View Full Version : Why is it that many black belts have no skill?

06-13-2000, 01:26 AM
Whas up ya'll?

I've been studying MA since I was 16. I have three different black belts. The one constant that I've come across is that many of the black belts I've met could not fight their way out of a wet paper bag with a hole in it. What's really funny is that many of them run schools. What's even more funny is when you go to these schools these guys have all these tournament trophies in their window. Or you look in the yellow pages and they tell you how many grand championships they've won, or gold medals. Can anyone say "self-deception?" Not to mention deception of the public. Now we all know that tournament fighting and reality are about a close as earth is to alpha centauri. But the implication of trophies in the window and the teacher's ability to fight still remain.

But really. Why is it that many black belts cannot use what they have learned. I know, I know, Somebody's going to say, "Well, martial arts is not all about fighting." And I will agree. Martial arts is bout self-mastery, having the ability to not to have to fight. But let's be real. Our world is not a place where everyone loves one another. We've got some boo boos out there who would slit your throat before they would do something nice for you. There are going to be some times when you're going to have to throw down with some dude. That's reality.

So, in the eyes of a green student who comes into the Dojo and sees sensei or sifu wearing their black belt/ sash, the implication is that the teacher can whup butt. That is not always the case. Then, to make matters worse, sensei or sifu transfers their self-deception onto the student by giving them a black belt/sash.

And please spare me the crap about how not everyone takes MA to learn how to fight. That would be like saying not everyone buys a car to drive it. What the hell else are you supposed to do with MA? TAE BO? It may not be a primary concern, but let someone take MA for awahile then get into a situation, it becomes the primary concern then. Yes, MA is good exercise, yes it builds good character in children and teens. I agree with all of it. But 99.9991% of the people I've ever studied with or taught did so because they wanted to learn how to defend themselves. Every parent of every child I've taught has always mentioned that there might be an off chance where little Johnnie or Suzy might get bullied on the playground. Just look at the people who study MA. Are they the body builders? No. Are they Macho Jocks? No. They are the geeks and nerds who the Jocks and body builders abuse. In every club there is an excetion to this rule.

Is this not a case of the blind leading the blind? Everyone will end up in a ditch.

So someone help me. How can we quit deceiving ourselves by equating black belt with the ability to fight? How can a person who attains the rank of 1st dan be confident they haven't spent 3-5 years of there life learning how to dance when they thought they were learning how to protect themselves?

06-13-2000, 05:47 AM
I, too, have more than one instructors rank. One major thing that I have learned (not to upset any black belts/sashes reading this) is that rank means nothing. "The sash around your waist is an illusion." as my sifu said regularly to remind his students they do NOT know everything. One of the major problems that I have seen is that many schools will push students through based on the length of time in the school, as opposed to the skill of the student. After all, claiming "I have more black belt/sash students than my competetor" is, and, unfortunately, will always be, a major claim for schools. Once the skill of the student becomes more important than how long they have been in, the ranks become meaningless, and the students no longer care if they are a black belt/sash. Once this point is reached by the student, they are ready mentally to be a black belt.
Incidentally, my best instructors that I have ever had have all believed this, and so do I.

06-13-2000, 08:17 AM
Thanx for you're reply. I appreciate it.
I believe you have come to a great conclusion. It is one root of a multi-rooted
problem. The problem is that of equating rank with skill. The two have nothing to do with each other.

Knowing that then, why has the black belt/sash become the icon of fighting ability in the MA in the US. I mean it's kinda like coke (the soft drink). Everybody says "I'm gonna go get a coke," but they come back with a pepsi. Coke has become the icon for soft drinks. Likwise, whenever some one says, "Oh, I'm a blackbelt." People immediatelt respond, "Well, you must be a dangerous guy."

Do you think it has something to do with our society. I mean, it takes a lot of hard work to get a blackbelt, but for many at the end of the day that's all they have to show for their work. A belt. In many cases you don't have to demonstrate any relevant skill to get one. As a matter of fact, you can buy one.

What bothers me about this is that many instructors are perpetuating self-deception on to people, giving them a false sense of security. They promote them to BB, and send them on their way.

Let me tell you a little story. I went to a self-defense seminar in Texas last year. At that same seminar were other blackbelts of various rank. Some at masters level. The facilitators of the seminar brought in a guy from the Texas state reformatory and one buy one this guy scared the **** out ALL of the black belts. One guy ran off the stage and left, he was so scared. Now this inmate didn't hit any of them. He did not touch them in any way. all he did was TALK TO THEM. From their fear alone, had a physical confrontation taken place, this inamte would have had all of them for lunch. Now tell me, how am I to put trust in a guy who is afraid when someone curses them? I mean, we're not even talking about fighting, just the verbal stuff that goes on before the fight.

So you are right, mentally a lot of balck belts aren't black belts.

06-13-2000, 12:43 PM
In cyprus the black belt is a common problem the reason i say problem is because everyone gets one !!! /infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif
our country is tiny (700,000)so there isnt really a lot of good instructors most of them are karate tkd judo, these ppl go over seas get to black belt , come to cyprus and upgrade themselves to 4 5 even 9th dan
And their students all get a black belt after 1 and a half years
We went to a demonstration once and out of the two schools that were demonstrating there were 40 ppl (all kids 13-16) all of them had black belts except for 3 !!!!
I thought jesus , the reason they do it when i asked the teacher was that its desirable for the kid to have a black belt and he gets happy when he has it so to keep him in the school he advances belts fast and it makes good money !!
My GF has a black belt in ju jitsu and it took her just over 7 years to get !! her instructor took 30 odd to get 4th dan nowadays everyones got one.
If you do a net search on belts and sashes you can see that there are web sites that sell them. I found on once that was selling things like
honorable sihing of style 500$
sifu of style 1000$
Sigung of style 1500$
Founder and upholder of style 5000$
I thought blah

06-13-2000, 07:20 PM
It is a sad state of affairs that so many black belts aren't able to apply their skills. Your story about the inmate scaring off so many black belts is a common theme, it's also the common flaw: under every black belt is a human being, behind teaching every black belt is another human being. Their motivations for promotion are different. Some do promote based on skill, using time as a reference to see when someone is eligible, but not allowing promotion until proficiency is seen. I don't understand how anyone can pass a black belt exam that can't at least hold their own in a match.

