What a black belt really is

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jobo

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A black belt.. really any kind of certification... CAN be diluted to the point that it is functionally a participation ribbon. But a black belt, like all certifications, is really an endorsement. The value of the endorsement depends largely on the credibility of the institution giving the endorsement. So, a black belt in BJJ means more to me than a black belt in ninjitsu. Because BJJ rankings are more credible across the board. AND, a black belt awarded by some BJJ black belts means more than other BJJ black belts. Because it's an endorsement. You say you have a black belt from Rickson Gracie? Damn. Versus a black belt from Marcelo Monteiro? Hmmm... maybe... Versus, you have a black belt from Generic Ninja? Yikes.

It's the same with any certification. Having a degree represents the effort of getting that degree. A degree in general means something. A degree from MIT is more valuable than a degree from the University of Idaho, which in turn probably carries more value than a degree from the University of Phoenix online.

The key is to be familiar with who is awarding the grade.
i dont know about the value of degrees, it may be more prestigious, but if that converts into more value in the job market is debatable

my nephew got his degree and masters at Manchester university,( really looked down on by university snobs)his phd at London uni( a bit better)and mow researches/lectures at the most prestigious of English universities, a university that turned him down for study there, a job he got mid stiff competition from people who had studded there

so even Cambridge dont rate Cambridge degrees that highly
 

Steve

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i dont know about the value of degrees, it may be more prestigious, but if that converts into more value in the job market is debatable
For sure it does.
my nephew got his degree and masters at Manchester university,( really looked down on by university snobs)his phd at London uni( a bit better)and mow researches/lectures at the most prestigious of English universities, a university that turned him down for study there, a job he got mid stiff competition from people who had studded there

so even Cambridge dont rate Cambridge degrees that highly
There are always folks who succeed on their own merits outside of endorsements. Don't confuse one with the other. The former is intrinsic to the person. The latter is external. Think of it like this, the degree from Cambridge gets you a look. In other words, the degree doesn't get you the job. It gets you the interview.

But let's not get too far afield here. The points isn't jobs and hiring practices. It's simply the idea that any certification is simply an endorsement. It's some person or institution saying that you meet the requirements for this certificate. Nothing more or less. The certificate is a shorthand for the requirements. You're a master carpenter. That means X, Y, and Z. If you are a master carpenter, that means you are those things. If you aren't a master carpenter, can you be familiar with X, Y, and/or Z? Sure, but you'll have to demonstrate that expertise some other way. You don't have the institutional endorsement certifying your proficiency in those areas.

Fortunately, martial arts don't mandate any certifications, so unlike regulated trades and such, there is always room for an individual to just make **** up. :)

Edit: Just to add, the endorsement may be very concrete, but the value of the certificate can be subjective based on the biases and familiarity of the person evaluating the certificate. For example, a person who is unfamiliar with martial arts may see no difference between a black belt in BJJ or in Ninjutsu.
 

jobo

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For sure it does.There are always folks who succeed on their own merits outside of endorsements. Don't confuse one with the other. The former is intrinsic to the person. The latter is external. Think of it like this, the degree from Cambridge gets you a look. In other words, the degree doesn't get you the job. It gets you the interview.

But let's not get too far afield here. The points isn't jobs and hiring practices. It's simply the idea that any certification is simply an endorsement. It's some person or institution saying that you meet the requirements for this certificate. Nothing more or less. The certificate is a shorthand for the requirements. You're a master carpenter. That means X, Y, and Z. If you are a master carpenter, that means you are those things. If you aren't a master carpenter, can you be familiar with X, Y, and/or Z? Sure, but you'll have to demonstrate that expertise some other way. You don't have the institutional endorsement certifying your proficiency in those areas.

Fortunately, martial arts don't mandate any certifications, so unlike regulated trades and such, there is always room for an individual to just make **** up. :)
depends who is short listing, if im short listing then people with a degree from oxford or Cambridge get there application accidentally knocked in to the bin, there is such a thing as inverted snobbery as well
 

Steve

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depends who is short listing, if im short listing then people with a degree from oxford or Cambridge get there application accidentally knocked in to the bin, there is such a thing as inverted snobbery as well
Agreed. I think you might have posted this while I was editing my post to add that while the endorsement may be very concrete, the value of the certificate can be subjective based on the biases and familiarity of the person evaluating the certificate. By "biases" I mean exactly the kind of snobbery you're talking about. :)
 

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There is a general common sense quotient here. If I am looking for someone with technical skills an arts degree is mostly meaningless. However, an argument can be made that anyone who has put in the time to earn a degree has attributable skills.
When interviewing, a degree is only one part of the equation. Where the degree was earned is much less important in the technical fields since the majority of the skills needed are learned post education anyway.
I suppose it could carry more weight in legal/government or medical fields.
 

