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John Boswell
10-28-2003, 04:58 PM
I've heard various theories of why some people wash or don't wash their belts. But lately I've become aware of black belts with ... well... their belts are so worn out they're practically falling apart!

At a distance, the guts of the belt are hanging out so that the thing looks gray... or zebra stripped??

Anyhow, what's the logic in not replacing an old belt? Why use a black belt until its dying days?

Just curious on other's thoughts on this.

Domo! :D

Hogan
10-28-2003, 05:34 PM
Anyhow, what's the logic in not replacing an old belt? Why use a black belt until its dying days?

No "logic", just like using my first black belt. Mine has been through so much it looks white, and is about to split in two, but it's really just being partial to "your first". Memories, hard work, etc... all of it reflected in that old belt.

BKimpel
10-28-2003, 06:29 PM
It is an interesting dichotomy isn’t it? On the one hand you are told to keep your uniform clean, and well pressed so as to imbue the seriousness in your Budo – but you are allowed to wear that disheveled old white-with-black-hint belt until it actually falls off your body.

Would that same credo apply to my first pair of dogi pants ;)

sanosuke
10-28-2003, 11:09 PM
to some people old, worn out black belt have some meaning of long, hard training and wearing them will have some prestige. I even remember a story of a blackbelt holder that brushed his black belt with metal brush to make the belt looked old.

PeterR
10-28-2003, 11:57 PM
I dragged mine behind my car for a week - didn't make a difference I was still garbage. ;)

There's one guy in the dojo that refuses to grade for Nidan and always sits as low as he can possibly get away with. He's been Shodan for 17 years and his belt really looks like a dirty white belt.
to some people old, worn out black belt have some meaning of long, hard training and wearing them will have some prestige. I even remember a story of a blackbelt holder that brushed his black belt with metal brush to make the belt looked old.

Nacho_mx
10-29-2003, 09:16 AM
He´s been a beginner for 17 years?

Ted Marr
10-29-2003, 10:06 AM
History bit here, or possibly a martial arts type of "history"

Back in the day, there were no colored belts. You just had a belt, but you never washed it. Over time, it got darker and darker as you trained with it, got it dirty, and suchnot. People didn't wash their belts, because that grime was a sign of prestiege, and a practical signifier to outsiders how good (or bad) they could be expected to be.

So, eventually if you practiced long enough, you got a "brown belt" and later a "black belt".

I have actually heard an interesting metaphor that went something like "and after you have your black belt, you keep training and training. Eventually the belt starts to fade and fray, returning towards white. This is appropriate because at high levels of proficiency, the master approaches the true "beginners mind" that is the aim of Zen" (it comes from a book called Zen in the Martial Arts. Unfortunately, the author's name escapes me.)

akiy
10-29-2003, 10:39 AM
History bit here, or possibly a martial arts type of "history"

Back in the day, there were no colored belts. You just had a belt, but you never washed it. Over time, it got darker and darker as you trained with it, got it dirty, and suchnot. People didn't wash their belts, because that grime was a sign of prestiege, and a practical signifier to outsiders how good (or bad) they could be expected to be.
The above is more an urban legend than history...

From the rec.martial-arts FAQ:
An often heard story holds that the colours are explained as follows: a trainee's belts, which, traditionally, were never washed, became progressively dirtier 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.

[snip]

Anyway, "in the traditional days before Kano invented Judo", there *was* no kyu/dan ranking system. Kano invented it when he awarded "shodan" to two of his senior students (Saito and Tomita) in 1883. Even then, there was no external differentiation between yudansha (dan ranks) and mudansha (those who hadn't yet attained dan ranking). Kano apparently began the custom of having his yudansha wear black obis in 1886. These obis weren't the belts karateka and judoka wear today - Kano hadn't invented the judogi yet, and his students were still practicing in kimono. They were the wide obi still worn with formal kimono. In 1907, Kano introduced the modern gi and its modern obi, but he still only used white and black.

Karateka in Okinawa didn't use any sort of special uniform at all in the old days. The kyu/dan ranking system, and the modern karategi (modified judogi) were first adopted by Funakoshi in an effort to encourage karate's acceptance by the Japanese. He awarded the first "shodan" ranks given in karate to Tokuda, Otsuka, Akiba, Shimizu, Hirose, Gima, and Kasuya on April 10, 1924. The adoption of the kyu/dan system and the adoption of a standard uniform based on the judogi were 2 of the 4 conditions which the Dai-Nippon Butokukai required before recognizing karate as a "real" martial art. If you look at photographs of Okinawan karateka training in the early part of this century, you'll see that they were training in their everyday clothes, or (!) in their underwear.

