Black Belt Mentality

Olde Phart

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In the dojang where I train, there are tenets that we recite after every class: Humility, Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, Indomitable Spirit. While perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit are the characteristics we all use in order to have success in our training, my question revolves around the first three: Humility, Courtesy and Integrity. The thought is that true "black belt mentality" is something that is present both in the dojang and in public. Yet, it seems that some black belts end up being real "horse's patooties" in the pride quotient. They're "somebody" and ought to be respected as such. Any of you experience that in your own dojo/dojang/gym?
 

Jared Traveler

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In the dojang where I train, there are tenets that we recite after every class: Humility, Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, Indomitable Spirit. While perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit are the characteristics we all use in order to have success in our training, my question revolves around the first three: Humility, Courtesy and Integrity. The thought is that true "black belt mentality" is something that is present both in the dojang and in public. Yet, it seems that some black belts end up being real "horse's patooties" in the pride quotient. They're "somebody" and ought to be respected as such. Any of you experience that in your own dojo/dojang/gym?
This is what we might call a "broken narrative" or in religious terms "Hypocrite." But the reality is in my opinion, that the problem comes from the friction created when you take something made for the battlefield and convert it into a for profit industry.

The far reaching effects of the trajectory of martial arts taught as a business model "for profit" instead of "for battle" will only be understood by taking time to really understand it.

But simply put, a civilian, "for profit" dojos by the nature of their existence must make the experience about the student.

You will not find a true mature warrior culture within the belt grading culture. It just can't exist there.
 
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Olde Phart

Olde Phart

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This is what we might call a "broken narrative" or in religious terms "Hypocrite." But the reality is in my opinion, that the problem comes from the friction created when you take something made for the battlefield and convert it into a for profit industry.

The far reaching effects of the trajectory of martial arts taught as a business model "for profit" instead of "for battle" will only be understood by taking time to really understand it.

But simply put, a civilian, "for profit" dojos by the nature of their existence must make the experience about the student.

You will not find a true mature warrior culture within the belt grading culture. It just can't exist there.
I can see your point. But, to me, "tell me it ain't so, Joe!" The reason, I guess, for my disappointment in some practitioners, is that I am able to spend time with my Master and Grand Master in the particular discipline that I train. Lots of free time discussion before or after a class; sometimes even taking one or the other out for lunch or dinner. I know their heart and they know mine. It is an amazing part of the overall MA experience.

On the other hand, there are those students that have joined the dojang for a short while and then disappear. these particular ones I have had the opportunity to train with in grappling situations and they don't seem to understand that the dojang isn't an MMA ring. The instructors will tell them to "tone it down" a bit but, after a while their absence is noticeable.

I see a constructive and destructive "pride" in many of the students we deal with. "Constructive" pride comes from those we encourage when they master something, or at least get it close. "Destructive" pride from those that think they know it all already and can't handle correction. I guess it's there in all of us to one degree or another.
 

skribs

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It's very tough when you first become a black belt, to find the line between "earning respect" and "demanding respect." This is more true for two types of students:
  1. Students who are brand new, especially in the 4-6 year-old range, in which they need to learn how to show respect.
  2. Students with whom you are already friends. For example, if you just got promoted out of the red belt class, it can be tough for the red belts to treat you like a black belt.
New instructors, new black belts, etc., it's easy to forget they're new at something, since they're a black belt or an instructor. They have been working on their attitude for a long time, but this is a new facet to work on. On top of that, all of them are human, and are going to be flawed in some way. (Except one or two chimpanzees, but they also probably have flaws).
 

lklawson

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In the dojang where I train, there are tenets that we recite after every class: Humility, Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, Indomitable Spirit. While perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit are the characteristics we all use in order to have success in our training, my question revolves around the first three: Humility, Courtesy and Integrity. The thought is that true "black belt mentality" is something that is present both in the dojang and in public. Yet, it seems that some black belts end up being real "horse's patooties" in the pride quotient. They're "somebody" and ought to be respected as such. Any of you experience that in your own dojo/dojang/gym?
That sounds pretty good for your "black belts" in your school. Other schools and traditions have different ideas which may or may not include anything like this.
 
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Olde Phart

Olde Phart

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Am reminded of Kobra Kai and Mr. Myagi.
 
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Olde Phart

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That sounds pretty good for your "black belts" in your school. Other schools and traditions have different ideas which may or may not include anything like this.
But, I still see some being promoted because of time involved, which is a part of another thread on this site. While it may be the desire of the instructors, they are still part of a national federation and they have a basic pattern they follow. Best of intentions still let stuff squeak by.
 

lklawson

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But, I still see some being promoted because of time involved, which is a part of another thread on this site. While it may be the desire of the instructors, they are still part of a national federation and they have a basic pattern they follow. Best of intentions still let stuff squeak by.
Then it sounds like those tenets are merely suggestions and are subjective and not actually objective standards.

