Should a black belt be given out after only one year of training?

Harald

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The reason I'm asking is that a motivational speaker I know of around my area supposedly got awarded his Shotokan black belt after only one year of training. Obviously, he did it to prove his points about "anything being achievable" and so on. Some would say that getting a black belt after only one year in the dojo is a great accomplishment, while others would argue that nobody can get a black belt that fast, no matter how well they perform stuff.

Traditionally, a getting a black belt would take about five years. I know that in some arts, like in the Bujinkan's Ninjutsu, a black belt is commonly awarded after only two and a half to three years training, while in others (like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) you're crazy good for getting one after less than five years, as most people will train for twice as long to get their black belt status.

When I was a kid in the eighties, I thought getting a black belt meant that you were a real master of the art. Now I see black belt in some arts that move like beginners.

What do you think about all this? Is a black belt that is given after only one year of training legit? Honestly, I guess asking because I'm sort of disappointed and disillusioned by all this. Isn't it a shame when something that could have been a real badge of achievement comes as cheap is it apparently does nowadays?
 

dancingalone

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I would have to know a lot more before I said no or yes. Actual # of training hours, talent and dedication of the student, material taught, etc.

I accept that different systems and styles have different standards and requirements.

I like the 5 year benchmark myself for my system of Okinawan goju-ryu. I do add a bit more from outside goju, so the requirements are lengthy relatively for a shodan. I don't think it's possible for anyone to learn to a basic proficiency everything I require in less than 5 years, but I'll never say never.


My 1st dan testing requirements
----------------------------------------------------
Demonstrate all basic stances and stance shifts
Demonstrate all hand strikes and kicks in random combinations
Demonstrate breaking power with hands (minimum 3 boards), kicks (minimum 3 boards) and in combination (minimum 4 boards in less than 5 seconds with at least 3 techniques)

Sanchin testing:
sanchin performed 10 times in a row (usually takes 45 min to an hour) with INTENSE shime testing

kata:
gekkisai dai ichi
gekkisai dai ni
saifa
gekiha
seiunchin
shisochin
sanseiru

optional kata (any two from this list):
pinan yondan
pinan godan
naihanchi shodan
passai
shorin-ryu seisan

formal bunkai sets (many TKD students won't be familiar with them, but they are essentially two man katas which teach the surface level applications to the solo kata; this is an example video <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcCj1_x77Ms">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcCj1_x77Ms</a> :
kihon bunkai gekkisai dai ichi
kihon bunkai gekkisai dai ni
kihon bunkai saifa
kihon bunkai gekiha
kihon bunkai seiunchin
kihon bunkai shisochin
kihon bunkai sanseiru

meditation & breath control:
demonstrate proper breathing during the test and during a formal observation period

impromtu bunkai demonstration:
at least two from each of the following kata
sanchin
gekkisai dai ichi or dai ni
saifa
seiunchin
shisochin
sanseiru

aiki/jujutsu/judo techniques done from both sides in response to straight or round blow:
ikkyo
nikyo
sankyo
yonkyo
kotegaeshi
shihonage
iriminage
kaitenage
o goshi
o guruma
osoto gari
osoto guruma
tomoe nage
deashi harai
ippon seionage

self-defense (using movements from kata):
wrist grab
cross wrist grab
lapel grab
front choke
rear choke
bear hug
rear bear hug
prone position with someone on top
knife attacks (4)
club attacks (4)
chain attack

kobudo:
kihon-kata-no-bo
kihon-kata-no-bo
tokomine-no-kun (sho)
kumi bo nidan
bo/bo kumite #1
kihon-kata-no-tonfa
tokomine-no-kun (dai)
bo/bo kumite #2
hamahiga-no-tonfa (sho)
bo/tonfa kumite #1

jiyu kumite:
3 rounds of 1 vs. 1
2 rounds of 2 vs. 1
1 round of 3 vs. 1
1 round vs. any brown belt or dan holder present who wishes to test the candidate (funny how all the brown belts are DYING to give their friend a few licks)
1 round vs. me (by now the black belt candidate should be very tired; I will be testing primarily for spirit, endurance, and courage at this point)
 

scottie

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The reason I'm asking is that a motivational speaker I know of around my area supposedly got awarded his Shotokan black belt after only one year of training. Obviously, he did it to prove his points about "anything being achievable" and so on. Some would say that getting a black belt after only one year in the dojo is a great accomplishment, while others would argue that nobody can get a black belt that fast, no matter how well they perform stuff.

