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pezalinski
01-03-2007, 08:25 AM
A friend of my remarked on how his white belt had darkened to a dirty brown color over time :eek: -- he noticed this just before taking his nikyu test... It was quite worn and well used...

So I raise the question: Is it possible that the simple color-belt ranking system (white-brown-black) is just the result of obvious indication-of-time-trained as marked by the condition of ones belt, systematically formalized to actual colors?

Moses
01-03-2007, 09:05 AM
Basically, yes
Originally it was rope that was used to hold up yer pants, if you've been practicing a while your 'rope' belt would get old & dirty
Moses

Ron Tisdale
01-03-2007, 09:34 AM
Yikes.

The Myth that just won't die. Do a search on this topic...

Best,
Ron

This link should be informative.

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=11335&page=1&pp=25

DonMagee
01-03-2007, 10:02 AM
Must resist posting......

Drat! I can't. Ok, must resist being on topic....

Phew!

crbateman
01-03-2007, 11:37 AM
Seek professional help, Don. :p Dr. Seiser? Paging Dr. Seiser!

mriehle
01-03-2007, 12:00 PM
So I raise the question: Is it possible that the simple color-belt ranking system (white-brown-black) is just the result of obvious indication-of-time-trained as marked by the condition of ones belt, systematically formalized to actual colors?

Absolutely. What else could it be? It's obvious, isn't it? All that stuff about Kano Sensei inventing the system was just him stroking his own ego. No really. I have this on Good Authority from A Very Reliable Source.

Trust me.

Would I lie to you?

On a serious note: this myth has been around forever and will never die. Those of you who'd like to see it die will just have to get used to it. For one thing, it's a nice myth whose value has nothing to do with its veracity or credibility. For another, it has the ring of an idea which ought to be credible even if it isn't.

So, there ya go.

Myths are myths because they speak some truth to part of us that often has nothing to do with the facts (or non-facts) as presented.

So, maybe a worthwhile question is what truth does this myth speak to us?

ramenboy
01-03-2007, 12:03 PM
what ron said.

found this

"An often heard story holds that the colours are explained as follows: a trainee's belts, which, traditionally, were never washed, became progressively dirties with time (starting out white, becoming yellow with sweat, green with grass stains, and so on), finally changing to black over the years. This explanation, alas, is almost certainly fanciful."

all i know is the only other color my white belt ever got was off-white.

:p

Ketsan
01-03-2007, 12:19 PM
Wash it. You don't know what's living in it.

Ron Tisdale
01-03-2007, 12:27 PM
Wash it. You don't know what's living in it.

Ego?

:)

Aristeia
01-03-2007, 12:36 PM
It's true! Sensei sokittomi told me so and that's all I need. *sticks fingers in ears* lalalalalalalalalalalala

Ketsan
01-03-2007, 12:47 PM
Ego?

:)

I prefer the term ki :D

Ron Tisdale
01-03-2007, 12:51 PM
Repeat after me...

OWA

TAGOO

SIAM

:)

Ketsan
01-03-2007, 01:55 PM
Repeat after me...

OWA

TAGOO

SIAM

:)

Think I'll pass. Kotodama's not really my thing. :D

Kevin Wilbanks
01-03-2007, 02:30 PM
Actually, my ninjitsu sensei said that the belts corresponded to the hardcore hazing rituals back then. First, they peed on you - yellow belt. Next, they beat you with oak sticks wrapped in leaves - green belt. Then, they stabbed you with tanto - red belt... turning to brown belt. Finally, they dragged you behind a horse until the belt turned black. These endurance trials were vital to the development of one's ki. These were done away with after WWII because the occupation forces wanted to prevent the development of insurgent bujutsu armies - they knew that warriors so-trained were impervious to bullets and could kill with kiai shouts that could travel great distances and penetrate armor. Since then, these ki development practices have never been reintroduced because a bunch of wusses are always whining about human rights and lawsuits and such. The loss of these secret ki development techniques is why Aikido is such a wimpy art today.

mriehle
01-03-2007, 05:34 PM
I'm really happy to see that everyone is taking this thread so seriously.