This is one of the problems with subjective requirements. Subjective standards are easily turned into, "no. because I don't like you or think you're worthy enough."

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 
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Olde Phart

Olde Phart

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Then it sounds like those tenets are merely suggestions and are subjective and not actually objective standards.

This is one of the problems with subjective requirements. Subjective standards are easily turned into, "no. because I don't like you or think you're worthy enough."

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
I agree with your comments about subjective standards being turned into unequal standards. I am a Registered Land Surveyor in my state. They used to have an "oral interview" as part of the licensing process, but discontinued it right before I was registered. I can see how someone else's opinion could sway a licensing board.

I think the impetus of my thread question is based on the fact that I am what is called a "senior citizen" and have been thru a lot in life that enables me to see the value in those tenets and to distinguish between things that are valuable and things that are not worthy of following. Maybe I see in younger students their lack of life-experience. Merely repeating a series of words doesn't necessarily equate to a belief system and pattern for life.
 

Tony Dismukes

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Humility, Courtesy and Integrity. The thought is that true "black belt mentality" is something that is present both in the dojang and in public. Yet, it seems that some black belts end up being real "horse's patooties" in the pride quotient. They're "somebody" and ought to be respected as such. Any of you experience that in your own dojo/dojang/gym?
A few thoughts ...

My personal experience with regards to those particular characteristics in schools I've trained at has mostly been pretty good. But I've certainly met high-ranking martial artists who do a particularly poor job of exemplifying them.

This is in no way something peculiar to martial arts. Many fields of human endeavor advocate certain values and are also filled with individuals who embody the exact opposite of those values. Just for example, think about the various religions which extol values like humility, charity, kindness, love, chastity, etc and then think about how easy it is to find representatives of those religions (often individuals who are very vocal about their dedication to the faith) who are prideful, greedy, cruel, hateful, sexual predators. This isn't a knock against any of those religions - it's just an observation about human nature.

As an instructor, if you want to produce black belt students who show humility, courtesy, and integrity, then reciting tenets at the end of class will do exactly zero to produce that end. You have to model the results you want to see. If the instructors at a school are consistently humble, polite, and honest about what they teach then that creates an atmosphere which will encourage similar behavior in the students. If the instructors are more intent on teaching "respect" via a hierarchy where they are on top and the students must show extra deference to them, then it should be no surprise when students achieve a certain rank and start expecting that others should start bowing down to them the same way.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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As an instructor, if you want to produce black belt students who show humility, courtesy, and integrity, then reciting tenets at the end of class will do exactly zero to produce that end. You have to model the results you want to see.
I disagree with this, partially. Not the modelling results part, but that reciting them does nothing to encourage the values. Those tenets have use, so long as everyone knows what the tenets are and what they mean (with children this would have to be a discussion). On it's own, they are not useful, but when combined with modeling, it serves to prime the students to look for and emulate those values, where otherwise they may not be totally aware.

I think this is especially true for kids/teenagers, but can also be true for adults. I'd also argue that, if you really want to prime people, you should do it at the beginning of class, not the end, but I could see arguments going either way.
 
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Olde Phart

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Actually, what we do is recite a list of the "teachings of the dojang" that involve showing respect to the instructors and fellow students, not misusing what we have learned, striving for peace and comradery, etc. Then, go thru the class, and at the end a recitation of basic values (the tenets I mentioned). I've seen them posted in other MA schools, so I know they are somewhat of an accepted manner of teaching.

Yes, it is a part of instilling in the younger students something to strive for since not much of that seems to be a part of education or upbringing nowadays.

Maybe I'm comparing my own dojang with the stuff you read/hear on the internet. In my dojang, we are all a family, from the elder Grand Master of the overall federation down to the local instructor. Even the guy that comes from the main office out-if-state to handle the black belt testing in our state is a great guy and willing to work with the student in order to help them out.

What I see via the internet is a bunch of "superior-talking" martial artists extolling the virtues of what they've learned and how they are better than such-n-such style. Not much humility and it certainly doesn't make me want to try that particular style out to broaden my horizons. I'm probably judging the book by it's cover.
 

Buka

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A few thoughts ...

My personal experience with regards to those particular characteristics in schools I've trained at has mostly been pretty good. But I've certainly met high-ranking martial artists who do a particularly poor job of exemplifying them.

This is in no way something peculiar to martial arts. Many fields of human endeavor advocate certain values and are also filled with individuals who embody the exact opposite of those values. Just for example, think about the various religions which extol values like humility, charity, kindness, love, chastity, etc and then think about how easy it is to find representatives of those religions (often individuals who are very vocal about their dedication to the faith) who are prideful, greedy, cruel, hateful, sexual predators. This isn't a knock against any of those religions - it's just an observation about human nature.

