Why I Made People Wear Pink Belts (!) in My Karate Seminar

Pink.

Pink, pink, pink…

That’s what the Karate world talks about when I announce my annual KNX (Karate Nerd Experience) seminar, where people from over 25+ countries gather to eat, sleep & train Karate in a completely new way.

Everyone are asking; “WHY THE PINK BELTS?”

You see, one of the special things at KNX is that we wear pink belts.

In this article I will give you my COMPLETE explanation.

But first…

Watch this promo from 2014 to see the belts in action:

Now, allow me to explain:

Karate has NO place for ego.

Many people attach their self-worth to their Karate belt.

It’s an inescapable part of human nature.

We automatically judge each other (and ourselves) based on the color of our belts. But this habit can lead to a false perception of reality.

Don’t get me wrong – belts are a great pedagogical tool to divide groups in the dojo according to skill level. I love my own Seishin black belt.

But…

When it comes to The Karate Nerd Experience, I had another goal:

Make everyone feel equal.

Like brothers and sisters.

No matter where you’re from, what age you are, what religion, language or culture you represent – we are all Karate Nerds on the same quest for mastery.

And this needs to be expressed. So I did the “unthinkable”.

I changed everyone’s belt…

To freakin’ PINK!

knx_pink_belt
Click here to get instructional videos from KNX.

The idea was crazy.

But brilliant.

And despite my initial doubts, everyone LOVED it! ;- )

Every participant, including world champions and 10th dan masters from Okinawa (the birthplace of Karate), started buzzing with excitement when they saw the belts in their goodie bags.

Wow…

What an icebreaker!

Suddenly people relaxed. Nobody cared if you were a green belt, brown belt or black belt. It was irrelevant.

All that mattered was that you trained hard, learned a lot, made friends and enjoyed yourself!

In fact, nobody even asked anyone about their real rank.

It was i-n-c-r-e-d-i-b-l-e.

For a moment, we forgot about our belts… and just had fun.

What a wonderful experience.

Pink is the new black.

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______________________

PS. You can get all KNX videos here.

