What a black belt really is

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

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  1. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Brown Belt

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    This seems to assume that after black belt, there is no more to learn (except in your method, the ability to teach). But in many styles and schools there is a lot more to learn after black. One may go so far to say that black belt is the start of real learning. While one's physical technique may be excellent at this point, it takes years more to develop the subtle variations of hip movement merging with the hand and the flow of energy throughout the body, and other hard to describe attributes that add to one's ability. More years to learn the advanced applications of kata, use of weapons, etc. In my style (in a good school) this learning process continues until 4th or 5th degree black. After that, degrees acknowledge years of contribution to the style and upholding high ideals.

    Some schools may not have much depth after black, but in others there is a lot more to learn. I didn't really know and (partially) understand my wife until being married for ten years. We were in love after three years of meeting (that's the 1st degree black) but real bonding and deep knowing took years. As the song goes, "Time can do so much."
     
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  2. RTKDCMB

    RTKDCMB Senior Master

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    A black belt is not something you have, a black belt is something you are.
     
  3. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Ive made no such assumptions at all. Of course there is more to learn and more growth to be had. I believe I had acknowledged that there are seniors to be recognized, people who have more to teach. But the chasing of rank can come to an end. There is no further need for it. And likewise, there is no need for highly experienced folks to remain beholden and subordinate forever. There comes a time when people are ready to walk on their own two feet and make their own decisions and pursue their own vision. Even when there is still more to learn and more growth to be had.
     
  4. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Brown Belt

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    Don't really see how this affects giving progressive degrees of black belt. Chasing rank is not a factor. That should be over at 1st degree. But the acquisition of knowledge and further skill is still pursued. Degrees within a style llow one to recognize, seek out, and respect one who has progressed further. This is not remaining beholden and subordinate. As a mid level black belt of seasoned years I make my own decisions of what to learn and teach, and how to do it.

    IMO, degrees of black belt are useful. I agree with most of what you say, but don't see the downside to degrees of black as you do. I just accept my knowledge and rank and don't obsess over it.
     
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  5. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Fair enough, a difference of opinion.

    I am sure there are some organizations that do a better job than others in keeping it all in perspective. But overall I would see the elimination or significant reduction in dan ranks as a step in a positive direction.
     
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  6. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I agree with this, where the association doesn't get too wrapped up in hierarchy. I've been part of groups where those ranks mattered far more than was useful, and have seen organizations where they truly were apparently just honorary (so served the useful purpose of recognition, without the downside I saw elsewhere).

    I think it might be useful to have them in larger organizations to create a sort of "phone tree" for disseminating ideas in both directions. If you're the higher-ranking person in my "branch", then you pass along to me what you get directly from the organization, and I pass along to you the ideas I want them to get from me. Where that facilitates exchange (by keeping the top of the organization from getting flooded with direct input from too many people), that's useful. Of course, it can also create too much of a gap between those running the organization and those starting new schools.

    But nothing's perfect.
     
  7. jobo

    jobo Grandmaster

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    my view of what a blackbelt should be, hasnt changed much since i was 14 though my appreciation of what a black belt commonly is has changed drastically

    in short a black belt SHOULD be an exceptional athlete much skilled at fighting, even if age diminishes that, they were at the point of issue such

    my experiences of tangling with back belts under the age of 50( some considerably under that age) has changed that to a lot of them being far from being athletes let alone exceptional ones whos skills in practical applications are some what lacking

    Now i appreciate that people who go on a MA journey need to progress and at some point they will arrive at black belt with out become exceptional, and they feel a sense of achievement, that i dont want to deprive them off

    BUT, i dont want to be a blackbelt as the whole thing has been badly tainted and i will never reach the standard of excellence that i think it should be associated with, it. so it would be largely a hollow achievement and a lie, to my perspective
     
  8. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    IMO, a black belt is a person who can continue to develop his MA skill without a teacher.
     
  9. Steve

    Steve Mostly Harmless

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    Black belts may or may not know what they're doing, depending upon who you ask.
     
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  10. dvcochran

    dvcochran Grandmaster

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    Grade is totally style/school dependent. Some styles take a couple of years or longer to get to mid color belt. In some styles you can reach 1st Dan in 2 years. So it is a very much moving target that cannot be qualified in a singular notion.
    FWIW, I will give ALL schools/styles enough credit to believe the vast majority of BB's know what they are doing within the confines of what they have trained. There is stupid in all walks of life so there will be outliers.
     