The philosophy behind the degrees in black belts in taekwondo is that for each of the first 3 degree, the practitioner must be able to defeat/kill one opponent of equal or better ability with one technique for each degree (so for second, you have to be able to defeat 2, etc.). The basic philosophy of the black belt is based on fighting ability, at least for the first three degrees (the next 3 are based on teaching ability).

Your question of what is a black belt is a highly valid one that, from my perspective, is asked by students who deserve their black belt. Everyone I know who questions what a black belt is happen to be the best practitioners.

I, for one, have no idea what a black belt is. I hold a second dan black belt in Taekwondo and I'm nearing a black belt/sash in kung fu. I see myself improving and driving myself to improve, I never give up, I feel that I can hold my own, I have avoided a fight by standing my ground against a bigger individual who was coming straight at me yelling at me. Does any of that make me a black belt? I don't know. I just consider myself lucky.

06-13-2000, 08:53 PM
My 2 cents. Kung Fu schools are a business,they make their income from the students they teach.This is not the old days where you really had to earn your rank(belts).I think the schools promote and pass out belts to keep their paying-customers happy.I learn nothing from someone who can not fight,therefore I agree that a Sifu that can not fight is a waste of time.I'm not trying to sound like a bad-ass here,but ****,if someone is going to teach me how to fight,they have to be able to defeat me;otherwise,I might as well teach them.Right?

06-13-2000, 11:05 PM
I, for one, do not care if 83.3334% of ALL Black Belts are dellusional. The only Black belt that I care for are the one's trained by me..and my fellow classmates.

My Grandmaster once told me that he looks forward to the day when I would go to visit him and we would fight, and I would win. It was an interesting statement. I never took him up on it. This example alone describes a generational gap & societal difference between those of past practitioners, to those of the present.

There was a time when martial artists used their respective arts daily or weekly on the mean streets of their native countries. Granted, in many North American cities, these mean streets still are a live and kicking...but not for 97% of us. So our perspective on practising and using our fighting arts differs. This is where we gain the experience from past stylists. They used the style, and used it successfully. Even traditional styles are not bareft of actual fighting experiences that so many feel have become antiquated.

Where people run into trouble is when their teachers have not completed their course of study or have taken nothing but a mish-mosh of techniques from a variety of sources. These people are guilty of passing down incomplete styles and perpetuate misunderstanding to the next generation of students. Even if I had a good teacher from a great master, if I am the one teaching and I allow incomplete study or endorsement (through belts) of my students, then the strength of what had past is diluted exponentially. The actual experience of those prior is diminished and might never be replaced.

We are our weakest link. Like Robin asked, what makes a black belt? The answer to that is based in dellusion and perception; ego and reason. It is simply too subjective to objectify. Thus, BJJ is the best. Kickboxing is real. Western boxing is superior. Kung fu is crap. Tai chi is for old folks. Tao Bo is an unpolished gem.

I need some Coke. Now where the heck did I put that **** 7-Up!?

06-13-2000, 11:44 PM
hey nospam,

that's tae bo, and it's the king of all the martial arts! /infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif

06-14-2000, 12:18 AM

[This message has been edited by MaFuYee (edited 06-23-2000).]

06-14-2000, 12:58 AM
heh heh..I realised I used tao, afterwards. *dhoop! *EAT* *EAT* *EAT*

laughing tiger
06-14-2000, 06:09 AM
I tend to agree with JKDVIGILANTE. One should only study with a master of an art, and if he is good, he should be able to fight well. My personal preference is studying with traditional guys from the old country, but that is just my taste. Also, the whole belt ranking&black belt in 3 or 5 years thing was designed to keep american students interested. Not too many americans have the discipline to walk the circle with only a few techniques (in Baguazhang)for 6 years, as an example. That is why my current Sifu doesn't teach Bagua.

06-14-2000, 06:39 AM
Just for clearity, what I have always defined as being a black sash of mind is not only knowing the techniques, but being able to apply them in real life, and knowing when to apply them. After all, if you are an increadible fighter, but having no idea of when not to fight, all you are is pathetic. Very rarely have I actually had to resort to violence in a one on one encounter. Usually I can find another way out. But if I can't, most of the time, I can fight my way out.

That is not to say that I am the best fighter, or even really good. What I am, however, is inventive and flexable in what I do, and in control of what I do. Having studied for 19 years, under various instructors, for 10 years before gaining my first black sash, I understand that being flexable of mind is nessicary in real life.

The definition of a true black sash is difficult to explain. It is not something you are given, it is simply something you are.

06-14-2000, 07:26 AM
Here's my solution:

get rid of the belt/sash system. Let your ability speak for itself.


It's not the size of the Dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the Dog.

06-14-2000, 12:01 PM
Belts, Sashes , Patches and the lot are all meant for your own personal development, so you know how far you have come since your last belt. They are not to show how good a fighter you are, fighting proves this, you wanna show how good you are fight in a realistic competition or get into a real fight or join a gang, you'll find a good proving pround there.

06-15-2000, 04:12 PM
Greats posts guys,
I like what all of you have said.
I expected a few more replies, but it
is no shock that there are only 13.
Keep'em coming.


Fist Fighter
06-19-2000, 12:31 PM
The only thing a belt is good for is holding up your pants.period.

