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From White Belt to Black Belt

Aug 18, 2007
When someone tells you they study karate, or any Japanese martial art, your first question is probably, "What belt are you?" If they say black belt, then no doubt you're thoroughly impressed. However, if they say white belt, you might simply nod, tell them that's very interesting and wish them luck with their martial art training. What many people tend to forget is that those impressive black belts had to start somewhere.

What does the white belt really mean, though? Did you know that in traditional martial art training, the practitioners had no ranking system? Sure, there was a certain hierarchy within the dojo (formal karate training school): there were the beginning, intermediate and advanced students, the senior instructors and the Sensei (head instructor), but they had no colored belts.

Everyone had a white belt. The orthodox Japanese martial art of karate didn't start with a colored ranking system until it came to America. As this author's Sensei explained, the American student needed a measurement of progress, unlike the Japanese students.

Today, there are some schools that keep to the bare minimum of white, green, brown and black belts. Other schools like a little more flash and incorporate yellow, orange, blue and red. It all boils down to the same thing: something to keep your gi (karate uniform) closed.

Seriously though, in traditional martial art training, the difference between a white belt and a black belt was the amount of years you spent sweating in the dojo, paying your dues and how much knowledge you attained through your training.

In the Japanese martial art, the only thing a black belt represents is that you have mastered the basics and now the real work begins. Once you have reached this level, you start to learn the moves behind the moves.

The white belt in martial arts training represents innocence, birth and beginning. After many years of use, your white belt gets dirty from all your hard work (you never wash your belt!). It turns from white to brown and eventually black.

The funny thing is, that if you wear a black belt long enough, it will start to fray and you'll notice that it's turning to a white belt again. This, too, is symbolic: you never fully master everything in your martial arts training. A true master knows that learning is a never-ending cycle.

Your white belt is a symbol that you are trying to be a better person through the Japanese martial art of karate. Martial arts training has always been considered an ideal way to discipline yourself and reap some physical rewards at the same time.

Rather than being embarrassed of what your white belt signifies, look at it as a new pathway to a better life. Remember, a black belt is not far off if you continue to discipline yourself and work hard with your martial arts training program.
About the Author
Knowing the art of martial arts is an asset for protection. Claim your free karate secret gift, and more useful information about the white belt from Mike Selvon's portal, and leave a comment at his martial arts blog.
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