the mentality of training for no belt

Live True

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I know there are several folks here who own thier own schools or train in schools that range from large groups to one on one teacher-student dynamics. I'v recently moved from training with a small group that had a belt system to training one on one with a new sensei who does not train to a belt level, and the experience has brought up an interesting observation.

I'm curious if anyone else has had the experience, either long term or for a short period, to train without a belt system. Did it affect your focus on training?

I know there are many discussions about the worth of a belt system as well as the misuses of such a system, and that is not my intent here.

If you are training in a dojo that has regular belt tests, scheduled in advance, and your kata and kumite are geared to a particular belt level, how does that affect your training and your viewpoint on your training...your focus?

If you are training in a dojo or less formal group, where you are training to skill sets, and they are not directly tied to a particular belt level (no regularly sheduled test, only training), does this change how you put the pieces/parts together and where you focus your attention or HOW you focus your attention?

Technically, this should have no affect, as you are training in a style, but realistically, how does it affect your focus and how you learn?

 
OP
Live True

Live True

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oops, guess I should mention my thoughts on the matter.:uhyeah:

While this is still very new to me, I find that I like this way of training (no belt). It feels like the training is more responsive to the moment and details...or rather, I find that I'm focusing more on the individual details and skills rather than Kata A and Kata B, then....and so forth.

I respect the belt system and those that do it, as it provides a way to track progress, but I'm wondering if that is always a good thing? Do we sometimes focus so much on making progress we simply don't enjoy and gain depth out of what we are doing. In our rush towards our goal, do we miss something?

On the other hand, my original plan was to seek a black belt after several years of training....so, I guess I'm still on the fence and figuring it out. I'm just having so much fun right now, that the black belt doesn't seem (quite) so important to me.

At the end of each training session, I'm drenched and T-A-R-D, but grinning from ear to ear...and I feel like so many little things are coming together in my understanding.

I liken it, at the moment, to SOLs..do you teach how to think about a topic and reach a solution or do you teach to the test?

That's not a fair comparison for all schools, and not for what I have trained to date...but my mental approach does appear to be different. I was just trying to see if this was just me or was a common phenom.
 

sgtmac_46

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I know there are several folks here who own thier own schools or train in schools that range from large groups to one on one teacher-student dynamics. I'v recently moved from training with a small group that had a belt system to training one on one with a new sensei who does not train to a belt level, and the experience has brought up an interesting observation.

I'm curious if anyone else has had the experience, either long term or for a short period, to train without a belt system. Did it affect your focus on training?

I know there are many discussions about the worth of a belt system as well as the misuses of such a system, and that is not my intent here.

If you are training in a dojo that has regular belt tests, scheduled in advance, and your kata and kumite are geared to a particular belt level, how does that affect your training and your viewpoint on your training...your focus?

If you are training in a dojo or less formal group, where you are training to skill sets, and they are not directly tied to a particular belt level (no regularly sheduled test, only training), does this change how you put the pieces/parts together and where you focus your attention or HOW you focus your attention?

Technically, this should have no affect, as you are training in a style, but realistically, how does it affect your focus and how you learn?

I think that systems that train without a belt are more holistic in their approach toward learning.
 

sgtmac_46

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oops, guess I should mention my thoughts on the matter.:uhyeah:

While this is still very new to me, I find that I like this way of training (no belt). It feels like the training is more responsive to the moment and details...or rather, I find that I'm focusing more on the individual details and skills rather than Kata A and Kata B, then....and so forth.

I respect the belt system and those that do it, as it provides a way to track progress, but I'm wondering if that is always a good thing? Do we sometimes focus so much on making progress we simply don't enjoy and gain depth out of what we are doing. In our rush towards our goal, do we miss something?

On the other hand, my original plan was to seek a black belt after several years of training....so, I guess I'm still on the fence and figuring it out. I'm just having so much fun right now, that the black belt doesn't seem (quite) so important to me.

At the end of each training session, I'm drenched and T-A-R-D, but grinning from ear to ear...and I feel like so many little things are coming together in my understanding.

I liken it, at the moment, to SOLs..do you teach how to think about a topic and reach a solution or do you teach to the test?

That's not a fair comparison for all schools, and not for what I have trained to date...but my mental approach does appear to be different. I was just trying to see if this was just me or was a common phenom.

