Thursday, August 17, 2006

Belts and Ranking Standards

Recently, on the Judo Forum, I have been following these two threads (#1, #2) with questions regarding ranking in Judo and how to deal with overly demanding students who demand being promoted to Black Belt Rank.

The unfortunate effect of Pop-culture martial arts has launched many a McDojo that are very eager to sign-up students by offering guaranteed Black Belt contracts to everyone from 8 to 80.  While I would like to think that those who pick Judo, or another legitimate Martial Art do so because they see greater value than they do in a 'Belt Factory', it is naive to ignore the pressure of the Jones's kid next door having a black belt at age 10, while little Tommy can't get one in Judo until he's at least 14.

In High school the one with perfect attendance is not awarded Valedictory honors for just showing up - so why should it lead to an advanced belt in the Martial Arts?

In Judo, pretty much the world over, there are three key elements to achieving promotion (for both Black [dan] and colored [kyu] ranks)- Skill, Commitment, and Maturity. Skill - is judged in the form of Kata demonstration and competition; commitment is judged by participation points - i.e. you get points not just for competing, but for refereeing, judging, teaching, and other time commitments to the Judo community. Maturity is judged by time in grade (not so much by calendar year, but by practice time) and age. By ensuring these standards and not wavering from them, the integrity of Judo ranks is more universal. In addition, Black belt rank applications are reviewed by other Black Belts on the regional level. This ensures that Senseis cannot scrimp on quality when promoting someone. 

Why these high standards? It's simple - PR. Just like a graduate of a school represents their education, so does a Black Belt represent Judo. Who would you want to represent you? Someone who has committed themselves to Judo and has proficiency in Judo skills, or someone who has achieved their blackbelt through superiors attendance and a fatter wallet?

Finally, what about those students (and/or their parents) who demand higher rank? How do you deal with their ultimatum to walk if not promoted? When this happens, it is an indication of the fact that they just don't get Judo. Above all, Judo is about character and respect. If these students have not learned character or respect as your students, then either you have failed them as a teacher or, more than likely, they have failed you as a student.

1 comment:

Mike said...

I never have had this happen, nor have I heard of it happening at any judo school...tae kwon do, maybe. I would have to say, come back next year when there is hopefully more maturity...some things money just can't buy!

Enjoy your blog and posts-