As an instructor, if you want to produce black belt students who show humility, courtesy, and integrity, then reciting tenets at the end of class will do exactly zero to produce that end. You have to model the results you want to see. If the instructors at a school are consistently humble, polite, and honest about what they teach then that creates an atmosphere which will encourage similar behavior in the students. If the instructors are more intent on teaching "respect" via a hierarchy where they are on top and the students must show extra deference to them, then it should be no surprise when students achieve a certain rank and start expecting that others should start bowing down to them the same way.
I have a somewhat different opinion on the religion thing, for I believe organized pedophilia is exactly that. It's often called by a different name, though - and I'll stop right God damn here before I get into serious trouble. :)

I've been fortunate in my Martial journey. We were all influenced by incredible Martial Artists. All of whom led first by their example, by their interactions with everyone, and by their teachings.

Their humility wasn't just an example, and wasn't just appreciated, it was actually kind of scary, but in a very good, positive way.
 

wab25

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The thought is that true "black belt mentality" is something that is present both in the dojang and in public.
This is something that I have never really understood. Why does the color of the thing you wear around your waist, change who you are as a person?

Sure, you had to work hard to get it, and it represents a certain level of skill and understanding... but, there is no consensus on how hard you actually had to work, what your skill level actually is or what your understanding actually is. Each art, each organization, each school... has their own levels set for each of these things.... and they are all subjective. This means that you cannot compare one black belt to another, based on rank alone.

I find it a little amusing and a little sad, when I see people demanding to be addressed by their rank.... in the grocery store.... Is the whole meaning of your life tied up in the color of the belt you wear? I also find it a little sad when the color of the belt contributes to the amount of truth or the amount of correctness a statement has. When we were both blue belts, we could talk and exchange ideas about techniques, but now that I have advanced to green belt... my ideas become more correct than yours.... really? And the whole "I now outrank you" bit.... WOW... from otherwise grown adults..... Its almost like all of their self confidence comes from the number of people that must defer to them, due to the color of their belt. And some of these people are not model members of society??? You don't say....

In my opinion, you can only do one thing with respect.... the only thing you can do with respect, is to give it. You can not earn it. You can do whatever you want.... but none of that means that I will respect you, unless I choose to respect you. You can make me fear you sure... but that is not respect. You can demand my respect, and show me the things you did to earn my respect and show me how much respect I owe you... but you look very silly when you do that, and I promise, you will not get my respect. When I find people, who are of right character, I choose to give them my respect... not because they asked for it, or deserved it... but because I wanted to give it.

But, we just have to find ways to build these little societies, where we can finally get the respect we "deserve." This is not something only found in martial arts... try going to ballroom dance studio.... There are lots of things we do, where we can then feel like we have done something to "deserve" respect and then go about demanding that respect.... and many times we forget all about the boundaries... and start expecting that same "respect" at the grocery store.... Whats really funny, is that we then criticize other groups and other people for doing the same thing we are doing, because they do it differently, or we find them hypocritical (why should I care, if you are hypocritical, shouting your principle of humility and then not being humble in the way I think you should be humble? The only thing I get out of that is making myself feel better...)

I say train hard. Be who you want to be. And let others be who they want to be. There is no universal black belt mentality anymore than there is no universal bar that every black belt must meet. See people for more than just the color of their belt... in fact, ignore their belt, and treat everyone as a real person. But I guess that makes me a little hypocritical now doesn't it.... Anyway, I just think we put way too much importance on belts than we should. At the end of the day, if we are talking about martial arts... its not your belt that has to fight... its you.
 

isshinryuronin

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You have to model the results you want to see. If the instructors at a school are consistently humble, polite, and honest about what they teach then that creates an atmosphere which will encourage similar behavior in the students.
So true.
If the instructors are more intent on teaching "respect" via a hierarchy where they are on top and the students must show extra deference to them, then it should be no surprise when students achieve a certain rank and start expecting that others should start bowing down to them the same way.
This quote may seem to be at odds with the one above, but I don't think so. They can co-exist and be mutually supportable. Just as in the military where you salute the rank (or Medal of Honor) and not the person, extending a bow to a senior (black) belt should be looked at the same way. If one has been taught per the first quote, they should have no problem bowing to a senior belt in this spirit.

As for the senior belt expecting to be bowed to, again, if they have been taught per the first quote, they will see the bow in a similar light - recognition of rank and not his personal greatness. If they have not been taught in this manner abuses of rank can happen. Such bowing can also be seen as a sign of respect to the instructor who promoted them. Afterall, his students are in part a reflection of him.

Respect is a two-way street. The lower belt deserves respect for his willingness to learn and his effort. When a senior belt returns a bow, he should have this thought in mind. Humility and respect are always proper in a dojo.
This is true "black belt mentality."
 
