Kids in MMA Part 4

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Tech Sergeant
Nov 5, 2005
The Belt System

The belt system is an interesting concept, it provides benefits and rewards to the members but at the same time it can cause a great deal of problems.

Initially it was meant as a means to group competitors in Judo competition. Later it was imposed upon karate by the Japanese government as a condition for its recognition as a legitimate form of martial arts. Many Okinawan's rejected it and it wasn't until after World War two that it became fully accepted on Okinawa.

Some believed that it would lead to people focusing on the belt and not the art, that it would cause people to be judged by their belt, not their ability, that it would lead to inflated egos and political fighting. They were right.

Far to many people in the martial arts judge their worth based on their image and their image, they believe, is correspondent to their rank. They also judge others by the rank that they hold and consider themselves above those who are lower ranked then them. They demand exotic titles, and everyone wants the most exotic. Soke is the big one lately, some say it means founder, others headmaster. But if any of them actually understood the term they would know that it is impossible for them to hold it. It is a title reserved for the head master of a classical Japanese art form handed down through the generations. No westerner could ever become a Soke as it is an inherited title. But it makes them feel important, it is an exotic wounding title in a foreign language that they can award themselves.

For this reason we have countless self-promoted masters and high ranked black belts. There is a little known phenomenon which occasionally occurs mid flight where a person takes off as one rank and lands at another, higher one. The desire to feed the ego has taken over for many. For others it is a realization that a higher rank works better as a marketing tool. The higher rank, the more importance you can impart on yourself in the eyes of prospective students as well as existing ones. Some have so many ranks that based on the "official" requirements they would need several hundred years training to have achieved them all.

Some groups recognising this have reduced their grading requirements to try and attract more students. After all the prospective student knows very little about the martial arts, seeing someone titled "Grandmaster" or "8th dan this, 7th dan that, etc." gives an impression of importance. While in reality others of similar knowledge and ability within a different group might only be 1st or 2nd dan.

Coloured belts are no different. Some schools will guarantee you a black belt in 2 or 3 years if you sign the check. Others might not give you one after 10 years of hard training. The colours in the middle come the same way. For some you write a check and show up for twice a week for 8 weeks, for others you work for over a year and don't qualify.

Which is Correct?

Depends on your goal. For many it is simply to keep the parents writing the monthly check. So the child gets promoted, whether they worked hard or not and keep getting told that black belt is the goal. They are given a test of some basic skills and charged for it so that they feel they earned it and it is worth something, the higher you get the more it costs making the higher ones worth more. But they are all low ranks, black is the first "real" rank and you have to keep at it till you get it, then you get charged a huge fee, given the belt and will probably quit as the only goal you had was to get it, and you did, and have little else to show for it.

To use them as a reward for hard work and improvement requires a different approach. Children will have different levels of ability and they will develop at different rates. Two children of the same age may be as much as six years apart in developmental age. Those that are behind will have a hard time and may become discouraged. But they are still maturing, in 10 years they could be the top athlete or they could be the bottom. Until they get there they must be free to develop at their own rate and have fun doing it, without the pressure to keep up and develop at the same rate as everyone else.

Unfortunately with a belt system in place there will be a visible sign that shows that they have fallen behind. It is the job of the coach and the parents to make sure that they realise that the belt is not the most important thing in training. It is simply something given when the student is ready to accept no and more difficult challenges. So long as they are having fun and learning there rank should not be a big issue.

As unfair as it is to not promote a student with their friends it is also unfair to do so. Not only to their friends who will feel that they are being held to a higher standard, but to them as well. It would be unfair to move a child up in swimming lessons when they weren't ready as they would be unable to keep up and trying to get them into deep water when they are not prepared for it is negligent. Eventually they will get there and how well they swim at 8 may not have any relation to how well they swim at 18.

Martial arts are the same. If a student is thrown in a way that they are not prepared for, or spar at a level they can't handle yet they could be seriously injured. Some kids are early bloomers, others late bloomers. Those that are late bloomers are too often written off before they are given a chance. In team sports they can end up cut at a early age where they may have developed into a star athlete. But no one will ever know because they are not given the chance to find out.

If a child does fall behind it should not be held against them and they should not be made to feel guilty and inferior because of it. Instead they should be reassured that in time they too will get promoted, and eventually they may be at the top. They are still growing and while it would be great if all children matured at the same age that is not the case.

On the other hand having a child who is very gifted at an early age can cause later problems as well. If everything comes naturally to them they may become used to being on top, and using very little effort to get there. Later when other kids catch up to them developmentally they may fall behind because they are used to using little effort and can no longer keep up.

So no matter how fast or how slow your child progresses through the belt system, remember that they are still children and still developing. Someone at the bottom end may end up at the top end, or they may stay at the bottom. No one will know unless they are given the opportunity to try.

Belts are not that important, especially for kids. Most kids won't treat them as that important unless they are taught that they should. So while getting a belt is an accomplishment to be proud of at no time should any child ever feel pressure to get one to impress or bad because they let either the coach or the parents down by not getting one.

Too much focus on getting a belt can have as negative an effect on a child as too much emphasis on winning. Yes it is a goal, but not one to be taken too seriously. Remember why they are there, to have fun, for exercise, to learn skills and for social development.

Kids should feel no worse about not getting a belt as they would getting to the next level of a video game. That may be their goal, but it is not why they play. If it becomes too big of an issue they will stop doing it and get into something like video games where there is no one imposing a high level of stress on them.

On the other hand, if you want to end your child's addiction to video games you could try taking an interest in them and giving them a hard time when they make a mistake or can't keep up to others.

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From all that I've heard, the Japanese arts like Karate and Jujutsu, etc. are rigidly standardized across the world, so that one can't advance if one isn't ready. Supposedly, the same standards are adhered to throughout the entire world. Is this actually incorrect?

Other martial arts I'm told, like TaeKwon-Do for example, aren't nearly as standardized in the grading process.
From all that I've heard, the Japanese arts like Karate and Jujutsu, ect. are rigidly standardized across the world, so that one can't advance if one isn't ready. Supposedly, the same standards are adhered to throughout the entire world. Is this actually incorrect?

Other martial arts I'm told, like TaeKwon-Do for example, aren't nearly as standardized in the grading process.

Best answer is ........ sort of. LOL

All (most) TMA (Traditional Martial Arts) having a grading system in place with min standards. I used to do TMA but no longer, I am totally into and train in MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) now.

Some organizations have very rigid standards and others do not. It is very hard to say they are standardized in any true sense of the word.

Also depending on how ........ legitimate the school is is also a huge factor. There are many "Mc Dogo's" out there who are just there to make a buck. They will basically do anything to make money. You want to be a Black belt you say? I can turn you into a Black Belt in 12 months.....just sign here.

You have to be careful. Buyer beware just like everything else.

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