Beware of the Instant Black Belt School
“Become a black belt in just two years!” “This is a black belt school!” You’ve seen the ads. In just a short time, many martial arts schools promise to award the student with the coveted black belt. Programs like this give students a crash course in the techniques of the particular style, but fail to develop real martial artists.
Traditionally, a student was given a white belt at the beginning of his martial arts training. The student was instructed not to wash the belt because it would symbolically wash away all they learned. Over the years, the student would perfect the basic movements of his style by repetition. Repetition developed muscle memory. As a result, the student’s body was trained to the point where he could naturally and instinctively perform these techniques, even under extremely stressful circumstances.
In addition, traditional masters would explain very little to the student. In the most traditional schools, the instructor would merely demonstrate the techniques and students practiced these movements over and over again. Students mastered katas in the same way. The student absorbed the “bunkai” or application of the katas movements and as a result, the techniques were easier to execute. The purpose of this method of training was for the student to learn the mental, physical and spiritual aspects of the martial arts on his own. When a student learned something on his own, it had a more profound effect on him.
As student’s trained everyday with the same white belt they received on their first day of class, the belt became more soiled. Just as the students mind absorbed the knowledge of the martial arts and his body the strength; the belt absorbed all the blood, sweat, tears, and dirt the student went through to learn these great things. The longer the student trained the blacker his belt.
This method of instruction was not popular with mainstream American society. Face it; we want instant gratification. That’s why fast food restaurants, credit cards, and even drugs have flourished in our society. Martial arts schools also followed this trend by promising students a quick progression through a watered down system and awarding them with a black belt in a short period of time. Not only have these schools failed to properly train students, they have also fooled them into believing they have mastered an art by rewarding them with the martial arts symbol of advanced achievement; the black belt.
The color dyed American black belt can’t hold a candle to the original black belt. Today a black belt is more symbolic, but way back when, the black belt was actually the direct outcome of hard work and experience.