Contradictions In The Martial Arts

I sometimes notice that there are big contradictions in the martial arts. For instance, and I've discussed this before, how they will say that being a first degree black belt doesn't mean you're a master or even an expert it just means you're a serious beginner, but then they make it so hard to get that you practically have to be a master to get it. Sounds very contradictory to me.
A potential student came into Unel Wellington's dojo to enquire about classes. Whilst chatting he asked "How long it would take to get the black-belt?" Unel reached into the display cabinet, grabbed one of the black-belts and told him they cost 瞿10
 
Most of the styles I've trained in top out at 10th dan, although usually 5th dan is the highest you can get in terms of skill. Advancement beyond 5th dan is granted by your peers and is based on stuff such as how much you contribute to the art, ect not on skill.
I know all of this.
Yes there is but as I said, I just don't care much about rank advancement beyond shodan, although I still want to get better in terms of knowledge and skill.
At my last dojo, top technical dan grade was sandan, first honorary was yondan. But all black belts had "clout."

Where I am now, top technical is yondan, first honorary is godan. In my observation, you have no "clout" until sandan (i.e., until then, you're basically "just another student" lined up with everyone else). So there's still external motivation for promotions after shodan.
 
Well even first degree black belt itself isn't always an obsession of mine. Right now Im preparing to test for my first degree black belt in Goju Ryu and while it would be nice to get it, my main focus an concern is learning the material and developing skill (as it always has been.) Not that long ago I got promoted to purple belt in Gracie Jiu Jitsu which is two colors away from black belt (after purple is brown and then black). As it is, I will be satisfied with a brown belt in Gracie Jiu Jitsu.
I really really really really really really really hope you pass the test and earn your shodan. Then we can stop having this circular discussion over and over and over and over.
 
A potential student came into Unel Wellington's dojo to enquire about classes. Whilst chatting he asked "How long it would take to get the black-belt?" Unel reached into the display cabinet, grabbed one of the black-belts and told him they cost 瞿10
So at that dojo it sounds like they just hand out black belts to anybody who can afford them which would be anybody with 瞿10 no matter how skilled, or unskilled, they are.

In short, any bozo with 瞿10 can get a black belt at that dojo.
 
At my last dojo, top technical dan grade was sandan, first honorary was yondan. But all black belts had "clout."

Where I am now, top technical is yondan, first honorary is godan. In my observation, you have no "clout" until sandan (i.e., until then, you're basically "just another student" lined up with everyone else). So there's still external motivation for promotions after shodan.
Well at the first dojo that I started seriously training at, 6th degree is the first honorary degree. All the degrees up to and including godan which was 5th degree you would get there by knowledge, skill and ability.

Once you made black belt you were expected to help teach and I believe it was 3rd degree (sandan) where you could sometimes be expected to lead class. So in that sense you we're not "just another student."

The way promotion worked at that dojo was about every four months they would run a test and it was ultimately up to you as a student to sign up and test. You still obviously had to do well enough in the test to pass and promote so just because you could choose to test didn't mean you could choose to pass or that belts were easy to get. As it was, after making 1st dan (shoran) I didn't really have any desire to further promote so I never signed up to test for 2nd dan (nidan) at that dojo.
 
So at that dojo it sounds like they just hand out black belts to anybody who can afford them which would be anybody with 瞿10 no matter how skilled, or unskilled, they are.

In short, any bozo with 瞿10 can get a black belt at that dojo.
The point is that Unel was trying to make the guy feel stupid for asking.

I don't agree with it either. Imagine walking into a military recruiter's office, and asking how long it takes to become a general. He then pulls out some stars that he bought from the PX and tries to sell them to you.

I've probably said it before, but there are other ways of finding out how long it takes to make black belt. For example, asking to see the curriculum, what the testing intervals are, etc. And you only ask this after checking the website of the dojo or the association to which the dojo belongs. I would think that, ever since the first Karate Kid movie, the taboo against inquiring about black belts would have already entered mainstream pop culture a long time ago.
 
So at that dojo it sounds like they just hand out black belts to anybody who can afford them which would be anybody with 瞿10 no matter how skilled, or unskilled, they are.

