I was fortunate enough to get to watch a Shodan Grading at Seattle Jujutsu. For those of you not familiar, Shodan is the first black belt rank, or rather the first step into becoming a serious martial arts practitioner.
Black belts in the grappling arts usually take a lot of years, usually 8-10 years to qualify for grading. I'm sure there's faster and longer, but the typical grappler, usually puts in a good 8-10 years of constant practice before being considered.
Seattle Jujutsu is run by Aaron and he runs a really good club. Andre, who has been a student of Aaron for over 8 years tested for his black belt. From what I understand, Andre, is his second black belt to be personally trained by him. Vince, Andre, and Yoshi all started at the very beginning 8 years ago.
The test had a lot of meaning in the journey, and it was great to see the whole club there. All the black belts were there: Aaron, Vince, Lana, and Elena. The test consisted of the curriculum demonstration (representative, but by no means all inclusive), a question and answer section discussing philosophy, a teaching demonstration, randori, and finally shiai. The test lasted close to 3 hours. It was a combination of both mental, physical, and internal toughness.
One thing that Aaron did was to make sure it was all inclusive and solicited input from all the members of the club. And that he treated everyone from the oldest to the newest member with the same respectful equal manner.
It was quite an experience to watch, and a rare one at that. At the end, there was the symbolic passing of the only brown belt in the club to the next senior student. The club is very traditional that only the sempai, should he choose to, wear the brown belt. Almost always, the brown belts in the club still wear their white belt. As the years go on the white belt gets to a darker and darker shade. Eventually the student earns a black belt, and wears the black belt. Over time the black belt loses it's dark luster, gets lighter and lighter over time, eventually almost looking like a white belt. It's the circle of all things.
The new black belt join the dan ranks, and the journey continues. That's what I love about this sport, it's a journey, there's no destination, and that getting belts are momentos in a journey and not the purpose. The journey goes on...