I was in the Dojo the other day and our Sensei was calling up the children for awards, and upon calling up the White belts he stated: “The white belts are the most important people in the Dojo.” He went on to say, “ We all remember being a white belt, and how the feeling of being lost and uncoordinated and the thought of “I will never be a black belt,” felt, but without white belts there would no one to hand the lineage down, no one to carry on the tradition. So you, white belt, are the most important to me”
Then it occurred to me, most of the time, as I asked folks to try and come out to the Dojo and try Karate, I am greeted by this statement, “No, I appreciate it but I don’t want to look stupid” or “I don’t want people to laugh at me,” “I am not coordinated enough,” etc. My reply is usually something along the lines of, “Well then if you want a good laugh come watch me.”
Where are all the white belts that want to step in and be ok with being awkward, uncoordinated and too look the fool? It will take that to become the master of a craft you are interested in. Is there a lack of instigators, or are we creating a culture that does not accept that? In the Dojo there is respect for anyone who bows in and trains. Are you fostering the same respect in your Dojo? Are you creating a culture of a learning mindset that all levels of skill are respected and appreciated?
Are we treating the next generation with the respect and dignity of the white belt so that they know that they are the most important thing in our organization? Are we teaching our current black belts to support and encourage the next generation? Or, are we allowing the old school thought process of the “Newbie” to continue? Are you hearing things like, “these new kids don’t know anything?” or, “ These millennials just don’t get it”
A Sensei has an open Dojo to those that want to learn, each will make their own journey in their own way. The difference is a True Master understands that and supports it. The master continues to train and correct for creating perfection. Sure, not all white belts (new employees) stay in your Dojo (place of business). The ones that do, those are your real black belts. Those are the ones that care and want to carry on the tradition. A black belt is not born overnight. You will have a tough time hiring a black belt that will be loyal to your tradition, your schools methods. Sure you can hire a black belt but where will their loyalty be? A true loyal black belt is trained, promoted and groomed in your school. If a Sensei does not question everyone’s agenda, or question their loyalty, they continue to teach, train and support any student that continues to show up. Remember, black belts are made not bought.