Aristeia
01-03-2007, 08:27 PM
As seriously as it deserves

Kevin Wilbanks
01-03-2007, 10:34 PM
On a serious note: this myth has been around forever and will never die. Those of you who'd like to see it die will just have to get used to it. For one thing, it's a nice myth whose value has nothing to do with its veracity or credibility. For another, it has the ring of an idea which ought to be credible even if it isn't.

So, there ya go.

Myths are myths because they speak some truth to part of us that often has nothing to do with the facts (or non-facts) as presented.

So, maybe a worthwhile question is what truth does this myth speak to us?

Ok. Seriously, I agree with what you say about myths in general, but this particular myth doesn't seem pregnant with a lot of meaning. Guys training until their belts get dirty is not exactly the myth of Sisyphus or Icarus. Deconstruct it and you get the idea that people are willing to believe people trained really hard and didn't wash their clothes much. I think this is a little more like an urban legend than a real, meaningful myth.

Aristeia
01-03-2007, 11:47 PM
actually in fairness it's a bit more than that. It's the underlying message that a grade is to be earned through hard work blood sweat and tears, rather than something to be conferred every three months as long as you're paying your fees.

Kevin Wilbanks
01-04-2007, 02:03 AM
That might be the intended 'moral of the story' of people who propagate it, but I can't see how you can say that is there as a meaning in the story itself. The question was about what is true about us that is there within the story that gives it appeal, not what uses you could put the story to. Analagously, it's like saying that the myth of Sisyphus is about how you shouldn't wasting your time doing pointless things or you should come up with creative solutions to problems. Sure, you could draw that conclusion, but that's not really what the myth is about or why it has remained interesting to people for so long.

Budd
01-04-2007, 07:04 AM
For those that are on the fast track, I found a way to hasten the process. In addition to not washing the belt, don't wash yourself -- ever!! Not only will your white belt eventually turn black faster, but so will your entire gi!!

(I actually have it on good authority that this is one of the gokui for the origins of ninjutsu -- though that peeing on the belt thing may have been another lost facet)

Sincerely . . .

truparad0x
01-04-2007, 12:16 PM
When I started Aikido, I too have heard stories about the belt colors (green = grass stains, brown = dirt stains, black from practicing). I suppose the myth doesn't really lend much purpose besides explaining the colors. However, I have also heard that once achieving a black belt, eventually the belt will fray and the inner weavings will show. Also, what I was taught was that Aikido eventually will help the practitioner understand harmony which would lead to him or her avoiding fights or at least redirecting attacks. This would obviously lead to fewer ukemis and fewer stains. The belt will then fade back to an off-white color, thus demonstrating some sort of cyclical development (white to black to white again).

That's what I heard anyway.

Qatana
01-04-2007, 12:30 PM
Wehn I started training my sensei's belt was all frayed and worn out.When I asked him about it, he told me it was from washing it, and that every time he wears out a black belt he goes out and buys a new one.
Considering he got his shodan in 1970 or so, it is hard to believe any belt would last that long.

mriehle
01-04-2007, 01:19 PM
actually in fairness it's a bit more than that. It's the underlying message that a grade is to be earned through hard work blood sweat and tears, rather than something to be conferred every three months as long as you're paying your fees.

A good way to put it.

I'd also suggest, though, that some people see this as an indictment of the grading system altogether. They see it as proof that it's just an artificial construct meant to represent - badly - the hard work that goes into attaining skill.

That might be the intended 'moral of the story' of people who propagate it, but I can't see how you can say that is there as a meaning in the story itself.

Oh, but see, any truth in a myth is the truth we read into it. By definition that would be the "moral of the story".

Or maybe to be more accurate, the myth represents some truth to us regardless of the truth of the myth.

The question was about what is true about us that is there within the story that gives it appeal, not what uses you could put the story to.

These are actually the same thing in this context.

My question may not have been 100% clear. It's not so much "what truth is there in the myth" as "what truth are people seeing in the myth that makes them want to hang on to it in the face of all evidence to the contrary". We've already established that the myth isn't true.

I think Michael Fooks nailed it, really. That's the message people get from this myth and that's the "truth" that makes it hard for them to let it go.

