History and Philosophy

KURO OBI - THE BLACK BELT

 

By Jacob Greasley

 

Kuro Obi is the Japanese term for 'Black Belt', but what does it mean to have a black belt?

 

In the early decades of the Kyu/Dan system, the First Degree Black Belt(Shodan) which normally took between 2 1/2yrs to 4yrs to achieve, was a symbol of great pride and accomplishment. Holders of these degrees proudly demonstrated expertise in their respective martial arts. They were seen as quite honourable and won great public admiration. Junior students looked up to them and it had quickly become a novelty to possess a Black Belt. This is what the Junior grades (ones wearing coloured belts) strived for.

 

However, in the last few decades karate practice has been corrupted and diluted by many who pursue it for the wrong reasons. As a result of this, the standards of training and the criteria for the award of the coveted Black Belt have fallen.

 

Today there are many people showing off black belt who by standards of the past, do not quite live up to that grade. Too many practitioners have become obsessed with achieving a Black Belt without truly understand the level of skill it's supposed to represent. Unfortunately this is made worse by some financially motivated instructors who give out these awards at a price and many have lost focus on what really matters, the skill itself. When it comes to a fight in the streets, the attacker does not know or even care what colour belt one wears. Inevitably, due to these attitudes and lack of understanding, the quality of many black belt holders and ultimately their styles and organisations have seen a steady decline. At Jikan Dojo we acknowledge the great importance to track and award students for their dedicated practice, but above all we stress that the true reward is not in the award of rank itself, but in the experience and the lessons learnt along the way.

 

The late great Master Kenwa Mabuni once said expressing the joy of dedicated training, 'Forget mundane things when striving for the material isle, paddling is joy.'