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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    Absolutely agree! In a violent encounter, your opponent will not care.

    But belts and rank really don't have anything to do violent encounters.

    You may not. I certainly don't.

    The point of the thread is not whether or not one cares about what belt is around their waist but whether or not one would train in an art that traditionally uses belts and the kyu/dan system at a school that eschews their use.

    A hapkido school that eschews the kyu/dan system and associated belts would be unusual. Not wrong, but unusual.

    If you went to a school to learn an art that tradtionally uses belts (such as hapkido, judo, Shotokan, or taekwondo) would you consider it out of place or a red flag?

    Daniel
     
  2. puunui

    puunui Senior Master

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    I was looking at some old photo albums last night and saw some pictures from my first Hapkido school. I completely forgot about the fact that the school evolved to the point where no one in class wore belts. The only person wearing a belt in some of the photos was the head instructor. I forget how that came about, the not wearing belts thing. We wore cross over uniforms and the only thing that held the uniform in place was the small ties. I didn't think it was weird at the time but now looking back, visitors from other schools must have thought so. You could still tell the black belts from the color belts because the black belt uniforms had black Moo Duk Kwan style trim on it.
     
  3. Kong Soo Do

    Kong Soo Do IKSDA Director

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    Daniel,

    One of the more successful schools in our area is an Aikido school. They have only two belts; white and black. You wear white until you get black which is quite a few years.

    When I had my commercial school, we hardly ever wore belts. We had tests and certificates for levels completed, but the belt and uniform just wasn't something of interest to the type of students I taught (mainly L.E., Corrections and off duty military).

    So to answer your question, yes, I would not hesitate to train in a school that didnt' have belts. To be honest, uniforms and belts are a throw back to the days when they actually wore that type of clothing on a somewhat normal basis for sport competitions. And they really didn't come in until Funakoshi adopted them (with Kano Jigoro's permission) circa 1924 (as a requirement for Japanese official acceptance). Before that they wore a gi that looked more like a diaper because of the climate.

    I remember the story when I first began training of George Mattson (first Uechi Ryu BB in America) and his trips to Okinawa. He trained on the deck with men either wearing no belts or white belts, yet their Karate was incredibly powerful and focused. When he asked, he found out they were actually Godan level. They just never got around to getting the belt and figured it wouldn't help their Karate if they did.

    And shouldn't it be about the training rather than the cloth?
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2011
  4. jthomas1600

    jthomas1600 Blue Belt

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    I go to a school like the one Manny mentioned. We have 12 belts including white before you reach black. I also train a little in BJJ which only has a handful of belts and students fully expect to train 1-2 years for each belt. What I see in the TKD school where I train with the 12 belts is students are really focused on the next belt and some check list they have to complete to get that belt...it's like a race to black belt. What I see in the BJJ schools is the next belt is secondary and the refining of techniques is the focus. I love TKD, but I prefer the later approach to martial arts.
     
  5. kubachi

    kubachi White Belt

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    Oh man, I'd love this. I get so fed up with the hype put on belt color and rank and that's the VERY reason for these McDojo's popping up on every corner. I'm absolutely not joking when I say that on Mason Rd. in Katy, Texas there are a total of 12 TKD places down that 5 mile rd. You can be at any stoplight and see one on either side of the road. It's ridiculous. One of the reasons I chose the Hapkido dojang I did, from ALL of Houston, was because it's off the beaten path, hidden in the corner of small strip mall and it's only large enough for the class area and a small viewing area for parents to sit and watch their kids. There's an office, an equipment room and a small bathroom in the back, too. And it smells like my high school gym. There are pictures all over the walls in the front area of the two GMs in their younger years in Korea when they were amazing sights to behold. The pictures are all crooked and faded. I seriously love it and I believe I'm getting a good, raw education there. Of course, there are other locations by these same GM's with bright, neon lit facades and fancy schmancy surroundings where they hold demos and what-not. I've never been to them though. I'll take my pressure-point bruises from the boys at the old school. ;)

    I'm 41 years old, so belt color is meaningless to me and since I have no goal of showing off my skill unless I'm attacked, I don't care about belt color either. Well, now wait a minute, I DO want to be handed a black belt when I've earned it, but wearing it means nothing to me. I think it's a better idea for people to NOT know you could break several of their bones before you break a sweat. In fact, I kept everyone at work and in my family from knowing anything about my Hapkido life until the bruises that I forgot were there caused them to ask what happened. And once I explained, I swear, each person would say, "But is that normal??" Ahhh, such amusement. :)

    Younger students, in my opinion, should be encouraged to reach the next belt level so they have that sort of "crawl, step, walk" goal within each level but the instructors should definitely not make it the priority mindset. Mastering the technique, that's the key. I've been reading about the pay-for-your-next-belt problem in our country and I don't understand why someone who hasn't earned a black belt would want one. I mean, eventually it'll be proven that you lack the skill. I like how my instructor tells us that there is no hurry, don't worry about the next belt, worry about practice, worry about mastering the details. He says, "If you want it, you'll get it. If you don't want it, forget it." I repeat it to myself as needed when the idea of eating ice cream out of the container with a spoon while watching 2 hours of Frasier sounds better than practicing.