You first have to ask yourself what 'progress' is being measured by the belt? Progress toward the next belt? At what point does that fixation on belts become a distraction more than an aid?

The first question is why did we get in to a particular martial art? If it was to wear a colored belt, why don't we just buy one?
 

Satt

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This is one thing I loved about BBT. There is white, green, and black...that's it! You do get ranks while wearing a green belt, but you don't concentrate on getting that next colored belt, but on training.
 

Grenadier

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In an ideal world? We wouldn't need a belt system. People who want to train, would train for the love of the art, and not for any ranking system, and those who showed the best teaching abilities (not necessarily the best technique) would become the teachers.

However, in the real world, things are far from ideal. The belt system is a good thing, in that it accomplishes the following:

1) By using belt requirements, the students have a clear idea of what is required to progress, and can see their progress along the way.

2) By giving your students a tangible reward for each ranking they obtain, they may be less prone to being frustrated, since they know where they stand.

The first is helpful in Western society, since as Westerners, we prefer to have the plans spelled out clearly.

The second is very helpful, since there are a lot of people who need encouragement along the way. While your ideal student shouldn't need encouragement, very few are going to be ideal. By keeping them encouraged, you help keep them in the dojo, and help keep them training.

Who knows? In good time, some of those individuals may become your ideal students. They might not have had that chance, had they quit along the way, due to frustration, not perceiving progress, etc.
 

MJS

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I agree with Gren...really, we don't need belts, per se, as, IMO, they're nothing more than a visual guide of progression. As for the OPs question....usually every school that I've been a part of, has had a belt system. Aside from special times, belts are never worn in the Arnis class. There is set material for each level, but again, belts are not worn.

Some of my best workouts were in the garage and backyard of a good friend. He had rank and background in a few different arts, but when we got together, working on rank material wasn't the focus. We would pick something and train it. It could be ground work, empty hand SD, weapon work, anything. My attention wasn't on rank or belts, it was on working out, plain and simple.

IMHO, the focus should be on learning and making your stuff better, not whats next on the belt chart, how long its going to be before the next rank test or keeping up with the person standing next to you in class. Put in some blood, sweat and tears, and be the best you can be without worrying about the petty stuff. :)
 

Bobby135

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I have been fortunate enough to train with both systems. When I was younger I enjoyed the belt system because it allowed me to focus on what was next. As I grew up and my understanding of martial arts matured, rank no longer became a goal for me. I enjoy training and understanding what I am doing. Currently when I train I am not seeking rank, but rather that understanding of what I am doing. I would agree that ranks work great with kids and teenagers, but I think as we all get older we look for more in the martial arts beyond rank. That is my 2 cents.
 

still learning

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Hello, The belt system was brought into martial arts...as a measurement of progress (JUDO- Sensi Kano)

Americans love to see measurements...hence belt giving is popular today...

Runners, Golfers,boxers, MMA's....Do not wear belts....cause ( in the ring) or on the field.....is where, the TRUE MEASUREMENT OF SKILLS.....bowlers...carry there balls!

1st grade, up to high school....grades do not mean how smart you are...

What you know is up in the head! .....look around "real good"...you will see many people wearing a Black Belt....take them on a street and see them in a real fight? .....you will be laughing all the way to the hospital...or morgue..

Color of belts...is just a just a measurement of time and grade...NOT neccessary skills....

How big is your belt? ...size 58?? UM?

Aloha, flavoriate colors...White-surrender....Red....your blood...
 

Omar B

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People find it hard to do things simply for self improvement. Test the theory yourself, buy yourself an advanced math book and just sit and read it in a coffee shop, you'll get questions "Are you studying that in college?" "Then why are you reading it?" It's as if people need to be given a cookie and a pat not he back for every bit of self improvment they do, as if the work itself is not it's own reward.
 

Andrew Green

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Technically, this should have no affect, as you are training in a style, but realistically, how does it affect your focus and how you learn?

Belts in some people are harmless, they are there to train and will do so no matter what clolour belt you put around them.

For some people they are very important though, and those are often the people that it does the most damage for. It becomes a game of "What do I need to do to get the next belt?" instead of "What do I need to do to get better?" You then get the internal poisoning of who got what rank when and why did he get his before me, and this person shouldn't be that rank because I think I am better then them"
 

JDenver

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I personally find belts to be reductive. It simplifies the experience to a physical skill set.

