Through The Eyes Of A White Belt

July 15, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up a book on my travels called “Zen Guitar” by Philip Toshio Sudo (, and in the first 20 pages, it has changed my life.

Being a bard of peace and love, I have never been one for combat, but martial arts have always intrigued me.  It all started with my childhood exposure to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I always felt a particular relation to Donatello:

 He was always the thinker in the group, kind of geeky, but very capable, and  by far had the most advantages weapon…the staff.  If I was ever to learn  some  kind of martial art, it would most likely integrate the staff…

Anyways, after reading the first bit of Zen Guitar, I realized that I already  have  a martial art of my own….Music..and my voice, guitars and instruments are  my staffs, katanas, nun-chuks, etc.

Expertise in Martial Arts are dictated by colors of belts, and the trials one  must  pass to advance.  In music and in life, Sudo says the only belt you ever need is a  white belt.

Here’s why:

There are 5 stages –

White Belt – Establishes the beginner’s mind, eager to learn

White To Black – Training and discipline needed to progress along the path

Black –  Established responsibilities and standards for excellence.  Belt becomes soiled black from time and effort put in, and mind, body, and spirit begin to fuse.

Black To White – Explores barrier that goes beyond the technical and leads to deeper understanding.  Efforts wear and fray the belt so that it begins to turn white again.

White – Full return to simplicity and understanding of the Way….always maintaining a begins mind and eagerness to learn.

This hit me so strong in the form of an idea, and I acted immediately.   “Acquire a white belt,” a voice told me, so I hopped a bus downtown in search of one.  I explored 6 different martial art stores, but to no avail, and realized I had to make the journey to the downtown East Side for a chance of finding one.

Once again my inner voice said “Walk…” which through the east side can be uncomfortable, but I went anyway.  I realized I did the right thing when I came across this beautifully painted wall:

I love occurrences like this.  What a great saying.  Thanks Lao!

I arrived at a place called Mikado, half expecting to be dealing with some  gruff and tough guy with rope and resin on his hands, only to be surprised  by the sweetest little woman named  Hidemi.

Look at her smile! Another angel  worth going out to  this place just to  visit.

Here she is  awarding me my white  belt:

Anyways, I decided to make the lifelong commitment to music and life to always live in the open mind of a white belt.  I signify this now by wrapping it around my tattered guitar case, and dawning it on my mic stand for every gig I play from now until death.

 Page 20 closes with the an old samurai maxim    that says “From one thing, know ten thousand  things.”

“Music can teach you everything you need to    know.”

And so the journey and acceptance of music in my life officially begins!  Domo arigato  Sensei  Sudo and Hidemi.

Here’s to the saga!

Mr. White Belted Bard


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