What if We Eliminated The Belt System in Martial Arts? by Dr. Gary S. Goodman

Steve

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if there's no competitive element in which knowing relatively where a student is in their training, there's no real need for a belt system at all. Eliminating belts in a style such as BJJ would make organizing a competition very difficult.
 

Yondanchris

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I believe that the belt ranking system is useful to show position within a particular school / style / system / art.

It helps a student and the instructor focus on what aspects of training the student should be involved in, whether it is a particular kata, weapon or whatever.

Comparing ranks between arts can be as meaningless as comparing positions in various corporations.

If we eliminated the belt system, something similar would soon take its place. I think I remember that Bruce Lee didn't have belts, but had different color patches designating rank levels.

What I think should be eliminated is monthly tests and fees for promotion.

An old joke in my old old school was the monthly tests corresponded to the instructor's monthly Volvo payments.

My school has 5 ranks before black belt, promotions at any time the student is ready, no fee for promotions (except shodan), free belts and rank certificates and one yearly mandatory testing (with a fee).

I like it that way.

ML

All so very true,

I personally only test students when they are beyond "ready", and I only charge $10 to cover the cost of the belt and certificate, with Black Belt Tests being $40 because of the embroidered belt. Rank is earned not purchased!

I love the line about the volvo payment, I remember saying something similar about my old sensei's motorcycle (Ninja).

Grace and Peace,

Chris
 

clfsean

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I tried it once. Just once. I hated myself & the way I felt I had to teach to accommodate it.

Coming from a TCMA background, there are no ranks. There are "assignments" i.e. younger or older training brother/sister & a teacher. That's it. That's what I'm back to & how I run my shop.

It's real easy to keep track of...

If you look lost (to varying degrees), you're new.
If you're helping the lost or not as lost ones, you're an older training brother/sister.
If you're teaching an older training brother/sister, you're the teacher or possibly a visiting classmate of the teacher or a very senior training brother/sister if it's a special occasion or the like...

Visual rankings are useful in competition (Kano) but IMHO & basic examples from the past, there were no "ranks". In JMA, there were levels of completion (menkyo licensing as examples) when formal schools were established, otherwise (at least in TCMA) it was like above I'm willing to venture a bet.
 

Yoshin9

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We train in our street clothes, so no belts needed :ultracool

There should never be a testing fee and no other fee except maybe for the cost of the belt itself with no mark up. Grading should only be done when you know a student is ready; no "please try next month, and the month after that x5 until you pass".

Belts are only useful within the same school. When we have a guest instructor I take off my black belt and put on my white belt.
 

zDom

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Does nobody else find it interesting that the guy who is advocating eliminating the belt system goes by DR. Gary S. Goodman?


What if we eliminated the bachelors/masters/doctor of philosophy system in education?


;)


But for what its worth, we wear judo uniforms because street clothes don't stand up to throwing. Belts keep 'em closed. And rank promotions are things we endure because it is time to move up in the curriculum, not so we can strut a new color around our waist.
 

Indie12

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Does nobody else find it interesting that the guy who is advocating eliminating the belt system goes by DR. Gary S. Goodman?

I'll have to look into this gentlemen, never heard of him!

What if we eliminated the bachelors/masters/doctor of philosophy system in education?

Bachelors/Masters/Doctor degrees are harder to "duplicate" then belts. Belts one can go out and actually buy online... Easier... (Not to say you can't do that with degrees, but it's harder and easier to catch!)

;)


But for what its worth, we wear judo uniforms because street clothes don't stand up to throwing. Belts keep 'em closed. And rank promotions are things we endure because it is time to move up in the curriculum, not so we can strut a new color around our waist.

Who will be wearing Judo Uniforms on the street (on a daily basis) and especially when attacked on the street?

Are we talking leather belts, Karate belts, or belts from JC Penny?
icon10.gif


Why not look into another ranking system, something not as easy to duplicate as the belts are now. (One can buy a Black Belt and Certificate, online and pass it off easy!)

