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Ronin
11/18/2003 9:04am,
What is a Black Belt ?

When I got my first black belt, I had just turned 17, in 1986.
I was living in Portugal at the time and the school was a hybrid of Goju/kyokushinkai/judo, which means it taught all 3 styles. I had been there for 4 years, between 3 and 4 times a week.
That month I has also qualified for the under 18 European Boxing championships, as a lightweight.
You can imagine my ego :), at that age, a Black Belt, European class boxer, I was a serious badass !!!
I did my grading, all 3 hours of it ( they do it old school back in the “old” country), and my instructor handed me the belt and said:
“now its time to start learning”.
WTF ??? here I was 17, full of piss and vinegar, a national boxing champion and freshly pressed Black Belt, and he was telling me, “its time to learn” ???
After class, I asked him, what he meant, he looked at me, sighed, and said: “ I would have taught that, you of all people, would know that the BB means the beginning”.
The stupid look on my face probably gave me away, he continued:
“The BB means you have learned to execute the basics in a competent manner, that you have showed the maturity to begin your path to becoming a Martial Artist. The BB is not the end, not the middle, but the start of learning”.
“You were the youngest here when you started, the only reason I took you in was because of Tomas ( my friends older brother) and because after the first month you didn’t leave like I thought you would, and that made me think you might be serious, and you were. So now we begin”.

I still go back once a year to meet and train for 3 weeks with him or whatever instructor may be available at the time.
How is the journey going to becoming a Martial artist you may wonder?
Well, I took my first class ever in 1977 ( Hung gar ) and to this day, I learn something new everyday.
How is it going ? I think I finally understand what I was told when I was 17, about the Black Belt being only the beginning. It has been 17 years since that day and 26 years since my first ever class, and I am looking forward to the next 26 years, maybe by then I will have become the Martial Artist my instructor saw I could become.

Budd
11/18/2003 9:13am,
Good post.

Some of the most skilled people I know in the combatives world are the last to claim to know everything (even about arts in which they are among the highest ranked in the world) and also the quickest to become a beginner in a new style.

Bottom line: if you aren't learning something new everyday, then you might as well be dead.

Ronin
11/18/2003 9:20am,
Whenever I am exposed to something new, I feel like a kid in a candy store, know what I mean ?

Justme
11/18/2003 9:36am,
Yep. But watch the carbs.....

Budd
11/18/2003 9:40am,
Originally posted by ronin69
Whenever I am exposed to something new, I feel like a kid in a candy store, know what I mean ?

Yup :D

Ronin
11/18/2003 10:00am,
When you are young and stupid, any accomplishment is an ego boost, but at least when you are young you have that as an excuse, its when older and so-called "experienced" individuals get a ego trip from belts that's the problem.

Budd
11/18/2003 10:22am,
Originally posted by ronin69
When you are young and stupid, any accomplishment is an ego boost, but at least when you are young you have that as an excuse, its when older and so-called "experienced" individuals get a ego trip from belts that's the problem.

Also, too, going along with that is that the Nth dan black belt uses his "higher degree" as a marketing tool. Those that have never trained and are looking to begin studying martial arts could very well be likely to look at School X, which is run by a legitimate BJJ black belt (no degree listed), School Y, which is a small koryu study group with no belts, only licenses, but an interview is required, as well as a number of other hoops to jump through before admittance.

And finally, we have School Z, owned and operated by Grandmaster Flash, the Soke recognized by the World Soke Head Family Founders Finders Keepers Society. Grandmaster Flash is a 25th degree black belt in a style he made up after getting his black belt through the YMCA's karate program (nothing against the YMCA -- I trained in one for a few years). School Z has a full gym and healthclub facility, kids' afterschool programs and cardio-kick-stepping-pilates-pillow-fighting classes. If you sign up for the black belt program, you're guaranteed to get your black belt in two years.

Now, which school listed above is likely to attract the most students in a given area? Being a data geek, I would actually love to have the funding to conduct a study like this, but I'd wager that the McDojo would get most of the students, followed by the BJJ school, which would probably get and retain some of the more hardcore athletes and the koryu study group would have the smallest gain, because of the hoops as well as the fact that the art can only be transmitted on an individual teacher-student basis, so the group will only be allowed to get so big.

Now, another set of statistics that I would like to see would be the retention rate of new students for each of the schools listed above. Regardless, I'd also wager that more black belts would be awarded by the McDojo (not to mention more dropouts, some of whom may perpetuate the notion that all martial arts are like that). So, I ask you, at this point, what would a black belt mean?

In the scenario Ronin69 recounted, he'd clearly been put through his paces in a traditional environment (meaning he likely was seriously challenged physically, mentally and emotionally) just to get to the point where he was really ready to begin learning the style. Now, how likely do you think it is that plenty of American Grandmasters/Sokes/Dai-Shihans/Sifus/ETC never even get to that point?

Sharlintier
11/18/2003 10:48am,
Well speaking as one who has yet to get her first black belt. Thanks to the people I know who have studied for years I know that black belt means that you have the building blocks needed to learn to do great things. It is an excellent goal and still an accomplishment... but it is a begining not a pinnacle. One I fully expect to reach though I am starting over as a rank beginner which is cool by me, leaves me lots of space to grow and learn.

GiantRobot
11/18/2003 11:43am,
In my JJ class we don't really bother with belts. Everyone's a white belt, and if we get good enough, then the Sensei'll give us a dan grade.

