A school without rank belts: would you train there?

Discussion in 'Hapkido' started by Daniel Sullivan, Nov 13, 2009.

  1. Daniel Sullivan

    Daniel Sullivan Grandmaster

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    A school without rank belts; not without belts; the dobok or gi, depending upon the style of uniform your school uses, is designed to be worn with a belt of some kind.

    I posted this here instead of in the TKD section, though it certainly could apply there as well; I thought that I would give the TKD section a breather for a bit before starting a discussion there about rank and belts.

    All of the discussion about black belts, poom belts, and such over in the TKD section got me thinking: what if a school simply had one belt for everyone for the sole purpose of keeping the dobok in place?

    Or perhaps a sash? Suppose that the color was based on something that had some meaning to the school? Or was the color of the student's birth stone? Or suppose students wore belts based on what color they liked, and nothing more? But regardless, in this scenario, the belt's color has nothing to do with the student's rank.

    The question that came to mind from that is this:

    If a hapkido school (or any other school for that matter) has only one belt color for dobok gathering only and simply taught class, handing out certificates to students when they passed their tests, assuming that the training was decent and the location was within your means, would you train there?

    Remember, in this scenario, you will never get a black belt, though if you pass your tests and meet all of the requirements, you will receive a dan certificate.

    An alternative scenario:
    Students are white belt until first dan and then they are black belt. That means two to four years in a white belt. Or another single color; it does not matter, the point being that there will be no color change during the keub/kyu ranks.

    In this scenario, you will not have any visible indicator of your keub rank and will not have a change in belt color until you earn your first dan. Would you still train there?

    Thoughts?
    Daniel
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2009
  2. dancingalone

    dancingalone Grandmaster

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    Sure I would train there. In fact, I would prefer such a rank arrangement as it puts its focus on just training and learning, as it should should.

    In my city, there's a koryu jujutsu school. They don't award belts at all, and I'm not certain if they even give out menkyo certificates. Everyone wears a gi and hakama for standard practice. The belt underneath the hakama is the standard free white or unbleached belt that came with the gi, and this is true for the instructors too.

    One of the instructors originally came from an aikido background, so I don't know how authentic their lineage is, but I like the no-rank aspect of their school, and their martial arts is solid.
     
  3. Daniel Sullivan

    Daniel Sullivan Grandmaster

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    In kendo, we do not wear our rank, as the uniform is like an aikido uniform: hakama and keikogi, and does not lend itself to the thin obi typically seen in judo, karate, taekwondo and hapkido.

    The only time that I have personally seen an obi worn under the hakama is when it is the appropriate thick obi.

    The only time that I have ever seen the thin obi worn with a hakama is either with the kekogi worn outside and the belt tied around it (as with a karate gi) or in Cary Nemeroff's book, where the keikogi was worn inside and the belt was inside the back of the hakama, but tied on the outside in the front. Aside from pictures in Nemeroff's book, I have never seen this.

    Daniel
     
  4. KELLYG

    KELLYG 2nd Black Belt

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    Yes. If my school suddenly decided no belt or single belt color I would still train there. I don't mind the belt system it helps, especially in a large school, to determine the material that is to be worked on and whom is to work with whom. Other than that no big deal!
     
  5. sfs982000

    sfs982000 Master Black Belt

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    I would prefer to train in an environment like that. When I was stationed in Korea and studied Do Hop Sool they actually started everyone off with a plain black belt. As you progressed you didn't get stripes on the belt you were promoted based on your skill. Once you reached 1st Dan they presented you with an embroidered black belt. I thought it was a little weird at first, but after awhile it kind of made perfect sense. I mean if all you're after is a belt then you can go online and order one.
     
  6. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    It would not matter at all to me! What I would most certainly be looking for is the quality of instruction and the level of competency from all of the practitioner's!
     
  7. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

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    I train/trained TCMA and a non-traditional CMA and there are/were no belts or ranks
     
  8. Rich Parsons

    Rich Parsons A Student of Martial Arts

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    I have trained in Balintawak, and my instructor did not give ranks nor belts nor certificates. He did say I could teach. I do teach new students and give refresher classes to some of the other students that trained my Manong Ted as well.

    In Balintawak, I plan on no ranking system. If I think you are good enough I will tell you that you can teach others.

    Who am I to decide? No one. Do you have to trust me? Yes.

    If I choose to train in another system and it had no ranking I would have no problems with it. I start at the beginning with everyone I train with, no matter if I am the student or the teacher.
     
  9. dbell

    dbell Blue Belt

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    In a heart beat if the training looked good and the art solid.

    I've often contemplated removing belts and "ranks" from my school and going to a full Menkyo based system...
     
  10. seasoned

    seasoned MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    As an after thought, yes. I came up through the ranks with belts, but we all stood on our own merits and never fell back on that rank.
     
  11. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    There is no use of rank belts in MJER or any other weapons based Japanese art I know of.

    You do get rank certification and I think that that has importance in being both a measure of competence and a measure of what your sensei thinks of your ability. Given the highly structured and formal nature of the koryu arts, such certification is of use when moving between schools or dealing with decision-making moments when several schools come together for seminars et al.

