A martial artist knelt before his master sensei in a ceremony to receive the hard-earned black belt. After years of relentless training, the student has finally reached a pinnacle of achievement in the discipline.
“Before granting you the belt, you must pass one more test,” the sensei solemnly tells the young man.
“I’m ready,” responds the student, expecting perhaps one more round of sparring.
“You must answer the essential question, ‘What is the true meaning of the black belt?'”
“Why, the end of my journey,” says the student. “A well-deserved reward for all of my hard work.”
The master waits for more. Clearly, he is not satisfied. The sensei finally speaks: “You are not ready for the black belt. Return in one year.”
As the student kneels before his master a year later, he is again asked the question, “What is the true meaning of the black belt?”
“A symbol of distinction and the highest achievement in our art,” the young man responds.
Again the master waits for more. Still unsatisfied, he says once more: “You are not ready for the black belt. Return in one year.”
A year later the student kneels before his sensei and hears the question, “What is the true meaning of the black belt?”
This time he answers, “The black belt represents not the end, but the beginning, the start of a never-ending journey of discipline, work and the pursuit of an ever-higher standard.”
“Yes,” says the master. “You are now ready to receive the black belt and begin your work.”