Traditionally, a getting a black belt would take about five years. I know that in some arts, like in the Bujinkan's Ninjutsu, a black belt is commonly awarded after only two and a half to three years training, while in others (like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) you're crazy good for getting one after less than five years, as most people will train for twice as long to get their black belt status.

When I was a kid in the eighties, I thought getting a black belt meant that you were a real master of the art. Now I see black belt in some arts that move like beginners.

What do you think about all this? Is a black belt that is given after only one year of training legit? Honestly, I guess asking because I'm sort of disappointed and disillusioned by all this. Isn't it a shame when something that could have been a real badge of achievement comes as cheap is it apparently does nowadays?

Althought I mostly agree with you. I think what should really be judged is not the years trained but hours and intensity of those hours.

If one would only go to 1-3, one or one and a half hour classes a week then I would say no way, However if all this motovational Speaker has to do is train and train and train everyday for 2 or 3 Hours a day with a private instructor. It could happen. but that would be the only way that I could think of. Master status does not even mean anything anymore because of this kind of stuff.
 

MA-Caver

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Although I mostly agree with you. I think what should really be judged is not the years trained but hours and intensity of those hours.

If one would only go to 1-3, one or one and a half hour classes a week then I would say no way, However if all this motivational Speaker has to do is train and train and train everyday for 2 or 3 Hours a day with a private instructor. It could happen. but that would be the only way that I could think of. Master status does not even mean anything anymore because of this kind of stuff.
Agreed. While on this board we talked about how BB's are handed out after 6 months (or even weeks) of training by McDojos and bla bla bla... Even one year would require more than 2-4 hours of training a day and a private (legitimate) instructor and the cost for THAT would be astronomical at the least. Hopefully some instructors will give a ballpark to how much a single-student private instruction would cost. I can see Tony Robbins being able to pay for it or Don Trump or even Billy Gates ... but there's the time factor involved as well. Being able to take THAT much time during the day each day for 365 days... man... you'd have to be seriously motivated and find ways not to burn out.
And also consider this... memory and muscle retention of all the moves and techniques. Your body needs time to adapt and adjust and build up muscle memory for each technique. If the end goal was to learn everything in one year just to say "I did it!" then yeah it's do-able. But being a serious MA-ist? Is he going to continue to train? Or just have that plaque on the wall for show?
 

Maiden_Ante

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I'm very skeptical to this. Unless he'd have a lot of MA experience before, perhaps in a similar system, a developed chain of thought and a good ability to grasp the concept I'd say no. And no it is, because no matter how good the guy is, it just sounds irresponsible of his sensei to allow him to graduate to dan so soon.
 

jks9199

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There's no real answer. What's the black belt mean? How much training went into it? The Yoshinkan aikido Shinsuisei program awards a black belt after a year of training. But that's training basically 6 to 8 hours a day, all but living in the dojo. I know people who, in the early 60s, achieved sufficient skill in months to defeat black belts -- but that was with very intense, very dedicated, very hard, and very direct training.

Has the popular perception or meaning of a black belt been cheapened or lessened? Sure. Kids barely past toddlers, people who can't stand up, and the like have certainly changed the perception of what it means to be a black belt. That's a simple fact. And it's irreversible. BUT -- you can control the meaning of YOUR black belt and of the black belts you train. I've got students that aren't ready for black belt who (sadly) have better skill than more than few people who have been awarded black belts. My teacher didn't let me test till I met his standard -- even though I had many people who wondered what the wait was about. Maintain a high and demanding standard -- and people will come to know that YOUR students and YOUR black belts are something special.
 

MJS

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The reason I'm asking is that a motivational speaker I know of around my area supposedly got awarded his Shotokan black belt after only one year of training. Obviously, he did it to prove his points about "anything being achievable" and so on. Some would say that getting a black belt after only one year in the dojo is a great accomplishment, while others would argue that nobody can get a black belt that fast, no matter how well they perform stuff.

Traditionally, a getting a black belt would take about five years. I know that in some arts, like in the Bujinkan's Ninjutsu, a black belt is commonly awarded after only two and a half to three years training, while in others (like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) you're crazy good for getting one after less than five years, as most people will train for twice as long to get their black belt status.

When I was a kid in the eighties, I thought getting a black belt meant that you were a real master of the art. Now I see black belt in some arts that move like beginners.