    I do think that for most martial arts, where class sizes tend to be much larger than something like iai, some visual cue as to 'rank' is of utility as it allows easy recognition of groups that are likely to be of equivalent skill level. It only becomes a problem if people place too much emphasis on it - that does happen all too often when people compete against each other rather than focussing on the battle that really matters (the one within yourself to overcome your limitations).
     
  12. l_uk3y

    l_uk3y Green Belt

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    As far as training with no rank goes. I dont see there being any problems, and i think would suit beginners whom may be intimidated by a large group of high ranks. I would have no concern training there.

    I do believe however that ranking systems are important to me, not as a method of comparing myself to others. But as a method of saying ok ive got a grasp on this set of techniques, I am now ready to challenge myself to the next. Not to mention i have this light in the very distant distance of a black belt or beyond to motivate my learning. (I am a goal orientated learner and like to plan ahead when doing most things)

    I also see belts as helpful as it is a quick glance to determine a rough idea of a partners skills esp when it comes to safety on breakfalls and technique intensity. In defence to a no belt structure, if you are regular you will most likely have a high understanding of most of the classes level anyway.

    At the end of the day. It still comes down to a quality teacher and the students being willing to learn. Belt or no Belt
     
  13. Danny T

    Danny T Senior Master

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    We took belts out of our adult programs almost 10 years ago. Still use them for the youth programs utilizing them for short term goal training. Our BJJ program is the only program that a gi is worn and everyone wears a white belt including the instructors. Why? Because it isn't about the belt, it is about the training and growth of the participants and we are all students of the martial arts. We have approx 80 adults and it seems to work well for us. We do have test requirements and present certificates but no belts. How do we know who is at what level? It is easy when you work with them 3 times a week.

    Danny
     
  14. Ken Morgan

    Ken Morgan Senior Master

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    Agreed.

    In Koryu, and seitei Jodo and iaido, you generally have no idea what rank people are. I've seen 2nds I thought were 4ths and the reverse, because they were that good or bad.

    Yep, at seminars, when you get 100 plus people out there, you need to divide the class up by rank/years of practice. Simply because as you progress, everyone develops the same glitches, questions or concerns at the same time in their training.

    Also lets be honest a 4th will get one hell of a lot more information, and will benefit a great deal more from a 7th/8th teaching him, then a 1st will.
     
  15. MrBigglesworth

    MrBigglesworth White Belt

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    +1


    Personally, I hate getting new belts, especially when there's a different colour for every grade. I never get to wear the old one in before I get a new one.

    OTOH, I understand it goes hand in hand with a grading system that helps to push students to gain that next level in their art. You don't strictly need the belt, but then you don't strictly need the grading to judge someone's level. But then some people can stagnate in their training if they don't have a grading to strive for.
     
  16. Humble Student

    Humble Student Yellow Belt

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    I think it just depends on the teacher and the vibe I get from the school.
    Meaning that I would do the home work on this person and see if he or she could back up there claim of things.

    Then I would talk to people that may teach some thing close to what that teacher does. And see if they have a good rep.

    Then if that passes, I would talk to the students and get an over all view of what this person is all about.

    And getting away with ranks to some degree might not be a total bad thing.
    There are to many wanna-be's running around(American and other) saying they are grandmaster of this or that. And would end up teaching you things that could get you killed. All because you were suckered into thinking high rank means great skill.


    But that is just my 2 cents
     
  17. Bruno@MT

    Bruno@MT Senior Master

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    In Genbukan, belt color is white for newbies, green for any kyu grade, and black for any dan grade. I think it works well. We do have little black lines at the end of our belt indicating the kyu level, but that is more a matter of being able to order the buffet line at a taikai where people don't generally know most of the others.

    So yes, I would train in a system without rank belts. I already do.

    The benefit of having newbies wear white until after their first exam is that it makes it easier in large groups to keep an eye on the people who probably need some extra attention to make sure they know what they are doing. As soon as you have done your first exam, you're supposed to know how to behave, when to do what, and be able to perform the basic exercises on your own.
     
  18. Aikikitty

    Aikikitty Master Black Belt

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    Sure--Actually, that's exactly how my Aikido school and many other Aikido dojo's (not all) are run. A student wears a white belt until they hit shodan then they wear a black belt. The hakama is optional for my class. Students will get the certificates for rank, but not a new belt. In my case, I wore a white belt for 8 1/2 years and I was okay with that.

    Robyn
     
  19. Wey

    Wey Green Belt

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    I would love to train in a system like that. I think belt's imply too much arrogance, people think that just because they are a higher rank they are more skilled or better at everything than those under them. If everyone is the same belt level, when they train you should be able to see the difference in ability, discipline, balance, etc. Also, I think that students would be more concerned with learning rather than simply memorizing the kata for the next belt. Plus, it might be interesting to tell people I was a white belt for 5+ years. :D
     
  20. TKDHomeSchooler

    TKDHomeSchooler Green Belt

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    I would, if the instructors were good and the school was a good one. IIRC when TKD started the students all started with white belts and they became black form dirt, sweat, and tears of training hard and that is how you knew someone was an experienced student.

    I know in America many probably won't go to a school like that, we typically need the success steps of each belt to reassure us of our progress.123
     

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