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Old 08-16-2005, 11:54 AM   #26
Avery Jenkins
 
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Re: History of Black Belt?

Quote:
Brad Medling wrote:
A black belt means you are a serious student of Aikido and in many ways, your training has just begun.
Actually, a black belt has only the meaning which you place upon it. It is, after all, only a belt, much better suited at holding a gi together than holding together sociological constructs.

In my case, acheiving shodan means that I will have finally attained my goal of becoming the reincarnation of Thor, God of Thunder. Other men will cross me only at their mortal peril and the young girls will swoon in my presence. UFC fighters will buy me beers.

Avery
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Old 08-16-2005, 12:47 PM   #27
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Re: History of Black Belt?

Oh - that was great! Fantastic post. :-)

David M. Valadez
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Old 08-16-2005, 01:29 PM   #28
Chuck Clark
 
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Re: History of Black Belt?

That's pretty close to what I thought my first shodan meant when I got it in 1964. It took awhile to let it go, when I realized most folks didn't care.

Chuck Clark
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Old 08-16-2005, 01:50 PM   #29
Mark Uttech
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Re: History of Black Belt?

It is amazing how much people try to turn traditions and other things into a joke. Those type of people are never successful and the joke turns out to be on them. The 'Sho' of Shodan = Satori.
And satori is not at the end but represents a true beginning.
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Old 08-16-2005, 02:09 PM   #30
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Re: History of Black Belt?

And yet Zen insight is filled with humor. Go figure.

A great example of this is Ikkyu.

David M. Valadez
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Old 08-16-2005, 04:07 PM   #31
Chris Li
 
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Re: History of Black Belt?

Quote:
Mark Uttech wrote:
It is amazing how much people try to turn traditions and other things into a joke. Those type of people are never successful and the joke turns out to be on them. The 'Sho' of Shodan = Satori.
And satori is not at the end but represents a true beginning.
Are you speaking metaphorically? The kanji for "sho" is quite different than the one for "satori", which simply means "first" or "beginning".

Best,

Chris

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Old 08-16-2005, 11:01 PM   #32
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Re: History of Black Belt?

Quote:
Avery Jenkins wrote:
Other men will cross me only at their mortal peril and the young girls will swoon in my presence. UFC fighters will buy me beers.
You forgot the "...and mother's will sing nursery rhymes of my exploits to small children down through the ages." -part.

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Old 08-17-2005, 12:39 PM   #33
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Re: History of Black Belt?

If it helps, here's my input...

Like David said, there is a clear historical distinction between early (pre-WWII) black belts and post war black belts. In fact, that difference actually becomes pronounced in Japanese history in the late 1800's, after the end of the feudal system. The history of the color of a belt was through training and often war. I remember reading an interview with an old katori shinto ryu instructor that said the black color of the obi was not the result of dirt, but the result of blood; he said dirt could be washed away, but blood stained. There is evidence that early value was placed on fighters that possesed darkened obi stained with blood from many battles; the assumption was if they survied many battles they probably were good fighters. I believe there are stories of young warriors that would stain their obi with indigo dye to fake blood and intimidate their rivals. That may be an interesting subject to pursue...

I think Western culture has fallen victim to Hollywood and the mystery of martial arts and elevated the value of a "black belt" to exaggerated levels. I also think that Japanese culture has possibly devalued the black belt as their culture has grown - Think of inflation: my parents used to buy a Coke for $.25, now I pay $1.10. The Coke is the same recipe, so the dollar must not be as valuable?

I don't think a comparison of cultural values is going to yield the "right" answer. I think that ultimately you are comparing apples and oranges. I have seen a spectrum of students that possesed a balck belt in both cultures. I could mix and match them to make one culture look "better" than another at any given time.

It may be more insightful to look at the quality of the product. If Toyota builds a good car, it would be a good car when its a frame, when its got and engine and wheels and when its completed with leather trim. The end result is a quality car.

Apply the same logic; An eastern culture says value "A" is a blue belt. A western culture says value "A" is a yellow belt. If both cultures recognize that value "A" represents a quality product, does the color matter?
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Old 08-17-2005, 01:02 PM   #34
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Re: History of Black Belt?

