The road to a black belt in judo is not an easy one. For starters, the learning curve associated with the sport is painfully unforgiving and causes many students to quit well before attaining the requisite skill to be recommended to the Provincial Grading Board – no, no club is allowed to give out any black belt degrees. To meet the requirements for black belt grading, there is usually an unspoken requirement that tournament experience and wins are key towards a successful recommendation for those who are over 21; and it is an express requirement for those under 21.
It is very rare to see a Black Belt who is under the age of 17. Those teenagers who do fall under this category hold such a rank because of their exceptional performance at national and international competitions. The time it will take to get a black belt in judo will ultimately depend on the age of the judoka. For those starting at an early age, they will likely not see one until their mid to late teens. For those starting out in their teen years, depending on tournament success, it may take any where from 4 years and up. These timelines are not set in stone but they are the general norm.
Why is it so difficult to become a Black Belt in judo? The answer to this can be put into the context of something more tangible for those who are new to the sport: because it is difficult to pick a living person up and throw that person to the ground against his/her will, while under pressure (tournament conditions). The patience to withstand thousands of mindless repetitions of throws to be able to execute them naturally in a tournament is something that many will find not only humbling, but also rewarding when throwing for a beautiful ippon (full point which wins the match) in a tournament.
Simply put, a Black Belt in judo can hold their own, both physically and psychologically (with control). With a high threshold for pain and a disciplined background from the years of training for tournaments, keeping a cool mind and level head is natural. So, the road may be long for some; however, the result at the end is always a positive one – for oneself and for society.