Blackbelt issuing organizations

Bill Mattocks

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If you're starting over in a completely different style or art, this is a given.

If I'm going to keep a white belt around for the purpose of visiting other schools or if I'm transferring to another school of the same style but of another association, I might as well spend the extra buck and invest in a high quality one. A nice stiff 1.75" wide white belt, with my name embroidered in katakana on side. And maybe even kanji on the other side that translates to something like "I'm only wearing this here because I have to."

I engaged in a discussion in reddit over this.

I argued in favor of association membership for this very reason, while others argued that the quality of the instruction is what matters most. The problem with this argument is that the new student coming in off the street to learn martial arts does not know crappy instruction when he sees it. Also, I've heard many people claim that the quality of the education of University of Phoenix and DeVry is pretty high too. As dubious as those claims may be, even if it's true... even if the quality of the instruction is just as good as that of Ivy League schools, what are those Phoenix and DeVry degrees doing for the people who have them?
I can't speak to DeVry, but I took a few graduate level courses at the University of Phoenix and they were legit. In any case, I only have an Associates Degree from a Community College - and at the end of a very long and successful career in IT, I can say my education was well worth it and helped me a tremendous amount. But if you compare my credentials to some of the Ivy League graduates I have working for me, well, they win. Except THEY WORK FOR ME. Kind of, I'm not a manager. More like first among equals.

Regarding associations. I am a lifetime member of an association that our dojo belongs to. I joined because my sensei asked me to. I paid a fee for the lifetime membership, and another fee to have my 3rd Dan recognized. The purpose of this is to certify my rank in the case that I might someday move or my sensei might retire, etc, and my rank would be accepted in another dojo that was a member of the same organization. But it's a small organization. The chances of this are pretty small in my case. Probably when my sensei retires, I'm also retired, to be honest. I'm not going to open a dojo or move to another state and train somewhere else.

So for me, membership in an association is largely symbolic. I'm OK with it, but it doesn't really do anything for me.

It's a legit association from my point of view, but I've heard plenty of folks who have no respect for any association and believe firmly that they're all bunk and hocum. I get it; a lot of them are fake make-um-up orgs that exist to grant ranks for money.

I appreciate that some folks want to have some kind of standardization of ranks, and associations might be one way to do it. Frankly, I don't think it will ever happen; especially in the USA where we license barbers but don't license martial arts instructors.
 
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bluepanther

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Frankly, I don't think it will ever happen; especially in the USA where we license barbers but don't license martial arts instructors

Looking bad as a martial artist doesn't even come close to being seen with a bad haircut!
 

Bujingodai

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Gets worse in Ninjutsu.

Belt is no indication of skill. Just what classes you have been to or how long you've been around.
 

Dirty Dog

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It seems in TSD that having a Dan Bon from the Soo Bahk Do is a gold standard for TSD and all other black belt systems in TSD are inferior as far as legacy and legitimacy are concerned.
Only according to the Soo Bahk Do MDK people.
 

Hot Lunch

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Only according to the Soo Bahk Do MDK people.
In my observation, TSD doesn't seem to be as regulated. If I look up ten videos of TSD guys doing Pyung Ahn Sam Dan, I'm going to see ten different versions of it. This is just my observation. If a well-regulated association within the style is seeing something similar, I could see why they would take that stance.
 

Dirty Dog

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In my observation, TSD doesn't seem to be as regulated. If I look up ten videos of TSD guys doing Pyung Ahn Sam Dan, I'm going to see ten different versions of it. This is just my observation. If a well-regulated association within the style is seeing something similar, I could see why they would take that stance.
TSD is not SBD, so you wouldn't expect them to look the same. The root of the SBD attitude is politics, nothing more.
 

J. Pickard

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But when we are old or infirm and cannot perform like we used to, are we no longer worthy of that rank?
Regardless of age you should be able to show some semblance of competence. My instructor is in his mid 70s and while he no longer spars, cant kick as high as he used to, or do a full class at 100% effort anymore, he still has very good technique and is clearly very competent in his art. His knowledge is there and it shows in what he does and anyone who stays active in their art will hold on to that ability regardless of age alone. I would also say that past a certain point rank has absolutely nothing to do with ability anymore and is more a show of how well you can convey your art to another person and help them to grow and be better.