[snip]

First: the rank system predates the practice uniform itself (although only by a few years). The obi distinction is a bit later than the rank system and a bit earlier than the modern uniform and its (modified) obi. Kano originally had his students practice in formal kimono, as some traditional jujutsu systems *still* do, complete with a wide, traditional obi (really closer to a sash than the modern "belt"). Let's just say that Kano's students were as likely to show up with a dirty kimono and obi as you are to show up for a job interview in a mud-caked suit.

Second: the notion that there would be a certain cachet associated with filth in a culture as obsessed with cleanliness and ritual purity as Japan is pretty absurd to begin with.

Third: very high ranks in Japanese and Okinawan arts are often indicated by red and/or red&white belts. It's hard to see how this is consistent with the idea that colors result from progressive staining or overdyeing. To clarify: such systems tend to reserve red obis for 9th or 10th dan. If the staining theory is correct, why is this the case? Note that this accounts for the unease many practitioners of such systems feel around 14 year-old TKD red belts ;-).
-- Jun, whose belt is probably still in the washing machine since last night...

PeterR
10-29-2003, 05:59 PM
He´s been a beginner for 17 years?
Essentially yes. I think he is under a bit of pressure to grade as I caught him practicing the Nidan waza.

But more basically its a guy who is happy where he is. He trains as much as I do.

Chuck Clark
10-29-2003, 06:34 PM
There's one company that includes directions teaching their customers how to "distress" their obi by microwaving and then putting it around a tree or some such thing and pulling it back and forth!

I went through this wearing my kuroi obi until it more or less self-destructed and then stopped about 15 years ago or so. The last one that I wore for years was given to me by Isao Inokuma in 1969. He broke mine and gave me one from his bag to replace it. I passed it on to one of my students a few years ago.

A friend was in Kotani sensei's office at the Kodokan years ago when the guy he was with saw a red belt hanging on Kotani's locker door. He motioned to my friend and said,"look at that!" My friend had a better view and said, "that's not such a big deal ... look inside, that's what's impressive." Inside the locker was 3 or 4 red obi that were frayed and worn out that had been "retired."

When I was in the Marine Corps there were still some herringbone utilities around and roughout boots. These were highly prized because they were "salty" and showed that you had been there and done that. I made some money by rounding up these things and selling them to the newbies. They were really proud without realizing that everyone could tell who the "salts" were who had bought their old gear instead of earning it.

Human nature as it is. I wear a new obi now as soon as one wears out.

Cheers,

Nick Simpson
10-30-2003, 01:22 PM
I remember reading somewhere years ago that its considered bad luck or something to wash your belt, like your washing out all the hard work/ki or something. I never wash my white belt and its gone a sort of yellowy creme colour now, looks snazzy :)

BKimpel
10-30-2003, 01:54 PM
To quote Ernest…Ewwwwwwwwww.

I vote for washing all items of clothing, and certainly purchasing new ones when they get frayed. What’s a new belt cost, like 5-8 dollars!?! If you are given a belt, and it has sentimental value, then hang it up on a plaque so it lasts forever…and wear the 5-dollar belt (and wash it lots, and throw it away when it starts to fray)!

The arguments for the disheveled stinky belts are pretty silly so far folks.

I find that the dogi is the thing that takes the most punishment though. Unless you have many dogi you have to wash it constantly, and cause it’s white/offwhite you have to bleach it sometimes when you get grass stains (shikko outdoors does the damage). I never get years of use out of a dogi before the seams start to split or edges start to fray.

Chuck Clark
10-30-2003, 03:37 PM
The place where most keikogi get worn out is in the dryer. Uwagi are heavy and the dryer spins them around creating lots of friction against the inside of the drum.

Wear from ukemi is obviously diffenent than the dryer wear.

XhessCake
11-10-2003, 09:55 PM
Even if you have made it to black belt you can still use your white.

Atomicpenguin
11-11-2003, 12:34 AM
I've never had or seen a belt that got disgusting through wear. However, I've had and seen quite a few that became tattered.

In regards to the intentional aging of your belt: I've always thought that that was kind of taboo. Why would you want to make yourself look more experienced than you are?

Finally, I've always been partial to that Zennish return to white belt imagery. This conversation reminds me of the cover to Homma's Aikido Sketch Diary.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/1883319226/ref=sib_dp_pt/104-9456855-3719941#reader-link

ian
11-11-2003, 09:09 AM
I've seen some high grades wear clean white belts, probably for the same reason as people try to get worn out black belts (this notion of returning to the source). I've also known people to wash their black belts in the machine with rocks, or to bleach them, to speed the process up. I've not had a black belt long myself, but I was actually quite embarrassed when I realised it had been bleached in parts by something whilst I was washing it!?

I think it very much depends on how you think about it. Just as some people like to wear hakama because they look cool, or to weild real swords, so will people like to wear tattered black belts. Personally my gi is functional - I wear a black belt because I was presented with it and it keeps my gi together (and my organisation expects it of me). When it wears out I'll get another one.

