How the Japanese view of the black belt

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PhotonGuy

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Your post doesn’t make sense. I don’t know anywhere rank is determined by belt color - the belt is used to indicate the rank. Which, in many places, is based on your skill and knowledge.
Well yes, putting on a belt of a certain color isn't going to magically give you any extra skill and knowledge, its the other way around, you wear a belt of whatever color because you have the skill and knowledge that the belt represents.
 
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PhotonGuy

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"Always" is a pretty strong word. I've seen people both ways. And sometime pushing for the next color is important to a student because it gets them access to the next material - several systems are set up that way. And some use the rank (the recognition) as a motivator, which works well for them.

I don't care whether they are pushing for the next color or not. I just care whether they are getting what they need from the training. In most cases, that translates to "are they learning well". If they are, then rank comes when it comes.
Some students don't care about earning belts and I respect that. The problem is when people try to tell other people that they should make the same choices as them in regards to not caring about earning belts.
 

Hyoho

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Some students don't care about earning belts and I respect that. The problem is when people try to tell other people that they should make the same choices as them in regards to not caring about earning belts.
But it's still a very Western concept. In my kids dojo that is if they wore belts there would be different colours. In High School around 55 all above shodan so they all have "black belts". All adults have practiced since childhood and all are black belt ranked. So who cares? Its kids thing which actually is why Kano Jigoro, head of education invented it in the first place.
 

Gerry Seymour

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Well naturally a test for a higher rank should be harder than a test for a lower rank but my point is that it shouldn't be much harder. For instance, to make the test and requirements to go from Ikkyu to Shodan much harder than the test and requirements to go from Nikkyu to Ikkyu just seems unbalanced to me and one of the things that the martial arts is all about, at least from my own experience, is balance.
It looks like I left a word out of my sentence "a test may be made much harder for a bunch of reasons". I'm not saying it should happen, but I also can't think of any strong reason it shouldn't.

Take for instance grades in school (A,B,C,D,F) a 90 and above is an A, 80-89 is a B, 70-79 is a C and so forth. Now, imagine if you had to get an 100 to get an A and 80-99 is a B, would that seem proper to you? You're not going to start learning Calculus right after you learn basic addition, to try to do so would be way too big of a jump. So if you ask me, the time it takes and the difficulty of getting from Ikkyu to Shodan shouldn't be much longer or harder than the time and difficulty of getting from Nikkyu to Ikkyu. If getting from Ikkyu to Shodan does take much longer and is much harder than getting from Nikkyu to Ikkyu than it stands to reason that there should be ranks in between Ikkyu and Shodan. Otherwise, as I said before, it just seems unbalanced.
When I was in school, it was:
  • 94-11 A
  • 86-93 B
  • 80-86 C
  • 70-79 D
  • 69 and below F
But really, grades aren't the same as ranks. If you do really well on your first test (easiest material) in a style, you aren't going to get a much higher rank - you just get a better "grade" on that test.

And again, it depends why a difficulty jump exists. In the NGAA with ikkyu, it's because it falls at a point where they're making sure only serious folks (and those who are good enough) can get to the student teaching, because that takes a lot of the supervising instructor's time and energy. And the significant jump in difficulty for shodan is because they want to make sure only those who are very committed (and even better enough) get that instructor certification.

I made my requirements more gradual. That resulted in the first rank taking more than a year for most folks to reach, as opposed to about 3 months (often less) in the NGAA. I also moved the instructor certification away from the core curriculum (and ranking), so it could be done independent of rank, which removed some of the jump at ikkyu and shodan. Is mine better? I liked it better, but I think most folks would prefer the climbing curve (each belt taking about 50% longer than the one before it) in the NGAA.
 
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Gerry Seymour

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But it's still a very Western concept. In my kids dojo that is if they wore belts there would be different colours. In High School around 55 all above shodan so they all have "black belts". All adults have practiced since childhood and all are black belt ranked. So who cares? Its kids thing which actually is why Kano Jigoro, head of education invented it in the first place.
Correction: it was a kids thing. It was adopted by some systems (mostly outside of Japan, as I understand it, but not entirely unknown in Japan) for use with adults, too.
 

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But generally MA in Japan is guided by Monbusho 文部省 (Education authority) Kano Jigoro was it's director. Basically the old system is still maintained. Anything else is a variation invented by an association. Anything below Rokudan is only prefectural level and you need nanadan to do any national demonstration. The bar is high but has come down as some associations have given up on 9/10 dan level.
 
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PhotonGuy

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When I was in school, it was:
  • 94-11 A
  • 86-93 B
  • 80-86 C
  • 70-79 D
  • 69 and below F
That is still about six or seven points in between grades. In that system, you don't have to get an 100 to get an A and where 86-99 is a B.
But really, grades aren't the same as ranks. If you do really well on your first test (easiest material) in a style, you aren't going to get a much higher rank - you just get a better "grade" on that test.
Ranks in the martial arts are different than letter grades in school but the concept is the same, it doesn't make much sense for a rank or grade to be proportionally much harder than the rank or grade before it. Naturally it will be harder with it being a higher rank or grade but it seems unbalanced to me if it's much harder.
And again, it depends why a difficulty jump exists. In the NGAA with ikkyu, it's because it falls at a point where they're making sure only serious folks (and those who are good enough) can get to the student teaching, because that takes a lot of the supervising instructor's time and energy. And the significant jump in difficulty for shodan is because they want to make sure only those who are very committed (and even better enough) get that instructor certification.
I made my requirements more gradual. That resulted in the first rank taking more than a year for most folks to reach, as opposed to about 3 months (often less) in the NGAA. I also moved the instructor certification away from the core curriculum (and ranking), so it could be done independent of rank, which removed some of the jump at ikkyu and shodan. Is mine better? I liked it better, but I think most folks would prefer the climbing curve (each belt taking about 50% longer than the one before it) in the NGAA.
Yes in many dojos you are expected to teach when you make first degree black belt but if that's the case you should be first introduced to teaching in the brown belt ranks. In the first dojo I started training at seriously I was expected to do some teaching at brown belt. That is one of the ways in which you're being groomed for the black belt which if you ask me is what the brown belt ranks, particularly ikkyu brown belt, is about, grooming students for the black belt.

