Friday, September 3, 2010

Having Versus Being

For the most part, I try to keep my blog post's positive. I want to encourage, share and discuss. But every once in a while...

The black belts were in the dojo after class having one of our discussions. Some of the best karate discussions are the ones which happen after class. A relaxed, impromptu exchange of ideas. The topics range from martial arts, technique, current legislation, scenarios, local interest, agriculture, our kids, current news, etc.

Last night, we were talking about our kids, school and activities. My daughter participates in club soccer. During the course of the conversation, we discussed the fact that two of the players on the U12 team are "retired" black belts. They attended the local chain karate school and received black belt ranking. I am sure the girls worked hard and accomplished what they needed to earn shodan rank in their school. This post is not about the two girls.

My question to the group...What happens when students who earn black belts at a very young age and retire are adults? They are still black belts...right? Everyone in the group agreed but we made a distinction which applies to all ages. It applies to all of us.

There is a difference between having and being.

9 comments:

sandman said...

Having is most definitely different from being - that is a great way to phrase that, by the way...

In our dojo we've had over the years a handful of students reach shodan and then suddenly quit coming. Its as if they feel they've accomplished everything they can accomplish - they have the black belt, so what else is there? In my mind, they are missing everything important with that attitude!

Felicia said...

Wow. So true, Michele...

I was talking to a woman yesterday (she teaches an aerobics class in the dance studio of the local college I train in); she saw me doing some stance drills and dressed in a gi and asked me about my style. She said her son is a black belt but quit right after earning his belt. She really wants him to start training again, but is kind of resigned to the fact that she may have, perhaps, started him "too early." He's 10 now. I didn't know what to say...

Yep - big difference between having a BB and being one. The same can be said for any rank, I think. I agree with sandman on the missing of important stuff for those who stop soon after the belt is earned, though. Not quite sure why some view earning a BB as the end and not the beginning, but it happens all the time...

Anonymous said...

I don't get why people who aren't completely into martial arts and care enough to train their asses off are even awarded a black belt in the first place... After all how can you be good enough to earn it if you clearly didn't internalise it (both the physical and the mental aspect)? I think here in the west the BB is awarded way too quickly and there's too much pressure on teachers (commercially and personally) to give students what they want when they're clearly not ready for it. Most westerners train maybe a few times a week for 1,5 to 2 hours per training session: at this rate it should take close to 10 years to actually achieve the master level which consists of so much more than just being able to demonstrate the techniques or doing some kumite. Yet even respectable dojo's award black belts after 3 to 4 years of study: even if the student is dedicated and trains hard and extra it's not enough to be considered anything more than an advanced student.

In my view a BB should only be given to people who truly embody the warrior spirit and who live it rather than try to emulate or look the part in the dojo. No wonder those BB's quit: they feel they've accomplished enough while their journey has just begun and if their teacher had waited perhaps they would have realised what it's all about.

To consider training in the martial arts as a task and a goal that needs to be reached is fundamentally opposite to the philosophies and religions that nurtured them in the first place: training is not like college where you get a degree after a certain time period and passing exames, it's a lifetime endavour and it's about self improvement and mental change rather than rewards and status. It's like my sensei says to me: the shodan is only the beginning, from then on you're considered knowledgeable enough to find your own way and mold the art(s) to fit you and not the other way around. Man, training with him is much more than just perfecting technique and testing them: it's about learning the higher levels of the art and much of that communication is, like they say in Zen, from person to person, from heart to heart without words...

Zara

PS: a 10 year old black belt is about the same as a minor with a college degree; ridiculous although in very rare occasions someone can actually be considered good enough to actually earn the rank. In Japan sons of former samurai families start training as early as 6 or 7: they get taught the hard way, with lots and lots of practice and little mercy eventhough they are kids... T consider a 15 year old who went through that gruelling ordeal an expert or master is acceptable but I highly doubt this is possible in the west.

Frank said...

I agree. I'm only a lowly orange belt, but to me, (and it may be because I'm a bit older than many karateka), but black belt is just another belt. It's a very important one, but it's only the beginning.

Why not seek out new kata, even from other styles, or find other ways to keep one's practice fresh, new, and exciting? There is always another step to be taken. There is always the honing and perfecting and mastering of what has come before!

On the whole, I disagree with kids attaining black belts. I submit that there are the occasional prodigies, but by and large, I think young kids lack the true maturity that should come along with holding that belt.

There is just too much that they don't, can't, and won't understand, until they have some years of living, growth, and maturity that comes along with it.

Just my own humble opinion....

Anonymous said...

I remember an old story my former sensei (he's retired although to me he'll always remain 'sensei') told us from his time in Japan: he says there it takes six months of practicing rolls and breakfalls before you're even allowed to participate in training. They spend months on just one technique: doing hundreds of reps of that same technique ever class. To westerners this would be the height of boredom but for them it's natural and acceptable and the result is that that one technique has truly become a part of them to a degree they execute it without thinking and that is why they are so damn good. If you were to apply that training methodology here you'd end up with no or maybe one or two students: how on earth are you going to compete with them? How can you consider a black belt awarded here to be worth as much as one earned in Japan or Okinawa? Totally different mentality and totally different skill levels.

Zara

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T. said...

They can still be black belts if they are still applying what they have learned BECAUSE OF martial arts to other parts of life. These things might include: respect for instructors/peers, attention to detail, patience, practicing health-related self-defense, etc.

I personally do not think any children should have black belts, but I think that children can be black belts. If they are truly black belts, they won't need an actual thing to tell them that. ;)

jc said...

it inevitably makes those still training hard a bit resentful--maybe they would shake the rust off faster than most if they reutned to it--but in the end, we all know what it is we, ourselves, truly know.

Michele said...

Thank you for reading my blog and adding to the discussion!