I was 61 years old when I began training in Kuk Sool Won, a Korean martial art. I looked down one day at my legs and was shocked. They were thin, white, with skin that just couldn’t be my own. I had the body of an old man, but my legs, they were the worst. The first year of training I survived because of the kindness of two black belts that worked out alone on Wednesday mornings. I joined them.
My teacher complemented me after several years by publically congratulating me saying: “I want to congratulate Mr. Conger. I never thought he would get this far.” To his credit, he never adjusted his training in any way for me. Age was not ever a consideration. I confess to a few moments of self-pity. Now I am very grateful for his demand of Black Belt excellence.
After 4 years of doing push ups on my fingers, long practices, 200 techniques, five Katas and all the falling, the speed tests, after all that, I was given the opportunity to test for my black belt. I knew the techniques, the katas etc. I had past all those tests. I had a brown belt to prove it.
Of course I failed the Black Belt tests consistently for three years. For the first two years, I understood why, because I could feel the improvement with the passing months, but the last year was the worst. I had been through at least 8 trials. They were becoming unbearably depressing, the pain of them and the disappointment. Finally I was granted a Black Belt. March 2nd 2002.
I was not a brilliant student. I persisted. Humiliated, I imagined what I could have done if I had been 30 years old instead. I dreaded coming to practices and became ecstatic once there. Once I had the black belt, I realized it represented only the beginning, not like a doctorate, more like graduating High School. I still didn’t know much. I hadn’t lived with it long enough and it had taken me seven years. What did I know really?
The first class I taught in Analytic Somatic Therapy, we worked for four years. There was a gap as students fulfilled requirements and finally after six months under Eleanor Greenlee’s supervision, they were granted the Black Belt, the CBT (Certified Bioenergetic Therapist) after seven years.
I have in AST found a way to reduce the intense training time from 4 years to about 2 + years. At the end of that time, we will have completed close to 375 hours. You will receive an AST certificate for advanced training. I am very pleased with this class as an essential, invaluable training in somatic work. For some of you, that AST certificate will be more than enough training, a very respectable brown belt.
To be a CBT is to work for the black belt. You need to be licensed as a therapist. You need some work experience. You need to complete 50 hours of supervision and 140 hours of bioenergetics therapy. You need 450 hours of training. You need to have tuned into your own body and transformed it. Nobody tends to get the CBT black belt in less than 4 or 5 years. You need to be reviewed by two International Trainers whose perspective about black belt excellence may not be fully grasped, even if they explain it. And when you become a CBT, you will understand what you have accomplished.
As an international organization, IIBA has conferences and a history across a few generations of practitioners. A license as CBT in California is a license to touch. AST provides an intense hands-on training but Bioenergetics is a further commitment. The evaluations are not unlike my black belt experience in which I was evaluated at a level I could barely understand at the time. As the proud father, I will not be the only or the foremost voice on the Black Belt evaluation. You will come to meet some extraordinary, experienced International Trainers who can teach you more of our craft and evaluate your work.