Black Belt/Sash/Rank at a young age...

Blaze Dragon

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So I was browsing the forums and I ran across a post about starting martial arts at an older age, anyway one of the responses was about a class this guy was checking out. The class had a 5 year old with a black belt he said.

I saw other posts comment on this and one individual mentioned they didn't think someone should have a black belt until they are at least 18.

Now this makes me want to tell a story and have a conversation about this. When I use to do TKD, one of the students was like 14 or so and had his black belt. His parents moved so him and his brother had to go to a different school. They found one, but in order to maintain there rank there new teacher needed to test them. His younger brother was...hmmm I don't know purple or brown belt. Regardless the instructor tested him and let him keep his belt. This other student being a black belt and young didn't seem to fit for the teacher. Because the teacher test him and then sparred him. The kid was able to beat the instructor which seemed to fustrate him since he made him spar him 3 more times or so before he reluctantly agreed to let him keep his rank.

Now I tell my story since this teacher shared in the idea that you have to be a certain age for your black belt...

now the topics I would like to hear opinions on..

How young is too young?
Why does age matter? Should it not be based on skill?

on the flip side...
How well can a young kid learn martial arts. I mean lets consider self defense, a child learning self defense will react differently to an adult attacker then a child who is a full grown teen.
 

drop bear

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We have thrown 14 year olds in the ring. They do all right.

There was a fighter Tyler manowara who turned pro under 18 years.


14 year old girl fighting full contact.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SS7JKZez0Uk

What was that black belt issue again?
 

Daniel Sullivan

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Really depends on the school and what the belt represents at that school.

Or within a particular organization.

Two people from two different arts can train consistently and train well in their respective arts for five years, with one being a black belt and the other still a colored belt. Each belt represents a different point in that art's training.

Some organizations/schools have five year old black belts. Some won't issue them until the student is of majority age. So long as the grading policy is consistent within itself, and so long as outlandish claims are not being made about what a black belt can do, I don't see it as an issue.

Now if an adult student is in a class with a five year old black belt, the issue isn't why the kid has the belt, but why an adult and a five year old are in the same class.
 

Dirty Dog

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It's a topic that comes up frequently around here...

I don't believe in baby black belts. The youngest Dan rank I've seen awarded in our system was a 17 year old girl. She started with this school before I did and I asked her tonight how long ago that was. She was 5 when she started.

I don't think that kids have the maturity or the real understanding of the Art to achieve Dan rank. I also think there are exceptions, but as a general rule, I think 18 is a fair guideline.

I was 13 when I got my first 1st Dan, and I don't think I had the maturity or real understanding for the rank.
 

TKDTony2179

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Really depends on the school and what the belt represents at that school.

Or within a particular organization.

Two people from two different arts can train consistently and train well in their respective arts for five years, with one being a black belt and the other still a colored belt. Each belt represents a different point in that art's training.

Some organizations/schools have five year old black belts. Some won't issue them until the student is of majority age. So long as the grading policy is consistent within itself, and so long as outlandish claims are not being made about what a black belt can do, I don't see it as an issue.

Now if an adult student is in a class with a five year old black belt, the issue isn't why the kid has the belt, but why an adult and a five year old are in the same class.

Well, I will say this from first hand experience that when you are in a small town, you don't have the option to have an adult class and kid class. Sometimes the best you can do is to have different classes for different ranks but you will still have different age groups with in the class. My instructor has done that for yrs. The school I am running now I will have to do the samething because we don't have a large group of 5 yr old being in our schools.

Do adults like this? Not the ones that acturally take class but I think they understand. (You can tell by the look on their face) For other adults it don't matter to them cause they take with their child anyways.

A kid that is 5 yrs old that have a black belt to me would look like he is dressed up for holloween because it looks more like a reward for him and I know he can't do what I can do and it doesn't bother me at all.
 

TKDTony2179

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So I was browsing the forums and I ran across a post about starting martial arts at an older age, anyway one of the responses was about a class this guy was checking out. The class had a 5 year old with a black belt he said.

I saw other posts comment on this and one individual mentioned they didn't think someone should have a black belt until they are at least 18.