As a side note that I'm sure will just cause trouble: I sometimes visit a dojo where everyone wears a white belt until they get their shodan. People there wash their belts (at least one of the people that I talk to there does). I can't help noticing that even though the belts get washed they still get darker over time. Maybe you just can't wash out all that ki? :D :D :D ;)

Analagously, it's like saying that the myth of Sisyphus is about how you shouldn't wasting your time doing pointless things or you should come up with creative solutions to problems. Sure, you could draw that conclusion, but that's not really what the myth is about or why it has remained interesting to people for so long.

It does make you wonder, though, if the modern world actually gets it right when it comes to ancient myths. We know what we believe they're about...

...in fact, I believe we mostly do, but I'd bet there are one or two that those ancient people would be laughing pretty hard about our interpretation.

gregstec
01-04-2007, 01:25 PM
For those that are on the fast track, I found a way to hasten the process. In addition to not washing the belt, don't wash yourself -- ever!!
So, that explains that smell....

Greg

Budd
01-04-2007, 01:31 PM
So, that explains that smell....

Greg


No, no, you're confusing my 'ki' with my 'gi' again . . . silly Steckel.

Kevin Wilbanks
01-05-2007, 03:07 AM
Oh, but see, any truth in a myth is the truth we read into it. By definition that would be the "moral of the story".

Or maybe to be more accurate, the myth represents some truth to us regardless of the truth of the myth.

I think this is pure crap. The 'truth' in a myth is not just whatever didactic purposes whoever happens to be around now wants to put it to. If that were the case, myths would be nothing more than transient propaganda. What makes myths vital and "true" is that they reflect or represent something about people and the way they experience things over a long period of time. The interesting part of a myth is precisely what is in there that is NOT subject to the vagaries of contemporary interpretation fashions.

These are actually the same thing in this context.

My question may not have been 100% clear. It's not so much "what truth is there in the myth" as "what truth are people seeing in the myth that makes them want to hang on to it in the face of all evidence to the contrary". We've already established that the myth isn't true.

OK, well, then your question was lame. If the only point you were making was that a myth might hold any old type of significance to people aside from whether or not it is factually verifiable, then the question isn't very interesting. There are all sorts of ways a story could have meaning to people aside from whether or not it refers to some kind of consensus historical truth. So what? These interpretations could range from meaning used by the government to protect their ass, to some Jim Jones type trying to use it to get people to drink the Kool Aid, to some hirsuit freak in a shack interpreting it to justify building bombs. The meaning of a myth is not some sort of willy-nilly affair reflexively defined by the fact that someone decided to come up with an interpretation, it has to do with what is in it that resonates with people over a long period of time, despite the coming and going of fashions.


It does make you wonder, though, if the modern world actually gets it right when it comes to ancient myths. We know what we believe they're about...

...in fact, I believe we mostly do, but I'd bet there are one or two that those ancient people would be laughing pretty hard about our interpretation.

Once again, this response tells me that you are completely misconceiving the whole idea of truth in myth. People at any particular historical time where a myth is most vital to them are probably in the worst possible position to understand the significance of their own myths in a broader context.

Here's a for-instance that comes to mind: if you asked a bunch of Japanese people in the sixties about Godzilla and other monster movies, do you think they would say "Yeah, well we were all so deeply terrified by being nuked that we decided to sublimate our fears into movies about being attacked by giant dinosaur-like creatures so that we could simultaneously explore and indulge our fears and also get a laugh out of it."?

Using this to make an analogy of your interpretation of the belt myth, then the meaning of the movie genre myth would be something like "people should work together when faced by big challenges". It's completely nonsensical. It's a prescription, using the myth as an exemplar, not an interpretation of the myth itself.

This final quote of yours would be along the lines of saying "Yeah, well the people back then just though Godzilla was really cool and liked the special effects. The joke's on us for thinking it had to do with nuclear fear and so-forth. Shows how much we know."

mriehle
01-05-2007, 12:23 PM
What makes myths vital and "true" is that they reflect or represent something about people and the way they experience things over a long period of time.

