Practicing classical Japanese karate in a safe and collegial setting.

A Black Belt Must Be Earned

A Black Belt, Like Any Honour, Must Be Earned.

In this day of commercial clubs, McDojos, and honorary black belts, the true worth of the rank of Shodan (Black Belt) risks being lost. In an age of “money talks,” students sometimes feel that, if they pay their fees and put in the time, they deserve a black belt – they have paid for it. There is something wrong with this line of thought.

While the belt itself can be bought at any martial arts supply store, a rank of any kind cannot be purchased – it must be earned. Students who demand a promotion simply because it’s time, because their fee schedule requires it, or because they think they deserve it have missed the purpose of training. Instructors who advance their students in order to collect fees, to retain students, or simply to surround themselves with high ranking followers sadden me.

Instructors who advance their students in order to collect fees … sadden me

Very high standards and pure motives must be maintained, or the true nature of training will be lost. In his book Living the Martial Way, Forrest E. Morgan (1992) writes:

  • “We live in a cash-and-carry society. We buy goods and services and once we paid the vendor; we feel no further obligation to him. But martial training is different. It is true we pay fees to support the training hall, but the instructor is not selling a service. He is giving you a part of his life.
  • Qualified instructors devote many years to mastering their craft. They spend countless hours in training halls, usually following days spent at full-time occupations. They pay for their expertise with sweat, blood, and even broken bones. So how do you think your monthly pittance of dues can pay for his wisdom? It can’t. The money you provide doesn’t pay for your training – It supports your instructor and the school, making it possible for him to offer you his art.” (p. 169)

The same holds true for any worthwhile endeavor, don’t you think?

Discover the benefits of karate training by visiting the Charles Fink Karate Dojo. Earn your rank and wear the associated belt with pride.

Morgan, F E., (1992). Living the Martial Way: A manual for the way a modern warrior should think. Fort Lee, N.J.: Barricade Books Inc.

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