The problem with the black belt…


First off there is no real problem with it.

The problem for a student – is how can I get one?

The kyu grade system (“Kyu” meaning “stage”) of coloured belts has a small disconnect with the Dan grade system (“Dan” meaning “Levels”)

Students who attend karate for a time period and learn the syllabus for the next belt up can ascend the coloured belt ranking system to the very top….


The 1st Dan (Level) which comes with a black belt assumes a standard of karate mixed with the combined knowledge of all previous curriculum.

So here is the problem for most:

Learn a syllabus. Gain a belt. Abandon the previous syllabus. Repeat until you have the highest coloured belt possible.

The black belt test arrives and asks for all syllabuses that you have abandoned for any number of reasons:

Karatedo is a hobby amongst other hobbies (time commitment lacking)

Karatedo is something I vaguely enjoy but my parents want the black belt more than I do (spirit lacking)

Karatedo has things I don’t like so I devote my time to the things I do (technique lacking)

I am more interested in learning new things than going over and perfecting things I have already learned (Foundations lacking)

A black belt in traditional karate requires a commitment like many other arts. An enthusiastic time committed, focused mind with a huge repertoire of learned material performed with a specified technical standard.

Now it would be easy for us to break away and redefine what a black belt is and many do. Replacing the short memory based technical test with a “grueling” physical one. If it feels long and it feel difficult – It must have been a good test, right?

Could you imagine if you rock up to your grade 5/6 music/ballet exam and the examiner say – “If you play/(dance to) twinkle twinkle little star (Ah vous derai-je mamam) for 3 hours in-between pressups you can have the grade?!!!!! You think them mad.

Perhaps some instructors don’t like to see people “fail”, or there is too much money in Dan gradings and students to fail them. Either way, gradings for the upper level of Budo become cheaper if the requirements become easier.

IF YOU TRULY WANT TO PASS A BLACK BELT GRADING (or high level music/ballet exam)

  1. be relentless in you repetition of the basics
  2. train as often as you can
  3. repeat the syllabus and previous syllabuses as often as you can

The grading system will automatically favour those who train often and stay motivated for a period of 3-5 years over those who train little over longer periods.

If you attend a school that guarantees you a black belt at the end of their program – I am flying a BIG RED FLAG on behalf of the world.

One response to “The problem with the black belt…”

  1. Hi James Noah would like to attend the JKS training on Sunday please , he is also interested in the squad Best wishes Jane

    Sent from my iPhone



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