jobo

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There is a general common sense quotient here. If I am looking for someone with technical skills an arts degree is mostly meaningless. However, an argument can be made that anyone who has put in the time to earn a degree has attributable skills.
When interviewing, a degree is only one part of the equation. Where the degree was earned is much less important in the technical fields since the majority of the skills needed are learned post education anyway.
I suppose it could carry more weight in legal/government or medical fields.
thats moving the point of the discussion, degrees in different field are not at all equal, even on the basis of people ability to learn and apply themselves.

and theres a considerable number of topics for which gainful employment in an area associated with your degree is very very unlikely unless you choose to teach the subject

art history for instance will have you doing tours of art galleries to disinterested kids or working in a call centre, there is just not the demand that there is for scientist or engineers and science or engineering degrees are a lot harder to come by, than the airy fairy humanities degrees where is largely impossible to be wrong
 
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PhotonGuy

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A black belt.. really any kind of certification... CAN be diluted to the point that it is functionally a participation ribbon. But a black belt, like all certifications, is really an endorsement. The value of the endorsement depends largely on the credibility of the institution giving the endorsement. So, a black belt in BJJ means more to me than a black belt in ninjitsu. Because BJJ rankings are more credible across the board. AND, a black belt awarded by some BJJ black belts means more than other BJJ black belts. Because it's an endorsement. You say you have a black belt from Rickson Gracie? Damn. Versus a black belt from Marcelo Monteiro? Hmmm... maybe... Versus, you have a black belt from Generic Ninja? Yikes.

It's the same with any certification. Having a degree represents the effort of getting that degree. A degree in general means something. A degree from MIT is more valuable than a degree from the University of Idaho, which in turn probably carries more value than a degree from the University of Phoenix online.

The key is to be familiar with who is awarding the grade.
Exactly. Anybody with about $10 can get a black belt by buying one, martial arts stores sell them over the counter or through the mail, so getting a black belt doesn't automatically mean all that much, it all depends on what you had to do to get it. That's why I would only want to be awarded the rank that's represented by a black belt at a school where you had to earn it, where you have to meet high standards to get it. That was why getting a black belt at the Judo Karate Center was so important to me.

Buying a black belt over the internet as Dirty Dog has suggested or having one mailed to me as Ballen0351 has suggested would obviously not be the same thing, besides the Judo Karate Center does not give, sell, or mail you belts that you haven't earned, except for the white belt that comes with the uniform you buy when you first join.

Getting a black belt at the Jiu Jitsu school I go to now, or at the Goju Ryu school I go to now would also mean quite a bit, otherwise I wouldn't be going to those schools. While someday getting black belts at those schools would be nice right now Im mostly interested in just learning the material and developing skill, which I would obviously have to do if I want to earn belts.
 
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PhotonGuy

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I'd say that if the rank is your goal, then there is a problem.
My goal is to develop my physical abilities and intellectual understanding of my art as far as I can. If that means I get a new belt with some snazzy embroidery on it, then fine. But I don't test to get a belt or a certificate, or whatever.
Developing physical abilities and intellectual understanding is great but how do you know you're developing them the way you're supposed to according to your instructor? That's where rank comes in.

For instance, you could have a really good front kick but lets say your round kick needs work. Your instructor might be holding you back in rank advancement because he wants you to develop your round kick more. You could keep working on your front kick to make it even better but if you don't also improve your round kick you will never advance in rank, no matter how good you get your front kick.

So if you advance in rank that's because you're developing your abilities the way your instructor wants you to which is important because the instructor knows better than you, that's what makes him the instructor and you the student. So that's why I see rank advancement as important, because that way I know Im developing my abilities the way my instructor says I should.
 

dvcochran

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Developing physical abilities and intellectual understanding is great but how do you know you're developing them the way you're supposed to according to your instructor? That's where rank comes in.

For instance, you could have a really good front kick but lets say your round kick needs work. Your instructor might be holding you back in rank advancement because he wants you to develop your round kick more. You could keep working on your front kick to make it even better but if you don't also improve your round kick you will never advance in rank, no matter how good you get your front kick.

So if you advance in rank that's because you're developing your abilities the way your instructor wants you to which is important because the instructor knows better than you, that's what makes him the instructor and you the student. So that's why I see rank advancement as important, because that way I know Im developing my abilities the way my instructor says I should.
This speaks to the fact that both promotion and/or advancement in all MA's is rules bound. Skills and bits of knowledge are presented and the student has to become proficient in them to move forward. How 'moving forward' is perceived and acknowledged is where things are different person to person, style to style, school to school. And there are a plethora factors that affect this dynamic.
 

Flying Crane

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Developing physical abilities and intellectual understanding is great but how do you know you're developing them the way you're supposed to according to your instructor? That's where rank comes in.

