I once read an article where a martial arts instructor talked about the value of the word next. She put it in the context of always working towards the next belt and always moving towards the next challenge. I agree with that, but I also see it in another way
Not too long ago, a mother said to me that her child, a brown belt, should continue since she is almost at the end - meaning earning a black belt. This is a thought I often hear parents express about their children's progress, and sometimes a student says about his/her own progress. I usually comment that black belt is not the end, but the beginning. Much as finishing high school is not the end of one's education but really the beginning of it all - thus graduation is called commencement - earning a black belt is really the beginning of one's learning and understanding.
I have been practicing Tae Kwon Do for over 25 years. Next is not just about the belt for me, especially since my tests are at least 2 years (on average 6 years) apart if not longer. Next is about not stagnating. I want to keep growing, not just as a Tae Kwon Do practitioner or teacher, but as a person. Tae Kwon Do has provided` me with the blue print to embrace and confront life's challenges in a way in which I can continue to improve and grow. I do not expect everyone to love Tae Kwon Do the way I do, but I can hope that my students learn to find and embrace this inner challenge in themselves, whether it is in Tae Kwon Do, in school, or whatever ignites their passions.
I am not deluded enough to think that all my students will continue to endeavor in Tae Kwon Do forever, but I hope that the lessons they learn about themselves will stay with them forever. I hope that for the time that they are involved in Tae Kwon Do that my students learn not to settle or stagnate, not to be satisfied by merely staying still. I hope that all students will aspire to want to move forward and progress, that they will be striving for next, not as a form of glory, but as a source of growth and improvement.