06-21-2000, 06:53 AM
i have to agree.

to be a good fighter, one must by definition fight. this is different to being able to defend yourself. in the second case you don't go out looking for trouble. you just hope your training comes out when it is needed.

as to the competance of the instructor, he can only put you on the path, it is you who is going to be in the fight.

what are we here for ?

06-21-2000, 08:16 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Bursar:
i have to agree.

to be a good fighter, one must by definition fight. this is different to being able to defend yourself. in the second case you don't go out looking for trouble. you just hope your training comes out when it is needed.

as to the competance of the instructor, he can only put you on the path, it is you who is going to be in the fight.

what are we here for ?[/quote]

All of what you have said is true. But it is my exerience that many instructors have not found the path themselves.


06-21-2000, 09:15 AM
I still think that the belt system is useful.
I just don't like the idea of testing for it.
In some BJJ schools I've been to, belts are awarded only when the instructor thinks the the student is ready for it.
I think that's how most Martial Arts schools should be like.


06-21-2000, 07:16 PM

Generally, or it should be (as it is in my school), the test comes when the instructor feels the student has already earned the belt. The test is to put the student under pressure, on the spot. As we go through academic school, many people hate tests, freeze on them, cram for them and then do poorly because of the stress they feel because they have to "test". This is what we try to get people through in our school. To get beyond those feelings, the nerves, etc. of being put on the spot like that. The more you practice being put on the spot, the more used to it you should become. Also, the more successful you are at passing while being put on the spot, the less stress you should feel about it next time. You learn to rely on yourself and your judgement and to improv if you have to (I did something that resembled a form, then went back and did the form. My instructor was more impressed that I went all the way through with all my conviction and power and focus doing something entirely wrong--that's what we're looking for: sprezeturra(sp?)--grace under pressure).

It's helped me considerably. I'm able to give presentations at work without losing any sleep over it.

06-30-2000, 02:10 AM
Well I have had some kind of experience in this subject. One of the first 'martial artist' that I studied under was a student of Aaron Banks by the name of Ronald Borand.
A (at the time) third degree black belt in the early eighties. We had a falling out of sorts and I left him. Years later I found out he was now a sixth degree black belt.
I found this hard to believe and rumor had it he was just giving himself ranks. Now I could be wrong but at the rate he was gaining he should be a higher rank than Banks now. Point is this gentleman, in my humble opinion his fighting technique was not worth the cotton the belt was made from.
I still to this day firmly believe than anyone in the small cliq that I know could beat this man regardless of his belt status.
Boy am I goning to get flamed on this post

07-01-2000, 03:00 AM
"Belts are only made to keep the gi up"

-Jean Claude Van Damme

07-01-2000, 05:58 AM
At some schools you have to earn your belt.
At some schools you have to buy your belt.

A boxer who has done 3 plus years will probaly be quite tasty & have no belt.

The thing is to get a belt is to achieve a certain standard?
To pass a driving test is to achieve a certain standard.
However this doesn't automatically make you a better driver than someone who hasn't taken the test.
Personal ability & dedication is what makes a superior fighter.
If you do MA as a hobby & not a way of life why should you care that you can't beat young
'Prince Naseem' the no/white belt?

Belts mean you know theories & patterns possibly enough to teach quite well. It doesn't mean you can beat everyone who isn't trained to your degree.
It for sure don't make you a warrior.

Maybe I should just say it this way, out of the dojo belts don't mean s***...

07-02-2000, 03:27 PM
You should forget for a second about the nice belts/sashes and coloured uniforms and think of the true traditional martial arts tai chi.
You spoke about that big guy from texas who came down to the seminar and the black belts got scared. This feeling of fear is produced by your self conscious mind.
The old chinese taoism scriptures say that if you have fear of your opponent you will be defeated instantly.
Think about it if you saw a small skinny guy you will think I can kick his ass and you probably will. But if you see some big muscleyy guy you will think I will get bashed and u probably will.
What you should try and do is to teach them to overcome their fears.
This is controlled by whats called your reptile brain. Tai Chi masters learn to control this and are never defeated in a real fight.
In order to succeed in a fight u must disregard most techniques because most techniques may work in a dojo but if someone wanted to kill you in the street with a knife your knife throws or disarms wont work. You would need to create techniques which become your attack and ddefence technique in one move not combinations for instance if you use to block the hand and at the same time the hand block is a dimmak strike to the palm where you will cause death or instant KO.
You must also realise the fact that the only way to succeed in a fight is through sudden violence without violence you will not succeed.
This can be accomplished through the internal kung fu styles such as tai chi.
For more info visit my website: http://taichicombat.homepage.com

07-03-2000, 02:13 AM
Our GrandMaster says if your
afraid to fight he will no
teach you techniques he is
into fighting big time..The
belt thing he did not want
to use the belt system because
people would think his style
was for show..He did not want his
style of Kung Fu to be known that


07-03-2000, 05:49 AM
I wish that belt rankings could be withdrawn. I've seen alot of brown and black belts that are sloppy. They do just well enough to get the belt and then slack off. There was one guy at one of the Wing Chun schools I briefly attended that looked like he was doing the Chicken Dance when he led the class. The head instructor seemed pretty good though.

I'd love to see someone try to go up in rank and get demoted for being sloppy.

07-04-2000, 03:20 AM

I agree with you 100% and wish to second your motion.

07-05-2000, 06:31 AM
Robin, maybe we can start a movement. It really ticks me off to see a Black or Brown belt with sloppy technique or perform kata like he was sleep walking. We spar at almost every class and we have some guys that came from different schools just to spar, and that's all they pretty much do. If they aren't putting 100% into a style I wish they'd find one where they would.

