Recently, there has been a couple rants posted in my circles about belts and certificates. Here is my rambling on the topic.
Capabilities and knowledge are by far the most important representation of what a person is like. The belt can be purchased. In fact, In fact I have wholesale accounts with three different vendors who make embroidered belts of all types. The certificate can be forged. I have seen, personally, several master level Dan certificates that I know were never awarded. With these facts, the only thing truly reliable to determine skill is getting on the floor and training.
The point here is NOT about being able to do specific technique as it is about knowing and applying the material within the curriculum that you were taught. My Taekwondo is different from many because it presents certain aspects of tactics and applications. I would not expect someone from another school to “know” the same points but they need to be able to explain what is within their curriculum well enough for me to understand it.
If trophies are what you desire, then your capabilities must match the challenges from that application of technique. This fits the argument about how long it should take to earn a black belt. There are many variations and all are completely dependent upon what the curriculum expectations are. Many have commented that a black belt doesn’t mean the same thing anymore. I believe this is largely true due to the commercialization of our industry but the real factor is comparing what your curriculum requires for the Chodan/Shodan rank compared to another curriculum.
My own Taekwondo journey was five years to Chodan but that is deceiving. True, there was an extra year due to being away at college and failing my first test attempt, but the concept of four years to Chodan was standard and based on the idea that you were part of the community education programs that met twice per week and had school district calendars as the guidelines (everyone had a month off at Christmas and three months off over the summer). Move that forward to today, with a fulltime commercial studio and the time to Chodan may only be 2..5 years. More classes available means faster promotions? That doesn’t fit for my school as I have only two classes per week and, since 2000, doubled the amount of curriculum to learn. This makes it a struggle to earn Chodan in a minimum of four years. You can’t compare black belts without understanding the requirements.
Now, there are the rank chasers who think that because they have a certificate, they “know” things. The worst version is where “I’ll join your organization if you award me the equal rank”. Their true “rank” is shown when they train. I saw this video clip tagged with the comment to “watch out for the ‘gym rats’ as they quietly train and you don’t really know how good they are” and I found it a wonderful illustration of belts and certificates not meaning much on the floor.
Train hard, train often, earn respect, be a leader…are the primary duties of any REAL martial artist. The rank means nothing to those who don’t acknowledge the person who signed it or the organization it came from. Those who have earned respect through their training and willingness to learn will be recognized for their achievements even without certificates or belts.
Everyone is always welcome to join a class and workout with us anytime!
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Author: Master Robert Frankovich
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