It's a symbol and as such tends to have a unique meaning to every person who will earn and wear it. It also has meaning to those considering taking up the challenge by joining the dojo regardless of the reason. Most who try to define it tend to lean heavily toward a more consumer and/or social meaning, i.e., what it means in a very basic way.
Some of the reasons I have heard to its symbolism:
- It means you are a bad ass;
- It means you have mastered the art it represents;
- It means my hands are deadly and I will have to register them with the authorities;
- It means I can defend myself in the streets;
- and so on …
What does my black belt mean to me? Well, it all depends on what span of time in my past you want me to discuss because the symbolism of the black belt has come to mean many different things to me over the decades and today, it holds a past for me but otherwise it is just my obi. The obi I once wore in my dojo and it the dojo of those who I had the pleasure to train and practice with.
- Hard work.
- Sweat equity.
- And a brotherhood of karate-ka of all those who are a part of the karate community.
- Respect and admiration for those who have gone before me with special emphasis on my Sensei, USMC Retired Sergeants Major Warner Dean Henry who brought me into the family we call, “Isshinryu.”
You see, even tho I no longer wear it, it still holds special memories and beliefs and accomplishments personal to me and me alone and will do so even sitting in my dojo-bag at the back of my closet. I am proud to have accomplished so much and now believe that I have finally come to a place in my life that the black belt means something significant and bountiful and special to me, me alone regardless of what others may or may not think, feel or believe.