For instance, you could have a really good front kick but lets say your round kick needs work. Your instructor might be holding you back in rank advancement because he wants you to develop your round kick more. You could keep working on your front kick to make it even better but if you don't also improve your round kick you will never advance in rank, no matter how good you get your front kick.

So if you advance in rank that's because you're developing your abilities the way your instructor wants you to which is important because the instructor knows better than you, that's what makes him the instructor and you the student. So that's why I see rank advancement as important, because that way I know Im developing my abilities the way my instructor says I should.
Ive found that the various discussions that happen in the context of training get the message across. You dont need a belt to tell you that. In fact, the belt cant talk to you.
 
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PhotonGuy

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This speaks to the fact that both promotion and/or advancement in all MA's is rules bound. Skills and bits of knowledge are presented and the student has to become proficient in them to move forward. How 'moving forward' is perceived and acknowledged is where things are different person to person, style to style, school to school. And there are a plethora factors that affect this dynamic.
True, every school has its own rules and its own standards for rank advancement, but if its a school that I've put my time and commitment into then its that particular school's rules and standards that I'm concerned with meeting if I want to earn rank.
 
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PhotonGuy

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Ive found that the various discussions that happen in the context of training get the message across. You dont need a belt to tell you that. In fact, the belt cant talk to you.
Of course the belt can't talk and of course its not the belt that tells you that you've met certain standards, its the instructor who tells you that by awarding you the belt.
 
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Gerry Seymour

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Of course the belt can't talk and of course its not the belt that tells you that you've met certain standards, its the instructor who tells you that by awarding you the belt.
While I personally like belt ranking systems better than other alternatives, there are certainly other ways to communicate that to students. I pretty much have to do that all the time, because it takes so long to get to each rank with me (I've never had anyone get their first earned rank in less than a year). If the belt/promotion was the only thing that told them they're on track, my students would be wandering aimlessly for a year or two at a time.

To be clear, I'm not saying you're wrong: the promotion does help communicate that. I'm just asserting that systems without belts and ranks probably do as good a job as systems that have them, when it comes to communicating progress.
 
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PhotonGuy

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While I personally like belt ranking systems better than other alternatives, there are certainly other ways to communicate that to students. I pretty much have to do that all the time, because it takes so long to get to each rank with me (I've never had anyone get their first earned rank in less than a year). If the belt/promotion was the only thing that told them they're on track, my students would be wandering aimlessly for a year or two at a time.

To be clear, I'm not saying you're wrong: the promotion does help communicate that. I'm just asserting that systems without belts and ranks probably do as good a job as systems that have them, when it comes to communicating progress.
So your system sounds much like Gracie Jiu Jitsu in terms of how long it takes to go up a belt. In my school where I do Gracie Jiu Jitsu it takes about two years to get a higher belt although you do get stripes on your belt in between. Some Jiu Jitsu schools use stripes some don't.

And yes an instructor can obviously let a student know they're doing a good job in other ways besides awarding them belts, simple compliments and praises serve that purpose, but its different when an instructor says a student is good enough to go up a belt, that's making a special statement.
 

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So your system sounds much like Gracie Jiu Jitsu in terms of how long it takes to go up a belt. In my school where I do Gracie Jiu Jitsu it takes about two years to get a higher belt although you do get stripes on your belt in between. Some Jiu Jitsu schools use stripes some don't.

And yes an instructor can obviously let a student know they're doing a good job in other ways besides awarding them belts, simple compliments and praises serve that purpose, but its different when an instructor says a student is good enough to go up a belt, that's making a special statement.
Im not sure theres such a big difference in most cases. For me - and I suspect for a lot of the folks I trained with - the promotion was just a gateway to the next bit of the curriculum.

As to those tips in Gracie JJ, those serve much as a rank promotion, just with fewer belt changes.
 
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PhotonGuy

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Im not sure theres such a big difference in most cases. For me - and I suspect for a lot of the folks I trained with - the promotion was just a gateway to the next bit of the curriculum.

As to those tips in Gracie JJ, those serve much as a rank promotion, just with fewer belt changes.
Depending on the style a promotion often is a gateway to the next bit of the curriculum. For instance in a Karate style when you go up a belt you might learn new techniques and/or a new kata.

In Gracie JJ, at least where I do it, when you get promoted you aren't exposed to any material that you wouldn't be exposed to had you not promoted, classes are the same regardless of the student's ranks and lower ranking students are shown the same stuff as higher ranking students. A higher rank means you've developed more skill, it also means you've been exposed to more material than lower ranking students not because the lower ranking student is excluded from the material but because you've been there longer and thus have learned more.

And as I've said, not all schools use stripes, and not all belts have stripes depending on the school. At my school the brown belt does not have stripes.
 

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Can you define "traditional" in this sense?

Traditional: i.e old sifu to young student. if it's not homegrown or organic in lineage (NOT mainstream), if privately taught and exclusive, why include a belt unless you want to branch out and don't really care about quality.
 
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