I remember watching my seniors that night completely inspired by the way they moved and I thought to myself, ‘one day if I can get to black belt maybe I can look like that too…’. At the time, it really did seem a bit of a pipe dream, and the aged and frayed state of everyone’s belts was just a reminder of how far I had to go…
It’s funny looking back on things now. Belts and grades have since come to mean a lot less to me. These days there seems to be such an obsession with qualifications and ranks. With McDojos popping up everywhere, it seems like every man and his dog has a black belt. Now the latest craze seems to be accumulating black belts in as many styles as possible – qualifications worn like little badges of honour on martial arts CVs. The irony here is that black belt is really just the beginning. A sign that you've mastered the basics and you're ready to start your real training.
The young Chojun Miyagi with Kyoda Sensei
“I agree that for students they are a way of measuring progress but at a high price. They cause discontent, squabbles, and lead to excessive pride in self, which is the opposite of what martial arts training, should develop in a student. Every one has different standards so, inevitably there are differences between the level of students from different dojos even when they have the same grade, and then the politics start. I believe that there should be black belts and white belts only, and that the focus should be on training, not on accumulating rank." (Morio Higaonna Sensei, Dragon-Times, Issue 10).Maybe we’d all benefit from going back to the basics. Should we lose the belts and train in our knickers like in the good ol’ days?