Ian

Jeanne Shepard
11-11-2003, 03:04 PM
Now, how many of us have a stylish "pink" gi from having washed something red in the hot load, and how do you fix that?

Jeanne

Robert Bodine
11-11-2003, 03:26 PM
Oxyclean removes unwanted pink gi coloring.

Every time I see one of those ratted out old belts I take a five dollar bill out and hand it to the individual and suggest he buy a new belt.

This is only after I saw a fellow dragging a new one around behind his car. I guess he didn't want anyone to think he was a new shodan...

Alan Lomax
11-12-2003, 10:54 PM
I have heard and read much of the same as what has been put out through out this thread. I think the best indication of how to treat my belt came from some of the folks I regularly train with, one hot, muggy, summer day while we were all piled into a very small, Japanese compact car after a particularly sweaty training session.

There seemed to be an rather uncomfortable silence for a short time. It was broken when one of the folks in the front, sitting the furthest away from belt, which was on the rest in the back window, simply said “kusai”. I asked, what does “kusai” mean. It stinks they all said. I explained my understanding and opinion on washing the belt. They said “wash it, please”.

Since then, regular washing has been the order of the day. If it disintegrates prematurely, so be it. I’ll get another. I have not tried the rocks, bleach or car dragging methods of washing as yet. Regular cool wash and mild detergent do wonders and don’t seem to fade the material too much. Leaving the salt, sweat and odor causing bacteria in the belt for an extended period did cause some breakdown of fibers though.

Regards

SmilingNage
11-17-2003, 05:29 PM
I dont know what you have been doing to get a stinky belt. I ve seen and owned belts that have the worn look, but never the stink. If you air out and or clean your training gear regularly there shouldnt be any stench. Just dont keep your Dogi and obi packed in that gym bag. Remember while there are tenchi nage techniques; there are no approved stench-chi nage techniques

The worn belt is good for those visiting days. This way there is an understanding conveyed to the people you practice with; That you have been around long enough and can "play". This may not always be the case but it does help

Dennis Hooker
11-18-2003, 07:51 AM
I have worn strips of cloth until they have become ragged and either gave them away or threw them out. I like my obi crisp and stiff. Now as for myself, I am quite literally a worn out black belt. In fact at times I feel as if I were the original Velveteen Rabbit!

Alan Lomax
11-18-2003, 07:55 PM
Remember while there are tenchi nage techniques; there are no approved stench-chi nage techniques
William,

During that period I was training and traveling between three different Dojos, four times a week and two different dojos the other three days a week.

I think you hit the nail on the head, my gear needed some time away from me. I learned the value of having alternate sets of gear so as to give "air Time" in oder not to offend.:)

Regards

BLangille
11-29-2003, 11:44 AM
I can see why someone would want to save their belt if it was their first belt, or was a gift or is otherwise special. Has anyone thought of incorporating a piece, or a thread of the old belt into the new one? That way it could carry on the special significance.

Also, does everyone recieve their first black belt as a gift? (Just wondering as Im a long way off!)

SmilingNage
11-30-2003, 01:12 PM
"in oder not to offend."

Hehehe

thats a good one. in odor not to offend i like that

JudoGuy
06-23-2004, 12:13 AM
I've heard various theories of why some people wash or don't wash their belts. But lately I've become aware of black belts with ... well... their belts are so worn out they're practically falling apart!

At a distance, the guts of the belt are hanging out so that the thing looks gray... or zebra stripped??

Anyhow, what's the logic in not replacing an old belt? Why use a black belt until its dying days?

Just curious on other's thoughts on this.

Domo! :D

This particular thread is kind of funny to me, because about two years ago now I purchased a new Black Belt after my previous belt go to the point when I thought that it might come off in someones had during a hard randori.

I have spent two years trying to break this belt in, but it just refuses to relax. Occasionally one of the other Dan will forget his Obi, and I will lend him mine, and wear my old one. I am shocked at how comfortably the old Obi still fits, and how easily it ties, and stays tied.

I think it comes down to the simple fact that, no one want to break in a new Obi.

-Russ (The Judo Guy)
The JudoGi Store
www.judogis.com

vanstretch
06-23-2004, 04:47 PM
broken- in stuff just feels better. consider the saddle for horseback, or your bicycle seat, or your clothes. and consider your sensei-he's been at it awhile and so probably feels pretty good about it, or broken-in. thats my take on the belt issue. as for the posers who scuff up their stuff, see ya this weekend at abercrombie and fitch with the frat-boys!! hasta. ps-always remeber to wear that baseball cap backwards when your in your H2. peas.

p00kiethebear
06-24-2004, 05:26 PM
In response to those of you claiming the Zen thing.

Buddhisms second noble truth is that suffering is caused by desire / attachment.

I think if you're really into the zen thing you'll learn not to be attached to your belt and buy another one :P