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Black Sash Mind

Posted on: January 22nd, 2016 by Paula Lazarz

A student is ready to test for Black Sash when they have developed a certain knowledge of Kung Fu technique along with the type of physicality Kung Fu requires.  Another component that determines whether a Brown Sash is ready for Black is “Black Sash Mind”.
The epitome of Black Sash Mind is shaped in the years AFTER the student is awarded Black, but by the time the student is a Brown Sash, the seeds have been planted and should show signs of starting to bloom. 
Traditional martial arts training usually follows a formalized pattern of instruction.  There is a formal bow to start and end class.  Everyone is wearing the same thing. There are set routines that are done in each class etc.  The Black Sash candidate must be able to adapt with ease when things DON’T follow the structure – when unexpected things happen.  
For example, on a “Forms Day” a guest student unexpectedly comes in who is a great tournament sparring competitor.  The instructor decides to work sparring instead of forms.  How does the Brown Sash student respond?  Is he able to quickly and easily switch gears and get his sparring gear on without any obvious shift in mood or temperament? 
If the instructor unexpectedly has the students hold the bow stance for five minutes, ten minutes or twenty minutes, how does the student respond?   The Black Sash candidate should be able to hold her stance in stillness because of concentrated focus.   It shouldn’t matter what the time limit is, she should be able to have mind hold the body as long as required. 
The strength of mind of the advanced student also psychically supports the newer, less experienced students who use it as a buoy for their practice. 
The appropriate equanimous response to any given situation.  The capability of the Black Sash candidate to adapt to the bearing of their peers and the less experienced students. The training floor is a petri dish for all the different experiences each student had throughout their day. 
For example, a less experienced student comes in aggressively at an advanced  student.  Is it more appropriate for the more advanced practitioner to respond by beating the novice down? Or by evading and giving just enough back so the student can learn despite their aggressive demeanor?
These first three qualities mirror the physical development the practitioner is experiencing through practice.  The last one has to do with heart or spirit  – 
The ability to respond with confident force when it is required.  The Black Sash candidate must believe that, at times, each individual has the right to respond with confident force.  This is very hard for most people to develop.  A Brown Sash could have all the other mental strengths, but lack this last one for years. 
Though the physical training helps an individual develop this energetically, it requires a certain “heart” or “spirit” that must be present when the student practices.  Instructors try to encourage this, but the student must ultimately bring it to their practice of their own accord.   
Each individual will bring different things to the table at different times and grow according to their own personal timetable.  Nonetheless, the promise of Shaolin is that through consistent practice, these qualities can and will be developed.