"not so we can strut a new color around our waist."
Hey, that's the only reason I got mine!! Impressed the girls, for a while! :rofl:

22 Year Veteran Martial Artist! And Advocate for Eliminating or 'Changing' the belt system! :asian:
 

zDom

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Indie: Please be more careful with use of the quote feature.

It appears that great deal of the above "quote" attributed to me is actually your response to my comments.
 

Thesemindz

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There's nothing inherently wrong with the belt system. Sure, it can be a dangerous and unhealthy way to conduct training, leading to all the negative aspects listed in the original article, and more.

But it can also be a healthy way to generally delineate training levels. My beginners train together using one curriculum. Once they've learned it, not mastered it, they move to the intermediate class where they train with other intermediate students using a more sophisticated curriculum, while continuing to practice the first set of techniques and patterns they learned. Then they move to the advanced class, then the black belt class. The ranks aren't about knowing who's better, they are just about knowing generally where the students are on their journey, which as I understand it is where the whole idea came from in the first place. Without any universal standard, rank can't really mean any more than that anyway.

We place a lot of emphasis on the concept of "healthy hierarchy." It's a chain, reaching forward and backward in time. All of us are only here because some else took time out of their lives to teach us karate. We do the same for our juniors. The belts are just a simple visual aid to help us know where to stand in class. The students line up in rank order facing the mirrors. Generally speaking, you know who's in charge because he's the guy standing at the front of the room facing everyone else.

Sure. Belts can be unhealthy. And maybe we would go out of business without them. But not because we are in the "belt business." Because new customers are in the belt buying business. If we didn't have them, we'd probably lose some potential students. But that wouldn't change what we teach in the actual classes.

I would like to spend more time at each rank. But I also understand that, especially at the beginning, people expect to get awards and ribbons on a regular basis. Over time, that becomes less important. I haven't tested for rank in years. I may, or may not, again some day. I'm not overly concerned with whether or not one orange belt is better than another. I'm concerned with getting them hooked on karate so that twenty years from now they're all amazing martial artists. If I have to hand out some colored ribbon in their first few months of training to get them addicted, I can live with that. You can't teach students who don't come to class.

I like the belt system. But I don't need it. I have taught without it. I've taught with it. Right now, I teach at someone else's school, and he uses belts. So belts it is. I don't really care. I'm just there to do karate.

I think if you focus on healthy interactions between juniors and seniors, students and instructors, and reinforce the responsibilities of those positions and that those responsibilities go both ways, it doesn't matter how you structure the classes. Once the fists start flying, everybody knows where they stand on the training floor.

Sure, rank hath its privileges, but it has responsibilities too. My brown belt students don't see their rank as a license to push around underbelts. They see it as a responsibility which requires them to train harder and do better so that they can be good role models and good training partners and good instructors.

Ultimately, it all comes down from above. You teach your students how to think and act. If you abuse those beneath you, your students will follow your example. On the other hand, if you demonstrate mutual respect and healthy authority, then that will be the order of the day.

That's the responsibility of those of us who do carry rank. To show those who follow us what it means and how to bear it with honor.


-Rob
 

dougmukashi

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As a teacher, I see the value of the rank system. In years past, in China, Japan etc., students often lived in the school. Even the legend Jackie Chan did. There was less need to have incremental levels. When a child reached adulthood, their training was usually finished at that school. Belts give a student something to focus on, something to be proud of, a goal to attain. I agree that there are many McDojos handing out belts for the $$. I don't feel that getting rid of the system of belts will rid us of McDojos or bad teachers. Also, how could you actually do it ayway? It might work in some organizations but definetly not all schools.
 

Gentle Fist

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Regarding the Belt System;

The system has lost all credibility with all the commercialism out there... Heck even the mighty BJJ has been weakened over the past 10 years. You can test online for your official Gracie Blue Belt now... When I started BJJ it was all white belts, maybe a handful of blue belts, and hardly any purple of browns... It took us at least two years before even being considered for Blue and another four for purple! Now there are hundreds of guys doning black belts with the red sleeve who know less than I do and I am only a blue belt in a legit club(Judo Black Belt as well).

