Please take a look at Articles on self-defense/conflict/violence for introductions to the references found in the bibliography page.

Please take a look at my bibliography if you do not see a proper reference to a post.

Please take a look at my Notable Quotes

Hey, Attention on Deck!

Hey, NOTHING here is PERSONAL, get over it - Teach Me and I will Learn!

When you begin to feel like you are a tough guy, a warrior, a master of the martial arts or that you have lived a tough life, just take a moment and get some perspective with the following:

I've stopped knives that were coming to disembowel me

I've clawed for my gun while bullets ripped past me

I've dodged as someone tried to put an ax in my skull

I've fought screaming steel and left rubber on the road to avoid death

I've clawed broken glass out of my body after their opening attack failed

I've spit blood and body parts and broke strangle holds before gouging eyes

I've charged into fires, fought through blizzards and run from tornados

I've survived being hunted by gangs, killers and contract killers

The streets were my home, I hunted in the night and was hunted in turn

Please don't brag to me that you're a survivor because someone hit you. And don't tell me how 'tough' you are because of your training. As much as I've been through I know people who have survived much, much worse. - Marc MacYoung


The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books. Please make note that this article/post is my personal analysis of the subject and the information used was chosen or picked by me. It is not an analysis piece because it lacks complete and comprehensive research, it was not adequately and completely investigated and it is not balanced, i.e., it is my personal view without the views of others including subject experts, etc. Look at this as “Infotainment rather then expert research.” This is an opinion/editorial article/post meant to persuade the reader to think, decide and accept or reject my premise. It is an attempt to cause change or reinforce attitudes, beliefs and values as they apply to martial arts and/or self-defense. It is merely a commentary on the subject in the particular article presented.

Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.

“What you are reading right now is a blog. It’s written and posted by me, because I want to. I get no financial remuneration for writing it. I don’t have to meet anyone’s criteria in order to post it. Not only I don’t have an employer or publisher, but I’m not even constrained by having to please an audience. If people won’t like it, they won’t read it, but I won’t lose anything by it. Provided I don’t break any laws (libel, incitement to violence, etc.), I can post whatever I want. This means that I can write openly and honestly, however controversial my opinions may be. It also means that I could write total bullshit; there is no quality control. I could be biased. I could be insane. I could be trolling. … not all sources are equivalent, and all sources have their pros and cons. These needs to be taken into account when evaluating information, and all information should be evaluated. - God’s Bastard, Sourcing Sources (this applies to this and other blogs by me as well; if you follow the idea's, advice or information you are on your own, don't come crying to me, it is all on you do do the work to make sure it works for you!)

“You should prepare yourself to dedicate at least five or six years to your training and practice to understand the philosophy and physiokinetics of martial arts and karate so that you can understand the true spirit of everything and dedicate your mind, body and spirit to the discipline of the art.” - cejames (note: you are on your own, make sure you get expert hands-on guidance in all things martial and self-defense)

“All I say is by way of discourse, and nothing by way of advice. I should not speak so boldly if it were my due to be believed.” - Montaigne

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Black Belt Subversion

Open-mind required, if your going to get miffed or upset by this post then stop here and leave to await the next article. This is about my personal feelings toward the black belt today which is not meant to imply that all systems, all dojo or all Sensei use the system in this manner or with the implied intent, etc.

When I decided to write this post I meant it to infer that the black belt of today's Western Martial Systems is one that lacks the integrity Kano Jigoro Sensei may have meant to instill in its usage and award in the late 1800's/early 1900's. The structure and meaning of the belt system which includes at its highest levels the coveted black belt to my mind has come to be corrupted into something it is not.

The establishment of the system was such that it didn't survive the tsunami that came about from its exposure to the military presence in Japan and Okinawa starting in the fifties through current use today. It took on a power of its own through a lack of understanding toward the culture and beliefs that caused it to be created and incorporated in Judo.

Due to an implied structure toward "power, authority, servitude, hierarchical and exploitive" this system became a means to achieve through circumvention of the traditional system of training and practice quick egoistic and prideful self-building grandiose dogmatic beliefs and culture. Note that is feeling is not indicative of all martial systems both Eastern and Western.

I speak/write in a very general way on this black belt subversion I perceive. There are many who have taken the use of the dan-e system back to a more traditional method that Kano Sensei may have intended. The difficulty in this as to both ways, traditional and subverted, it is hard to determine what the original intent was since Kano Sensei may not have documented it enough because in Japan, at that time and still today, Sensei tend to assume Japanese will perceive indirectly, i.e. not by spoken word but intuitively, what was meant for the dan-i system Kano Sensei created.

It has become difficult for the uninitiated or ill-informed to "see" the true symbolism that is represented by the black belt, the kuro-obi. I blame ourselves for our hurried excitement to achieve that coveted black belt quickly vs. through the slow diligent process. We "think" we have returned to it by the mere ideology that because a commercialized way of reaching a black belt over six or seven years we have achieved the true meaning but we may have missed the boat entirely.

Adding minimal time in grade, a military trait/process, along with criteria that originally did not come with martial system training and practice have added time that when truly analyzed ends up being much shorter than a date on a calendar. I feel it is a dedicated martial artists who spends hours a day vs. one who spends a couple of hours a week often sporadically that truly exemplifies a black belt vs. a product of a commercial endeavor.

In my view the black belt tends to be that symbol that has individualized meaning in today's martial communities, Asian and Western. It depends now on the culture, beliefs and perceptions of those individuals whereby the ones provided via second-person validation tends to take it in arena's that may or may not be conducive to its traditional origins and into a realm of money, power and servitude. One serves the master through a perception of authority, power and in the end "money."

I have encountered both, the few who if they presented me a black belt would have meaning and great significance in my mind while others who would present me one would only do so after I wrote a check and played some sort of certification game that is theirs and seldom acceptable to any or all others without first being certified by that system, etc.

It begs me to ask myself, can a black belt return to its origins? I believe it can and has already achieved a lot in that regard. There are those out there who are becoming more the "norm" vs. the others less inclined and that movement is meaningful and I consider authentic and traditionally valid. I have much greater hopes that this trend will continue. These are the folks who have achieved a balance between economic survival and adherence to a traditional form that speaks volumes to the coveted black belt once presented, earned and worn with dignity well earned. An oxymoron maybe when you perceive the more "Shintoist/Confucianist/Buddhist base of martial systems but we are human.


The Strongest Karate said...

You have a very interesting stance on what it means to be a black belt and what it was originally intended to signify. And for the most part I am inclined to agree with the heart of your statement.

I'd like to quibble, though, over your remark about those that train a few hours 2 or 3 times a week vs those who train for hours each day. I, myself, am the latter while my brother is the former. This is not because he lacks love for the arts, but simply that the demands of his work, businesses, and children claim much more immediate importance in his life.

I say all this not to put words in your mouth, of course, but rather to make my point that even though if he were to obtain his shodan a decade after I do, I believe his would mean just as much as mine.

Anyway, thank you for the interesting article. I look forward to the next one.

Charles James said...

I cannot disagree with you.