As an instructor of the martial arts I am often surprised how often this question gets asked of me by either acquaintances and or individuals who walk into my school looking to get trained. It is also a question that irritates the hell out of me; perhaps the reason it does is because in my mind it bypasses all of the other important positive aspects that martial arts study has to offer. And it immediately leaves me to believe that the student or individual posing the question is more interested in making a statement about the color of the belt or title by their name rather than learning techniques that might help them or their family out during a crisis. Perhaps more important and or relevant questions should be:
1. What are the health benefits of practicing martial arts at your school?
2. What type of commitment is required to attend your school?
3. Do you train for sport or survival?
4. What are your expectations as an instructor?
5. Does your school require a contract?
6. What your teaching methodology and what metrics are used to gauge success?
These are just a few questions that I believe are more germane to the discussion rather than “how long will it take to get a black belt”. My typical answer, if I am not in a grumpy mood is, it will take as long as it takes; meaning that I have laid out a set of requirements based on a path that I have gone down and when you understand the concepts and can perform much of what has been taught as if it is second nature that you are ready to teach others. Martial Art study is like planting a tree, its growth will depend how much care and feeding go into its development. Earning a black belt from me is not simply a measure of time lapsed it is thorough understanding of our DeCuerdas Concepts, as are school produces thinkers not just individuals who are trained to throw a series of punches and kicks without rhyme or reason to what they are doing, our students have to be adaptable and be able to change gears or tactics based on the progression of the confrontation or added attackers. For some schools the methodology for earning a black belt may be easier to come by, especially if a large student base is needed to keep the doors open; fortunately for me this is not an issue so I can truly concentrate on passing on the fundamentals of an art that was taught to me by GM Art Gonzalez. In our system earning your black belt gives you the title of Guro which means instructor, in other arts the same meaning is given to the term Sifu and Sensei. This is why it is so important that the “black belt” student be able to fully understand the concepts of the art and be able to relay those concepts on to others. Even if I deem a student has reached a level of maturity to earn their black belt the honor cannot be bestowed without the consent of two other black belts from our system and finally our Grand Master. So how long does it take, as long as it takes, which is entirely dependent upon your commitment.