This might actually be a better statement of what I was getting at. The interpretive nature of perceived truth in a myth that I see is not arbitrary. It isn't something people decide to believe. It's something that resonates and so is perceived as truth.

It often, IMO, doesn't even have to make sense.

The interesting part of a myth is precisely what is in there that is NOT subject to the vagaries of contemporary interpretation fashions.

While I don't 100% agree with this statement, I see your point. Sort of. Even the idea that the dirty belt represents hard work seems more temporaly stable than the patently silly idea that dirty belts are somehow cool.

OK, well, then your question was lame. If the only point you were making was that a myth might hold any old type of significance to people aside from whether or not it is factually verifiable, then the question isn't very interesting.

I see now, where we haven't been communicating. Your interpretation of my question assumes that somehow people arbitrarily decide what the meaning of a myth is. Or seems to, in any case.

I think if that were true, there would never be any myths. I think that the myth itself, not the meaning, is arbitrary, but not necessarily consciously so. So the dirty belt myth comes from someone seeing belts getting discolored as people train and becoming more experienced and deciding that's where black belts came from and sees this as "proof" that experience counts for more than rank (okay, maybe that isn't how it happened, but maybe it is and it illustrates my meaning, I think).

There are all sorts of ways a story could have meaning to people aside from whether or not it refers to some kind of consensus historical truth. So what?

I don't know. Maybe nothing. I find it interesting sometimes. Occasionaly I've found by looking into an old myth an insight into human thinking that hadn't occured to me before. Sometimes I just found a silly story.

The meaning of a myth is not some sort of willy-nilly affair reflexively defined by the fact that someone decided to come up with an interpretation, it has to do with what is in it that resonates with people over a long period of time, despite the coming and going of fashions.

The interpretation, I think, drives the invention of the myth, not the other way round. I think you think I meant otherwise.

As for the "coming and going of fashion", I suspect that the percieved meaning of myth does, in fact, evolve. Not because people willy-nilly decide that it should, but because the way people think about things changes. But I don't think a myth would survive if this "evolution" involved a wholesale re-interpretation of its meaning.

I'd submit that that evolution itself points to the core meaning that really drives a myth. Maybe that's what you're getting at? In which case I think I understand your distinction between "myth" and "urban legend". And that makes this whole discussion past the point Mr. Fooks made all about hair-splitting and frankly a little silly.

Once again, this response tells me that you are completely misconceiving the whole idea of truth in myth. People at any particular historical time where a myth is most vital to them are probably in the worst possible position to understand the significance of their own myths in a broader context.

Yes, in general I'd agree with that statement. Especially in the context of the Godzilla expample you cite (which I've deleted here 'cause it's already pretty long).

My point about our possible misinterpretation is that I regard it as entirely possible - in at least some cases - that we don't actually know what drove people to invent a myth. So it's *our* interpretation of the myth that is arbitrary, not theirs. Although, maybe that's okay. Maybe the way we see it says as much about humanity as whatever drove the invention of the myth in the first place.

In any case, I think the essential answer to my actual question has been provided. And I think we've both made a much bigger deal of the quesion than it deserved. I thought the question was pretty simple and I think Michael Fooks answer pretty much nailed it. If someone else had seen something deeper and more meaningful (no one seems to have) more discussion would be worthwile. If you'd like to have a further in-depth discussion on the nature of myth we should probably either start another thread (I'm not gonna, but feel free) or do it in private messages.

And the reason I cared at all is that I've learned - as a teacher - that sometimes it's useful to understand why people hang on to silly stories like this when it comes to Aikido. Simply dismissing it as a myth or urban legend often just makes them defensive. I can think of examples of this here on Aikiweb. Understanding why they care can be useful in deciding how to handle their misconception. In this case, probably not, and I suspected as much. But I could have been wrong and knew it.

Ron Tisdale
01-05-2007, 12:45 PM
Understanding why they care can be useful in deciding how to handle their misconception.

Ok...if we provide facts to them, why do we have to "handle" their misconception??? Why can't they just read the facts for themselves, and come to an intelligent conclusion?

