So, I’ve had many people asking me lately if I’m nervous about testing for my 7th Degree Black Belt on Nov 4th, 2017 in Framingham, Mass. They ask “What will it be like?”, a natural thing to be curious about.
Well, I’m here to tell you what it has been, and what I expect it to be like. Keep in mind that to date, I haven’t actually FINISHED the 7th Dan test yet, but I’ve certainly started it, so this is all just conjecture at this point.
In a way, my “7th Degree Black Belt Test” consists of 30 years of preparation, learning combination #6 and 8 point blocking with a body that is so weak and uncoordinated that I would often suffer in the 120 degrees inside my car because I lacked the strength or skill set to roll down my window with the crank. And once rolled down, I feared it might rain and I wouldn’t be able to get it back up until I could find a friend or gas station attendant who could help.
My “7th Degree Black Belt Test” involves being able to be JUST stubborn enough to not give up when a technique or form is difficult. being stubborn can be a good thing, said no parent ever…..
My “7th Degree Black Belt Test” has been about not giving up when I reached “plateaus” in my training where I didn’t SEE the improvement I expected to see. Realizing that during those plateaus is when you’re doing the most learning that will eventually show itself in leaps forward in physical skills. I almost quit several times. I’m really glad I quit being such a quitter.
My “7th Degree Black Belt Test” is about the balancing of my mind, body and spirit. You can be smart, you can be talented, and you can be really gung-ho about your training, but without all 3 of them, you’re lacking as a true Martial Artist.
My “7th Degree Black Belt Test” has taken me along an amazing life path I never expected, allowing me to learn more about myself than I think most people on the planet are ever able to do.
My “7th Degree Black Belt Test” has been about RESPECT. I’ve learned that respect can be THE most powerful trait a person can have to positively influence the people around them. People can disagree and even argue, but if they can show respect to one another, and one another’s opinions, the world can be a better place.
My “7th Degree Black Belt Test” hasn’t been about levitating off the ground or throwing Chi-balls at people from across the room, or doing back flips while I do 17 kicks in the air, or throwing a Bo staff in the air, while calling my mom, finishing my vegan meal and sipping my chai-tea, all while in the lotus position and with my eyes closed. Sure, I can do all those things, but that’s not what it’s about.
My “7th Degree Black Belt Test” has been about learning practical martial arts.
My “7th Degree Black Belt Test” has been about teaching OTHERS about practical martial arts, while also keeping it interesting and fun, so they can benefit from the long term training.
My “7th Degree Black Belt Test” has been about teaching a college Martial Arts course for the last 20+ years, and learning far more about the history and meaning of the martial arts than I might have otherwise. The broad strokes of the history of the Martial Arts is a fascinating subject to get into.
My “7th Degree Black Belt Test” has been about teaching Free Self Defense Classes to my local community. Perhaps giving one more person a chance to “win” by getting away safely if they need to. I’ve had SO MANY stories told to me over the years about how I’ve helped save their lives I might actually be starting to believe it!
My “7th Degree Black Belt Test” has been about helping the community with fund raising events like our Kick-A-Thon that has raised over $80,000 to date for local charities.
My “7th Degree Black Belt Test” has been about me seeing my students excel and more than JUST the martial arts, but at LIFE….I’ve seen hyperactive Leopard Cubs become energetic, intelligent adults. I’ve seen awkward teens become comfortable in their own skin. I’ve seen arrogant juniors learn what it means to be humble and shy ones find their voice. I’ve watched the popular kids leave their friends group to go over and put their arm around a kids shoulders who was having a bad day. I’ve seen “special needs” students excel in classes others said they’d never be able to take. I’ve seen my Junior and Teen students grow older and have families of their own (I’m actually teaching several “next generation” students now!)
My “7th Degree Black Belt Test” has taught me to be comfortable in my own skin. I was a shy, awkward, somewhat goofy, kid who didn’t eat lunch in the High School lunch room because I never felt like I fit in with anyone. I spent my study halls doing my homework or talking to my Physics teacher. I would get physically ill when I had to get up in front of my class for an oral report. I didn’t really “socialize”, didn’t go to parties, didn’t go out to clubs, etc. I was every stereo-typical “nerd” from every movie. But now….I’m OK with who I am. I am now starting to realize just how awesome I actually am!
I’ve signed my name on my student’s belts probably over 10,000 times over the years. I’ve had the honor of promoting over 500 students to Black Belt, many to higher degrees as well.
I’ve been honored by Great Grand Master Villari and by the US House of Representatives for my fundraising efforts. I’ve been given a huge honor by being asked to be the officiant for the wedding of one of my students. I’ve been on TV and Radio. (I DEFINITELY have a face for radio.) I can go on and on. (Those of you who know me know I really mean this!)
All together, my 7th Degree Black Belt Test has been a 30 year journey involving many influences and accomplishments. Some of my proudest accomplishments are those of my students.
On November 4th, in Framingham Massachusetts, I will be completing my final portion of my “7th Degree Black Belt Test” that will involve some evaluation by some pretty fantastic martial artists who know way more than I do. It will involve a lot of learning on my part, as every test I’ve taken on this long journey has been, and still is, a point of reference for some of the most important lessons I’ve learned. It will likely involve levitation off the floor punching through stainless steel plates, being blindfolded and navigating a maze of ninjas, shooting chi-balls out of my hands at people across the room (Picture the greatest game of dodge-ball….ever!).
When it’s over, I will have completed my “7th Degree Black Belt Test”, which is just 7/8ths of the way to completing my 8th Degree Black Belt Test.
Am I nervous? Yes and no.
Am I scared? No.
Am I ready? Yes.
That last answer is “Yes” because of everything I wrote above it in this blog.
I look forward to the final part of my test, as much as I bet you all look forward to the end of this blog! =)
So I will end it now. Thank you for reading this far!
Master Harry Pfister
Currently, as one of my students called me last week, “still just a 6th Degree” Black Belt.
*****My apologies for the poor quality pictures. They were taken with my phone off my computer screen while playing a RW-CD in my 6 yr old computer. I may have had a better time drawing stick figures instead of using some of the other pics I took.