In short, any bozo with 瞿10 can get a black belt at that dojo.
Something tells me you missed the point of that post...
 
The point is that Unel was trying to make the guy feel stupid for asking.

I don't agree with it either. Imagine walking into a military recruiter's office, and asking how long it takes to become a general. He then pulls out some stars that he bought from the PX and tries to sell them to you.

I've probably said it before, but there are other ways of finding out how long it takes to make black belt. For example, asking to see the curriculum, what the testing intervals are, etc. And you only ask this after checking the website of the dojo or the association to which the dojo belongs. I would think that, ever since the first Karate Kid movie, the taboo against inquiring about black belts would have already entered mainstream pop culture a long time ago.
Actually, Unel was not trying to make the guy look stupid at all. After removing the belt from the display case and naming the price, he went on to explain the real point of Karate was the training. The color of the belts are irrelevant, it is the development of skills by continued training and dedication which matters most. I assumed you guys would understand the point without having to explain all of this, but it appears I was wrong - never in a million years would I have thought somebody would misunderstand the recollection of this story and take it literally 仁
 
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So at that dojo it sounds like they just hand out black belts to anybody who can afford them which would be anybody with 瞿10 no matter how skilled, or unskilled, they are.

In short, any bozo with 瞿10 can get a black belt at that dojo.
I find this response bewildering 仁
 
I assumed you guys would understand the point without having to explain all of this, but it appears I was wrong - never in a million years would I have thought somebody would misunderstand the recollection of this story and take it literally 仁
Oh, I understand the point. I just don't agree with it. Maybe PhotonGuy doesn't care about promotions beyond shodan, because he's already got a black belt at that point. If you've been observant, that's a stance that I vehemently disagree with. Unel could have simply answered the question. But, as I said before, Unel's response is something that most people should expect. The concept of "belts don't matter" should have entered mainstream pop culture almost 40 years ago.
 
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Oh, I understand the point. I just don't agree with it. Maybe PhotonGuy doesn't care about promotions beyond shodan, because he's already got a black belt at that point. If you've been observant, that's a stance that I vehemently disagree with. Unel could have simply answered the question. But, as I said before, Unel's response is something that most people should expect. The concept of "belts don't matter" should entered mainstream pop culture almost 40 years ago.
Fair enough :)
 
As a sensei/school owner I never tested a student for black belt to see if they "knew" the material; I tested those who were already black belt in skills and dedication. The purpose of my tests was to see how badly that student wanted that 1st black belt. Therefore the tests were long, frustrating enough to often have them call for the bucket. I wanted to see what they could show me AFTER they had nothing left. "Can you go through 3-4 hours to exhaustion and then show me what you can do"? May sound a tad "brutal" but that's the way I was tested. I never asked a student, regardless of rank, to do anything I hadn't done on many more than just one test.

No! a 1st degree black belt does NOT make one a master - I'm not even sure what "master" means. A dedicated student can be awarded honors generally outside a ranking system; although some DO require a certain rank. "Master" is just one such title. At some point one must forget about rank and devote ALL their training, effort and resolve to doing their absolute best.
 
As a sensei/school owner I never tested a student for black belt to see if they "knew" the material; I tested those who were already black belt in skills and dedication. The purpose of my tests was to see how badly that student wanted that 1st black belt. Therefore the tests were long, frustrating enough to often have them call for the bucket. I wanted to see what they could show me AFTER they had nothing left. "Can you go through 3-4 hours to exhaustion and then show me what you can do"? May sound a tad "brutal" but that's the way I was tested. I never asked a student, regardless of rank, to do anything I hadn't done on many more than just one test.
That's the very definition of hazing. I left my last dojo because of that.
 
Some of the contradiction can be resolved by clarifying the terms you're using in your second sentence there.

"They". Is your first "they" who say that a black belt indicates a serious beginner the same as your second "they" who make the black belt so hard to get? (Hint - different people have different ideas about what a certain rank should represent.)

