Re: History of Black Belt?
I agree with Charles here.
If I would add anything more as it pertains to a division between "west" and "east," it is this: It seems a Western notion to posit the East/Japan as more capable of holding pre-modern sets of wisdom. In other words, it is very Western to say, "We don't understand correctly, but them there Japanese do." This doesn't make such a statement very true - just very Western. It is part of our fascination with the Exotic Other.
Another thing, from my experience of training all over the Kansai and with many folks from Hombu, and with many folks within the States, an average Shodan in Japan (in my experience) is like a second or third kyu from the States or even a fourth kyu from a really good dojo in the States. Nevertheless, this never stops the average Shodan in Japan from shoving his rank around and/or trying to utilize some of the cultural capital contained within that rank in some less than honorable way.
For me, the real division is between Modern and Pre-modern - not East and West. In many ways, Japan is a very modern nation (which should go without say - right?). In many ways, the States are very traditional, very attached to pre-modern cultural values. As such, there is much more similarity than Western martial artists are willing to admit between the two nations - there's a lot of overlap.
Why do some avoid seeing this overlap? I think using Japan in the way they do serves them in their own pedagogy, in the running of their dojo, in the stating of their own expertise - in much the same way that one may make use of the phrases, "Jesus said" or "the Buddha did." When you talk like that, you get to mark a difference at the same time that you side yourself with the difference you are making. Thus, such statements actually work like this:
"The Japanese (who are wiser and who I am like) are different from 'us' Westerners (who you are like, but which I am not like, though I be a Westerner myself)."
After that kind of position gets passed around enough, you are going to have students wanting to play the same game but not really wondering if the rules are all that accurate. Hence, such ideas get repeated and the "unsaid" elements get more unsaid as the potency of the statement consequently increasing (for he/she that is using it).
just my opinion,