Last year, I did the first black belt level (dan) promotion in our ministry, when I advanced Trisha to the second dan…twelve years after she achieved her first dan. On Saturday, I gave out a second promotion, this time to sempai James N., to a first dan…many years after he had originally received multiple dan rankings in both karate-do and in aikido. I believe that both sempai Trish and sempai James exemplify two very important aspects of what a dan rank means in our ministry: 1) It is a measure of heart…in consistency, in effort, in sharing and mentoring others, and in the ongoing journey of transforming oneself into a better person. 2) It is a measure of humility combined with self-confidence and quiet strength that emanates from within.
I feel that these traits are shared by all of you in the ministry, though we certainly should always be striving to reach the potential that He has designed each of us to fulfill. Each of us has a responsibility to be good examples of these values at whatever kyu or dan ranking we hold at any given point in time, anywhere, at whatever we do. Through His grace, our ministry continues to mature and over the next year, I can see two or three more sempais achieving the dan level. For most karateka, the black belt is a most desirous goal, and that is a natural and understandable thing. Remember however, that the true value lies not in getting the dan ranking, nor is it the color of the belt…it is in growing oneself to develop the Heart of a black belt.