"1st degree black belt". What sort of black belt are we talking about? What art, awarded by what organization or instructor? Do you mean the local TKD kiddie care program, where a black belt might be awarded to a 13 year old who has trained 3 hours per week for 2 years (300 hours total)? Or do you mean a BJJ academy where a black belt might be awarded to a practitioner who has been training 8 hours per week for 10 years (4000 hours total)? I don't know too many people who claim that a typical BJJ black belt is just a beginner.

"Beginner", "Expert", "Master", "Hard to get". Depending on where you are in your training, those terms can indicate very different things. The first martial art I trained in for a significant length of time was Bujinkan Taijutsu (formerly branded as "ninjutsu"). This was back when the art was pretty new in the United States and there were only about a dozen or so black belts in the country. Most of them had only been training for a few years and they had learned from someone who had earned his rank based on a few, relatively short, visits to Japan.

At the time, I thought these guys were amazing fonts of martial knowledge. I was part of a small club in Baltimore that brought in these black belts to teach seminars and eventually I moved to a new city so that I could attend a dojo that had multiple black belt instructors. But from my current perspective as someone who has been training various arts for 42 years, just about every one of those black belts was a novice who barely understood any of what they were trying to teach. (And I am far from being any sort of "Master". Just an experienced martial artist who is reasonably competent in what I teach.)

So ... once you get past generalizations and realize that different people have different perspectives and that a particular gelt rank can mean very different things in different arts and schools, then it's really not so contradictory after all.
You raise some good points. The rank of first degree black belt varies from style to style (among those styles that have such a rank) and from dojo to dojo but in the grand scheme of things you could say it is a relatively low rank. Many styles go up to tenth degree so that would mean there's nine ranks above it. Even with BJJ, and I speak from my own experience as I do Gracie Jiu Jitsu, a black belt can be seen as a relatively low rank since in BJJ the black belt is not even the highest color let alone the highest rank. After you do make black belt in BJJ you can get stripes on your belt and then you can get higher belts such as the coral belt (which is an alternating black and red belt) and the very highest belt in BJJ is the red belt.

But as I said, you do make some good points. The black belt varies in its definition and in how hard it is to get it depending on your dojo and your style of martial arts.
 
The point is that Unel was trying to make the guy feel stupid for asking.
I had never heard of Unel Wellington before reading the post, now I've looked him up on the internet and I see he is a very controversial person.
I don't agree with it either. Imagine walking into a military recruiter's office, and asking how long it takes to become a general. He then pulls out some stars that he bought from the PX and tries to sell them to you.
Well yes, and I was going to use that example myself on this forum to explain the difference between earning a black belt at a dojo vs buying one for about five dollars or whatever. Generals in the US army wear stars on their uniforms as a symbol of the rank but it's not the star that makes one a general. A general might be off duty at the time and not in uniform thus not wearing his stars but he's still a general, he still holds the rank and has all the knowledge, skills, and authority that a general would have. Likewise, if somebody were to somehow come into possession of a star and put it on, it's not going to make them into a general. Wearing a star that they haven't earned is not going to magically give them all the knowledge, skills, and authority of a general and it certainly won't mean they hold the rank. Same thing with buying and putting on a black belt that you haven't earned by fulfilling the requirements at a dojo. That's why I would not do that, as some people on this forum have suggested I do.
I've probably said it before, but there are other ways of finding out how long it takes to make black belt. For example, asking to see the curriculum, what the testing intervals are, etc. And you only ask this after checking the website of the dojo or the association to which the dojo belongs.
You could ask the instructor how long it takes on average to earn a black belt at the dojo.
I would think that, ever since the first Karate Kid movie, the taboo against inquiring about black belts would have already entered mainstream pop culture a long time ago.
I don't recall the movie saying it was taboo to inquire about black belts, the movie just makes the point that the martial arts is in the head and the heart, not in the belt as Mr. Miyagi explains to Daniel. The fictional character of Mr. Miyagi doesn't really believe in rank in the martial arts and the only time he uses rank is if you're entering a tournament where you have to be of a certain belt to be able to compete, such as when he gave a black belt to Daniel so that Daniel could compete.
 

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