Black Belt Test Speech in Front of Students at Dojo
July 31, 2017
This coming Saturday, as part of my black belt test, I’ll set up my boards, bow in, and explode. Roundhouse Elbow. Downward Hammerfist. Side Thrustkick. Upward Kneestrike.
And 8 solid boards will become 16 broken pieces.
How many of you have broken boards here at the dojo?
How many of you have watched board breaks?
How many of you have thought, “Man, I can’t WAIT to do that!” OR “There's NO way.”
Board breaks are exciting, loud, powerful, and adrenaline-pumping. On your test all eyes are on you, the pressure is on, and you get to show everyone that you know how to use power, accuracy, and concentration to destroy solid wood. When the boards break you inspire people, and you hear things like, “Man, that was awesome!" and "You’re so strong.” It’s all very exciting.
But I’ll let you in on a little secret.
There’s a bigger test than breaking through solid wood with your bare hands and feet. You’ve already been taking that test over and over your whole life, and you will use what you have and will continue to learn on that test to be able to break your boards when the time comes.
So what is that test? It’s making hard decisions and following through with them when you’re not in the spotlight.
This test comes in every moment in a myriad of ways, but here are four of the main ones:
1. HONESTY. Telling the TRUTH to yourself and others, even when the truth can get you in trouble, even when there’s no way anyone can find out that you lied. Even when the TRUTH can completely change your life in an instant. Even when the TRUTH means you have to let go of people or situations.
2. BRAVERY. Not laughing at jokes that belittle or make fun of others, or talk about others behind their backs, being the only one of your friends to say that’s not cool, being the first and sometimes only one to stand up for others, even, and especially, strangers.
3. COMPASSION. Stopping yourself before you JUDGE someone or their situation, keeping your temper in check even when you know the other person is wrong or lying, and listening to all sides of the story instead of just one—because there’s never just one side of a story.
4. OWNING. Owning up to your mistakes, and granting others forgiveness even if they don’t ask for it or deserve it. Refusing to be the victim, no matter what the circumstances, and instead choosing to learn the lesson that is always there.
In some ways it’s easy to show your strength and power in one minute of breaking boards while everyone cheers you on. What’s much more difficult is the other 59 minutes in the hour, day in and day out, year after year, where you’re tested on your personal power and strength and your ability to break through obstacles, both internal and external, when you’re not in the spotlight, when no one is watching, when no one is cheering you on for doing the right thing. That’s where the real test is.
The secret is that the more you continue to make hard decisions about honesty, bravery, compassion, and owning, the stronger you will become. And once you get really good at those, then you’ll find that, by comparison, breaking through solid wood is, relatively speaking, a piece of cake.