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Bowley Kenpo Karate » Personal Stories » How is a black belt like a college degree?

How is a black belt like a college degree?

When I was in high school and college, my dad used to tell me a college degree isn’t really about what the university teaches you. Sure the course work matters some, but your job is going to teach you the skills they really want you to have. He’d say a college degree is more a measurement of fortitude. The harder the degree and the school then it would give you a tougher endurance test and therefore a more prestigious degree.  Companies would look at it and know how much hard work you can take and how you’ll stand up to it. This is how I see training for, and eventually the earning of, my Kenpo karate black belt. 

Sam Bowley at Brown Belt Test

Sam Bowley at Brown Belt Test

In college, you took everything the institution could throw at you; all night studies, professors of all personality types, hands on lab work, nerve wrecking exams. And you did it for 4 years. The end result? A slip of paper, and an education, no one will appreciate as much as you but also the start of a new journey. There is a quiet confidence that comes from knowing you have achieved something most will not.

The similarities to the Kenpo black belt journey, so far, are striking.  There have been late night studies and weekend homework.  While all the instructors I’ve worked with have been fantastic, the horror stories are present. Certainly the work is hands on (literally), and the exams have pushed the nerves and stamina to the limit.

Is it like this for everyone to earn a black belt? No, I don’t think so.  Everyone’s journey is different with more and sometimes less requirements placed on them along their way.  I can only speak to what I’ve seen and experienced. But this is where the instructor and even the martial arts style is like the university you select.  Mr. Wilson and Mr. Duffy have pushed me, and continue to, right up to my physical and mental limit. Each time the boundary is moved farther back, making me a better student, and preparing me for a black belt.  Just like a hard university prepares its students.

Make no mistake, this isn’t a bad thing, and I wouldn’t change it. Hard work and perseverance make the prize so much more worthwhile. The top of the mountain needs to be very high to separate those who want it the most. Like the college degree, it’s open up a new path for me and provided a confidence level I’ve not had in a long time.

My goal as an instructor is to push the students to their limit and continue to push the limit higher. With each rank they earn, the sense of accomplishment they’ll feel will have been hard fought and worth it. And the few who make it to black belt will have taken the hardest fortitude test Kenpo gives and can stand confident.

Sam Bowley
McKinney, TX

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