Quote:
Jon Reading wrote:
the black color of the obi was not the result of dirt, but the result of blood; he said dirt could be washed away, but blood stained. There is evidence that early value was placed on fighters that possesed darkened obi stained with blood from many battles;
I've heard the urban myth about 'dirty belts' many times before but never this lurid version, its quite refreshing.
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Old 08-17-2005, 01:50 PM   #35
Lyle Bogin
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Re: History of Black Belt?

I have always felt that the blackbelt was essentially meaningless.

But when I see a child'd face light up at the thought of obtaining one, in that moment I change my mind.

Then I think I have the opportunity to make it mean something unique and powerful.
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Old 08-17-2005, 02:30 PM   #36
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Re: History of Black Belt?

I do not mean this in a derogatory way at all, but, in all seriousness, couldn't it also mean that such things are childish? I asked myself this same question last night when I had read this thread before I walked out of my home on my way to class. A neighbor kid asked what color belt I wear, his face lit up when I said, "black."

David M. Valadez
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Old 08-17-2005, 04:43 PM   #37
Chris Li
 
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Re: History of Black Belt?

Quote:
Jon Reading wrote:
If it helps, here's my input...

Like David said, there is a clear historical distinction between early (pre-WWII) black belts and post war black belts. In fact, that difference actually becomes pronounced in Japanese history in the late 1800's, after the end of the feudal system. The history of the color of a belt was through training and often war. I remember reading an interview with an old katori shinto ryu instructor that said the black color of the obi was not the result of dirt, but the result of blood; he said dirt could be washed away, but blood stained.
Shinto Katori Ryu doesn't use the dan-i system.

Anyway, the entire dan-i system didn't exist in martial arts at all until well after the feudal system when it was introduced by Jigoro Kano, so the belt colors were never used during a period of war. The system itself existed prior to Kano - it was used in Go (IIRC), which I can't imagine producing blood stained clothing in any quantity.

Best,

Chris

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Old 08-17-2005, 09:35 PM   #38
Charles Hill
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Re: History of Black Belt?

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
couldn't it also mean that such things are childish?
It is my understanding that Jigoro Kano came up with the system of colors representing diffierent ranks for school children. Part of the reason was that when instructors from the Kodokan visited school judo clubs with students they didn't know, they could see about what level ukemi each student could take. So the answer to David's question is a clear "yes" in my opinion.

Charles
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Old 08-17-2005, 10:35 PM   #39
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Re: History of Black Belt?

Yes, I have noticed that trend as well. Its almost as if in Japan, if you have a black belt, most people are like "So? You do martial arts? Thats for old people." Whereas in the States the general non-budo savy populace think that a black belt signifies some sort of status giving you the powers of a charachter from Mortal Kombat or something..you are the ultimate killing machine. Most people I have trained with consider black belt status the same...as a sign of a serious student. We usually call first degree black belt 'shodan'...'beggining rank,' to symbolize just that..that it is a begining rank. It signifies a new beggining in your training, it signifies that you have made a no b/s commitment to learning something and other students and teachers should recognize this and treat you accordingly (ie you should be expected to have certain knowledge of the fundamentals of body ergonimics and the application of aikido fundamentals, but also it should be recognized that you have the capabilites to learn 'for real.').
In our organization, we also have an understanding that there is no reason for anyone to test or gain rank above nidan uless they plan on teaching. For us, sandan is the level at which one can create other black belts. A huge deal. So to go there, or beyond is pointless unless you teach. But really, the best way to learn (in the dan ranks) is to teach. Your sensei can only teach you so much, you really start to learn how techniques work when you have to explain/teach it to another person..especially beginners. In working with begginers (or especially at seminars with non-aikido marital artists who have pre-concieved ideas of the effectiveness of aikido..or lack thereof) you really learn if you have control. Its a great way to learn and a great experience.
Oh, off subjuct. Gomen nasai.
Cheers!
~adam

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Old 08-17-2005, 10:41 PM   #40
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Re: History of Black Belt?

HAHA. Nice. Very well said. As one of my teachers put it "We don't wear stripes on our black belts because someone should definatley be able the tell the difference between a shodan and a sandan." Very nice post Mr. Jenkins.

Ichi Go, Ichi Ei!
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Old 08-18-2005, 09:49 AM   #41
kokyu
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Re: History of Black Belt?

