Any martial art will challenge the participant to reach their physical and mental limits, improving in every session to not just defeat a combatant but to better understand themselves and their abilities. Dan Hurt has risen to the uppermost echelon of Taekwondo, earning a black belt that signifies his devotion to the discipline and his will to become one of the very best in his community. But what exactly does it take for Dan to get that far, and how much of an achievement is it compared to other belts?
The belt system is consistent across all martial arts, from karate to judo, and those who like Dan Hurt hold a black belt are considered those who have mastered its fundamental aspects. Yet a black belt is not necessarily the same thing as a martial arts master, and even once you’ve reached the black belt level, there is plenty more to learn. One analogy is that of a college degree: while someone who has a degree in business knows quite a bit, they still aren’t on the level of someone who has an advanced degree. That’s not to say that a black belt holder like Dan Hurt should not believe it to be a big accomplishment, only that there is always more that a person can learn, and always room for improvement.
In taekwondo, a black belt holder like Dan is held up as a leader in their martial arts community, a person who teaches as well as learns. After all, plenty of the best learning takes place when you teach, as any teacher can tell you. In the dojang, the dojo where training and classes occur, a black belt holder will be relied on to instruct other students in minor details and processes, as well as the formal movements and ideas that make up taekwondo philosophy.
Each test passed by Dan Hurt of Johnson City demanded more and more demonstration of mastery of technique. More than that, however, it demanded proof that he could propel the practice of taekwondo past the point of a sport and to the point of an art. After all, they are called martial arts for a reason: it is not enough that a person understands attacking or defending; a true expert is one who makes it look formless, graceful, and elegant in practice. This, obviously, requires a great deal of practice, but once achieved, makes a black belt holder a very notable person of influence.
Finally, Dan Hurt and fellow taekwondo black-belts must be leaders outside the dojo. They must be seen as positive influences and practitioners, who help to spread the good word of martial arts training, and encourage others to follow their example of how to seek high standards of character, refrain from violent behavior, and endeavor to always become better at all aspects of life.