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Yokozuna514

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In the dojang where I train, there are tenets that we recite after every class: Humility, Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, Indomitable Spirit. While perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit are the characteristics we all use in order to have success in our training, my question revolves around the first three: Humility, Courtesy and Integrity. The thought is that true "black belt mentality" is something that is present both in the dojang and in public. Yet, it seems that some black belts end up being real "horse's patooties" in the pride quotient. They're "somebody" and ought to be respected as such. Any of you experience that in your own dojo/dojang/gym?
I come from a style of MA that has a belt system. I think you may be asking the wrong questions here. A-holes exist in all groups regardless of size so why should a dojo/dojang/gym be any different ? The belt may signify a certain amount of knowledge or skill that has been attained over a period of time but it doesn't remove the less undesirable parts of one's personality. Why should it ? Why would punching and kicking something or someone automatically make someone more humble or respectful ? If you haven't figured this out through the other countless social interactions in life, strapping on a dark coloured belt will not grant you a more noble character. It's black cloth, not the lasso of truth.

That being said, testing yourself and your skills through uncooperative sparring can give you the opportunity to test your resolve. That can be an opportunity to reflect and perhaps guide you to feel more empathy for the people you train and spar against色她r not. Not everyone wants to be changed in that way and as much as some arts having guiding principles to follow, not everyone is going to buy it, hook, line and sinker.

At the end of the day, we can all choose to spend time with the people that bring us joy and let the people that don't, well I suppose they won't be invited to play in any reindeer games.
 
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Olde Phart

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This is something that I have never really understood. Why does the color of the thing you wear around your waist, change who you are as a person?

Sure, you had to work hard to get it, and it represents a certain level of skill and understanding... but, there is no consensus on how hard you actually had to work, what your skill level actually is or what your understanding actually is. Each art, each organization, each school... has their own levels set for each of these things.... and they are all subjective. This means that you cannot compare one black belt to another, based on rank alone.

I find it a little amusing and a little sad, when I see people demanding to be addressed by their rank.... in the grocery store.... Is the whole meaning of your life tied up in the color of the belt you wear? I also find it a little sad when the color of the belt contributes to the amount of truth or the amount of correctness a statement has. When we were both blue belts, we could talk and exchange ideas about techniques, but now that I have advanced to green belt... my ideas become more correct than yours.... really? And the whole "I now outrank you" bit.... WOW... from otherwise grown adults..... Its almost like all of their self confidence comes from the number of people that must defer to them, due to the color of their belt. And some of these people are not model members of society??? You don't say....

In my opinion, you can only do one thing with respect.... the only thing you can do with respect, is to give it. You can not earn it. You can do whatever you want.... but none of that means that I will respect you, unless I choose to respect you. You can make me fear you sure... but that is not respect. You can demand my respect, and show me the things you did to earn my respect and show me how much respect I owe you... but you look very silly when you do that, and I promise, you will not get my respect. When I find people, who are of right character, I choose to give them my respect... not because they asked for it, or deserved it... but because I wanted to give it.

But, we just have to find ways to build these little societies, where we can finally get the respect we "deserve." This is not something only found in martial arts... try going to ballroom dance studio.... There are lots of things we do, where we can then feel like we have done something to "deserve" respect and then go about demanding that respect.... and many times we forget all about the boundaries... and start expecting that same "respect" at the grocery store.... Whats really funny, is that we then criticize other groups and other people for doing the same thing we are doing, because they do it differently, or we find them hypocritical (why should I care, if you are hypocritical, shouting your principle of humility and then not being humble in the way I think you should be humble? The only thing I get out of that is making myself feel better...)

I say train hard. Be who you want to be. And let others be who they want to be. There is no universal black belt mentality anymore than there is no universal bar that every black belt must meet. See people for more than just the color of their belt... in fact, ignore their belt, and treat everyone as a real person. But I guess that makes me a little hypocritical now doesn't it.... Anyway, I just think we put way too much importance on belts than we should. At the end of the day, if we are talking about martial arts... its not your belt that has to fight... its you.
Love it! Now, THAT'S a response.
 

isshinryuronin

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Why would punching and kicking something or someone make someone more humble or respectful ?
It absolutely doesn't. It's not the punching and kicking that leads one to spiritual development of these qualities, but the way they are taught and the environment they are taught in. This is what TMA calls "do." It's more than just fighting, though "A-holes" can exist in any system, but maybe less in some than others. (And it's not just the system that can foster this, but the instructor as well, for good or bad.)

Some systems do not teach this broader holistic approach to MA, being heavily oriented towards pure competition or combat. This is fine, just different from TMA. It's a different mindset. And those folks aren't forbidden to be humble and respectful, it's just not one of the priorities/side benefits of their training focus.
 
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