IMHO, part of the reason for people taking shodan more seriously overseas is that for some time, most of the dan grades were found in Japan. Thus, if you became a shodan (or higher) in another country, you were part of a select few who could probably teach classes. To teach meant that you had to be quite good at Aikido (as it becomes obvious to your students if you stumble in your techniques). Thus, the expectations and standards of shodans became much higher overseas than in Japan.

Having said that though, there is also the 'shodan syndrome' according to one of my current senseis. Because the shodan/black belt is so highly regarded overseas, many people tend to drop off training after getting the hakama because they feel they have reached the peak. In Japan, however, shodan is just a beginning step and signifies that one is a serious student of the art. Hence, it is possible that the Japanese train even harder after reaching shodan. This might help to explain why the gap between Japanese and overseas yudansha tends to close after nidan or so... Of course, if someone else has a better explanation, I would be really interested in hearing it
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Old 08-18-2005, 10:41 AM   #42
Lyle Bogin
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Re: History of Black Belt?

Also I think initiation rituals play an important part in most cultures. Black belt exams supply us with food for that hunger.

I recall going to one exam and saying to a friend "yo man, this is like a bar mitzvah", and he said "that's exactly what this is".
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Old 08-19-2005, 11:30 AM   #43
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Re: History of Black Belt?

Chris,

To clarify,:
1. The instructor's response in the interview (if I remember correctly) was essentially that he (KSR?) did not use belt ranking, but he heard the tale from another person. I am not familiar enough with KSR to comment about it's ranking system.
2. As for the story, like a million other stories it could be true or not... It certainly is a different spin on the same old thing.
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Old 03-09-2006, 05:08 AM   #44
Perry Bell
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Re: History of Black Belt?

Hi

My name is Perry I am new to this site and thread just to put a square one to you all, if no one is exactly sure of the importance of the black belt may i ask a question, I apologise if its seems I am taking away from the topic , if it is pls don't fret I will ask the question on a new thread. The question is ...Of all the belts which is the most important?

Thank you for your time if I have offended please accept my apologies.

Perry

Last edited by Perry Bell : 03-09-2006 at 05:13 AM.
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Old 03-09-2006, 05:49 AM   #45
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Re: History of Black Belt?

Quote:
Perry Bell wrote:
Hi

My name is Perry I am new to this site and thread just to put a square one to you all, if no one is exactly sure of the importance of the black belt may i ask a question, I apologise if its seems I am taking away from the topic , if it is pls don't fret I will ask the question on a new thread. The question is ...Of all the belts which is the most important?

Thank you for your time if I have offended please accept my apologies.

Perry
Maybe not what you wanted to hear, but for me the very first white belt, you by with your keikogi ist the most important, as it means that you started the right thing.
Everything else is important, but then it is an individual point of view. Either you are not interested in grading, then none of them are important, or it is always the next grade you are aiming to. That is the one you need to go further.

Dirk
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Old 03-09-2006, 04:05 PM   #46
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Do symbol Re: History of Black Belt?

Quote:
Perry Bell wrote:
...Of all the belts which is the most important?

Zen answer #1: The one hopefully holding your dogi (or pants) closed.

Zen answer #2: None of them.

Zen answer #3: Whichever is in front of you.

Actually, I think the queston could be re-phrased in all manner of ways to get at an answer to what the questioner was really looking for...

Perry - are you asking what rank/test seems to be the most challenging, compared to the ones before and after it, or are you trying to get at some other answer?


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Old 03-09-2006, 04:18 PM   #47
Perry Bell
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Re: History of Black Belt?

Quote:
Dirk Hanss wrote:
Maybe not what you wanted to hear, but for me the very first white belt, you by with your keikogi ist the most important, as it means that you started the right thing.
Everything else is important, but then it is an individual point of view. Either you are not interested in grading, then none of them are important, or it is always the next grade you are aiming to. That is the one you need to go further.

Dirk

Hi Dirk

You go to the top of the class, I have been at 5th dan in karate for over 15 years I have been training in both karate and Aikido for 30 years and what I have learned is this...

When you come to learn you come so you don't have to fight, then you train for a number of years only to realize that you still don't want to fight, so what you wanted you knew all along, when you receive your black belt after a few years it starts to fade nd some like mine actually go white so like a circle your learning is never ending.