07-05-2000, 06:15 PM

I sympathize with you. We have guys like that, too. We have guys who have been coming for a long time and used to be very dedicated--now they barely show up a few times a month and obviously don't practice outside the kwoon (they've forgotten most of their curriculum). It's almost embarassing having these guys show up and try to lead (they're higher belts).

07-05-2000, 08:25 PM
Bonjour everyone. With this being my first post, I want to weigh in on this.

I tell people this who are looking for a school, "Just because a school has 50 banners on the wall, 2000 trophies in a window, dozens of pictures of famous people, 350 advertisements on the net, 8 teddy bears in a corner, 10 grasshoppers in a box, 5 golden rings, and a partridge in a pear tree, it doesn't mean that it is the BEST school for YOU!".

On any given day a black belt can be whooped eight ways from Sunday. The problem is that when we train and spar, sometimes it is in ideal situations. Someone throws a punch and you block. Well.........I don't think that some slapnut on the street with designs on taking you woman by any means will throw a Chinese punch, ridge hand, back fist, spining roundhouse kick, or even(Very unlikely) try to do a butterfly kick.

Situations in real life are VERY different than what we learn in the school. Is what we learn in the school benifical? YES! However, will it fit the ever changing environment or the outside world? NO! I feel some black belt students don't entirely realize this.

Centuries ago in China men were trained to fight, because of war! They were trained as solders! They knew that ideal situations didn't exist in war. Just as there are no idel situations in war, ther are no ideal situations on the street. Movies have distorted the real truth about martial arts. Movies show someone countering a punch by throwing a kick and pining the attackers arm to a wall. As cool as that and other examples of such are, the realality is that nothing in life is choreographed. Going into a real situation does not require a game plan! People need to understand that it's not as simple as what they see in the movies.

Personally I don't read too much into sashes and belts. They tend to give some people a false sense of security. "**** right I'm a black belt!", some people think. LOL! If that's what some think, then I wonder what they think when they are wheeled into an emergency room with contusions, bruses, and no girl!

Just because they have obtained the rank doesn't mean that they've mastered it. They still have a lot to learn.

Anyhoo, a tout a l'heure. /infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif

07-08-2000, 06:44 AM
Anyone can have a black belt , if some one really wanted a black belt they could just buy it at a MA store. but if you earn they black belt through training the black belt you earn means more to the person who earns it. Alot of sensies only train there students acording to thier time limit but that shouldn't stop you from training.I set up a place in my back yard to train as much as i want at home. and also I beleive that a real sensei would care more about their students then the money they rack in. I think that their should be a friendly relationship betweem a sensei and student and not sensi and money. I mean haven't you seen the priceses for marshal arts training!
well I'll leave you with that


Good, better, Me
07-12-2000, 01:32 AM

Getting new belts is just a tradition. I have just started taekwondo and I can tell, that I could beat the blue belts if I would have to. The true fighting skill comes from the spirit, deep from the heart, and martial arts just teach you how to find your true spirit.

When you get your black belt it usually means that you don't have anything to learn, so people will usually stop training because they think they don't need any more training. But the truth is that you have to train all your life to become a true master of your black belt.

Thank you.


If there is fighting. There is me.

07-12-2000, 06:24 PM
As a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, the meaning of the black belt is that you now know the basics and now you start learning Taekwondo--the Way. Black belt is just the beginning of your training. The belts before are the warm-up.


07-13-2000, 04:02 AM
Interesting idea, Robin. I like that. Coming from an instructor who didn't like, or, except for tournement purposes, use sashes, I had never thought of it that way.

"Do not worry about being known, rather, try to be someone worth knowing."

07-13-2000, 05:55 PM
Thanks, Blacktsun.

I can't take credit for it, though. That's the actual philosophy behind Taekwondo. I have found that there are many instructors who don't teach even the most basic of the philosophy, such as the meanings behind the belts (why we have them and what the colors stand for).

Rising Dragon
07-21-2000, 05:43 AM
Belts meen nothing. time and time again i've learned that. never be intimidated or impressed by how many belts someone owns. the belt/sash system is a lot of BS. Anyone can go and buy trophies and a belt. The real effort is earning one.

07-23-2000, 05:53 AM
Well my belts mean something to me. It's all of what you make of it. In the system I currently study a belt tells me what I should have mastered at that level.

If you believe they're bs then they will be bs. If you look at them as something to be earned then they will be something earned.

07-24-2000, 06:40 AM
Well it seemed to me that the belt status in Goju-Ryu was more to let others know just what level your at when it came to the forms and the self defense tech.
You didn't learn a brown belt form of you were a green belt (no matter how good you were) till you got to that level.
I think its more akin to rungs on a ladder, the first rung is white belt and so on and so forth. More like learning the form and memorizing the tech as opposed to application. At least this was how I took it when I studied Goju-Rye all those many moons ago.

If you have nothing to do, don't do it here!

07-27-2000, 08:25 AM
I think the reason why most black belts are not good is that they think they don't need to train anymore since they reached a black black belt.

RobinF I'm just curious what styles do you study?

Peace Out

07-28-2000, 03:27 AM
My Sifu is Taiwanese, and we don't even use a belt system. It goes Student-Disciple-Master. Sifu teaches you more as he thinks you are ready. There are also body conditioning exercises that are pretty much required if you want to pull of some of the faster, more acrobatic forms. Once you get to a certain point, he is willing to teach the forms out of sequence if say, you want to learn the 3 sectional staff or monkey form and have already mastered so many. But he only teaches what he thinks you are ready for. I believe belts are for Americans with no patience, we have fast food, why not instant gratification martial arts, too?

MonkeySlap Too
07-31-2000, 03:09 AM
The best quote I ever heard was that a tournament full of people wearing multi colored belts looks like Walt Disney threw up.

Many of the absolute best CMA people I know don't wear their belt around thier head. Very humble.

