Symbolism of the belt systems?

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Laevolus

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Another question from me....aren't I a pain? :D

Just wondering what the original symbolism of the belt system in the various styles are?

i know not all styles use a belt system and wondered as well, how do they show difference in ranks? Or do they even bother?

Is there any relevance to the colours as well? Why white up to black? why not the other way round? Far be it for me to questions centuries of tradition but I would have thought that White represents more of a pure colour than black?

Or am I just rambling as usual? :p
 

Blindside

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Well aside from that allegorical story about a white belt turning black due to blood and grime, I don't think there is a huge symbolism.

Jigoro Kano is the one responsible for this whole belt fixation, and he mostly did it to seperate levels of competition. Some say that he borrowed the "black belt" from Japanese swimmers, but I think that is mostly speculation. Regardless he used a two step system, white or black. Does anybody know if he originally used the brown "tips" to denote rank within white?

The color belts is largely a recent phenomenon, and I have read several philosophical concepts attached to the different belts such as elementalism (yellow/gold- light, blue-water, brown- earth, red-fire, I don't remember what they used for air). But I don't consider that "original symbolism" by any means.

Lamont
 
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Laevolus

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I did have a look through earlier threads for anyhting about it, must have missed that title :D
 
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sweeper

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I practice JKD and we don't use belts, if you are there more than a couple days it becomes obvious who knows their stuff and who doesn't.
 

Matt Stone

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I remember seeing a diagram once upon a time of varying taiji symbols with different colors representing a person's grade within JKD... They were allegedly used by B.L. himself.

Don't do JKD, so I am not sure when they ceased to be used...
 

arnisador

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The JKD school I study at uses "internal" belts but apparently they aren't a system-wide thing.
 

Matt Stone

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IMO (I am going to start using this as a caveat to things I say to avoid unnecessary conflicts from arising - I tend to speak with authority whether I am right or not... :D ), I think belts are a good thing for a number of reasons...

First, they were originally used to train proper breathing. By tying the belt snugly over the dan tien or tanden, proper breath mechanics could be instantly observed and felt.

Second, they provide an easy method of class organization for training purposes for the instructor... Rather than polling the class on what they most recently worked on, the instructor can instead plan a general training schedule, and simply toss those of similar grades in with others of similar grades to collectively participate in training that is appropriate for their skill/development level.

Third, they provide concrete, tangible rewards for effort. Until a certain point, I think everyone, tacitly or implicitly, needs some display of progress to spur them on. Once it is no longer the carrot on the stick, they can begin their "real" training in earnest.

Just my opinion, nothing more...

Gambarimasu.
 
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Kirk

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Fits in with the "tangible rewards for effort" category, but
personal goals. Many are goal oriented, and make each belt
color a new goal. Instead of something as "be the best martial
artist I can be" which I would think would be a consistent goal,
during the entire lifetime of the student.
 
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Chiduce

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When i first started my kung fu training; my sifu did not give rank. You were a beginner and advanced to disciple. After disciple you became a sifu. No certificates of ranking, no belts, no nothing. My sifu, taught like his sifu whom taught like his sifu! This was in 1977; so it was not until 1985 that i was introduced to the belt ranking system of the martial arts. By then i was training in matsumura seito shorin-ryu karate-do.
Sincerely, In Humility; Chiduce!
 
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fissure

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TKD uses the same kind of color - element comparisons that Blindside quoted.I think for adults all these belt colors are fairly irrelivent.For the kids I think it gives them a shorter more attainable goal, rather than trying to get across the whole knowledge is the ultimate goal thing.
By the way what is that little picture of under your name Blindside?
 
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Master of Blades

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Originally, cant remmeber which Style, there was only 4 belts,

White - Stood for starting the cycle

Blue - Stood for the bruises

Red - Stood for blood

Black - Stood for death

And apparently there was a whole going back to white belt to complete the circle. Not sure which that was created for. Also can someone explain to me the whole Sashes idea. Why not just use belts?
 
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sparky

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In TKD the story was told that - The WHITE belt was a clear field in which to plant the YELLOW seed or (germ) -allowing the GREEN plant to growing up to the BLUE sky beyond to the RED sun and futher to the BLACK Universe.
 
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vincefuess

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To tell this old story!

The gi was tied with the obi (or belt)- both were white when new. While the gi got torn, tattered, beat-up and had to be replaced with wear, the obi never was. As the student trained more over longer periods of time, the belt grew darker with stain. A guy with a "black" belt had alot more experience than a guy with a white belt. I understand this is how it started.
 

Matt Stone

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Originally posted by vincefuess

To tell this old story!

The gi was tied with the obi (or belt)- both were white when new. While the gi got torn, tattered, beat-up and had to be replaced with wear, the obi never was. As the student trained more over longer periods of time, the belt grew darker with stain. A guy with a "black" belt had alot more experience than a guy with a white belt. I understand this is how it started.

This thread is a new version of information covered elsewhere... You aren't the first one to tell the story. But, it can always be told again to illustrate that, while seemingly fitting, it is nothing more than an allegorical tale...

Since the whole belt thing is of Japanese origin, it needs to be pointed out that, in general, the Japanese do not wear old, worn, beat up, used, dirty, torn clothing - unless it is fashionable to do so. :D The idea that you would wear a filthy, blood-stained, stinking, grimy, oily, and generally nasty obi shows nothing beyond a lack of cultural understanding.

Good story, and it carries a good meaning (because we would hope that a black belt would indicate skill and experience), it is still incorrect.

Gambarimasu.

:asian:
 

Cthulhu

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Originally posted by Yiliquan1



This thread is a new version of information covered elsewhere... You aren't the first one to tell the story. But, it can always be told again to illustrate that, while seemingly fitting, it is nothing more than an allegorical tale...

Since the whole belt thing is of Japanese origin, it needs to be pointed out that, in general, the Japanese do not wear old, worn, beat up, used, dirty, torn clothing - unless it is fashionable to do so. :D The idea that you would wear a filthy, blood-stained, stinking, grimy, oily, and generally nasty obi shows nothing beyond a lack of cultural understanding.

Good story, and it carries a good meaning (because we would hope that a black belt would indicate skill and experience), it is still incorrect.

Gambarimasu.

:asian:

Agreed. From what I understand, if you try wearing an unwashed belt or gi to class, particularly if it stinks, you'll be politely asked to wash the offending garments before coming back.

Which just makes sense. You wouldn't wear the same sock over and over again without washing, would you?

The symbolism of the coloring system came after the belt system was adopted. I've seen numerous references stating that Kano adopted the practice after seeing Japanese swimmers wear colored bands/ribbons to signify experience or skill level. However, I've yet to see anything regarding Japanese swimmers of the time actually doing this. Might be a fun research project :)

Cthulhu
 
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Hansson

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I've seen this discussion elsewhere and as far as I understand, the practice of using belts in different colors for showing grade and experience isn't something unique for budo. As Cthulhu stated it may have been used by swimmers and I've also read about references to gardening (!).
 
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