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  11. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Brown Belt

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    I agree that the "black belt thing has been tainted," but not to the total extreme level you state. There are many solid schools (but not enough) that have a standard of excellence both you and I would expect in a black belt - several posters on this site are products of such schools, especially in TMA with long lineages and history of true experts. Unfortunately, the non-unified nature of karate, with multiple and fragmented factions, allows for a wide variation of quality. In the end, quality of black belts has to be judged on a school by school basis. I appreciate your perspective, though I believe it to be biased. I don't consider my rank a hollow achievement.
     
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  12. Steve

    Steve Mostly Harmless

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    A black belt could be anything from an "advanced beginner" to a bona fide expert. Some styles done even expect the black belts to proficient in the full range of the art. There are schools or styles that will award a black belt in less than a year. It's really all over the map. I for one, would not presume that a black belt knows squat unless they train in a competitive style where rank equals competitive bracket.
     
  13. Steve

    Steve Mostly Harmless

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    Tainted is a loaded term. I think it's just that any style that doesn't compete lacks calibration. So belts become a retention tool, rather than a performance metric. That's not a judgement. Schools are businesses and I respect the need to keep the lights on. That doesn't mean one should be naive. You still need to know what you are actually learning to do. If it's not to fight, that's okay, provided you don't get into a fight.
     
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  14. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    Apparently his most recent post was in February this year.
     
  15. jobo

    jobo Grandmaster

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    well are you a super fit killing machine, were you such when the belt was awarded ? if the answer to both of these is no and your belt has been awarded for sticking around long enough, its still something youve achieved, like when they give dance medals to the handicapped kids,
     
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  16. Monkey Turned Wolf

    Monkey Turned Wolf MT Moderator Staff Member

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    He was last seen in February of this year. Meaning he logged onto the site at that time. His last post was November 15, 2017.
     
  17. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Brown Belt

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    This post is non responsive and unrelated to what you quoted. Your premise that if you are not a "super fit killing machine" your black belt is nothing more than a participation medal is ridiculous. It only reinforces how biased you are to TMA. Perhaps you are just projecting some feelings of inadequacies? Or, maybe being such a killing machine yourself, you have little regard of us lesser beings.
     
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  18. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    Well that's beside the point. The important thing for me was earning a black belt at the Judo Karate Center, the school that I was attending at the time. The fact that Im a white belt in other schools is irrelevant. I don't care if Im a white belt at other schools and as a matter of fact, if I were to start training at some other school and start learning some brand new style I would want to start at white belt anyway (or whatever belt they start with.) The thing is, earning a black belt at the Judo Karate Center was a very important goal for me, a goal that once achieved I could feel good about, and I could feel good about myself.
     
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  19. jobo

    jobo Grandmaster

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    im not biased against TMA ,i do TMA, nor any more a super-fit killing machine. how ever i made my feelings clear in my opening post, i wouldn't accept a blackbelt, that was awarded to any lessor a mortal than that, because it most certainly is a participation ''medal'' you know it deep down, every one else knows it as well. but participation is an achievement so well done on that
     
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  20. Steve

    Steve Mostly Harmless

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    A black belt.. really any kind of certification... CAN be diluted to the point that it is functionally a participation ribbon. But a black belt, like all certifications, is really an endorsement. The value of the endorsement depends largely on the credibility of the institution giving the endorsement. So, a black belt in BJJ means more to me than a black belt in ninjitsu. Because BJJ rankings are more credible across the board. AND, a black belt awarded by some BJJ black belts means more than other BJJ black belts. Because it's an endorsement. You say you have a black belt from Rickson Gracie? Damn. Versus a black belt from Marcelo Monteiro? Hmmm... maybe... Versus, you have a black belt from Generic Ninja? Yikes.

    It's the same with any certification. Having a degree represents the effort of getting that degree. A degree in general means something. A degree from MIT is more valuable than a degree from the University of Idaho, which in turn probably carries more value than a degree from the University of Phoenix online.

    The key is to be familiar with who is awarding the grade.123
     
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