The Black Belt Myth

What is the myth of the black belt?

 

The myth of the black belt itself: There’s a story that we’ve all been told in the belt-wearing arts that goes something like this: Traditionally, a student was just given a white belt and there was no other rank. Through hard work and dedication, the belt would eventually turn black. This is the origin of the black belt.  Wrong.

First of all, white cloth would never turn black on its own. The best you would get is a grungy grey. Second, it’s a known fact in history that the founder of Judo, Professor Kano, was the first to use and implement the belt system. The original three belts were white, brown, and black. During tournament play, players were designated as either white or red.

Where did this all come from then? Professor Kano was a physical education teacher and Jujitsu teacher.. His art of Judo became wildly popular as a fitness exercise for a changing taste of the Japanese public. It is most likely that Professor Kano borrowed his belt theme from college swim teams.

There were three ranks of swimmers: white (beginner), brown (intermediate), and black (advanced). In addition, when teams competed they would be split into the red team and the white team.  This is still the basic standard of Judo ranking and competitions. There have just been more belts added over time.

Is the black belt important?

Belt rank and title is arguably the most artificial marker of progress in the martial arts. We all take too much stock in rank, as it has become a part of our cultural lexicon of ideology. Transcendence of rank and title can possibly be the only savior from the trappings of them.

The difference between a master and a white belt is about 15 centimeters of refinement. In joint locking and general jujitsu, the difference between a technique working and not working is five centimeters or less.

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