Congratulations Dirk

Some times we place to much emphasis on being a black belt and forget that its not the end product that is the important part of what we do.. its the journey and what we make of it .. to often we are so much in a hurry to get where we are going we don't notice all the beauty we miss along the way, it is important to stop slow down and take in all the changes in your body and life and that is what training is all about, its not about how many people you can beat up in a ring or on the street but how many people you can save and take with us on this miraculous journey we call life.

I know there will be some that disagree with me but hey they are entitled to its their opinion and are entitled to it and I embrace them for it, but at the end of the day I am sure it is peace and happiness, harmony and LOVE that we are looking for and you can not find it in violence, it can only be found in the heart, so training is all about the development of character, and not what we wear around our waists.

Dirk I thank you for your response and am honored that you allow me this opportunity to express what lies in my heart, thank you.

Dirk train hard you are well on your way..........................

Your friend

Perry
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Old 03-09-2006, 04:38 PM   #48
Perry Bell
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Re: History of Black Belt?

Quote:
Peter Zalinski wrote:
Zen answer #1: The one hopefully holding your dogi (or pants) closed.

Zen answer #2: None of them.

Zen answer #3: Whichever is in front of you.

Actually, I think the queston could be re-phrased in all manner of ways to get at an answer to what the questioner was really looking for...

Perry - are you asking what rank/test seems to be the most challenging, compared to the ones before and after it, or are you trying to get at some other answer?

Hi Peter,

How many time have I told my students just what you have expressed and I still find it funny specially when someone says it to me thank you I have not laughed that much in at least two days... thanks heaps

Yes I was looking for another answer.. I asked the question as i would have in my own class, I see this forum as a class and we are all the teachers and students, if you look at the name of my school it is called "Deshi-do" the way of the student/disciple the school's moto is the quest for excellence, excellence in our lives and how we are with others not our fighting skills we all know we can defend our selves with our fists and feet and weapons if we must, the real trick is to defend with honor and love so all are safe even the attacker, I try to teach every one I come across thats everyone is important, even the dull and ignorant, they too have their story. A great poem if you are interested is called La Desiderata have a read you will like it, if you cant find a copy i will post it on the forum.

Thank you for your reply you are a funny man you made me laugh

Take care be happy laugh loud and live long

Perry

Last edited by Perry Bell : 03-09-2006 at 04:42 PM.
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Old 03-09-2006, 05:01 PM   #49
Perry Bell
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Re: History of Black Belt?

Hi all,

Sorry to have diverted from the subject you were all talking about, but I thank you for listening to me.

On the subject "History of Black Belt?" I was once told by an instructor whilst in japan/Okinawa that originally there were no black belts only white ones, and the way you told how much knowledge in a particular art a person had, was how dirty his/her belt was, because it showed how much he/she trains, this person then told me that the color system was introduced mainly for western cultures where we have to be able to see tangibly how our progress is going, we are to focused on what we get in our hands and wallets rather than in our minds and hearts... well that was what I was told and after talking to many people in martial arts and seeing how many Hugh EGOS there are out there I tend to agree with him, mind you I know not all are like that but there are heaps.

Thanks for this opportunity to have my say.

Perry

Last edited by Perry Bell : 03-09-2006 at 05:05 PM.
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Old 03-10-2006, 10:08 AM   #50
mriehle
 
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Re: History of Black Belt?

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
I do not mean this in a derogatory way at all, but, in all seriousness, couldn't it also mean that such things are childish? I asked myself this same question last night when I had read this thread before I walked out of my home on my way to class. A neighbor kid asked what color belt I wear, his face lit up when I said, "black."
How about "child like" rather than "childish"?

As adults we've lost the child like wonder associated with any accomplishment, large or small. This makes us poorer.

But we've also lost (we hope) the childish attachment to those accomplishments. This makes us richer.

If we could regain the child like wonder without regaining the childish attachment, wouldn't that be the coolest ever?

To be able to say, "I got my black belt" and recognize the accomplishment without feeling like you're done now. There's still a lot to be done, but don't diminish the work you've already done. Take pleasure in your accomplishments, just don't let that prevent you from working toward more and greater ones.

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