Webster defines student two ways. First ,a scholar or learner who attends a school and Second, one who studies, an attentive and systematic observer.
It has been suggested the acquisition of sho-dan (or black belt) in karate is really recognition that the karate-ka has become a student of karate. I define that they have become one who studies, the attentive and systematic observer of their art, and the purpose of their studies is themselves.
Towards the end of our time together Charles Murray once told me “Victor, the first 20 years your art is the reflection of your instructor(s). After 20 years, your art is a reflection of yourself.” As time passes I’ve come to see that as more true than not, but how that comes into being isn’t a factor of the color of your belt, your titles or even the fact you keep training (but the last is still vitally important).
I find what is really important is that you have become a student of karate, defined as your studies have made you the attentive and systematic observer who in turn learns how to act on those observations.
I remember each step of my journey so clearly. Except for my instructor and wife nobody came up to congratulate me for getting my black belt. Almost immediately thereafter I became my own instructor and the most important tool was remaining the student.
I started studying other arts and learned how to remain a beginner. I began studying other’s actions, in word and deed and observed those actions consequences. Having learned how to stand I began to crawl.
I learned reading a book wasn’t enough, you had to try it on, walk in it’s thoughts, live it. In time, and it always took much time, something might be found helping guide my study.
Becoming the attentive and systematic observer became the key to being an instructor.
Becoming the key, the attentive and systematic observer.