How Black is Your Belt?

No dude, sorry, I’m not talking about the color of the belt holding up your Levis, but the belt revered by martial artists around the world as the mark of excellence, in their respective styles and chosen disciplines.

Now before I go any further, let me reveal to you a little insider secret that may be a bit of a shocker. Every Martial Arts school, system and organization chooses their own arbitrary requirements for Black Belt. There are no universal standards, or government regulations, there never was.  How the criterion is established, who is eligible to test and what the test entails is usually done at the discretion of the individual school and it’s Master Instructor.

Despite the lack uniformity and standardization among the arts, there is one question that seems to be universal, “How much effort and time – mostly time – is required to earn a Black Belt?”

Is 1 year, too short? I’ve heard of some schools that were promoting students to Black Belt in less than a year, these schools are commonly referred to as “McDojangs” or “Diploma Mills.” Run by “Paper Tigers” I even know personally of one instructor that went from White Belt to 4th Dan Black Belt in a little under 7 years. Either way you look at it, it’s too short. Personally I think it cheapens and water downs the art and is frankly, totally disrespectful. It becomes more about the numbers.

Is 10 years, too long? On the flip side, some organizations make their students wait and wait, and wait a little more…This is very common with some arts like Brazilian Jujitsu. Some may argue that it’s just another ploy to collect more tuition fees. Unfortunately this may be true with some unsavory organizations, but realistically in this day and age of instant gratification, waiting 10 years could seem like 10 lifetimes for some, but it would sure create an environment that breeds excellence. This unfortunately, may also cause high attrition, thus very few students achieving Black Belt.

Is 3 to 5 years, just right? The general consensus amongst the Martial Arts community is that closer to 5 years seems to be the accepted norm. I somewhat agree, as long as the perspective student puts in the time and effort to attain proficient basic technique along with a sound knowledge, and a maturity in their art.

Showing up to the dojang sporadically, and putting in the least amount of effort or desire for 5 years, should be not be a free ticket to their Black Belt test.

In the western world attainment of the Black Belt is considered to be the mastery of one’s art, in reality, it’s the mastery of not the art, but the mastery of the basics. The road to mastery truly begins at Black Belt.

We’ve been brainwashed, be it through, Hollywood hype or by the Martial Arts industry itself, to believe that the belt is the goal. Here’s a little tidbit of history, the Martial Arts belt system was developed out of necessity, to help make the arts more socially acceptable, by giving them structure and uniformity. Martial Arts may be 1000’s of years old but the belt system itself has only been around, for less than 100.

For the serious student, their Martial Arts training becomes a way of life, both inside and outside the dojang, be it through its high standards of protocol and its intrinsic values or the valuable life lessons learned. The training transcends the physical belt rank. Becoming a Black Belt starts from the inside, out, regardless of the posted time to rank.

Becoming a Black Belt happens in its own time not the clocks.

Regardless of the time required or the belt level achieved, the path to excellence is not in the attainment of rank, the path and the journey are the goal, and excellence is the reward.

If all you want is a Black Belt in the shortest time possible please do us all a huge favor and head down to your local Big Box Store, I heard that they sell them really cheap, and not just in black.

Once you understand, you are on the path.

By: Master Tim Bell

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One Response

  1. […] pm – Wrote a new blog post – HERE 44.637534 […]

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