by Ian Sane
Seeing Through The Black Belt Mystique
The American public has long assumed that a black belt is a sign of expertise or mastery in the martial arts. In reality, all a black belt means is that a student has learned the basic techniques and principles of a specific martial art. It doesn’t mean that they are a master or possess magical powers.
Becoming a black belt really means that you have learned the basic principles of a style. There is nothing magical about it. Your real martial arts education begins when you get your black belt.
Unfortunately, the respect a black belt once carried has eroded. Schools catering to people’s egos and willing to cash in on the black belt mystique began chipping away at it. As a marketing ploy, some schools advertise that you can get a black belt in their system in a period of two years. Now there are individuals who are extremely talented and train on a daily basis, 6-7 days per week, who may reasonably do this, however, the average person, training 2-3 times per week needs twice as much time.
Having a black belt doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a skilled martial artist or even a good fighter. There are people wearing black belts out there that have never learned how to fight. Some schools don’t even include sparring in the curriculum. Others may require you to fight a whole row of black belts on the day of your black belt test. Requirements vary from school to school.
I have personally seen yellow belts with street fighting experience make mince meat out of black belts. As a matter of fact, if you have a black belt, it’s never a good idea to brag about it in public! You may be challenged by a street fighter looking to prove something and can get yourself into trouble!
Not all black belts are awarded to students who possess superior physical skill and proficiency in the art. Attitude, perseverance and character sometimes trump everything else. There are instances where an instructor will promote someone to black belt who has transcended many obstacles. They have progressed through the curriculum and at some point deserve to receive an advanced rank. While these students are not what the media and popular culture would consider the stereotypical black belt, they have the heart of a warrior.
Most martial arts systems have solid curriculum’s that provide a student with a good physical and mental foundation. Bottom line: the quality of the black belt rank begins with the person wearing it and the school that trained him.