Skill is rank but rank does not equal skill

Skill is rank but rank does not equal skill

What Dan grade are you? So many people ask that common question when they find out that you practice martial arts. Are you any good? Years ago I used to be asked are you a black belt? Nowadays the black belt has been watered down so much that my grandma (92) and her parrot Polly managed to find some one online who was willing to grade them for just a modest fee with a shiny new certificate.

Seems every one these day is a black belt and you can manage to get it very quickly in a club or online, people don’t want to wait and instructors claim that they have five year old students in their classes who are black belts (sad).

What is the rush to become a black belt? What does it mean to some people or to yourself? Are you on a journey of self discovery or do you just want to brag the next time you are in a bar with a group of friends?

Martial arts aims to build character, improve human behaviour, and cultivate modesty; it does not, however, guarantee it.

Yasuhiro Konishi

There have been people on the internet who one minute are a Black belt and then the next minute they are a 10th Dan with their own style/system all at the tender age of 35 Wow. This really has nothing to do with the martial arts we know and love.

Now I am not saying that you can not have your own style or system or that you should not be rewarded for your hard work but we have to be realistic at 35 years old you still have so much more to learn as we all do and our leaning always continues.

When some esteemed instructors who I am very grateful to wanted to grade me for my 8th Dan I refused as I felt I was far too young and still had much to learn. (I still do by the way but that’s another story)

Another point of contention these days is the growing trend of titles such as great grand masters and then supreme great grand masters, now I have seen grades of 15th Dan. What is the point in that? Has your skill level and understanding gone stratospheric or are you 150 years old to warrant these lofty accolades? What was wrong with 8th Dan to 10th Dan in the days past you were either a student or the master. It will not be long before we have 20th Dans what ever that will mean.

Next we come to the misconception that because we have reached exalted heights in the martial arts that we do not have to train or look after ourselves any more, this is bourne out with the amount of fat grandmasters there are who wear their belt of rank around their waist like a bow tie.

We must continue to learn, grow and evolve within our martial arts and as we get older it is obvious that we will not have that same energy and raw aggression as we  had when young and maybe we can not do that spinning jumping back kick as we once did or spar with a hundred people one after another but that is not an excuse for laziness and not developing yourself. You owe it to yourself and your students to set a good example by keeping in shape and being always ready to learn new things.

My father used to say to me ‘‘Rewards come when you work hard but if you look for them they disappear. ’’

Keep safe and here’s to another 50 years of training.

GM Angelo

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