I tend to think rank has no meaning. Or as one of my teachers once said: 'Can you do?".

08-02-2000, 11:41 PM
fist of all you don't have to be a good fighter to be a good teacher. like all subject the teacher gives you the information and its just to you to make good use of it.
i admit that they could do alot more to make you better fighters but they dont.

The reasons black belts suck is because in reality they are just begining to learn there craft. they are not masters, they have only learned the foundations of there art.

my teacher isn't some kickass dude and i know this. i dont expect him to be. in our system there are 10 degrees of black belt and you arent considered a master untill you reach 6th degree. being a master insnt just knowing the moves and begin able to blindly go though some form or what have you. it's a level of understanding that well i just dont have.

08-03-2000, 10:32 AM

You've raised an excellent point, and I think that it lies at the root of the ever-raging debate of "MA vs streetfighting". To be honest, I think that it is the core of MA debate. Period. Now, if you will all bear with me, I'm going to go the long way round in explaining myself.

No matter what style you study, all of it has it's roots firmly planted in ancient fighting techniques and practises. As these fighting arts evolved and spread outwards to the rest of the world, the interpretations changed, the emphasis on certain techniques changed and the overall "look" changed.

Some masters took the knowledge they had, experimented (and unlike today) put it into REAL combat action. Chinese masters and exponents of gung fu travelled all over China applying their knowledge by challenging others - or accepting a challenge themselves. Some refused to involve themselves in the egotistical pursuit of "mine is better than yours"( an ideal that is still rife in the MA community today) which is how we should, in a perfect world, feel towards other MA styles.

However, it is only via this testing, fighting, refining, testing, fighting that we have the opportunity to study some (and I say some) of the most refined and effective combat arts removed from 2,000 years of battlefield combat. Several Chinese masters where defeated by unknown strangers in open combat, being so humbled that they gave up their art to persue the teachings of their victor. Hence, the strength and effectiveness improves only through humbleness and willingness to accept that refinements are crucial to .

Even on today's streets, where you face a whole different myriad of threats, the SPIRIT you need to raise in order to effectively defend yourself must be taught and trained the same way it was 2,000 years ago. You can have the most beautiful forms, and stunning timing and technique, but when it comes down to a real fight (not a tournament), then it is your thoughts and spirit will betray you when you need it most. Combat is not about techniques as much as it is about thoughts. Spirit will allow you to tap into the aggression required to win. The Shaolin monks have a saying "Always go in search of peace, but if you have to fight, then fight to win".

Fights on the street are not pretty. You will not have time to execute a perfect kick or punch. Your attacker may be armed, on drugs. It may be dark, noisy, raining, oil on the ground, unequal footing. You may be sick, hurt, tired, wounded, unfit. All the things most MA lessons place no emphasis on.

My point here is this: if you DO NOT train the spirit, train the worst case scenario, train under stress, train with contact, train when you are not 100% then you are not training to survive a violent street confrontation - NO MATTER WHAT RANK YOU ARE AT. You must condition the body, understand that failure is the root of all success & embrace loss to free your mind.

And no matter what stye of kung fu you do, or any other MA for that matter, the point remains that a black belt is the start of your learning and not the end. A black belt means nothing if their is no substance to the training. It is a jouney, not a destination. Belts are a western invention to help us feel like we are achieving something in class, but a true teacher and dedicated student know where their ability sits, regardless of belt. To be honest, black belts can be some of the most sloppy and least dedicated exponents of a style i.e "I've got my black belt, know I can just glide." Pray you don't have a Chinese master or sifu teaching you if you think like that!!!!

My opinion is (and remember, it only an opinion) that there is a difference in learning how not to fight yourself, learning how to fight the opponent, and finally how not to fight at all. Which one of these should a 'black belt' understand? More importantly, does your training make you a better person? To be honest, MA training is a commitment to improving yourself and not only learning to fight. But if you understand that spirit, body mechanics and relaxation all link together, then should the day come where you need to use what you know, you will carry the day as best as you can - regardless of rank. But remember - without evolution and improvement upon kung fu styles in particular, then knowledge stagnates and MA goes nowhere.

08-07-2000, 02:10 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by INTERNALKUNGFU:

This is controlled by whats called your reptile brain. Tai Chi masters learn to control this and are never defeated in a real fight.
I don't mean to be rude but..."Tai Chi masters...are never defeated in a real fight"?!
How do you know? Have you seen any Tai Chi masters in a real fight? Have you seen one? Have you seen them all?
Maybe they don't get defeated in a real fight because they never fight. I don't know. But you can't fail a test if you don't take it.
To me that just sounds like a blanket statement which couldn't be verified. It sounds like someone might have given you the "sales pitch"

I think the other things your said weren't so bad...but that line was just a bit "too perfect".

08-07-2000, 02:14 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Robinf:

I sympathize with you. We have guys like that, too. We have guys who have been coming for a long time and used to be very dedicated--now they barely show up a few times a month and obviously don't practice outside the kwoon (they've forgotten most of their curriculum). It's almost embarassing having these guys show up and try to lead (they're higher belts).[/quote]

And situations like that are also unfair because the students are paying good money to learn something. They don't get a price break or a partial refund if the teacher is half-assed. We have a big problem were I live. Most people here seem to do most things half-assed.

08-07-2000, 03:06 PM
You know, one thing that I like about the way western boxing does it is that there is only ONE belt to earn...the championship. And you can lose it if another warrior comes along later and defeats you. There are no kata forms..just sparring. You only know how much you've learned by fighting..period. However, boxing is just a sport...but I do like they way it uses the belt system. /infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif

Personally, I hate belts. I feel that they deceive others about what I know and I feel that they have the potential to deceive me also. When I started taking Brazilian JuJitsu, I asked my teacher if I could just keep wearing a white belt no matter what level I attained. He liked the idea alot and himself wore a white belt during our private lessons.
I think most places want you to wear your colored belt if you have one.
I hate colored belts...I'm not there to earn a belt, I'm not there to find religion, I'm there to learn how to fight, pure and simple.
That's my take on it.
Thanks for your time.

