Red Belt Syndrome Alert, Part 2

You start to walk a little taller. You volunteer your opinion more freely. When you see students practicing before or after class, you run to them to help them out — whether they want your help or not. Your knowledge deserves to be shared and spread.

You might even start developing your own theories as to the more effective application of certain techniques. Because, after all, you have two or three years of training under your belt. And God, you’re good.

You’re also insufferable. It’s all right: don’t feel bad. We’ve all been there, and if we haven’t, we’ll get there. Your instructor probably remembers going through that stage. If he’s still instructing, it means he got through it, and knows you will too. I remember complaining to my coach, as an eighteen year-old hypercritical second degree, about the uppity red belts who were impossible to teach. “They don’t listen,” I accused, “they don’t learn. They think they know it all.”

“Yeah,” my coach agreed. “Remember what that was like? Wasn’t it great?”

She was right. When you’re in the throes of red belt syndrome, enjoy it. You won’t feel that same sense of well being, confidence and assurance for years… if ever again. Because once you get that black belt around your hips, you start to realize how little you know. And the more you learn, the less you know. So enjoy your red belt syndrome while it lasts. But be forewarned: the more you indulge it, the more you’ll hurt when it ends. And, you better hope it ends: there’s nothing worse than a black belt or instructor who still thinks he knows everything and has nothing more to learn.

I’m pretty sure red belt syndrome is inevitable, even if you’ve born witness to it and know it’s coming. You never know when you’re in it, and when people tell you you’re in it, you don’t believe them.

You dismiss the comments of juniors as jealousy and of seniors as insecurity. The key symptom of red belt syndrome is a sense of omniscience, and that precludes ever being wrong.

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