A common comment among long time martial artist is that getting your black belt is just the start of the journey. I only half heartily agree with this. Such a statement downgrades what the student has learned since they first walked into the Dojo. While yes learning continues beyond that first high belt rank, it should not be thought of as they now know the basics. The basics are the most important part of the arts. They represent the foundation of everything one does and will ultimately do.
It is this off hand dismissing of the colored belts progression being a real learning environment that has created the problem with so many Black Belts looking to be rank conscious. Forty years ago a black belt was seen as a true accomplishment not just a stepping stone to your 8th Dan.
As we as a community continue to voice that a 1st Dan is actually just a beginner we also reinforce the belief that the argument about children becoming Black Belts is OK. This comment also allows us to water down our curriculum and not require true skill and learning to get the BB. Maybe the problem is that getting to BB is too easy. In that case it is just the first step but I prefer to see it as the real goal.
I expect my Black Belts to be able to fight and hold their own against most any reasonable conflict. That is the real skill. It is the addition of learning more about the art on a personal level that builds with higher rank. If we cannot teach the student to be skilled and competent by 1st degree then we as the teachers are failing our students.