Re: The black belt Issue (thoughts)
I agree with Jorge on the basics element. To me, shodan is at a level of consciously competent with the basics-i.e., they probably have to think somewhat about most of what they do but understand the core techniques (basics) well enough to assist lower ranked students and teach them. They have the foundation to start opening and developing their training. They can watch technique and reasonably model the technique shown since they understand the core movements inherent in the basics. They also can recognize their weaknesses and grasp the necessity for continued development and training. Their future training becomes refinement oriented. They also have a strong enough foundation to connect the basics with more advanced movements and techniques. I use a question regularly for advanced techniques-how might you go from this basic technique to a more advanced technique (I tell them the technique I want). With a solid foundation, the shodan (and the upper shodan in training kyus) can actually get pretty close. If you understand kihon (tai sabaki, footwork, etc), the principles for advanced techniques are the same-the application or movement patterns just become more complex. Their basics are solid enough to allow them to explore and develop more freestyle movements. I do stress however they must continue to not only learn but to learn to learn.