08-07-2000, 08:36 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by totallyfrozen:
You know, one thing that I like about the way western boxing does it is that there is only ONE belt to earn...the championship. [/quote]

Actually there are four championship belts in each division. That's why we have unification fights.

08-08-2000, 09:19 AM
I have earned two black belts in my life.I have since lost the belts themselves and the certificates.So what?I either learned or didnt,the belts were useless.I still train and I still consider myself a beginner.

08-08-2000, 12:56 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Highlander:
Actually there are four championship belts in each division. That's why we have unification fights.[/quote]
Well, ok...you're right.
I guess what I was trying to say is that ther is really one "type" of belt. You win or you don't win.
There isn't a "white belt" boxer and an "orange belt" boxer..etc.
But I see your point.

Hung Wai
08-18-2000, 11:41 AM
From my experience, I've noticed alot of martial artists think of a black belt as a destination. They achieve the rank and so the ego swells and the training slackens. The best martial artist I am aware of is an 80 year old Tai Chi master. My sifu goes to see him. He says he reads Tai Chi classics and tries to decipher the poems to learn more "secrets" of Tai Chi. Someone asked him once why bother since he is already a master. The old man replied, " I may have been given the title master, but I will always be a student of Tai Chi." I think that alot of modern day martial artists lack this humility and that is one reason why we have such weak black belts.

Talent is god given,
be thankful.
Fame is man given,
be humble.
Conceit is self given,
be careful.

08-18-2000, 12:25 PM
I have to agree, my Sifu has trained for 15 years in Yau Kung Mun. for almost 1 year learning a form, it's applications and perfecting it. Obviously once the basics were performed correctly and techniques understood it became easier. but the fact is it took him 15 yrs to master the system and he is still learning. we go through the same process including practicing stances and staying in horse stance for 45mins-1 hr. My sifu prefers that we get it right rather than progressing quickly. I once went to a school and they have training weekends and if students pay for the weekend they could go up to 3 levels. I mean how rediculous that they could achieve three levels in 2 days. What do they master, three punches and three kicks to each level???
when i asked how they could achieve that, the reply i was given was that they trained hard for the two days.
And their sparring was like monkeys dancing around, i mean my 5 year old nephew could punch and kick better than them.
So, achieving real ablilities in the arts is a life long practice. i mean if the students are that bad what would the instructors be like. what a joke!!!.

08-22-2000, 06:35 AM
Belts are a western idea to feed your ego.
Most of these blackbelts have little skill because their "masters" have no skill. The only way to end this is to kick their ass.Humiliate them so they won't have any students left. Stand up for your art and the future of it. Have you heard the saying only the strong will survive. It's human nature. If you don't try your skill how do you know if it works. To see it is nothing, You have to feel it.

fat momma
04-24-2001, 10:04 AM
exsamples of black belts/sashes.

fat momma

05-01-2001, 07:27 AM
Belt means nothing,it's an illusion.A persons true ability comes to the fore when faced with a life or death situation. Life or death, thats what we train for,and the cultivation of a strong mind and spirit.And the strength to decide in the moment how we will meet our fate. Life or death,everthing else is just window dressing.--You don't have to win,there is always someone better,but you must always stand up.--oossuu!!! :mad: :mad: :D :)

05-02-2001, 01:21 AM
I've always thought that a student should be given only one belt in his lifetime--white. Anything else is self-indulgence.

And this coming from someone who wears one of those "colored" belts....

Ah well, nobody's perfect. But I still think you should wear only one belt for the tenure of your stay in a particular style.

Does anybody actually do this any more?

K. Mark Hoover

Chen Wuan
05-02-2001, 05:48 AM
In the school that I work out in most of them can not fight! Infact the students are all afraid of me and wont work out with me. We as Martial Artist are a product of our wills and training. Most practitioners lack the will to train for results. A Sifu I once had could fight and expected his students to learn to. His moto was "you have to train extreme to get extreme results". Most instructors don't place this expectation on their students and become belt factories. This gives the students a falce scence of secutiry. And this will get the student in to trouble.

I feel that the fault is in the teacher not the student. If they don't place quality expectations on the students they will get lower qulaity martial artists. ;)

05-18-2001, 02:14 AM
I guess my thoughts on the matter are: yes, some guys feel the need to live up to other peoples expectations and thus gain a black sash/belt, others want a symbol of achievement.

I gained my black sash just over a year ago and I was so pleased to get it, not because I thought **** Im officially hard now, but because I was happy that I thought: I have learned stuff I wanted to know and am now ok to use the stuff effectively. Before I learned martial arts I worked in security and I believe that the MA stuff now makes me calmer, more laid back etc. which has made me respond better in threatening situations.

I guess a black sash souldn't be a symbol of how hard you are, more a symbol of the fact that you are trained and content with you knowledge and application of what you have learned. The down side is that there is always more stuff to be learned and sometimes its your ego as well as your body that gets dented.

All the best to you all.

05-18-2001, 04:55 AM

Interesting you should mention the one belt approach, in that it reminds me of the story I have always been told about the infamous “black belt”.

As the story goes, the new martial arts students were given one belt as they began their training, white. As they continued through the years, the uniforms would be used, torn and eventually replaced, but the same belt was continued to be used. With time and use this belt began to get dirty and took on a dark color.

When westerners came upon the martial arts schools and were showing interest in learning this fighting system, they couldn’t help but notice that the students with the “black belts” were much better than those that had the white belts.

