Are you a black belt martial artist?

One of the questions I get asked most by people about teaching martial arts is “What belt are you?” or words to that effect.

This seems to be the universal question every martial artist gets asked. It doesn’t matter if I’m in Hull or Spain, it’s much like getting into a taxi and asking if they have been on long or if they are busy.

My response is what throws the asker of the default question. I get the moving of their head from side to side, the look of confusion and  disbelief when I say “I don’t have any belts, aside from the one holding these trousers up”

Whats a Martial Arts Black Belt worth?

Interception Martial Arts Hull and many other JKD based classes have no formal ranking other than the student to instructor.

A belt of any colour is no guarantee of the ability to do the Martial, maybe the Art but not the Martial side of Martial arts.

As I have said before, the art side is not my main interest. I understand it’s importance and making sure form is as good as can be, however, I will never be in a Kata based competition or any Martial Arts based competition.

My Personal View on Martial Arts Belts.

We live in an age where everything has to be instant and working for something is so old fashioned. If you think I’m wrong, look at the rise of reality TV and karaoke talent programmes like the Xfactor. Stupid and talentless people are becoming famous and unless you have a good sob story no one will buy your cover single and get you to number one. Instant gratification is the name of the game and having the public slap you on the back to say you are great.

Jeet Kune Do – Not for the Masses

This way of thinking to me is why JKD (and similar arts) don’t have as many schools of 1000 students that mainstream arts like Karate have.

JKD makes you think. It makes you question your own motives and question inwards.

In JKD there are no backslaps, no belt for doing inductions or a rank for payment.

You can’t walk back from training in your GI with your belt showing to advertise how good you are. You confront your ego almost daily, I have lost count of the number of times I’ve had to have a word with myself because some new guy is getting a technique/concept quicker than me and performing at a higher level athletically.

You soon realise the only person you should be trying to outdo is the person you were yesterday. It sounds all new age and self-help guru, however, it’s true. After all, 25-year-old Jonny sixpack who is improving at the rate of knots is not going to be running to save my kids at 3 am, I am!

So you learn to drop the ego and stop worrying about the social mirror and work on your own weaknesses.

So what are Martial Arts Belts for?

Belts are that slap on the back, the reward someone higher than you in rank (notice I didn’t say better) gives to you for passing a grade, learning some set moves.

I work in a training background in my day job so I understand the belt could be a validation of learning or at least seen that way. It’s not, it’s a mark, a signpost that you can repeat a technique.

Most people need that reward to feel accomplished like it means something. For me, it doesn’t mean anything.

For most martial arts it is nothing more than a selling tool, so be careful what you choose. If an instructor who is after your 50 pounds a month for 2 x 45 min classes promises you a black belt in 3 years…or less just remember this.

In times gone by, why were karate black belts in Japan only given after decades of training?

Until the next time

Paul