Now this makes me want to tell a story and have a conversation about this. When I use to do TKD, one of the students was like 14 or so and had his black belt. His parents moved so him and his brother had to go to a different school. They found one, but in order to maintain there rank there new teacher needed to test them. His younger brother was...hmmm I don't know purple or brown belt. Regardless the instructor tested him and let him keep his belt. This other student being a black belt and young didn't seem to fit for the teacher. Because the teacher test him and then sparred him. The kid was able to beat the instructor which seemed to fustrate him since he made him spar him 3 more times or so before he reluctantly agreed to let him keep his rank.

Now I tell my story since this teacher shared in the idea that you have to be a certain age for your black belt...

now the topics I would like to hear opinions on..

How young is too young?
Why does age matter? Should it not be based on skill?

on the flip side...
How well can a young kid learn martial arts. I mean lets consider self defense, a child learning self defense will react differently to an adult attacker then a child who is a full grown teen.

I use to think that a black belt was a person that could showscase high level of skill and proficiency in an art. Which it still does but Ihave learned that it means a lot more to other people. At the end of the day, the belt is just ahigh rank certificate. When you leave the school you attend it doesn’t matterif you are a black belt. Most people do I think skill is just as important as thematurity part. I live in place where dads take their son out in cold morning towait for a deer to show up so they can shoot it. I have seen ill girls on linetaken apart a gun and then putting it back together and will show you that it work. They learn a skill and learn to be responsibleon how to use a gun.
With that being said I think a kid can learn how to beresponsible and learn a set of skills. Not every kid should get a black belt. Ihave seen kids fail numerous of time for testing. So as long as the school if being honest withthemselves I see no problem.
I would assume that is the reason Kano made a belt systemanyway. Start a curriculum

Now for the tough question, how old or young can one obtain a black belt? Either 9 or 10yrs old. Our hand book says you have to be 13 before 3[SUP]rd[/SUP] degree and 21 before you can test for 4[SUP]th[/SUP]. Now there is a big gap. I know a lot of people are going to disagree with that but as long as I have been in this art under this org it do seems right that a young person is rewarded 1[SUP]st[/SUP] dan because at that part the saying of “Now this where your training begins” kind of hold true because they get to refine the things they are not good at. Like I always said, there are some adults that shouldn’t have a belt as well.
 

Daniel Sullivan

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Well, I will say this from first hand experience that when you are in a small town, you don't have the option to have an adult class and kid class. Sometimes the best you can do is to have different classes for different ranks but you will still have different age groups with in the class. My instructor has done that for yrs. The school I am running now I will have to do the samething because we don't have a large group of 5 yr old being in our schools.

Do adults like this? Not the ones that acturally take class but I think they understand. (You can tell by the look on their face) For other adults it don't matter to them cause they take with their child anyways.

A kid that is 5 yrs old that have a black belt to me would look like he is dressed up for holloween because it looks more like a reward for him and I know he can't do what I can do and it doesn't bother me at all.
As I said, if an adult student is in a class with a five year old black belt, the issue isn't why the kid has the belt, but why an adult and a five year old are in the same class. There is always a reason. It may be a good, or at least practical reason; in your case, you don't have the option to do it differently. Though that really kind of turns an adult class into a family class. No value assessment, by the way.

I was in your position at a school where I used to teach. We had a mix of kids and adults. We did the best we could and I'd like to think that we made it work. I kept the kids together and the teens & adults together, so it was essentially me running two classes simultaneously. I took the opportunity to pair the kids with adults on occasion so that we could work on strategies for them to deal with adult predators. Of course, one child with a class full of adults is a challenge. You do what you can.

In any case, the black belt on a kid is fine with me so long as the belt is not touted as some kind of mystical entrance into the mythical Chanbara fighting secrets (and that is regardless of the age of the belt holder) or some kind of equivalent to Popeye's spinach. So long as the grading policy is consistent within itself in a school/organization, it works for me. It did not a few years back (if you had read any of my posts six years ago, you'd see that my opinion on this has shifted over the years), but after a lot of thought and being challenged in my views by people with fairly compelling arguments, my views shifted on the subject.
 

