The word “Dan” means “step” or “stage” in Japanese, so, becoming a “Sho-dan” literally means: “He who has taken the first step”. To get to this point means working hard and studying hard for a minimum of at least four years. Someone who has some previous Martial Arts experience may actually do this faster (we after all offer “Fast Track” options if you qualify!). But still, you need to learn perform nine different katas, twenty combinations, master more than a hundred basic techniques as well as various assorted blocking systems, and you need to learn how to defend yourself in various ways. Yet, this is only the first step? Apparently so...You may hesitate to think what will be involved to be able to take the next step.
All that went before, all the differently coloured belts and their assorted tests, all that is part of the first step upon the path to become a martial artist. The step from Red Belt to Shodan is a big step, indeed, this may well be the biggest step in a martial artist’s carreer, as it represents a ‘coming of age’. When bowing in and showing respect to the Masters who went before us, as a Shodan you may do so in the knowledge that you yourself are one of the masters now as well. New students will learn from you and also bow to you, and, by teaching them, you will learn new things yourself.
Yet, at this point it is so easy to start thinking that you have achieved it all. You have been working so hard towards that “Black Belt” that you cannot really see what lies beyond that. Then it is time to remember this is only The First Step. There are many more steps to come and each come with its own challenges and new vistas. New material, new katas and combos are waiting for you, but also a gradually deepening knowledge and understanding of that which you already own. And, ultimately, a wisdom which makes you into a complete person. That is, after all, the ultimate goal of our style of Martial Arts training at American Dragon Martial Arts.