Did You Forget Your Superhero Suit?
I will never forget the first martial arts tournament I attended where I was able to wear a black belt across my waist. I had competed in many competitions before, but not as a black belt. I was dealing with that crazy combination of emotions we have all experienced where we are really excited, while also dealing with a healthy dose of nervousness. I was in my early twenties and feeling really good about myself. I always liked to use the time before an event to just sit and get my mind ready for the competition ahead and what I needed to do to perform at my best. I was concerned about how hard competitions would be since I was a black belt now and had no idea what was about to happen.
While I was getting ready, there was a little boy sitting close to me on the bleachers at the gym we were at. It was his first tournament and he was also really excited and nervous. Of course he wanted to chat with me for a while to calm his nerves. His mother was with him, so they both had a lot of questions about how tournaments worked and what to expect during the event. It was a perfectly normal conversation until it was time for me to stand up and pull my new black belt out of the gym bag. As I was putting my belt on, the young boy looked up at me in complete amazement and shock like I was some kind of superhero! His mouth was open wide and his eyes were so big I thought they might pop out of his face staring at me! He was so excited he looked like he was about to lose it right then and there!
His mother and I couldn't help but smile at the young man. I made eye contact with her and nodded to her in understanding. As I was walking away to my station, I saw the young boyout of the corner of my eye frantically pulling on her sleeve and pointing at me while excitedly saying something to her. It was a really cute moment, but it was one that changed my outlook on what it meant to be a black belt forever. Until then I had no realization on how inspiring to others being a black belt can be. I'm sure when he went home that day he told everybody about how he got to talk to a real black belt at the local karate tournament.
Later, I told the story of the incident to my instructor and he just smiled in understanding. He had experienced the same thing many times over the years. He had spent years of his life investing his time and effort in helping others and had seen first hand how inspiring a few kind words coming from a black belt can be, especially to children. As he chuckled, he looked me in the eye and said, "You got that reaction from the young man because when you were putting on that black belt, in his eyes he had just watched you putting on your superhero suit!"
Before I had gotten that black belt, I had been told that wearing a black belt would mean I would have to be an example to others. I thought I understood what that meant at the time I received it, but it wasn't until I saw firsthand how inspiring I could be to others that the gravity of that statement really began to hit home. Unfortunately, the ability to inspire others like that also comes with the ability to discourage others as well. It made me really step back and pay attention to how I treat others. People often become like those that they admire. This is especially true for young children as they are still figuring out how to be an adult.
For everyone that is a black belt or is aspiring to become one, please think before you put that black belt on. Being a black belt is truly a heavy thing to wear. Black belts should have a social responsibility to make the world around them better than they left it. Black belts are different than most people. We have physical, emotional, and mental attributes that we have all worked very hard to attain. It is easy to forget who we are sometimes when our everyday struggles get the better of us. Black belts are held to a higher standard in life. Are black belts perfect? Absolutely not! It's the fact that we are not perfect yet still strive for it with all we have is what sets us apart.
We should all take some time to remember what we are and remember to ask ourselves, "Did I forget my superhero suit today?"