If you aren’t in over your head,
how do you know how tall you are?
T. S. Eliot
We are now in week four of our semi-annual Black Belt Boot Camp – or, as it is more commonly called among participants, Black Belt Boot Camp (Woo Hoo!) – and I’m pleased to say this Fall’s candidates are all both succeeding, and failing. Just what we, their instructors, hope for.
It’s a heck of a thing, BBBC (WH!). We take dedicated martial artists who have successfully risen from White Belt through the various degrees of Brown Belt, who have successfully passed a comprehensive pre-test, and then we test them to failure.
“Failure Testing” is a manufacturing term described on the web site “Business Knowledge” as such:
“a way to ensure that you are producing a product and service that will not fail under different circumstances and situations of stress, weather, temperature, and so on and so forth. Continual failure testing, even after a product is developed, will help you ensure that your manufacturing processes are as optimal as possible and that you are continually improving your products and your services.”
For a product of manufacturing, “failure testing” means running it through its uses over and over again in increasingly conditions until something goes wrong. For a martial artist it means….. well, the same thing. Good at defending yourself against a punch? Great, do it with your non-dominant hand. Skilled at disarming an attacker with a knife? Alright, try it when you’re on your knees. Do pushups to you drop, run until your legs feel like jelly, then run some more. Fail. Fail some more. Fail until you don’t.
There are people utterly confused by this concept, who wonder why anyone would possibly subject themselves to such rigor, who would actually continue deeper and deeper until they found themselves over their head. Our brave candidates at BBBC (WH!) do get it. Every week they are learning more about themselves, finding out just how tall they are. And, I can promise you, when this is all over they’ll be walking taller than they ever have before.