The Black Belt is not the end, it is only the beginning …… Words By Mr Kelly We asked Mr. Kelly, Group chief instructor at MAC Academies, to give us his view on the journey beyond Black Belt. For someone who has been training in the Martial Arts for nearly forty years, his enthusiasm still shines through.His words are below……….Start your REAL journey – Black belt is just the beginning…So you’ve achieved your first black belt after many years of training and grading you passed the test, you’re an elite martial artist! This unfortunately is where a lot of people quit, that’s kind of like passing your driving test and never driving again! The Black belt is not an end goal, it is the beginning of an in-depth study that will change your physical, mental and spiritual being in a way that you can only understand if you undertake the journey.Martial artists begin their study for many different reasons. For some, self defence is a priority, it could be fitness, learning a skill, making new friends or even the desire to fight or compete. I believe any of these or all of them are relevant when you start training. However, after three years or more of training we should develop a different perspective of martial arts and what the end product is for ourselves. If we could see the future and see a better stronger more confident version of ourselves should we commit to that vision? If we knew we would control our body composition and weight, if we knew we would gain mental discipline and resilience. If we knew we would build a skill set that would give us a sense of confidence, a sense of calmness and the mind and body connection that most people would envy, would we take the challenge?If we knew we would change positively, making friends and spending our time developing ourselves the only thing we truly start this life with an end it with, then would we step forward to embrace these possibilities?The goal of black belt is the start. Shodan means first step, only once you have reached that elite at primary level can you begin to really study and understand how martial arts can impact you in a positive manner. Once you reach that level you can then begin to share your experience and to help others developed there personal path in martial art training.At a basic level the mindset of a beginner student is critical in developing your personal martial arts and following a journey of discovery that can continually involve your physical and mental connection as well as experiencing other cultures and ideas that allows you to develop an informed and knowledgeable view of how martial arts not only helps the individual, mentors its students and develops a connection between people who have travelled the same path. In my opinion, one of the greatest attributes of martial arts training is that everyone, regardless of their rank, has been through the journey and whilst everyone’s journey may be different, everyone has that connection with their fellow martial artists. The knowledge, the interaction, the clear understanding of your own physicality, the development of mental attributes and strength. People who are strong enough to endure but who are caring enough to be a positive force within their communities.As a lifelong martial artist, an instructor, a parent and a husband, martial arts is impacted in all areas of my life, my friends, colleagues and other martial artists have invariably added to my journey through life, whilst other paths were open to me the martial art path was my choice and remains so today. I still have the passion to train and to learn new things and to experience everything in the martial arts from helping any students to guiding experienced students, to feeling proud and uplifted watching how all of these people challenge themselves through martial arts and grow to become the martial artists of tomorrow.I hope that you continue to train, continue to grow and continue to give back in the martial arts. Every journey begins with the first step”, you have made that step, now take the next one and the next one and the next, It’s as easy as that!