Not sure how to hit the reset button; but it would be nice to see some changes or even the creation of a true governing body for the U.S.A.
 

Xue Sheng

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As a teacher, I see the value of the rank system. In years past, in China, Japan etc., students often lived in the school. Even the legend Jackie Chan did. There was less need to have incremental levels. When a child reached adulthood, their training was usually finished at that school. Belts give a student something to focus on, something to be proud of, a goal to attain. I agree that there are many McDojos handing out belts for the $$. I don't feel that getting rid of the system of belts will rid us of McDojos or bad teachers. Also, how could you actually do it ayway? It might work in some organizations but definetly not all schools.

Still no belt system in China and Jackie Chan lived where he trained which was a Peking Opera School
 

Tony Dismukes

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Regarding the Belt System;

The system has lost all credibility with all the commercialism out there... Heck even the mighty BJJ has been weakened over the past 10 years. You can test online for your official Gracie Blue Belt now... When I started BJJ it was all white belts, maybe a handful of blue belts, and hardly any purple of browns... It took us at least two years before even being considered for Blue and another four for purple! Now there are hundreds of guys doning black belts with the red sleeve who know less than I do and I am only a blue belt in a legit club(Judo Black Belt as well).

Not sure how to hit the reset button; but it would be nice to see some changes or even the creation of a true governing body for the U.S.A.

I have yet to encounter a BJJ black belt who has less than a high level of competence. Where are you finding these guys who have less skill than a legit blue belt?
 

Steve

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Regarding the Belt System;

The system has lost all credibility with all the commercialism out there... Heck even the mighty BJJ has been weakened over the past 10 years. You can test online for your official Gracie Blue Belt now... When I started BJJ it was all white belts, maybe a handful of blue belts, and hardly any purple of browns... It took us at least two years before even being considered for Blue and another four for purple! Now there are hundreds of guys doning black belts with the red sleeve who know less than I do and I am only a blue belt in a legit club(Judo Black Belt as well).

Not sure how to hit the reset button; but it would be nice to see some changes or even the creation of a true governing body for the U.S.A.

When and where did you train? Which black belts are incompetent?


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Gentle Fist

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When and where did you train? Which black belts are incompetent?


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Wolfpack BJJ, several years ago... Not naming names but have seen a few cases locally of people that rank jumped by joining different associations for a few months before moving on after being promoted... They would be like a 2 or 3 stripe blue then skip to purple followed by brown in under 2 years... These same guys would never win (not even place) local tournaments and couldn't hang with their "new" belt ranks during randori. My quote of "hundreds" may be a little high :) But it is definitely a rising trend not only in Florida but the U.S. as well...

Where do you train? I am a judo player that dabbles in BJJ these days...
 
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Steve

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I'm a purple belt under james foster, who is a black belt under givanildo santana.

It took me 5 years to get to purple and I'm not looking at brown any time soon.

While there are always shifty character s, I've seen no evidence that it's even remotely widespread yet.

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Gentle Fist

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I'm a purple belt under james foster, who is a black belt under givanildo santana.

It took me 5 years to get to purple and I'm not looking at brown any time soon.

While there are always shifty character s, I've seen no evidence that it's even remotely widespread yet.

Sent from my DROIDX using Tapatalk 2

Good, hopefully it is just a south Florida thing! Good luck in your journey!
 

Zenjael

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I had a teacher who once made the point- he took off his belt, threw it on the floor, stepped into the center of the area which was essentially the ring at this school, and told the class the following, 'I dare any one of you not to call me sir. I'll prove my rank as your teacher. We don't respect belts, nor necessarily the person. We respect what they can do with the art, and you are all my students because of what I have to offer.'

No one accepted his challenge. This was after a higher belt had accidentally forgotten to refer to him properly. He was asked a yes/no question. His mistake was forgetting the ', sir' or whatever denotation of respect is expected. At that school it was sir.

