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Old 03-01-2006, 08:23 AM   #23
Robert Rumpf
Dojo: Academy of Zen and the Ways
Location: Kailua, HI
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 164
Re: What's in a belt?

Benjamin Edelen wrote:
ASU does not have written rules regarding brown belt to the best of my knowledge. I think that as far as ASU is concerned if your instructor presents you with a brown belt, wear it.
As far as there being no written rules at the general level, you're probably right... but then again, there isn't much in the way of written rules that are consistently followed. There's the ASU handbook, but you wouldn't know that it exists from many people's inconsistency in etiquette, attitude, etc.

Every different ASU dojo that I have trained in has had a fixed, unspoken expectation for when (or if) you wear a brown belt and has expected me to adhere to that standard. Those rules have always been treated as though they are the rules for the whole federation too, oddly.

That can be difficult to digest - your old instructor gives you a brown belt and your new instructor in your own federation makes you take it off, or your old instructor gives you a white belt and your new instructor in your own federation makes you put on a brown.

Who care, its only a belt, right? Giving it up or taking it up shouldn't mean anything.

But it DOES mean something in the sense that your new instructor or new peers may perceive you as putting on airs, or as acting needlessly humble, or whatever when in reality it is just a difference in how you were raised and that you wish to honor your old instructor and their decisions. They may even choose to do something about it to rectify the perceived problem. Or even worse, those instructors or peers may be correct and you just are putting on airs or pretending to be humble. Who can say?

To be honest, I think the farther you get in martial arts, the notion of being so observant and judgmental of your peers from everything on how they dress to how they bow to the way they tie their belt needs to be taken with a gain of salt - not everyone was raised the same way, and "different" is only equal to "wrong" in Japanese.. Judging someone by their exterior is very dangerous, and often misleading.

I guess what I'm saying is that if someone shows up in a pink gi and a neon green belt, you should take them as seriously as anyone else and train with them. They may just not know any better...

A general suggestion: use a large amount of caution when switching dojos (even in your own organization), as first impressions of these types of things mean a lot and can affect the tone of the relationships between students and teachers and students and students for a long time to come.

This is a touchy subject, and I'm not trying to badmouth ASU or any of the dojos I've trained at. What I like about ASU is its internal flexibility - but flexibility can lead to confusion and misunderstanding, too. I think its a price worth paying.

I'm sure that anything said about ASU would also apply to other organizations that are similarly flexible.

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