I would argue that if a person is inactive in their art for so long, inactive being they have done no training or even thought about their art, that their rank is less valid and I know a ton of people will disagree with me on this. However, if you made it to say 3rd dan for example, then quit and never even think about it again for say 25-30 years then to consider yourself to still be the same rank is somewhat dishonest. The martial arts are ever evolving and require consistent engagement to have and maintain any semblance of proficiency. Specifically, Taekwondo has been an endeavor that seeks to grow and change since its inception, so much so that it is a common saying in TKD that the only tradition in TKD is a tradition of change. While it may not be the same in other arts, I liken it to other fields of academia; if you don't stay active in those fields then your credentials expire or are no longer relevant.
 

Bill Mattocks

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I would argue that if a person is inactive in their art for so long, inactive being they have done no training or even thought about their art, that their rank is less valid and I know a ton of people will disagree with me on this.
Rank is an award. A retired professor is a professor. A retired general is a general. A retired black belt is a black belt.

You apparently see black belt as an assessment of current skill. Lose the skill, lose the belt. I understand where you're coming from, but I disagree, as you suspected many would.

I am, for good or ill, both a black belt and a Marine. I am in no way able to pass the physical fitness test for active duty Marines, yet I earned the title in 1979, it's mine for life, and there's no arguing it. I will die a Marine. The same is true of my black belt. Unless revoked by my sensei, the rank that I once qualified for remains mine. Even if all I can do one day is wave my cane and tell kids to get off my lawn. Yes, I am less capable than I was ten years ago. So what. Black belt has nothing to do with my current capabilities. It's more of a high water mark.

I don't understand the whole concept of "less valid." Presuming that a person met the qualifications to be awarded a black belt in their martial art, how would one go about revoking the belts of those who eventually get old and sick, stop training, and eventually die?
 

J. Pickard

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Rank is an award. A retired professor is a professor. A retired general is a general. A retired black belt is a black belt.

You apparently see black belt as an assessment of current skill. Lose the skill, lose the belt. I understand where you're coming from, but I disagree, as you suspected many would.

I am, for good or ill, both a black belt and a Marine. I am in no way able to pass the physical fitness test for active duty Marines, yet I earned the title in 1979, it's mine for life, and there's no arguing it. I will die a Marine. The same is true of my black belt. Unless revoked by my sensei, the rank that I once qualified for remains mine. Even if all I can do one day is wave my cane and tell kids to get off my lawn. Yes, I am less capable than I was ten years ago. So what. Black belt has nothing to do with my current capabilities. It's more of a high water mark.

I don't understand the whole concept of "less valid." Presuming that a person met the qualifications to be awarded a black belt in their martial art, how would one go about revoking the belts of those who eventually get old and sick, stop training, and eventually die?
I completely understand this take, but I look at it from a different angle than most. My education and career before taking over my dojang was in science. I see TKD and martial arts as a whole as an academic endeavor similar to science and in active fields of science, you have to constantly stay involved be it through lectures, seminars, further schooling, etc. or your credentials become outdated. Sure you still technically have the PhD from 30 years ago but your understanding and methodology may no longer apply and be less capable than some undergrad students who are up to date. Good examples of this are medicine, astrophysics, environmental sciences, and health sciences.



On the flip side, I also understand that some see it in the military view point or from a historical and cultural perspective where once the accolade is earned, it is kept for life. I don't think this is wrong, it's just not how I personally view rank or the standard I hold myself to. It's also why I have never made a student start over or go down in rank when coming back from years of a hiatus.

In regard to getting old and sick, if you are actively involved in your art in some way then age and sickness will have little impact on your knowledge and skill in your art. There is more to skill than physicality, a large part is understanding. I have met many old masters that are physically incapable of training the same way they once were, but their understanding of the art and how to teach it from a mental standpoint grew greater and continued to grow up until they died because it stayed an active part of their life. If you stop doing anything on a physical and mental level for decades your understanding and overall knowledge of that topic will inevitably dissipate and become less than it was, whereas if you can stay mentally involved you can still grow in your abilities in different ways.