When my students address me, and I only have 3 right now (I'm not accepting any others until I hit 30, I've decided. I have unfortunately turned people away, though I've always told them they can come back in 8 years when I am publicly teaching). I prefer them to use my name, Alex outside of practice, and my full name of Alexander in practice. That is the only formality I ask, and its more out of respect for my own name, and what it means, than anything really concerning martial arts.

Not sensei. Not sir. Just Alex. One called me sensei for awhile, but stopped when no one else did. There's no real reason to. I've never once taught them to bow to others, only how to bow when they started greeting me with it. Cause lets face it, I hope I wasn't the only one slapped with pushups or standing in horse-stance an inch from the wall with arms outspread when I improperly did so.

They respect me, and are my friends. Whether anyone here like it or not, they are learning from no other, so make no mistake, I am their teacher.

I don't think martial arts actually needs to be 'martial' or, in reality, pretend to be martial for them to succeed. You take off the belt, you are still who you are as a martial artist. And it isn't the belt which gives one their worth, as I've found many to believe, it is the person wearing it.

Proof? I've met so many people who wore a black colored belt, when they should have been wearing one of the many multicolored out-there.

If there are belts to be word, let it be just white. Let people earn their black belt by turning the white black. Or, if they have a belt dyed black, let them turn it white.

I don't respect belts, or numbers. I respect those with faded uniforms ;)
 

Dirty Dog

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I had a teacher who once made the point- he took off his belt, threw it on the floor, stepped into the center of the area which was essentially the ring at this school, and told the class the following, 'I dare any one of you not to call me sir. I'll prove my rank as your teacher. We don't respect belts, nor necessarily the person. We respect what they can do with the art, and you are all my students because of what I have to offer.'

No one accepted his challenge. This was after a higher belt had accidentally forgotten to refer to him properly. He was asked a yes/no question. His mistake was forgetting the ', sir' or whatever denotation of respect is expected. At that school it was sir.

I can't remember what movie I saw this in? Can you remind me?

When my students address me, and I only have 3 right now (I'm not accepting any others until I hit 30, I've decided. I have unfortunately turned people away, though I've always told them they can come back in 8 years when I am publicly teaching). I prefer them to use my name, Alex outside of practice, and my full name of Alexander in practice. That is the only formality I ask, and its more out of respect for my own name, and what it means, than anything really concerning martial arts.

Not sensei. Not sir. Just Alex. One called me sensei for awhile, but stopped when no one else did. There's no real reason to. I've never once taught them to bow to others, only how to bow when they started greeting me with it. Cause lets face it, I hope I wasn't the only one slapped with pushups or standing in horse-stance an inch from the wall with arms outspread when I improperly did so.

So is Alexander ancient greek for "boy with delusions of adequacy"?

They respect me, and are my friends. Whether anyone here like it or not, they are learning from no other, so make no mistake, I am their teacher.

You know, I have yet to meet anyone I would consider remotely comeptent as an instructor who displayed the sort of hubris you do above.
Personally, I learn from everybody. Those above me, those below me, those beside me... even those who are not martial artists can teach me something.

I don't think martial arts actually needs to be 'martial' or, in reality, pretend to be martial for them to succeed. You take off the belt, you are still who you are as a martial artist. And it isn't the belt which gives one their worth, as I've found many to believe, it is the person wearing it.

Proof? I've met so many people who wore a black colored belt, when they should have been wearing one of the many multicolored out-there.

Most of us have seen your videos. Does this mean you'll be wearing a lighter shade from now on?

If there are belts to be word, let it be just white. Let people earn their black belt by turning the white black. Or, if they have a belt dyed black, let them turn it white.

I don't respect belts, or numbers. I respect those with faded uniforms ;)

Bummer. Guess you'll never respect me then. I replace my dobak before they become faded. It's a matter of personal pride to look sharp, and a faded or wrinkled or yellow or dirty uniform doesn't meet that standard.

I don't imagine I'll lose any sleep over it though. :)
 

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