Dr. Seuss called it The Waiting Place, in Oh, the Places You Will Go!
In Karate, we call it Blue Belt Blues.
White Belts are Emotional and Excited. Yellow Belts are Arrogant.
Blue Belts are Creative.
They know that they are a little better than the cocky yellow belts, and yet, hopefully, we have humbled them a few times on their journey. No longer do they get a free pass for getting a shot in on their instructor. We answer with speed now and a touch that asks, “Do you really want to do that again?”
Their form can be crazy good, or infuriatingly floppy and inexplicable. The Truth of their innate abilities is clear at this level. The uncoordinated people have to work HARD to please me. This foundation of work ethic will serve them well at advanced ranks when fine motor changes, relaxation and patience stand between them and integrated full body movement.
TALENT is dangerous.
The Naturally Talented kids look REALLY good at Blue Belt. They rock their stances. Pull backs and strikes are FIERCE and they have penetrating FOCUS.
The Journey was Never Meant to be Easy.
A black belt friend was visiting during a Blue Belt Test. During the belt ceremony I absolutely cringed when he told my student, “That was the BEST Blue Belt Test I have ever seen!”
NO. NO. NO. I had been hiding this kid’s talent from him for the last 2 years. Now my cover was blown! The kid made it to green belt but never to brown.
PLEASE, Do not tell them how great they are! Resist this urge at all costs. Continue to critique their movement and their stances because we all thrive on the challenge to get better.
Effective EFFORT is so much more important that ABILITY.
Like teenagers, blue belts have stopped listening to you anyway so maybe it doesn’t matter. But they are WATCHING, and they are MAKING UP THEIR OWN STUFF.
They will change a kata because something “doesn’t make sense,” then teach it to 5 white belts.
They will pull the most useless strike out of a kata and start sparring with it relentlessly.
THERE IS NO STOPPING THIS PROCESS.
They just have to FAIL.
The down side is that in Karate when you fail, it usually means PAIN of some sort: the jaw (Thanks Ian), a broken finger (I told you to close your hand around the bo staff.), “Ouch!” a strike to the solar plexus. PAIN. It is a Montessori style of learning.
In Failing they will either Quit or Make the Sport Their Own.
The Blues part happens because they must take this path. Go off track. Eventually find their way back. One day they will just start doing the things you have been begging for. The Pain has made them look back to you. Maybe you weren’t totally crazy.
“Gee. My hand doesn’t hurt so much when I hit the bag Sensei’s way.”
They will consistently have good form. It will be the correct form. They will learn the katas they need. They will be ready for Green belt.