    So basically, yes. I'd train there. :)
     
  6. Buka

    Buka Sr. Grandmaster

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    Being a new guy around here I hadn't seen this thread before.
    If the place offered good instruction, yes, I'd be there in a heartbeat. But I already have rank and can't say what I would have done when I was young.

    One of my former students from the eighties is now one of my instructors. He runs a fitness/fighting gym with excellent training. I like going there. They have no belts of any kind.
     
  7. Kong Soo Do

    Kong Soo Do IKSDA Director

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    A school without rank belts: would you train there?

    Yes, any serious practitioner would.
     
  8. Blindside

    Blindside Senior Master

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    My school (Kali) doesn't use any form of rank ID, I haven't had any complaints from the group. Last night I was talking about how my instructor just got promoted and one of the students asked "this art has ranks?" My group pretty much just uses divisions between student and instructor, so the first "rank" is the equivalent of "newbie instructor" about 3 years in of regular training.
     
  9. Kong Soo Do

    Kong Soo Do IKSDA Director

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    Of all the years I owned a school, I don't ever remember anyone actually asking me my rank. We seldom wore belts or uniforms and the times that I did was a simple plain BB.

    When I transitioned to small group and personal instruction we never wore uniforms or belts at all. And no one asked my rank then either. I suppose they figured I was the instructor since I was the one teaching ;)
     
  10. Daniel Sullivan

    Daniel Sullivan Grandmaster

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    In the kendo class that I teach, we do not use rank belts. The uniforms don't accomodate them. I inherited a few students from a gumdo school and I have some that go to the geomdo classes that I teach for another school who came in to try the class wearing their gumdo doboks with belts, but once they've been in class for a bit, I require them to wear a keikogi and hakama.

    After practicing and teaching kendo for several years, teaching without using belts for rank seems simplistic. I do have private hapkido students and I use a minimal number of belts for them: white, yellow, green, blue, red, red/black, and black (each belt before black covers two geubs and the red/black is dan-bo). I primarilly use the belts because it is traditional for hapkido to have them. Otherwise, we'd just train (and sometimes do) in loose fitting street clothes.

    Daniel
     
  11. Kong Soo Do

    Kong Soo Do IKSDA Director

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    While I have nothing against uniforms and belts, I really feel that it is a very good idea to wear 'street clothes' as much as possible during training. Particularly if the class is focused primarily on self-defense. Some things can be very easy to do when we're warmed up, stretched out and wearing loose fitting clothing, however, when we're not so advantaged, it is good to know what can and cannot be done in certain clothing. My partner years ago got into an altercation with an EDP. My partner was a very large individual with a BB'ers physiqe and fairly skilled in BJJ. But the jacket he was wearing limited his range of motion when the altercation went to the ground. Same could be said for wearing a dress, jeans, shorts etc. Just something for the student to experience occassionally should they find themselves in an altercation while similarly clothed.
     
  12. dortiz

    dortiz Black Belt

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    Its veering off topic but I really wanted to agree with Kong Soo Do on the issue of training in street clothes. Even simple kicks in shoes versus barefoot becomes important. Folks think no worries since shoes hurt more but forget about restricted movement. You must train as you will fight!
    Also grabbing a training uniform versus shirt or jacket and jeans is very different.
    YOU WILL NEVER FIGHT SOMEONE IN A DOBOK (better not!)
    With this being true here is where I see the belts and uniform issue come up most. Personally I like order and traditional MAs but I also like transferring skills to practical applications. Usually when I see groups with no belts and I mean usually not always, its folks who are stripping skills from arts. Taking only what they think is the important part and many times not knowing what they have left out. That I dont like.
     
  13. mastercole

    mastercole Master Black Belt

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    I have fought in both my regular clothes and my dobok, I did not notice or think about my clothes and it did not make a difference on way or the other.

    As for no belts in martial arts schools, it depends on what it was. If it was a Taekwondo school and had no ranks, I would not recommend anyone to train there, regardless of how great the training was. Not JUST because there was no ranks, but because having no ranks to me, would be a sign that most everything else that makes Taekwondo valuable would also be missing.

    If it was a generic or MMA type school, well, I probably would not recommend that either. I would try to guide them to boxing or wrestling, or kayaking, or maybe my favorite, Bocce Ball. However, if a person had no other choices, I would tell them to go hang around for a while and take a series of trial classes and see what they thought and go from there.
     
  14. Daniel Sullivan

    Daniel Sullivan Grandmaster

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    Just a note of clarification; the OP is specifically about either no rank belts, not no ranks. Or alternatively, a white belt for geub/kyu grades and a black belt for dan grades.

    Though I do agree that in a taekwondo school, I would definitely find it weird to not see belts and I can honestly not think of any good reason not to wear a dobok in class. If you want to practice kicks and such in street clothes and wearing shoes, that is best done outside of class (in my opinion).

