we have put into our training. Yes, it should signify a level of competency, but that competency is not limited to black belts.
The skills we develop at all levels reflect upon our ability in Taekwondo. So, do not get hung-up on your belt level, instead focus on improving your skills and abilities.