Paul McGuigan

I look at martial arts the way I think great designers look at their work – as a way of pushing myself to my limits to try and understand more about myself. The belts are a nice marker – a way of measuring progress, but they’re also a distraction – a sop to the ego to reassure you that you’re achieving something.

They say when you reach black belt, that’s when you really start learning. Tests become less frequent, so there’s fewer distractions for the ego – you have to measure success on your own terms. No-one’s going to come and give you a new belt anymore — only you know if you’ve done your best and made yourself better than you were yesterday.

I think our best work also happens when ego is taken out of the equation. When you try and do the best you can for you, not the awards or the pats on the back. Like the coloured belts, most awards are fleeting - eventually they just gather dust. The ultimate goal is true mastery of your art – that’s what really lasts.