What a black belt really is

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by PhotonGuy, Dec 18, 2013.

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  1. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    This has been discussed somewhat in other threads but I thought it would be appropriate to start a thread of its own on this, what a black belt really is. The way I see it, the rank of black belt is not so much the physical belt but rather, it means you've met your instructor's standards in obtaining a certain level of proficiency in the martial art being taught. Now, just because you've got a physical black belt doesn't mean you've met anybody's standards and anybody can go buy one at a store usually for under $10. With all due respect, some people such as ballen0351 didn't seem to understand that, at least not at first, in some of the other threads, saying that they could mail me a physical black belt if rank was all I cared about. Like I said, the rank of black belt is not the physical black belt rather its the physical black belt that represents the rank. Some people claim to have not worn their black belt all that much. This one person said he wore his black belt only once. Some people might not wear their black belt at all, they might hang it up or throw it in the closet but like I said, it is not the physical black belt that matters, what does matter is meeting the instructor's standards for making the rank. To meet an instructor's standards for the rank of black belt, an instructor that you have put your faith into and put forth the time and effort to train under, that is what a black belt really is.
     
  2. ballen0351

    ballen0351 Sr. Grandmaster

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    what if your art doesnt have belts?
     
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  3. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    Perhaps the belt is just that, public recognition. When you don't have a black belt it is something to aspire to. When you do achieve it you realise it is just the first step of a long journey. Some styles have bars on their belts to designate dan levels, we just have a black belt from that first step on. A smack on the mouth hurts no matter what colour the cloth around your waist!
    :asian:
     
  4. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    Than you wouldn't be using the belt system as a measurement of proficiency. There are styles that don't have ranks and if you don't care about rank than you would probably be satisfied with training in such a style although if you ask me a style should be chosen for its content and because it works for you, not because it has or doesn't have a ranking system. I've trained in styles that have ranking systems and I've trained in styles that don't have ranking systems. If you do train in a style that has a ranking system, however, I don't see why it would be wrong to want to get to a high rank and to work on it.
     
  5. Dirty Dog

    Dirty Dog MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    I'd say that if the rank is your goal, then there is a problem.
    My goal is to develop my physical abilities and intellectual understanding of my art as far as I can. If that means I get a new belt with some snazzy embroidery on it, then fine. But I don't test to get a belt or a certificate, or whatever.
     
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  6. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    Yes I was thinking about The Karate Kid. Later on in the movie Daniel does get a black belt so that he can compete in the tournament. I actually once had the commentary on while watching the movie and during the scene where Daniel gets a black belt they talk about how this one sensei, if you ask him for a black belt he will just give it to you. In my opinion, if your style does use a ranking system, belts should not just be handed out. Getting a black belt should mean that you've met certain good standards set forth by a sensei. Its a measurement system used by certain instructors and there is nothing wrong with wanting to advance in the system and work hard. After all, school also uses a system of measurement with grades where you get an A, B, C, D, or F in tests and in classes. Why strive for the A? Because it means you've met a certain set of standards where you've performed well enough. Same thing with the black belt.

    I must say, you are right about the black belt being the first step in a long journey. That's certainly how it is in my experience. Once you make black belt, its time to really turn it up with the training and to really push yourself hard.
     
  7. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    If you are training under an instructor that uses a ranking system, if he is a good instructor than advancing in rank would be based on developing physical abilities and intellectual understanding of the art. So by pursuing those things you are striving to reach higher ranks.
     
  8. ballen0351

    ballen0351 Sr. Grandmaster

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    Is there a difference in skill between a guy that wakes up a brown belt goes to the dojo takes a test and walks out a black belt? No he's the same guy with same skills. All a black belt says is you have got the basics of your style down. We were talking about this tonight in class tonight. It takes an adult 3 to 5 years to go from day one to BB. It takes 3 to 4 years to go from 1st deg BB to 2nd deg BB. So which promotion means more? Then from 2nd to 3rd is another 3 to 4 years. 3rd to 4th is like 4 to 5 years

    So in the big picture the black belt is a very small step in a very long journey.
     
  9. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    Almost all martial arts have some sort of ranking system.
     
  10. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    You are misunderstanding what he's asking. The OP (in the OP) uses the terms "black belt" and "physical black belt" several times, eschewing the "physical black belt" (the cloth obi) and specifically promoting the "black belt" as a recognition of a given skill level. The goal and yours are the same, just that his "black belt" is a mile marker along the road.

    Nope. You don't test to get a certificate or belt, but rather to provide evidence of your skill level, recognition of that skill, and the beat cop to wave you on to the next mile of your training. Same-same.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  11. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    Yes, there is a difference. The difference is that someone has officially "recognized" the skill level. Other than that, no.

    Not necessarily. What a black belt (or whatever rank/certificate) "says" is what the instructor or sanctioning body say that it "says." For some martial arts, it recognizes a minimum level of expertise; the practitioner is considered an "expert." For others, yes, it recognizes that you have the "basics." Every martial arts organization, governing body, or independent instructor gets to determine what a "black belt" means within the context of their system. Because it's their system, the standards and meaning of a "black belt" (what it "says") of any other system are completely irrelevant.

    In summation, a "black belt" "says" whatever the people in charge of your martial art says that a black belt says.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  12. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    A Black belt, Green Gelt, Red Gloves, Silver Pin, and any other rank or recognition means whatever the people in charge of your specific martial art says that it means. No one else' opinions matter. They're irrelevant. Unless you and I are studying the same martial art through the same organizing body then my opinion of what your ranks should or should not mean are irrelevant.

