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DISCIPLINE: A Black-Belt Journey By Mike Gutzat | Ambra Karate Academy Blog

DISCIPLINE: A Black-Belt Journey By Mike Gutzat


DISCIPLINE
A Black-Belt Journey
By Mike Gutzat

Discipline! This simple word means so much to each person’s life.  It is an essential ingredient to education, work, martial arts and any other pursuit that one takes on.  It is also the hallmark of a Black-Belt martial artist.  The belt is a symbol of the individuals discipline to training, respect and understanding of the art itself.

In the beginning of my martial arts career I attended classes to keep pace with my son; hoping to be able to help him improve his forms and techniques.  Learning a martial arts was always something I had thought about doing and the chance to start studying with my son was my motivation.  I worked hard to getting the basics kicks down and on expanding my flexibility.  In this early part of my experience my drive was still mainly for the exercise and to keep pace with my son.

Soon the drive was to improve my own technique and to learn more.  I concentrated on improving my stances, control and flexibility.  No longer was it just about keeping pace with my son but more about the improvements that it was bringing to my life and my health.  It was at this time that the frustration started to mount.

Competition was also starting to mount.  I found myself wanting more and more to be able to spar with the upper belts and not just hold my own but provide them with a challenge.  Along with these efforts came more frustration and questions like:  What was I doing wrong?  Why didn’t my side kicks have more power?  Why can’t I get those combinations off?  How do I prevent from being pummeled?

Improvements came, although I didn’t feel like I had gotten that much better.  Always my worst critic I didn’t think I was providing the challenge I wanted to.  I certainly wasn’t doing as well as I felt I should be at that point.  However, the upper belts were commenting on my progress and other class members were also commenting on it.  Then the big challenge came when I was asked to run some classes.

Petrified I walked in for the first day to run classes for an ailing instructor.  Not entirely sure how I would be received while there were other students with higher belts then myself.  This was the first time that I felt all the hard work was paying off and showing.  Being able to work with all of the students and help to improve basic things like stances and kicks gave me some confidence.  It also spurred me on to keep improving so that I could continue to provide assistance for classes when needed and to aid other students.

Looking around I suddenly found myself as a Cho-Dan Bo and within reach of the Black-Belt.  The opportunities to help run classes continued to help me with my own techniques; pushing me to improve my stances, forms and abilities.  I still found myself asking questions about my own kicks, my sparring abilities and even my fitness.  However I realized that much of this was and is my own self critique.  I was now providing a challenge for the upper belts in class and was getting closer and closer to the control and technique to start helping the lower belts more and more as they improved.

Improvements finally did start to show.  All of the hard work and discipline started to pay off.  I was feeling like I had better control.  Much more like I understood more about the style, techniques and forms.  I also realized I had much more to learn and improve on.  My hook kicks still seemed weak, my sparring was just so-so and my stamina seemed to have reached a plateau.  More frustration showed as I was trying to over come these things.  However with all the learning, teaching and frustration came the realization that these are all normal steps in the process.  They can and will be over come with practice and discipline.

Now I was starting to feel like I was getting ready for the Black-Belt.  Finally I saw more of the control and felt better about how my form looked.  I was being asked more and more to help out in class with new students; teaching the beginning forms and techniques.  I saw this as a benefit because it gave me the opportunity to focus on the “older” forms and techniques and improve how they looked.  One thing I had seen while teach classes was that the upper belts all focused on the newer fancier forms and didn’t practice the beginning forms from where all the basic techniques grow.

Embarking on this journey has been interesting.  I have covered numerous emotions that surround the progress and development of my skills.  I have grown in my confidence not only in the martial arts but also in the ability to help teach others.  I have also truly realized that the achievement of the Black-Belt rank, to quote a fellow Black-Belt, is like finally getting your training wheels taken off.  Just like that person learning to ride a bike needs help and support during the learning process.  I would be remiss if I didn’t pay tribute to my wife, Mary, and my children; Ryan, Rachel and Zachary, who have put up with all the extra work, time away and have supported me in this effort.  While the achievement is an individual journey; without the support and understanding of family and friends, one would falter along the way.  Thus I also need to thank Mr. Ambra and Sean Foster for the encouragement and challenges that they provided me along the journey.

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