Of course they didn’t stick around long enough to realize that indeed the belts eventually became quite faded with time, and as such, the older and most experienced martial artists ended up with a belt that appeared to be the color from which they started, white.

Full circle if you will.

I don’t know of the origin of the story, or if it’s even true; but, I like it. :D

"We forge our bodies in
the fire of our will." Han
from 'Enter the Dragon'

MonkeySlap Too
05-23-2001, 08:59 PM
A funny story....
For the past decade I never gave out belts (the one exception being the students following the strict ACSCA curriculum) and my students loved this. Everybody knew what everybody else had. Skill was the attainment and it was visible on the training floor.

Well, after about a decade I tell one of my students to try teaching. He says 'I don't know anything. I don't even have a black belt.' I get ****ed and tell him to go do it. Mind you, this is a guy that can take down walls with his punches, and has extremly brief challenge matches. He is very accomplished. So he goes and teaches. He finally calls me and says "You know, you really taught me a lot. I was surprised. I meet all these people with advanced black belts and I really feel I am one up on them."

I still haven't given him a black belt. It just doesn't seem to suit his style.

I am a big beleiver in luck. The more I work, the more luck I have.

05-30-2001, 03:12 AM
Here's my $.02 worth...

I don't think the problem is with the belt system, per se. The problem is in how people perceive it. I agree with Robin that a black belt ranking is only the beginning of truly learning an art. Too many people think of it as an end to itself.

My style happens to use belts. I don't think this makes it either better or worse than other styles that don't. The belt rankings are used to group the techniques into distinct sets that build on one another. Each ranking requires you to learn and demonstrate a set of techniques, kicks, throws, forms, etc., plus show some ability to spar. Looking at the rank another student has achieved gives you some idea of how far they have progressed in learning the various techniques. It says very little about how well they can fight.

Personally, I find the belt rankings to be a motivator. I set myself goals of, say, earning the next ranking within two months. This helps me remain focused and keep up the training tempo. However, I fully understand that just learning and demonstrating techniques and forms does not make me a better fighter. These are just basic tools and the rankings just indicate I've learned a certain set of these tools. Being able to use the tools effectively when the chips are down is a whole other issue that can't be measured by a piece of cloth.

If someone is looking at a black belt and assuming it means its owner is a badass, that just shows how ignorant the observer is. It doesn't mean the belt system is bad. A belt system is only as good or bad as the use to which it is put, like anything else in life.


05-30-2001, 05:38 PM
I am almost at the end of my first decade of training. None of the schools I have attended (up until now) have had a formal ranking system. However, my current school does. Infact, I cannot take the advanced class until I pass the first three tests. After that, there are three more before you can apply for a black belt (which requires 18 months of preparation, a recommendation, and a two hour examination).

I have always thought that belts are meaningless, and to some extent I still belive they are. However, after going through the process of examination, I feel very pleased that I am making progress in certification. After all, the United States functions as a system of certification (from High School diploma, to college degree...).

It is true that black belts are sometimes handed out like candy. But I have met many black belts who give honor to their rank, not just as simple fighters - but as teachers, training partners, technicians, and philosophers. When I get my black belt, after 15 years or so of training, I intend to do the same.

06-01-2001, 06:20 AM
I don't believe in belts. Having said that I am ranked to the equivalent of a rank above black belt (I guess 2nd dan?). To me, all that matters is that I can continue to learn the art that I learn.

No offence Lyle, but I think it sucks that you have to achieve a certain belt before you can join the advanced class. Admission to advanced classes should depend on a person's ability and not the colour of their belt. If someone is good at the art, but doesn't want to grade, then they are being excluded from learning stuff they are probably ready to learn.

I'll end my rave now :)

What we do in life echoes in Eternity

06-01-2001, 06:58 PM
It is a sad situation but the problem is real, money is what dictates who will get a black belt. Therefore you will get a lot of individuals claiming to be black belts but infact they are not. That is why they cannot fight their way out of a paper bag. It has taken me over 7 years to
get my first black belt and that is with training almost everyday. Let me tell you about an encounter i had once.. I was standing in line at a coat check at a night club & i over heard a group of people speaking about martial arts. There were bragging about how fast they can get their black belt from their instuctor. After about a few minutes of hearing this my Kung-fu patients was running out. So I leaned over and politely asked them where their instuctor bought his black belt and i hope he didn't pay to much for it because it is not worth much.

Stay sharp, train hard

The Willow Sword
06-02-2001, 09:37 AM
In my opinion it has been THIS country that associates black belts with mastery. we have now in this country a LOT of schools that have several or more belts that range in colors of the rainbow and some invented ones as well. Americans such as ourselves want to feel like we have accomplished something and have something to show for it,,,,RANK,,appeals to us,,for we americans are ego centered and act superior to that of any other country in the world. This can be capitolized on and taken advantage of by seekers of money and wealth...it is easy to dangle a carrot in front of a mule to get him to go,,,but dangle a solid gold karate belt in front of a yuppie and watch em run for it. it has only been in the last 10 yrs that we have now started to pull our heads out of our keesters and realize that a black belt means nothing more than a DISCIPLE and committed student to that particular school,,,hell some of em become assistant instructors,,like many of you here are as well as myself. in the range of skill we see people who hold black belts that can throw down and some that couldnt "and i like that term" get their way out of a wet paper bag with a hole in it. in the context of street fights and "reality fighting" which is a derrogatory term aimed at most martial arts schools that some bruiser came up with for he was able to kick some black belts ass. and also it is a well known fact that we dont get into a pose when we are in a street fight,,at least none of the guys i ever knew did. martial arts USED to be a secret thing. it was the bag of scorpions thrown in the face of the bully who underestimated the ability of the geek or the thinner guy. now adays we all go spouting off"well im a martial artist i have a black belt i teach i blah blah blah" maybe that is why most "street fighters" can win a fight. because now they know what they are dealing with and they gear up to really beat the living crap out of the guy. you wouldnt know it to look at me noew but i used to be a bouncer at a club in austin texas,,,i was alot heavier then but still not like some of the steriod heads i worked with,,,man i wouldnt say a thing to poeple about what i did,,only the bouncers and the manager knew what i was. and i kept it under my belt. i did not look like a typical bouncer so people had this confusion as to what i was really about,,they would ask me if i was a cop or was i this undercover narc.. i waould simply reply,,whatever you think my friend and that is how i was able to throw drunk guys out of that **** club and little punks who thought they could throw dowm,,,,,,elememt of suprise,,nener let em know what you are and dont be a fool and invite the fight to test yourself ,in my opinion. so belts,,a black belt,,i have several,,the one that i got in my school,,my tommy hilfiger belt and my belt from that store called the buckle,,,,. thats what i mean about being humble in my other posts. humble doesnt mean that you are a sheep it just means that you are aware of your short comongs and you are able to respect all who cross your path be they good people or nimrods from hell..........