    A black belt means whatever the people in charge of your art says that it means.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  13. MJS

    MJS Administrator Staff Member

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    That person who made the comment about wearing their belt once, was most likely me. Make no mistake about it...I earned that belt, right alongside of the 3 others who tested with me. That Arnis test was not an easy task. Some of us bled, but all of us were exhausted, banged up and bruised and sore as hell for many days after.

    IMHO, I think that some people put way too much faith in the belt itself. What I mean is, back in the day, you never heard of someone buying a BB. They eared it with blood, sweat and tears. Every class was a test. Belts were really earned, rather than handed out like we see in some schools today. God forbid you don't give little Joey a BB, he might cry to his parents, who in turn will get pissed off and pull their kid out of the school.

    Does the BB mean that you've mastered everything? No, of course not. IMO, it means that you've reached a certain level, that you've reached certain standards. Does it mean that the journey is over? No, not at all. When you really think about it, once you reach that level, is it really necessary to learn a new technique or kata? No, and quite frankly, why do you need to learn more techs and kata? Sure, there are black belt level things in some arts, but in reality, the goal now is to really start looking at what you already know, and start breaking it down, getting deeper into it, and performing the material at a higher level.
     
  14. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I think you may have missed the reason for why some folks were offering to "mail you a black belt" or whatever. They were making the same exact point that you are making here. This was in the context of you complaining that you had waited 8 extra years to test for black belt because you thought your instructor had to invite you to take the test rather than you volunteering for it. The point they were making is that if you really were ready for the black belt test at age 20, per your original plan, then you already had achieved the important part of your goal - reaching a certain standard of proficiency.

    Of course, as Kirk points out, what you were really looking for with the black belt was not just reaching that level of proficiency, but being publically recognized for reaching achieving that skill. This is natural. As much as we may intellectually know that the recognition is far less important than the achievement, it's still really nice to have our hard work recognized.
     
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  15. Dirty Dog

    Dirty Dog MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    Actually, I test because my instructor tells me to. Evidence of my own skill, and my ability to pass it on, comes from people I've taught.
     
  16. ballen0351

    ballen0351 Sr. Grandmaster

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    It seems to me that you have an unhealthy obsession with being a black belt. You have started multiple threads about it. Your still upset over not testing 18 years ago. Made the comment it destroyed your life then quickly backed away when people called you out on it. That's what I was getting at when I said I'd mail you one. That seems to be all you care about. I study karate for me not for a belt. I don't care about belt color. I wear different color belts all the time. For St Patty's day I'll wear my old green belt for new years I alyway put back on my white belt first day of fall this year I was rocking the orange belt at the dojo. Like I said there is no difference between a brown belt and a black belt. Stop worrying so much about belt color and go train. If all you worry about is getting a black belt and you think your worlds going to magically change well your in for a sad surprise. Your walking out the dojo the same man that walked in only now your belts stiffer and won't stay tied for a few weeks.
     
  17. MJS

    MJS Administrator Staff Member

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    To the OP: There are many posts in this thread that offer some sage advice. IMHO, I think that you really should sit down, and really read what the writers of these posts are saying.
     
  18. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    Right. Well by testing for the black belt that way I know for sure that I've reached my sensei's standards for that level of proficiency. Even if I were to test and fail, at least then not only would I know for sure that I didn't meet my sensei's standards for that level but more importantly I would know why I didn't meet that level and what I need to work on. At my dojo, when you fail a belt test they tell you why. That way I would need to know what I have to fix and where I need work, so that I can hopefully pass the next time around. All the hard work in the world will do you no good if its not being done properly. You will only get better at doing things the wrong way.

    As far as a black belt being a form of public recognition, I don't see it that way. A black belt is not something you flaunt and you mostly only wear it in the dojo. And even in the dojo, MJS pointed out that this one black belt that he got he only wore it once. So when you get a black belt you shouldn't have to flaunt it or advertise to the world that you're a black belt, rather, its a form of self recognition and self confidence. Achieving something such as a black belt makes you feel good about yourself and boosts your self esteem. You know you can do something. And that will help you in all areas of life, not just in the martial arts. So that's where the importance of getting a black belt comes in.
     
  19. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    Yes I do have an unhealthy obsession and the way I deal with it is by talking about it. Its unhealthy to keep stuff bottled in and these message boards serve the purpose of enabling me to talk about it. And I want to make this clear, this is not just something that upset me 18 years ago. As I stated many times before, I wanted to get a black belt before I turned 20. I finally did get a black belt when I was 27, almost 28. So, this is something that didn't just upset me 18 years ago, its something that upset me for eight years from when I was 20 up until I finally did make black belt when I was almost 28. One of the main points Im trying to make is that if a student has a goal, they should talk to their sensei about it, whether its getting a black belt, or any other belt for that matter.
     
  20. Instructor

    Instructor Master Black Belt

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    Proficiency in martial arts may be indicated by belt color. Proficiency in life is indicated by a calm mind and making wise choices and living with the repercussions of those choices. While I will always cherish my belts because they represent a lot of good memories learning with my friends; it's gaining wisdom and proficiency in life that has really brought me peace and happiness. One of the great lessons that martial arts has to teach us is to accept change and to hold your balance. If something is pulling you off balance, just let go.

    It is best to live in the moment, no future, no past. All you really have is right now.123
     
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