What do you think about all this? Is a black belt that is given after only one year of training legit? Honestly, I guess asking because I'm sort of disappointed and disillusioned by all this. Isn't it a shame when something that could have been a real badge of achievement comes as cheap is it apparently does nowadays?

IMHO, I feel that a black belt should not be given until you've put in 5-6yrs of solid training. Now, I'll make an exception for someone who already has prior knowledge in the arts. For example: If someone had already spent a good amount of time, say 4 or 5yrs in another art, and reached brown or black, then went to another style, then yes, I could possibly see that person getting their rank a bit faster. I'll use myself as another example. I have spent the majority of my Kenpo training, in the Parker system. I transitioned to the Tracy system. New school, new teacher, the katas and techs were very similar to what I did before, although there were slight differences, but nothing that really gave me a hard time. I tested for a black belt in my new school. The test was a toned down version of a regular BB test, as my teacher knew of my past training. I would take 1 private lesson with him a week, and attend 1-2 classes a week, and reached the BB level in about 1 1/2-2 yrs.

Every art will be different, and those that give it away in a short time and give it to young kids, are usually the ones that're laughed at. What I find interesting, is that you could have someone train in an art, and complain that it is taking too long, yet you look at something like BJJ and it takes much longer than your average school. Go figure.

IMO, I think that people get way to wraped up with the belts. The belt isn't going to help you when your *** is on the line. Its going to be the skills that you have learned, your knowledge and understanding of the material.
 

Carol

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The speaker earned his black belt to prove a point...OK, but...seriously, how many of us train to prove points?

Anyone?

Bueller? Bueller?
 

tellner

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It depends.
Is his mastery of the curriculum as good as the other shodans?
Can he beat all the ikkyus and hold his own with the shodans?
Can he teach as well as any other first degree black belt?

If so, he deserves the belt. If not, it's a cheap stunt, and the guy who gave him the belt needs to be slapped around.
 

hussaf

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As most of you know...first dan is often referred to as 'shodan' or beginner rank...sometimes first rank. The intent is that the student is now a serious student of the art...ready to tackle the more complicated aspects of the art. Basically one should be learning kihon up to this point. Of course there will be oyo waza to different degrees...but the concept is of a serious beginner. Think shoshin shogai.

While it should take five years or so for the average student to get to black belt...its all relative. Someone who becomes uchideshi at a dojo (a rarity outside aikido, some judo, or sumo schools) will likely have twice as much training in a given year than a regular 2-3 times a week person will in three years. With that, there is an aikido (aikibudo) course in Japan called the Senshusei program in which students earn shodan in about 12 months. They train pretty much like a full time job with little to no breaks...almost 8 hours a day. This is the same program that taught the famous Tokyo Riot Police.

I think it took me about 6 years to earn shodan in GoJu Ryu...hard to count as I'm leaving out periods of sabbatical. I started when I was around 8 or 9 (we had no children's classes back then) and got my shodan when 21. With breaks during some of junior high...most of high school...and immediately after high school for military duties.

As others mentioned...where I come from many people train in many arts. One guy is a sandan in Jidokwan and is training in another Tae Kwon Do style and has skipped ranked and/or tested early. I think it took him about 3 years to get his blackbelt in the new tae kwon style.
 

seasoned

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I don't believe there are crash courses where menta,l as well as physical attributes, are required. I will agree that there are exceptions where someone has achieved a rank in another discipline, and only needs to acquire the needed material for testing. This is something that needs to be agreed upon from the start, with some time table in place. At face value I get a bad feeling when I hear about someone getting a black in what I would consider a very short time period.
 

punisher73

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Just to point out that almost everyone assumes that only McDojos hand out BB in a year. Look up the JKA program at Tokyo University. The college course is designed to be taught and award a black belt at the end of the year.

Blackbelts are WORTHLESS as anything outside of your particular school/organization/style. Some styles like BJJ hold it until you have mastered the material (takes on average 10 years, of course as more and more schools open the time frame is changing). To many "traditional" schools, blackbelt only means that you are ready to begin and was awarded in 1-2 years.

Most schools fall somewhere in between, it signifies an advanced person, but not yet a master of the material.
 

