I had a talk with my Tae Kwon Do instructor the other night. I can’t remember the proper title for him, and sensei isn’t it. I’ll try to find out before I post this.

We were talking about my goals for my study, and whether I should/could/would strive for black belt. Part of me wants to do this. Another part recognizes that my age and physical condition will make this difficult–and certainly a very different process than that of an 18-year-old or young adult.

He shared with me a concept that really got me thinking. He talked about the concept of perfect black belt peak.

He said that ideally, a black belt candidate has reached a certain peak of physical and mental/spiritual perfection.

Sometimes, though, those peaks just don’t coincide. A very young candidate has reached a level of physical perfection–but perhaps the mental/spiritual aspects need more time to mature. Older candidates–those who come to the sport later in life–may have missed that window of physical perfection. But they may also bring a rich and deep level of mental/spiritual perfection.

Ideally, a program accommodates all three kinds of candidates. The young black belt continues to grow and mature. The older candidate struggles constantly to do the best they can with their growing physical limitations.

At first I felt a rush of disappointment. Yes, I’ve definitely missed that perfect black belt peak. I’ve missed many windows in this art! And, in a quick burst of dismay, I realized I’ve missed so many other “perfect peaks” in other areas of my life.

I never went to art school. I never traveled much as a young person. I didn’t take a lot of challenges when it came to work, or so many other things in life.

Just as quickly, I came back to myself. My life is what it is. And there are some areas in my life where I have found that window, and I have been brave, and I have taken risks.

And the biggest obstacles in my life have been when I’ve given up because I felt I’d missed the opportunity for the perfect peak.

Do you do this? Walk away from your dreams because you see that the opportunity for the perfect peak has passed?

I hear it all the time. “It’s too late to go back to school.” “I’m too old to do that.” “I don’t want to try that, I wouldn’t be good at it.”

Life isn’t always about the perfect peak. When it happens, it’s a small miracle. Most of the time, though, we are dealing with missed windows, missed opportunities, imperfect peaks.

What matters is that you want to try–because it’s important to you.

I’m pretty sure what my answer will be about the black belt test. It terrifies me! I know that everything I’ve ever said “no” to, everything I’ve said I’m not good at, will be on that test.

Because that’s what a black belt test is–testing what’s left when your strength, your endurance and your wind is gone. The test isn’t just about how good you are.

It’s about what you do when you think there’s nothing left in you.

For me, it will be about knowing my limits. But it will also be about not giving up.

I hope the next time you hear yourself saying, “I’m too old”, “I’m not good enough”, “It’s too late”, that you’ll take minute to stop and really think….

“How badly do I want this?”

and “What am I willing to do to get there?”

and “Do I really care how long it takes me to get there?”

and “What would it mean to me to be on the other side? To be able to say…..”


P.S. Just to give you context for where I am in martial arts, here is the last time I blogged about my goal for black belt: Leaving

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

7 thoughts on “BLACK BELT PEAK”

  1. I read your post with great interest and would like to share some of my personal thoughts if I may.

    Congratulations to you first with preparing test. I would encourage you to relax and enjoy yourself. You know what it is you know. No one else can wear your rank.

    Regarding the rank of black belt, it is but the beginning point of your study. Too often, we focus all our energy on that illusive ‘belt’, being another Jackie Chan, or other things, instead of enjoying the journey of training and self-discovery. Regardless of one’s reason(s) for choosing to study a martial discipline, it is all about self-discovery and pushing yourself to new experiences. Learning your physical capabilites, spirituality, lessons learned and unlearned, and for lack of a better descripto, self-awarness, are but a few items one learns when journeying this path.

    Much success to you and your future study. Oh, by the way, there is a new site on blogger called ‘Nakayima’, at which covers about the aspect of ‘polishing the soutl’ of a warrior or one who chooses to study a discipline. Check it out! You may find you enjoy the site.

    Ato de…


  2. My regrets for the numerous typographical errors. I was trying to get out of the office hurriedly and I didn’t proof my comment very well.

    Blessings to you!

    Mata ne…


  3. I ventured back to offer something else. LOL, I’m absent minded. I didn’t ready your link about ‘leaving’!

    Nevertheless, the main thing about studying is self-discovery. This means different things to different people. Whatever you seek to benefit from your study, you will discover many other benefits you will derive that never came to mind.

    Forget the fear and anxiety, just go for it. I wish you a pleasurable journey and filled with enriching experiences.

    Ato de…


  4. Hawk, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and encouragement. I’ll be sure to check out the website you suggested.

    I find interesting parallels between my quest to perfect my martial art study, and my quest to get my art out into the world. I often find that working through setbacks and obstacles in one endeavor, informs the other. Who knew?!

    Or maybe that’s why they call them both an “art”…


  5. P.S. – Proper title would be Sohbum or Sohbun Nim

    You know reading your blog makes me think about my own struggle to achieve blackbelt status. However, I don’t want to stop there, because there is no reason to. I love teaching and training in the sport/art and that is what propels me to do more.


  6. You are absolutely right, Marc. Black belt is not the end of the journey. It is the first real beginning–like graduating from high school! It means you are capable of achieving even more.


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