Anyway the whole point of this thread is that for there to be a big jump from ikkyu to shodan, a much bigger jump than there is from nikkyu to ikkyu in terms of time and difficulty, for it to take much longer and be much harder to get from ikkyu to shodan than it is to get from nikkyu to ikkyu, is very much an American thing but not a Japanese thing, to the best of my knowledge.
 

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When I was in school, it was:
  • 94-11 A
  • 86-93 B
  • 80-86 C
  • 70-79 D
  • 69 and below F
Man, I'm a pretty old dude, and I've never seen or heard of that grading scale before. Is it possible that was unique to your school? That seems pretty rigorous.

In all my years and experience with schools in several different states in the North and South, I've only ever experienced the scale mentioned by Photonguy. The more exotic ones would add plusses and minuses, and in Seattle public schools, they used E instead of F.

As someone who was perpetually at night school and summer school anyway, I'm really glad that 60 and above was passing, or I might never have graduated. :D
 

Gerry Seymour

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Man, I'm a pretty old dude, and I've never seen or heard of that grading scale before. Is it possible that was unique to your school? That seems pretty rigorous.

In all my years and experience with schools in several different states in the North and South, I've only ever experienced the scale mentioned by Photonguy. The more exotic ones would add plusses and minuses, and in Seattle public schools, they used E instead of F.

As someone who was perpetually at night school and summer school anyway, I'm really glad that 60 and above was passing, or I might never have graduated. :D
That was the grading scale for all the schools I attended through all of grade school (including 5 years in a private Catholic school). Maybe it was just the grading scale in SC at the time.
 

geezer

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That was the grading scale for all the schools I attended through all of grade school (including 5 years in a private Catholic school). Maybe it was just the grading scale in SC at the time.
Interesting. And just like earning belts in the martial arts, the numeric systems and cut-off points for grading don't mean anything by themselves. Getting a 90% in one school might be tougher than a 94% in a different school with a different teacher. Or not.
 
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PhotonGuy

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The more exotic ones would add plusses and minuses, and in Seattle public schools, they used E instead of F.
Most schools do use plusses and minuses with their grades, from my observations. And I've heard of E occasionally being used in place of F.
 
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PhotonGuy

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Interesting. And just like earning belts in the martial arts, the numeric systems and cut-off points for grading don't mean anything by themselves. Getting a 90% in one school might be tougher than a 94% in a different school with a different teacher. Or not.
True, I did know of a fellow from Boy Scouts who was a straight A student and top of the class when he was in public school, then he switched to this really hard private school where he was getting mostly Bs and Cs and was in the middle of the class.
 

Gerry Seymour

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Most schools do use plusses and minuses with their grades, from my observations. And I've heard of E occasionally being used in place of F.
I still remember the exact numeric score that equates to each letter, plus, and minus. Because that's very useful information to have ready to hand in the professional world. :rolleyes:
 

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I still remember the exact numeric score that equates to each letter, plus, and minus. Because that's very useful information to have ready to hand in the professional world. :rolleyes:
To be fair, I get it. Usefulness has little to do with what my brain locks in and what it lets go. If you haven’t noticed, I remember all kinds of minutiae that is of marginal importance anywhere, much less in a professional environment.
 

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m just waiting for feedback from isshinryuronin on my position that if the black belt test is going to be hard that the ikkyu brown belt test (the rank right before black belt) should be almost as hard. If he agrees or disagrees and why. But it looks like he's left the building.
I'm back. Got a new computer and took a while to get back on the site.

I do fully agree with you. In fact, I failed my brown belt test and had to retest. (This was in 1969 when the top instructors knew each other and still had direct links with their style's master. Reputation was important). IMO, brown belts should look sharp and have advanced ability in all the basics. By this, I mean technically correct form and very good speed, power and focus, and be able to hold their own in fighting.

These solid skills are needed to provide the platform for further development as a black belt.

The main difference between brown and black belt skills (Again, IMO), is poise, or smoothness in execution of the techniques. This will enhance all the brown belt skills I mentioned. This is in addition to learning the more advanced kata and self-defense skills. I think of it as the brown belt sculpture is fully carved and 1st degree black shows the sanding process has begun. Later degrees get to the polishing.

The black belt test is often longer as a greater amount of new material has been added than on previous tests and the student is put under more physical and mental pressure to test conditioning and poise. It's not just the difference between an A or a B grade in school, but more like having to pass the SAT to get into the university, or the GRE (graduate record exam) to get into grad school. It's an accomplishment that should be savored. The more you work for something, the more it's appreciated.
 
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