A caveat to this, I think this only applies to rank and not title. For example black belt is a rank, Master is a title. just my opinion again, you earn a title and stays for life but rank is symbolic of what you know and understand currently. To use your military analogy, you can earn the rank and title of Major or Lieutenant in the military and still hold that title, but once you retire and are no longer active duty you can't just walk into a base and start ordering around enlisted soldiers and NCOs even though you still technically have the officer's title.
 

Dirty Dog

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Even if all I can do one day is wave my cane and tell kids to get off my lawn.
May I recommend the Get Off My Lawn 3000?
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bluepanther

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I completely understand this take, but I look at it from a different angle than most. My education and career before taking over my dojang was in science. I see TKD and martial arts as a whole as an academic endeavor similar to science and in active fields of science, you have to constantly stay involved be it through lectures, seminars, further schooling, etc. or your credentials become outdated. Sure you still technically have the PhD from 30 years ago but your understanding and methodology may no longer apply and be less capable than some undergrad students who are up to date. Good examples of this are medicine, astrophysics, environmental sciences, and health sciences.

I hold firm that a graduate of a Biology program 30 years ago has a better grasp on basic biological principles than a current graduate in a similar program, at least according to our current political environment. Also, some martial arts 30 years ago had more stringent requirements for Dan ranking compared to their current iterations. So someone taking 30 years off may still be a better black belt than some of these newly minted ones.
 

HighKick

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I know black belts can be issued from large organizations down to a small school. I also realize belts don't always translate to martial arts skills. I am thinking a black belt in Judo is grest since they invented the belt system. Also the Kukkiwon issues black belts which are legit, meaning you need one to compete in Olympic Taekwondo. Since Judo and Taekwondo are Olympic sports their black belts seem more legit? Meaning if you have one of these you can go to any judo club or taekwondo place and hold rank. Are there any other black belt issuing bodies that carry that much weight in their respective arts?
If you are only interested in the sports/competition aspect, then there is some truth to what you say. Beyond that, it holds no water. None, nada, zip, zero, zilch. It is Much more about the school and instructor(s) that give quality to someone's martial arts journey.
Did you know that many, many schools and people do online training Only to get ready for a KKW black belt testing. How much quality do you think that type of training offers?
 

J. Pickard

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So someone taking 30 years off may still be a better black belt than some of these newly minted ones.
This may be true, but I think that says more about the quality of the school than the individual.
 
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bluepanther

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If you are only interested in the sports/competition aspect, then there is some truth to what you say. Beyond that, it holds no water. None, nada, zip, zero, zilch. It is Much more about the school and instructor(s) that give quality to someone's martial arts journey.
Did you know that many, many schools and people do online training Only to get ready for a KKW black belt testing. How much quality do you think that type of training offers?
So how does a potential new student know which school is reputable? Without a standardized curriculum with defined criteria and instructor certification programs, how does one know? Seems it is the luck of the draw for a new student.
 
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bluepanther

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I notice I am a yellow belt here on this forum. Can I transfer this into a martial arts school?
 

Dirty Dog

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So how does a potential new student know which school is reputable?
Generally, they don't.
Without a standardized curriculum with defined criteria and instructor certification programs, how does one know?
Even with all that, you don't know. You brought up KKW schools. Some are very good. Some... could use some improvement.
I notice I am a yellow belt here on this forum. Can I transfer this into a martial arts school?
No.
 

Gyakuto

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So how does a potential new student know which school is reputable? Without a standardized curriculum with defined criteria and instructor certification programs, how does one know? Seems it is the luck of the draw for a new student.
In the three months before my first Karate class was to begin (1981), I went to the local library and found a book called Know Karate Do by Bryan Williams. It was a great book because not only did it give a general introduction to the art with noted U.K. teachers demonstrating for the book (Enoeda - and Suzuki Sense, both 8th Dan) but also discussed the way it was governed in the U.K. by the British Karate Control Commission (which became the Martial Arts Commission). It highlighted the styles, schools and associations that were members and their structures and their Japanese governing association. I got the librarian to help me look up other aspects of British Karate governance too. In other words, as a 12 year old boy, I did my homework.

Its so much easier these days尖ou dont have to get up from your armchair that required me to trek to the local and city central library.
 
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