World Champions, Hall of Famers and High Degrees of Black Belt.

 in Bradenton - Ancient Ways Martial Arts Academy

World Champions, Hall of Famers and High Degrees of Black Belt.

You can go to any city in North America and you will find martial arts experts who tout amazing backgrounds of martial arts training experience, world champion titles, hall of fame inductions and multiple degrees of black belts in many different styles. Naturally this all goes on their websites and the typical layman doesn’t know how bogus it really might be.

So here it is:

  • In the martial arts world, certificates in different martial arts styles are sometimes traded with friends (and family) without actually training or earning it. Some styles have no prearranged curriculum so if the instructor thinks you are qualified for advancement, he just gives you that belt. Sometimes guys will become friends and show each other a few moves from their styles and award each other rank. I understand it in some cases. Some styles are so similar that if you are a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do, then being one in Choi Kwang Do, or Mu Duk Kwon or Tang Su Do is not a giant step. But the only reason someone would do this is make themselves sound more impressive and it can be deceiving to the layman.
  • We all reverie the Black Belt as being the pinnacle of excellence. But Black Belt requirements and quality varies. Earning a Black Belt in some schools takes as little as 2 years. In most it is typical to promote someone to Black Belt in 4 years. They are not the same. All of us who teach any physical activity know, it takes three things to master physical skills: 1. Consistently spaced sessions of practice, 2. Mindful and determined repetition of techniques and 3. Lots of time. There are no shortcuts.
  • Earning higher degrees of Black Belt also takes time, although these vary somewhat from style to style. In most schools a Second Degree takes a minimum of 2 years after earning the First Degree. Earning a 3rd Degree is about 4 more years. Fourth Degree is an additional 4 more years. Typically, (but not always) anything past that requires no new material to be learned, but commitment to the art, consistent practice, noticeable mastery, a minimum age and a minimum time requirement. Some organizations also require instruction and promotion of your own students to progress.
  • There are tons of different “Hall of Fame” organizations, and each of them will happily put you in their book. Positions can be purchased by just paying the fee to be added to the yearly published Hall of Fame book and buying a copy. Most instructors get invitations to join several different Hall of Fames every year. We teach our students that humility is a virtue, so why would we seek fame? Only one answer, to add credibility for the unknowing laymen.
  • Several times in my past, I won tournaments where I was classified as the “World Champion” in that particular organization. There were between 10 and 17 other martial arts schools invited to these competitions and I fought only 5 fights each time to win. I did not fight the whole world. In my opinion, I was not a world champion, I was a champion over 5 guys in my age and weight division taken from one organization. There are hundreds of organizations around the US, hosting their own tournaments monthly, and each labels their top performers in each of their own divisions as “World Champions.” There are some organizations with very few competitors and whoever wins in their little competition is a “World Champion.”

But let’s be really clear, even if you did earn all those black belts, even if you were inducted into a “real” hall of fame, even if you are a World Champion by beating every other individual in the world, how many real fights have you had where someone was literally trying to kill you. I’m not talking about military or law enforcement where you had guns, tazers, back-up, body armor, k9 units or even pepper spray. I’m not talking about sparring or even MMA competition, with safety equipment, a referee, ONE consensual opponent, rules, safe environment where you know if you get knocked out, someone is going to stop the guy from slitting your throat.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about when a lunatic’s mind just snaps, without warning he grabs you by your sensitive spot and then hits you in the face with the power of crazy and his ex-military, ex-golden gloves boxing skillset. I’m talking about trying to keep a patient from killing a nurse and having two other patients try to gouge your eyes out and bite your leg. I’m talking about kitchen forks and groin shots and getting hit so hard you wonder if anyone will get to you in time as things start to go black.

Most instructors teach based on theory and not reality. Few have had any fights other than with a sibling over a favorite toy. Many have had some real-life encounters while in military or law enforcement, and they deserve recognition for dealing with the emotions that come with those situations. Their lives were truly on the line and they could have died. That changes your mindset drastically. Sparring in a nice consensual competition doesn’t have any of that. You are playing a game, like tag. Yes, it might hurt somewhat, but no, you aren’t going to die and that doesn’t push you to have the same traumatic emotional state that a real-life situation gives you. It’s not real.

Real fighters know this: Any fighter can beat any other fighter on any given day. Winning a foot race doesn’t make you a better person and neither does winning a fight. But teaching based on the truth and on reality, versus teaching based on deception and lies, does make you better.

I’m not suggesting everyone go out and get into real fights or go work in the psych ward like I did, but at least tell the truth:

  1. You earned a Black Belt in one style or two, and have studied others with some friends who will award you a Black Belt in their style, if you will do the same for them.
  2. You paid money to be placed in the Hall of Fame along with thousands of other martial artists so you can sound more important.
  3. You are not a world champion. You are an organization champion or you beat a couple of your friends in a sport that has nothing to do with the real psychological trauma of a self-defense situation.

Even with all of that, think of the impact that a martial arts instructor can have on their students. Nothing we’ve talked about so far makes anyone qualified to be a child development specialist, or a personal life coach, or a mentor. That would require a lot more. It would require work experience, advanced college degrees and intense training, as well as specialized life experience, age, time and a deep caring for one’s students. I’m not in any hall of fame. I’m not a reigning world champion, or even an organization champion, and I’m only a lowly 5th degree Black Belt, but judge me by my students over the past 30+ years. They are amazing and I might have had a little bit to do with that.

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