Tony Dismukes

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As others have said, it comes down to what a black belt (or any rank) means in your system. Does it mean that you have memorized a particular series of patterns and can perform them with a certain level of skill? Does it mean you have a certain degree of actual fighting ability? Does it mean you have the maturity to live your life according to a certain set of ideals? Once you have declared what the rank means, it clarifies whether someone of a certain age is likely to be able to meet those requirements. Personally I'm in favor of awarding rank based on how an individual meets the actual requirements rather than setting an arbitrary cut-off age.

In BJJ, there's a separate system of belts (white through green) for kids under the age of 16. My instructor recently awarded a blue belt (adult rank) to a young man who is only 15 years old. This individual had been training and grappling with adults for a couple of years, is able to match other adult blue belts in sparring, and displays excellent maturity for his age. Given all that, my teacher didn't see the need to make him wait an extra year to be promoted.

Getting back to the original story, I would be a little concerned about going to a teacher who couldn't beat a 14-year old in sparring. Unless the instructor was really getting up there in years or the student was some sort of phenom, that might be a warning flag. Then again, I'm in an art where instructors are expected to roll with their students on a regular basis, so that may affect my viewpoint.
 

tshadowchaser

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At one time you had to be a bad *** to have a black belt no one would mess with you. Now you can find someone in every community that knows or has a child black belt. And yet we wonder wonder why the majority of people think little of someone who claims to have a black belt. A five year old black belt not in my school.
Heck I knew an instructor who made himself a Grandmaster and promoted his 13 year old son to 5th degree so that if anything happened to him his son would inherit the school. Did the kid have the knowledge , well maybe in that school but not in any other that I know of.
Yes, we all have our own idea of what is required to be a black belt but really dose the five year old have the knowledge to pass on the art and explain techniques and history.
 

Daniel Sullivan

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Yes, we all have our own idea of what is required to be a black belt but really dose the five year old have the knowledge to pass on the art and explain techniques and history.

Unlikely, but a first degree black belt is hardly expected to be passing the art on or to explain history. A first dan has not learned anywhere near the entire system in most arts that use the rank.

Though they should be able to explain techniques from the colored belt levels. Not because of some sort of expectation that they teach, but because they are looked at as seniors to those with colored belts and colored belts expect that their fellow student with the black belt can clarify/lead the drill when serving as a partner.

Also, even in schools with fairly unsophisticated requirements for a black belt, the black belt means at the very least that the student has learned the full basic curriculum. A sharp five year old could potentially be able to demonstrate all of what he or she has learned on command. But they are unlikely to be able to explain it to another student (prodigies not withstanding).
 
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Blaze Dragon

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I think that is one thing that bothers me. People who become black belts because they paid for it. Many schools have a deal, you pay and come and you will get promoted. It's about time spent and the ability to remember forms. How many schools break this mold? Are there schools out there where you also have to have ability, skill, and aptitude? I know it seems to be more the case once someone hits black belt. In fact I don't think many people ever obtain black belt, I don't know what the numbers are but I imagine less then 10% of students will see there black belt and less then 5% of that will see there 5th in any given system. Random numbers, nothing etched in stone but is the picture I have.

Still thinking back to some of the old schools I would check out and seeing the skill level of some of the students. I think if the school is doing a good training method and the students are dedicated, they will grow in skill as they do in rank.

I just wonder, what makes the next rank worth it?
 

geezer

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In many cases, it isn't even that. In KKW TKD, for example, it is simply a beginning degree. I've seen the sentiment expressed almost universally that a black belt is just the beginning.

I hear this a lot, and I have to disagree. In some TKD organizations this might be true. Or more especially in a school where they routinely give little kids an adult BB rank. In other systems, the BB or it's equivalent implies real achievement and proficiency( BJJ?). Sure there's still a long way to go to true mastery but by BB you're more of a journeyman and definitely not a beginner.

In the art I study, You put in a good many years to achieve the BB equivalent and only a very, very few ever achieve 5th level or higher. After a certain point it's an issue of ability as much as knowledge and years. Honestly, I probably never will make "master", even with decades working at it.
 