Belt 'grades' make sense for, say, gymnasts, but not for artists.
 

tallgeese

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I've got no problems either way.

Currently, I run a pretty informal group with no belts. It works well, I pick something and work it pretty hard for 4-8 weeks then shift focus a bit.

I keep drilling the core of the art thru the whole process and shift the secondary skill sets around that. It keeps everyone interested and still makes forward progress for everyone.

That being said, once I get someone up to say brown belt level (usually a 4 year mark or so), we have a testing that's a bit more formal in nature in that others from the organization come in to judge progress. The same for black belt (1-3 years after that).

I do think that once someone's reached a certain proficiency in an art it should be recognized. We've elected to do it thru belts, why not?

Learning should always come first. I find that the guys attracted to the belt less class structure are more interested in fight training and sd than anything else.

Now, I have no problem with people acheiving rank and am currently working my way through a formal BJJ rank structure despite grappling in other venues for a while. I can't say that the ranking isn't unimportant to me. Go figure.

In the end, it's a tool and a mark from an instructor saying "well done". Treat it as such, nothing more and get back to training.
 

BLACK LION

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I have learned to adapt and improvise in the actual moment far more outside of the confines of a set system or regimen... Why? Probably becuase the path was no preset.
 

Blindside

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As an underbelt in kenpo I liked the belt system, and would be the first to say I was a belt chaser, and did rush toward my goal. The concrete requirements gave me specific goals to work toward and to set target dates for. I had come to that school with experience in a related art and was allowed to progress until my already learned skill was matched by the required curriculum. I wasn't allowed to progress further until both elements were in place for further progress.

I learned kali as a beltless (and rankless) art, until my instructor told me that I was instructor level. I think that belts are a good accessory for a large school and they will help retention of students because it does recognize their progress. Kenpo has curriculum that is designed to teach in pretty discrete chunks as you hit major themes at different levels of the curriculum. Walking away from the belts for that art really wouldn't accomplish very much, you would still be progressing through those themes in the same rough progression.

Kali is designed around concepts and drills that train those concepts into skills, and the curricullum would be rather difficult to chop up into discrete little bits (though admittedly, both major US PTK organizations have done so.) One school I know of teaches in quarterly themes, say "unarmed" or "double weapons" etc. The progression curriculum isn't fixed, if you start on an unarmed quarter, you start unarmed, if you start with a single weapon quarter, you start doing single weapon. That is sort of an extreme example, I prefer a little more individual structure, but my personality type likes that structure.

I prefer the "no belt" training, there is no question that skill is the goal. You do wind up missing some of the ego attaboys that a uniform, patches, and a belt give you though.
 

Omar B

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Heck, I would not mind at all if some more traditional arts took the no-belts approach with at least some of the training. The belt hierarchy goes to people's heads sometimes and people become pricks rather than helping each other in the dojo.
 

celtic_crippler

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With the exception of when I was a kid, I don't train for rank.

Rank does nothing for me because I'm not "politically active" with any specific organization. If I wanted a belt of any color I could simply order it from a catalog.

In my world, training is for the obtainment of knowledge. I train to be better than I was yesterday. My skills are always with me and a "belt" is only of use if I plan on strangling an attacker with it. :)
 

sgtmac_46

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People find it hard to do things simply for self improvement. Test the theory yourself, buy yourself an advanced math book and just sit and read it in a coffee shop, you'll get questions "Are you studying that in college?" "Then why are you reading it?" It's as if people need to be given a cookie and a pat not he back for every bit of self improvment they do, as if the work itself is not it's own reward.

That is true for a great many people......not everyone, but for the average joe it's certainly true.......which may suggest that belts are more important for the casual martial artist than for an serious martial artist. If someone needed a smiley face or a star in elementary school, they probably need a belt system in martial arts.......different personalities, motives and drives.
 

Haze

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I train in a system that uses belts/rank but last test for me was shodan back in 1991. Since then I have seen no reason to test as I only need to continue to learn and refine what I know.

I train more on my own now and see the dojo as a place to go for correction. So with out seeking any higher level of rank I see training for the sake of training and improving.

A new belt or another tip will not improve what I do. I believe the arts may be better off if we had less belts and stuck to "beginner, intermediate and advanced levels". You just started training, your getting the hang of it, you understand the the system and from there, keep working it to improve on it.
 

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