I think recent events show that they seem to tie their belief in the myth in with their belief in their teacher. "Teacher said so" becomes the fail safe against all facts. And somehow their self esteem is tied in with their view of their teacher. That's why all the falderaw about "insulting my teacher, insulting me" comes up.

Pity...

Best,
Ron

PS Please don't think I consider myself immune to this syndrome...I've been guilty of it in the past, I'm probably guilty of it now, and will certainly be guilty of it in the future at some point. I think it's part of the human condition.

Budd
01-05-2007, 01:36 PM
[B]TEACHER!!!! [/Bruce Lee]

Ron Tisdale
01-05-2007, 01:42 PM
LOL,

Budd, man, you crack me up. ;) I was thinking of comparing the myth to believing in the Great Pumpkin, or Kwanza... :hypno:

But then I remembered that someone might get offended... :rolleyes:

even if I am black... :D

Best,
Ron

mriehle
01-05-2007, 02:13 PM
Ok...if we provide facts to them, why do we have to "handle" their misconception??? Why can't they just read the facts for themselves, and come to an intelligent conclusion?

Sometimes that is exactly the right thing to do. Maybe even most times. There is the little niggle about how we present the facts. It's good to remember that these attachments are generally more emotional than reasonable. IME trying to deal with emotion by being reasonable can often be like throwing a lit match into shack full of black powder.

I, personally, enjoy a good explosion. But I have to admit it isn't terribly productive.

I think recent events show that they seem to tie their belief in the myth in with their belief in their teacher. "Teacher said so" becomes the fail safe against all facts. And somehow their self esteem is tied in with their view of their teacher. That's why all the falderaw about "insulting my teacher, insulting me" comes up.

And this is one example of a time where - if I know this and the myth is doing them no harm - I'll just forego correcting them. In my school everyone gets a new belt every three months, so it's not much of an issue. (It's not really a non-issue, but the belts stay surprisingly clean in even in the summer when we all sweat buckets, at least for the kids. I suspect the adults all wash their belts in any case.) Of course those of us with the black belts that have to last a bit wind up washing ours fairly regularly.

It's good to remember that I'm teaching them Aikido, not The One True Truth In The One True Reality Of All Realities In The One True Universe Of All Universes In The History Of All Creations. If their mind is made up and it doesn't prevent them from learning Aikido, don't confuse them with facts. Yes, of course they will eventually have to learn the facts, but maybe by that time they'll have gotten over their emotional attachment to the myth.

Pity...

Yep. :crazy:

PS Please don't think I consider myself immune to this syndrome...I've been guilty of it in the past, I'm probably guilty of it now, and will certainly be guilty of it in the future at some point. I think it's part of the human condition.

That may be the smartest thing said in this thread so far.

Mike Sigman
01-05-2007, 02:18 PM
Ok. Seriously, I agree with what you say about myths in general, but this particular myth doesn't seem pregnant with a lot of meaning. Guys training until their belts get dirty is not exactly the myth of Sisyphus or Icarus. Deconstruct it and you get the idea that people are willing to believe people trained really hard and didn't wash their clothes much. I think this is a little more like an urban legend than a real, meaningful myth.I also have trouble understanding why this is such a reviled "myth" as it is.... *in the West*. I've heard a number of Chinese mention it as the standard comment about a very experienced shuai jiao practitioner (they use the same "gi" that judo did in earlier days and they use the same belt arrangement). And shuai jiao has been around thousands of years, not just a few hundred. It seems like a reasonable "maybe", not something that a bunch of westerners who "know better" should be hooting about. ;)

There's a similar one about being wary of someone carrying a white-waxwood spear or pole that is black.... from lots of practice with the hand rubbing the shaft. Makes reasonable enough sense to me to say "maybe" again without going into peals of laughter about how nonsensical it is.... or in actuality trying to show how knowledgeable I may or may not be.

Best.

Mike

Ron Tisdale
01-05-2007, 02:35 PM
or in actuality trying to show how knowledgeable I may or may not be.

That is always a possibility, but here it started as just trying to let someone in on the clue. No need to cast aspersions on the ones trying to be helpful... ;)

B,
R