Martial Warrior

Full Version: Dan/Kyu system for self defense?
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The Dan/Kyu system was originally developed by Kano Sensei, the founder of Judo. It used the colors of white, brown and black to separate experience levels between Judo players for competitions.

Funakoshi Sensei decades later borrowed the system to satisfy some of the requirements placed on him by the Japanese ministry so that he could include Karate on the mainland. By and large, both Jutsu and Do systems use the Dan/Kyu or Dan/Gup system. And it can be argued that sport has taken a dominant position in most Dojangs and many Dojos.  The use of belts in Karate is less than 100 years old and in the case of Korean arts is around 60 years old.  Before that it seems one was either a student or a teacher and the focus was more associated with self-defense.  

Should an art that focuses on self-defense use the Dan/Kyu/Gup system?  Are there alternatives?  Is it simply a traditional throw-back to the last several generations of Okinawan/Japanese/Korean systems?  
I've talked with some of my black belts about getting rid of the belt system. But some type of visible hierarchy is helpful in any team/group setting. The belt system at least provides that.

The school I run offers free martial art classes to the community. The result is a lot of more urbanized kids. They love the belts. They are always asking, "When am I getting my next belt?" So, they are motivated by the thought of a belt promotion. My answer is almost always the same: "When you have learned the skills we consider necessary for that belt level, you will be allowed to test for your belt. If you do not learn the skills, you will not test. Ever."

Hence, we have some kids who have been in our program for quite some time and are still white belts. A few have gone to other schools and come back a year later or so with multiple promotions. But they don't really know anything. They just stayed in the "belt factory" long enough and moved on through with the herd.

So, my school's approach to belt promotion backfires because it is objective and measurable. But this means some kids excel and others don't. Then feelings get hurt. Now the kids who stay (and their parents) buy in. Three brothers who come to my class are great kids and have been coming for a few years. The oldest is close to getting his green belt but the other two are white belts and nowhere close to even getting their yellow belts. But their dad gets it. He tells them to stop goofing off and practice more at home if they want to get their belts.

Since belt promotion means little in today's martial arts environment, one wonders whether or not it is time to jettison the often useless tradition.
There's a two fold problem with the martial arts  today. First, they have become entrenched behind the educational standard of "no child left behind" - which is such a crock of BS and the ever present attitude of MANY instructors "how much can I make'!. Society has changed drastically and with it goes many of the old ways kids were brought up. There is a definite loss of civility and the core values that our grandparents taught. I like to call it the Britney Spears syndrome (it's all about me,me,me). Parents don't, in general discipline children and if by chance someone does with perhaps a swat on the behind, some over the moon nosy body calls child protective services and all hell brakes loose. But I digress........ There's really no dealing with all this generality if your running a school, so the best you can do, in my opinion, is just focus on those students that you feel are worthy of training and they show the correct attitude. As for the other's, let them have their playtime, because the majority of them will fall away on their own and be replaced by others who want to be with their friends. This is the reason I no longer teach and have a school, it just was not worth the aggravation of dealing with the parents, because their little pain in the ass can do no wrong and we're paying good money for them to become the next Bruce Lee (most of them though fall into the Boy George category). It's kind of debilitating to think what's coming in the future for this country, when these generations become the nation's leaders............

As for the belts, if you don't have them then you most likely won't have a school or at least enough serious students to keep a school open. They can serve the purpose of energizing some students to do better just to stay up with others, but the way kids are today, most will say it's to hard and mommy and daddy will buy them a new computer with Kung Fu Charlie fights the IRS and they'll sit for hours and get fat, while the parents look on with pride.
(09-17-2015, 02:52 PM)sidekick Wrote: [ -> ]As for the belts, if you don't have them then you most likely won't have a school or at least enough serious students to keep a school open. They can serve the purpose of energizing some students to do better just to stay up with others, but the way kids are today, most will say it's to hard and mommy and daddy will buy them a new computer with Kung Fu Charlie fights the IRS and they'll sit for hours and get fat, while the parents look on with pride.

Interesting comment. My karate school is quite small but consistent. I have given up on teaching kids so I haven't the dollars coming in to make the place viable. To cover the gap I have been teaching Krav for the past couple of years and the churn is amazing. Most people last about three months and move on. The organisation I am aligned with introduced belts but to be honest, most guys don't even wear their belt at training. I am on the cusp of giving it all away and reverting to private training.
It's a shame that you have to be put in that position, but folks today, just are not interested (adults that is). Kids on the other hand are the life blood for the vast majority of schools operating, at least from perspective. Every school in my area that caters to kids is forking in the bucks. After school programs, black belt clubs, special sparring training sessions and so on and so forth. Even the BJJ guys in the area are loosing people, because some are getting hurt and they have jobs and families to worry about and because some of the young guns that thought they wanted to do MMA are finding out that there's a high price to pay, for trying to get to point where it's profitable for them to keep doing it. It's just like trying to get into pro baseball or the NBA or the NFL. Only a handful of the very best get there and the rest just fall away.

Now as far as you going to private training, that could be good or it could be waste of time, depending on your own motivation. If you just feel compelled to pass on knowledge, then that's a good thing, but if it's because your just frustrated, then that won't really change if all you get is 1 or 2 students and they don't show up all the time.
I think you should keep the belts and continue to teach the way you have. You are making a difference by holding standards and pushing students to work harder. Its should be hard, it should take time, if their not mastering the material don't be afraid to tell them the reason their not taking their test is not because of the art but because their not practicing enough. In Korea if your not doing something good enough they will tell you so hang in their your making them better for training the actual way and not just giving somebody something just because. know many schools have turn their back on this in order to make money but I feel sents your offering free classes your heart is in the right place. My Instructor once told me something I will pass on to you he said " Id rather have one good black belt then ten that where bad" Belts or no Belts as long as you can know at what level they are at thats all it maters but by having uniforms and belts you get a chance to build their self confidence and pay respect to those who came before you and their traditions, for me that matters but their is no wright or wrong.
There is no universal standard for belts between the various arts.  Indeed, often within the same are the standards can vary widely. Using belts with the discipline I teach has always been something I've considered (to do or not to do).  Ultimately, either way is fine.  It is a personal thing for the student and extends only to themselves and their school.