Dirty Dog

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I hear this a lot, and I have to disagree. In some TKD organizations this might be true. Or more especially in a school where they routinely give little kids an adult BB rank. In other systems, the BB or it's equivalent implies real achievement and proficiency( BJJ?). Sure there's still a long way to go to true mastery but by BB you're more of a journeyman and definitely not a beginner.

In the art I study, You put in a good many years to achieve the BB equivalent and only a very, very few ever achieve 5th level or higher. After a certain point it's an issue of ability as much as knowledge and years. Honestly, I probably never will make "master", even with decades working at it.

Ability is a big factor, but so is knowledge, true understanding, and the ability to pass on that knowledge. We have a student who is 70 years old. She just got promoted to 2nd geup. She can't kick much above her own waist, but for her rank she's got a good understanding of the material she's been taught, and she's good at teaching, especially with the younger students. Would I hesitate to promote her to 1st Dan when the time comes? Nope. Not if she continues to work the way she has so far.
 

ballen0351

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We have thrown 14 year olds in the ring. They do all right.

There was a fighter Tyler manowara who turned pro under 18 years.


14 year old girl fighting full contact.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SS7JKZez0Uk

What was that black belt issue again?

Bad parenting there. Letting a 14 year old full contact fight is borderline child abuse. with all the data coming out about brain injuries and allowing a 14 yr old take multiple blows to the head like that is stupid.
 

Takai

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Bad parenting there. Letting a 14 year old full contact fight is borderline child abuse. with all the data coming out about brain injuries and allowing a 14 yr old take multiple blows to the head like that is stupid.

As a parent who actively trains with their kids...that was really hard to watch. My kids are much younger than that but, I wouldn't allow them anywhere near a ring. I just don't get what is going on with some parents. The risk of serious injury in that type of match is just not worth it.

Of course, listening to my 9 year old daughter ask "Why are they just flailing?" was priceless.
 

WaterGal

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I think it really depends on what a black belt means in the context of the style and organization.

Does black belt mean you've mastered a deep and detailed set of skills and are ready to strike out on your own as a teacher? Does it mean you can legitimately defend yourself in real life or are a hardcore tough fighter? Then yeah, you need to an adult, or at least an older teen.

But in some styles/orgs, a black belt means that you can do this list of forms, that list of strikes, are a decent sparrer for your age & weight class, are physically fit and have a good attitude. If those are the requirements, I think some middle-to-older kids can reasonably be black belts. Yeah, they won't usually have the same power as an adult and may take longer to learn things. But if they work hard, kids can learn to do forms and strikes cleanly, and can spar well for their weight class.

But I do think that 5 years old is too young by any reasonable standard. Kids 3-4 years are still developing basic motor skills, spatial awareness, and being able to pay attention for more than 2 minutes. At that age, most of what you're teaching them is stuff like which foot is the left one and how to stand in line; there's just no way a 3-year old could learn Taegeuk 3 in two months well enough to even do it on their own. I have no idea how they're passing those kids along.
 

drop bear

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Bad parenting there. Letting a 14 year old full contact fight is borderline child abuse. with all the data coming out about brain injuries and allowing a 14 yr old take multiple blows to the head like that is stupid.

What age are they playing football?

She now has a 2-1-0 pro record.

http://www.tapology.com/fightcenter/fighters/32785-kaela-banney
http://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/topic/kaela-banney/

It is a Queensland thing. Kids are just brought up tougher here.
 

drop bear

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As a parent who actively trains with their kids...that was really hard to watch. My kids are much younger than that but, I wouldn't allow them anywhere near a ring. I just don't get what is going on with some parents. The risk of serious injury in that type of match is just not worth it.

Of course, listening to my 9 year old daughter ask "Why are they just flailing?" was priceless.

And you told the 9 year old that most first fights are pretty scrappy?
 

ballen0351

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What age are they playing football?
at 5 my 1st son started but that's with full pads and helmets and against other 5 year olds and I still think twice about it and may not let my other son start and there is talk here of banning tackle football for kids due to more data on traumatic Brain injuries
didn't say she wasn't an ok fighter I said her parents are stupid
It is a Queensland thing. Kids are just brought up tougher here.
Keep telling her that when she has dementia at 40 and blows her head off like Junior Seau "Oh its ok she was a tough kid"
 
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