    Daniel
     
  15. Kong Soo Do

    Kong Soo Do IKSDA Director

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    I will once again relay the experience of George Mattson Sensei (first American Uechi Ryu BB) while training at the Uechi Ryu Dojo in Okinawa. He trained along side several 'whit belts' that clearly were extremely powerful Karateka. It turned out that they were Godan (5th Dan) and above. They wore a white belt simply to keep the top closed and just never got around to buying a black belt. They didn't figure it would improve their Karate.

    With respect intended, having or wearing a belt (or having or wearing a specific rank) has absolutely no bearing on training whether it be a Karate or a Taekwondo school...or at least it shouldn't. Prior to 1924 it didn't exist in Karate. One was either a student or a Sensei and it worked out fine. The Dan/Kyu system wasn't implemented until the Japanese made it one of the requirements placed upon Funakoshi Sensei. The same for the uniform. Prior to 1924 there were no standard uniforms and Okinawans often wore only something akin to a diaper in training due to the hot weather. Reasons for at least occassionally not wearing the uniform have been detailed in this and other threads. And they are valid reasons and the uniform adds nothing to the training except uniformity of apparel. Again, with respect intended towards all parties, if you need a uniform and a belt (or rank) to train...you're training for the wrong reasons. You should be training for the training itself, the rest is window dressing.
     
  16. Daniel Sullivan

    Daniel Sullivan Grandmaster

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    Another clarification: In this thread, I am referring to formal schools. A bunch of guys and gals training in the park or in the instructor's back yard is not what I am talking about, though when my private HKD students come to my home, I do require them to wear doboks.

    Regarding taekwondo, there really hasn't been a point in time that it hasn't had belts or a uniform of some kind. Just as I would find a koryu kenjutsu dojo where nobody wore a hakama to be a glaring red flag, I would find a taekwondo dojang with no dobok to be a glaring red flag. Not because the dobok and accompanying belt makes the school better, but because taekwondo is not a dedicated RBSD system and it traditionally has doboks and belts. When I see football teams practicing as a team, they are wearing attire appropriate to the sport. Taekwondo is the national sport of Korea, so in a formal school, I expect to see the appropriate attire.
     
  17. Kong Soo Do

    Kong Soo Do IKSDA Director

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    Ah, but let us take a closer look at this Daniel. The location that the training is taking place is of little matter, rather it is the training itself that takes place. A bunch of guys and gals screwing around in a half-hearted manner is poor training, be it at the park, in a backyard or in a building with four walls. The reverse side is that hard-core, serious training is just that, regardless of where the training takes place. Your example of privite HKD instruction at your home is a good example. Having talked with you on a number of topics over the last year, I conclude you to be a serious HKD (and martial arts in general) practitioner. I would also conclude you to be a serious instructor based upon those conversations. Therefore, would the training you provide your student be any less if you both were wearing something other than a traditional dobok? Keep in mind that I have nothing against traditional attire, and being formal can have its place. But if the training is geared towards SD, then it is a benefit to the student to at least occassionally wear something 'normal' such as jeans, a heavy jacket, a T-shirt, shoes etc to see how range-of-motion can and will affect certain aspects of the training.

    I undersand your point, and agree. But that is more because TKD came about as an independent art after 1924 when Karate moved towards a traditional uniform. By the time of TKD, it was the norm. This doesn't mean that a quality TKD program requires a traditional uniform, just that it is now the expected norm. It has no relation with the actual quality of the training though.

    Uniforms and belts are nice and comfortable. I have nothing against them. I just don't usually wear them. Although, as I understand it, they're going to be making me wear one at our annual IKSDA seminar since I'm one of the primary instructors. That is if I can find my black belt :uhyeah:
     
  18. dortiz

    dortiz Black Belt

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    "I have fought in both my regular clothes and my dobok, I did not notice or think about my clothes and it did not make a difference on way or the other."

    And the techniques you would want to have in your arsenal? Would you not want to make sure you tried them on different situations regarding jacket versus shirt etc? Granted I am talking HKD because its a HKD thread. I get that a punch is a punch. Although I will argue that a kicker better practice in jeans and learn the limitation or there will also be a big surprise. Discounting the person who bought the Chuck Norris Stretchy jeans in the 70s : )
     
  19. dortiz

    dortiz Black Belt

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    Back to OP.
    I dont think it makes sense to wear a traditional uniform and not have belts. Worst case I could see the old school white Belt............then you get a black belt.
    But aside from the fees ; )
    I also think the grading system was born of a need to put folks in classification based on progression.
    So long answer short, In a traditional school I would want belts but be open to them being organized as the teacher saw fit to measure the curriculum.
     
  20. mastercole

    mastercole Master Black Belt

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    I think get it. In my mind a belt is just symbolic of rank. In regular class, students regularly wear their belt and uniform. Excepting is the summer, when a t-shirt, dobok pants and belt is OK. During off hours invitation only training, if they wear no belt, that is fine. Personally me, I never wear a belt or v-neck dobok in my own school. I only wear them when I'm training Taekwondo in Korea.123
     

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