06-02-2001, 07:14 PM

How do you suggest Lyle's instructor determine whether a person is ready to attend the advanced class? In smaller schools the Sifu may be able to subjectively evaluate when each student is ready. But in larger schools, where assistant instructors do much of the teaching, Sifu may not know each student well enough to make an informed decision. Also, a subjective standard is prone to favoritism, real or imagined, which can cause hard feelings and resentment, damaging morale in the kwoon. Therefore, the best way I can think of to evaluate someone's abilities is with a standard test that is the same for everyone.

Surely you're not suggesting it is wrong to test a student to determine whether he's mastered the basics prior to allowing him into the advanced class, are you? The whole point of an adavanced class is that you can focus on more advanced techniques, since everyone already knows the basics. If you don't have a minimum proficiency standard, that means anyone can attend and the "advanced" class is not advanced, at all.

Now, if there is already a test that shows whether a student has achieved a certain level of proficiency, and that test also happens to be the same test that is administered to achieve a given belt rank, what is wrong with that? When you require everyone in the advanced class to be at least a certain ranking, that's just another way of saying they must have demononstrated a certain minimum level of proficiency.


06-03-2001, 06:00 PM
The belt system is not a determination of your real skill level, but rather and indicator that you have spent sufficient time practicing a set of techniques and are ready for the next set. However, as you advance through the testing process, individual techniques become less relevant, and the pass/fail system become more subjective. To get you black belt, you must demonstrate sufficient proficiency to those with more experience. This includes many techniques, weapons forms, dealing with multiple attackers, and judgement of character (etc.).

I find it interesting that ABandit feels sorry for me, then says "i'm the equivalent of 2nd dan". You see, you have no rank and yet you compare yourself to a person with a dan grading. Therefore you do belive that, when awarded properly, belts mean something. I have said the same thing a gazillion times..."well, i don't have a belt but i'm about 2nd dan"...The fact that that people are interested in what rank you have acheived speaks to the value of rank.

In all art forms there are those who set the standards. Achieving rank among them preserves that standard. Like having your artwork displayed in a museum.

06-03-2001, 06:44 PM
I think the bottom line is that belts ONLY provide a GENERAL frame of reference WITHIN a given school. It can be made more accurate by a rigid national organization, but there are limits even to that.

Outside the school, outside the federation, outside the discipline; each step makes belts less accurate in stereotyping the people wearing them.

As far as fighting ability goes, for that to have ANY relationship to the belts, it would have to be part of the testing. How many of you train at schools that have beating others as part of your belt test. "Ready to test for black...? Well first you must beat all our browns!"

Last, as far as asking why so many black belts have poor fighting skills, I think you should first ask if the fighting skills of black belts is generally lower than those of lower belts in that school, federation or discipline. If so, then something is wrong, somehow people are being harmed by their training... they are becoming worse fighters as they learn more. :confused: I doubt this is true. If there is a lack of ability, it probably grows greater with less experience.

If you step back an look again, perhaps one may see that martial arts students are not fighting supermen. We are just people.

06-06-2001, 04:25 AM
Most of you are missing the point. Your ranking system has nothing to do with your fighting abilities. How you train has everything to do with your ability to fight and win. We work all our techniques up to street force, and usually have to make several adjustments along the way (what works in the class room doesnt necessarily work under street conditions). We also spar with moderately heavy contact. This toughens you mentally as well as physically, and you learn what works for you. I think that if more people would train like this you would get a better class of martial artist. Of course, they wouldnt look as good- but real aggression is seldome pretty.

06-06-2001, 06:28 AM
Some good points there, but how is grading not subjective? I have not had the privilege of witnessing a grading in other schools, but the examiner's judgment of a person's proficiency is no different to an instructor gauging a person's proficiency by watching them during class.

It is a tough problem and I don't know if there is any right or wrong. I personally don't believe in belts, and as I said before I am a bit of a hypocrite because I wear one when training (mainly because I have been told to by my sifu). I just believe they are not an essential part of martial training, and can be a problem when people attach too much significance to them.

What we do in life echoes in Eternity

06-07-2001, 12:49 AM

I don't know how other schools do it, but we normally have three instructors observing the test. After the test, they go into the office to decide who passed and who didn't. I've not heard it discussed as to why this is, but I suspect it is partially to help make the process more objective. Obviously, pure objectivity isn't possible (these are just people, after all), but this should dilute individual prejudices and favoritism.

I agree that rankings aren't an essential part of martial arts training, but I think they can be a good tool, as long as they're used correctly. As you point out, they are a problem when people attach too much significance to them, though.


06-07-2001, 07:37 AM
Fair enough :)

What we do in life echoes in Eternity