I've just got back into JJ after around a year of TKD, and man, it's good to be back doing Jitsu. The total disregard for achieving belts is something I really have taken to. It seemed a bit wierd at first though...

Budd
11/18/2003 12:02pm,
Originally posted by GiantRobot
In my JJ class we don't really bother with belts. Everyone's a white belt, and if we get good enough, then the Sensei'll give us a dan grade.

I've just got back into JJ after around a year of TKD, and man, it's good to be back doing Jitsu. The total disregard for achieving belts is something I really have taken to. It seemed a bit wierd at first though...


I agree with this sentiment. I just put on a white belt when I re-upped for formal training and don't really care if that's the color it stays.

Sharlintier
11/18/2003 12:44pm,
Originally posted by Edge
Some teachers treat BB as a pinnacle, most treat it as the beginning. I believe this is the reason the ability to fight fluctuates among many BBs.

What about ppl who don't wear belts, would you say they are just beginners? What about the ppl that I know that have been training full-contact MA for nearly a decade who still haven't received their BB? Are they considered to be beginners?

IMO the accomplishment is learning the building blocks not getting colored band to wear. But the recognition of the accomplishment is always good. Just as we need to be told when we do things wrong, it's just as important to be told when you are doing things right. The belts are symbol of that, but a simple word or two from someone you respect often does much much more.

Ronin
11/18/2003 1:32pm,
When I took up kenjutsu, there was and never has been, a grading system with belts.
You learn the techniques, practice them, then when the instructor finds that you have grasped the technique, he/she teaches you the next one, and so on.
At a certain point you may get a "certificate of competency" and if you are really dedicated, maybe a "teachers certificate". Everyone KNOWS who is better than whom.

Sharlintier
11/18/2003 6:03pm,
Originally posted by Edge
"The belts are symbol of that, but a simple word or two from someone you respect often does much much more."

Edit: I agree. Compliments from a respected teacher is what keeps these ppl going.

You dont even need a belt to train. What would you do if you met a teacher who refused to teach anything until you put on your gi and belt?


I said I didn't need a colored band to wear, but if my teacher told me that I guess I would get dressed... dammit

KageReaper
11/18/2003 6:49pm,
i once rejected taking a belt test. Physically, i had everything down..form, techniques ..the whole 9. However, there were problems that i was having with the class...(ppl weren't serious, giggling, tapping their feet while the teacher spoke) and the students just seemed a little laxed, as if they were there just for the belt and nothing else. they were satisfyed with just the belt. Only a few were interesting and would practice with me( I tend to scare off the others and they felt I was unfriendly because I didn't talk during class and would go on the little yogurt trips after class..sorry but that the old school in me.) and we would help each other*as it should be (get better together) Well, 3 days beofre my test, I was having a real crappy day and turns out we had a sparring night. I had not spared in a while and while I kinda felt I should not go slightly pissed off, I went anyway to see if I had gotten better from my own drilling at home. I got there and saw the same lax behavior and rude looks as before. Well, that night, i wasn't in the mood to tolerate any laziness or disrespect from anyone. So, when it came to the gloves, i let it out. Not all of it, but I didn't let anyone breath without a fist near their nose or a kick to the stomach. i was control enough not to hurt them but I was sick and tired of tapping these damn students. After class, people left holding their butts and some admitted they needed to work harder adn they came back with me and we grabed the hand pads and drilled. I, of course, was called into teachers office and he asked me what was wrong and that he had not seen me so aggressive like that in a long time. i told him what I thought about some things that seen from the students and felt that he should be a bit tougher. I didn't feel it was my place to say that but when he kept asking, it came out. When I drove home that night, I thought to myself. I knew I was wrong. I took my frustration out on them and for that I was wrong. I'm not sorry for being hard on them but my own frustration and anger should have not been behind my punches. I was not mentally ready for my belt and did not live up to the standard I set for myself so I told my teacher the next day I declined testing. Wearing a belt that stood for patience would have been hypocritical when clearly, I had shown none to them. A belt should mean something not just a piece of cloth around your waist..if it were just that, then why put your blood sweat and tears in the earn it?

Sharlintier
11/18/2003 11:00pm,
Originally posted by KageReaper
A belt should mean something not just a piece of cloth around your waist..if it were just that, then why put your blood sweat and tears in the earn it?

If that is how I came off then I said something wrong. A black belt is a symbol of having the building blocks needed to learn to do great things, one of these building blocks is patience and I would feel the same way too if I realized I wasn't ready to wear all that it symbolizes.

My point is that I train for me and not for status. And I don't see where there is a set goal but rather an ongoing learning expirience. If I spent my entire time as a white belt but kept learning and improving (provided I did my best and not just haphazardly got better) I would be just as happy. But when I reach a level of ability to deserve a black belt I would wear it with pride but still realize it is only a beginning.

KageReaper
11/18/2003 11:40pm,
Originally posted by Sharlintier
If that is how I came off then I said something wrong.
.

Oh NO Shar..I was just relating a past event. Personally, a belt doesn't mean squatt to me as far as skill goes. i'm just as content with my white or regular street clothes. If I have skill, it will speak for me, not my belt. But yeah, I didn't feel that I really represented that belt from my action and lets face it, a lot of ppl look at a belt first(until their ass is kicked). I was not representing the patience and honor that is supposed to be represent by that belt so I could not take that test without compromising my own morals. So nah, i was just telling a bit of my history..sorry if i came off wrong. Are we allllll gravy, lady??:D

sounds like a 70s line huh?

:p