Brian R. VanCise

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I do not believe in time limits or restrictions. I do however believe in performance and skill level. So as jks9199 said above you determine what the meaning of it is and can maintian your standards very, very high if you choose. In IRT standards will be kept high that is as long as I have any say in the matter!
icon6.gif
 

LuckyKBoxer

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My personal thoughts are pretty clear on this... Any ranking that has actual curriculum to be learned and tested for should be open for testing when the students demonstrates the appropriate mastery of the material that the instructor establishes for that belt rank.

Personally I have my own requirements for belt ranks... up to first Black there is absolutely no minimum time in grade required, only a mastery of the material to a certain level.

after first Black there are also time spent training guidelines, and consecutive time spent training guidelines, that go along with the mastery of the material.

I do not care if someone else has weaker, or stronger requirements then I do. I understand what I want to pass on to my students, I care enough about my students to understand their individual situations enough to know what they need, and I do not slack on my requirements.

It does not matter what the martial arts studio down the street requires to earn a black belt, it does not effect me or the students I desire, so let them do whatever they want.
 

scottie

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Just to point out that almost everyone assumes that only McDojos hand out BB in a year. Look up the JKA program at Tokyo University. The college course is designed to be taught and award a black belt at the end of the year.

Blackbelts are WORTHLESS as anything outside of your particular school/organization/style. Some styles like BJJ hold it until you have mastered the material (takes on average 10 years, of course as more and more schools open the time frame is changing). To many "traditional" schools, blackbelt only means that you are ready to begin and was awarded in 1-2 years.

Most schools fall somewhere in between, it signifies an advanced person, but not yet a master of the material.


Many of the first Generation Isshinryu Students earned Sho-Dan rank in the Marines on Okanawa in 8 months to a year . In 1 year and 8 months to two years mid dan ranks. Their clams were 4-8 hours a day training.
 

girlbug2

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If he was already a BB or brown in a related style, then I can see him getting to black in a year. Otherwise it screams Mcdojo to me, but that's just based on my perception that earning a black belt rank is more than being able to go down a list of skills and forms. There's something to be said for spending a few years in an art, to have a grasp of its principles. That doesn't come quickly to most people.
 

JohnASE

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I'd say it depends. Some styles have less info to learn-fewer techniques and fewer or no katas. I can see someone working hard and earning a black belt in a year in a style like this.

From what I know about Shotokan, earning a black belt in a year would be extremely difficult, but I suppose it's possible. If you could earn one training for 5 years, attending 3 hours of classes per week, I can see how someone might earn one by training for 1 year at 15 hours per week. Maybe he took private lessons in addition to regular classes to make his time more efficient. Who knows?

In the OP's scenario, I'd say it's doubtful, but not impossible.
 

MJS

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As most of you know...first dan is often referred to as 'shodan' or beginner rank...sometimes first rank. The intent is that the student is now a serious student of the art...ready to tackle the more complicated aspects of the art. Basically one should be learning kihon up to this point. Of course there will be oyo waza to different degrees...but the concept is of a serious beginner. Think shoshin shogai.

While it should take five years or so for the average student to get to black belt...its all relative. Someone who becomes uchideshi at a dojo (a rarity outside aikido, some judo, or sumo schools) will likely have twice as much training in a given year than a regular 2-3 times a week person will in three years. With that, there is an aikido (aikibudo) course in Japan called the Senshusei program in which students earn shodan in about 12 months. They train pretty much like a full time job with little to no breaks...almost 8 hours a day. This is the same program that taught the famous Tokyo Riot Police.

I think it took me about 6 years to earn shodan in GoJu Ryu...hard to count as I'm leaving out periods of sabbatical. I started when I was around 8 or 9 (we had no children's classes back then) and got my shodan when 21. With breaks during some of junior high...most of high school...and immediately after high school for military duties.

As others mentioned...where I come from many people train in many arts. One guy is a sandan in Jidokwan and is training in another Tae Kwon Do style and has skipped ranked and/or tested early. I think it took him about 3 years to get his blackbelt in the new tae kwon style.

It still makes me laugh though, that some people who do these 'programs', think that there's some magical thing thats going to happen to them when they reach BB in 1 yr. Its a shame, really, because the hard work seems to have been replaced by the fast track method. Whether you get the belt in a year or 6 yrs, that belt isn't going to do anything for you, when you *** is on the line. Its the hard work and dedication that you put into it, that really matters. This is right up there, with people who like to pad their resume, by listing 8 different arts, all with 7th and 8th degree black belts. Sorry, just not enough time in the day for that.
 

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