39 Comments

  • dwight schrute
    I think that once you see people in action in the seminar you will know without seeing their belt what level they really are and this makes an interesting scenario. When you bring different schools together you can sometimes see a "black belt" from one school is quite different from one from your school depending on what is stressed (e.g., forms/kata, adherence to instruction vs understanding/synthesis of information, what to do vs why you are doing it)
  • Frank Daniel
    It worked, and it was a fundamental part for the success of this seminar. Thank you Jesse.San, it was . . . . just wait a second . . . . .LEGENDARYFrank
    • Thanks for attending Frank-san, I'm already looking forward to next time! :-) PS. The carrot cake cupcakes tasted heavenly!
  • Charles-Olivier
    Ok Jesse, totally agree with the idea... but... It still doesnt say why "pink" ! Why not grey, turquoise, khaki or whatever... (Or simply white)...:)Hope to join next year !
    • First of all, it's momoiro - not pink ;-) Secondly, because a) it challenges many norms (especially those associated with this color) and b) it's not a traditional pre-existing belt color (like white or black). Hence, your cannot help but expand your mind and push your comfort zone.
  • Jim
    Back in the late 60's and early 70's, my first Shotokan Instructor, Shojiro Sugiyama, occasionally passed out pink belts to students who seemed not to be training hard enough....Usually to very good students but for some reason or other, were slacking that particular day. Did it encourage them to try harder? You bet it did! Whenever Sensei was in a "pink belt" mood, I would bust my buns so I would not have to wear it. Looking back, it lightened up our training a bit and brought smiles to the students...
    • That's a cool idea Jim-san! As a sidenote, we actually have one in the dojo for birthday people.
  • Ossu! [bow]I wish I could've been there for that! I love the idea![bow]
  • Rohan Davey
    I always wondered what was up when I saw clips of karateconventions where people, mostly kids, were wearing pink and powder blue belts...not knocking it, I thought it was cool, just didn't know why. But I love your reason for using it! Might have to adopt this idea one day.
  • Chip Quimby
    Way to go, Jesse. I love it. I bet it was a really powerful tool for those who needed some help in learning how to get over themselves (which includes all of us). Especially today where becoming a karate celebrity is an all too common goal.
  • We used a pink belt as a special reward for anyone who forgot their belt for a class for years. Worked great with the kids, no repeat offenders. Then last year we ran a Breast Cancer fundraiser and raised several thousand dollars using pink belts as the theme. Some friends did the same earlier this year.Everyone loved them and I took several over to Okinawa for some friends and they loved them too.
  • Shaun Emery
    I love this idea and I can't wait to get my copy of the video! Goal has been set to attend KNX 2016 and hopefully earn my own pin...er...momoiro belt!!
  • AlexM
    The non-belt approach certainly seems to work for many martial arts and sports such as boxing, wrestling, and others. There's no reason it couldn't work for karate once again.
    • Jenny
      Good spirited thought (and would certainly save on $$$) but I'd like to point out, respectfully, a few merits of belt wearing; 1.) for female practitioners, a belt keeps the gi in a modest place. It keeps unnecessary "distractions" for both the wearer and others who have them in their line of sight. 2.) a loose gi flopping around the neckline and shoulders is also a tactile distraction 3.) the body form... It makes the lines of the body more distinct, which may help instructors assess whether a student is moving properly I'm just a newbie though, so to seasoned practitioners this may all be moot/silly/what-have-you
  • ScottB
    I think that is just freaking awesome! Thanks for being the kind of instructor and student (and inspiration) that all of us should be.
  • Ladee
    Wow! Its really awesome! I wish I was there too.. I'm so freaking envy with those people who attended the seminar. But hopefully next time, I really can join the KNX seminar. You are really great Jesse-san! Ossu!
  • Damon
    Will everyone were pink belts next year too? Hope I can attend next year. KNX is awesome! And you to Jesse.
    • Yes Damon-san, the belt is now their official "Karate Nerd" belt and needs to be brought to next year's event (KNX15). New participants will of course get new ones!
      • Josep
        The people who attended this year will get a Momoiro Nidan in 2015?
        • Frank Daniel
          Only if they pass their examin under the eyes of Sensei Anastasia"Duck and Cover"
  • Veda
    I thought the idea was great jesse- san and helped a relative novice like me relax and enjoy practising n sparring with other black belts and national team players
    • Thanks Veda-san, I'm super glad you liked it! Hope to see you next year again! ;-)
  • Charlotte
    I woke up this morning and saw this amazing event on fb and I do think the idea is totally awsome!! I am from Denmark, but I have actually put my name on the email list. A seminar like that would be very interesting ;O) I will look out for the NeXT one
    • Charlotte-san, looking forward to seeing you at KNX15. You're not the first from Denmark to participate!
  • Rikuto
    Amazing! Now I have a question: where can I get a momoiro belt?! XDI honestly think I'd rather wear that than my white one.
  • KCO
    One word:AWESOME!I have rarely seen such a simple initiative that could bring out the true spirit of Karate. As you (and most people who have studied karate history) points out, ranking isnt a part of Karate originally, and for good reason.I might steal this idea, however, due to the lack of pink belts, I will most likely use white to point out that everyone is like a blank piece of paper, and it is the instructors duty to put new teachings and inspiration on this blank sheet of white paper. Ok, I might have gotten a bit carried away, but the point is, I really like a physical expression of "we are all equal, and there is no place for ego" - way to go, and a fantastic way to rethink karate.
  • Yeremi
    H... It seems quite interesting. I ractice Karate Do, am from Venezuela. Do Is it possible for you to come for a seminar? I got interested in the insight activities, specially for senior atlhletes. Thank you
  • charlotte
    Anyone who can make a site så that all seminars could be posted? That would be great. Putting on pink is a fantastic initiative, and points out what the important issues about karate (also) are. That it is not about colour, but about training and developing. However, it ought not be needed ... after all, karate is about you yourself learning, you yourself developing. You should not measure between yourself and others . How can You? We all have differnet paces and have to have the oppotunity to develop - as long as we work on it and DO develop. Developing also requires for an open mind, it is possble that loweer ranks can teach You something no matter colour . Charlotte
    • Cassie
      I agree with you Charlotte. No one can be humble all of the time though. I think it's a great idea to help people remember to look beyond rank. Everyone feels the urge to make comparisons sometimes,but this looks like a very simple, effective, and positive way to help people focus.
  • toufik
    Well, a white belt would have made the trick, wouldn't it? Everyone has a white belt, easier to find. But it doesn't make much noise on the Internet...
    • Frank
      Sounds somehow jealous to me. A white belt is within the grading system of any martial art, the pink, pardon me momo-iro belt isn't and the way I perceived it, that was the whole idea of it. 2nd point: I started martial arts 1977. been visiting lots of seminars with known and unknown teachers and not even one had the idea of treatin all participants as even. point 3: what is bad on the fact of getting known on the internet. Jesse is making his living with Karate and I envy him deeply about this, because I can't do this here in Germany. As long as he provides us with seminars like that one, and with stuff like on his website, let him get known through the net, he deserves it. And no, I'm no Jesse Fanboy, I'm a 50yo blackbelt, I took part on KNX14 and I found it to be really amazing.Frank
      • Damien Martin
        Well said Frank
      • toufik
        Good for you if you liked it. Just saying it's a bit of a small detail, without much importance, but it's focusing the attention because it's a nice marketing idea. I have nothing against making a living out of karate, especially with such a beautiful communication. I just wonder why we talk more about a pink belt than about the content of the seminar.By the way, ten years ago i went to a seminar without visible grade. The trick was... To dress the way you want! :-)
  • I love the concept that you are going for here. I think it is an inspirational and courageous statement that can teach a lesson to many. The reasoning behind changing the belt to pink because it is out of the norm and makes others expand their thinking (referring to a previous comment you had made) is smart. I agree that using a simple black or white wouldn't make the same statement. Well done, and I will most definitely share this inspiration with others.
  • Deshi
    Please, Pink belts already exist in Okinawa, so don't say "Remember where you first saw it." You so used to market everything...
    • Frank
      You do understand, that it's not about the colour of the belt, but about the idea standing behiind it? Looking at it this way, will help you understand, why this is unique. And if Jesse took some profit out of this, he's welcome (and I'm jealous, because he is liviing his dream)
  • anca
    I am a shit whit yellow belt - so is if you ask my sensei. I my mind and in my hart i am a black belt.
  • Mike
    That is pretty neat. When I was a kid my Sensei (Chito-Ryu) used to keep a pink belt in his bag for people who forgot to bring their belts to class. It's cool to see the pink belt now being used for a positive purpose.
  • David
    GKR has just had a month of wearing blue belts (different shade from our normal blue belts) as the proceeds support mental health awareness (different charities in 3 countries). A great idea! http://bluebeltproject.com/ We finished a black belt weekend camp with ~130 karate ka all wearing blue belts even (and especially) our shihan running the camp. Very liberating :-) Some have also wore pink belts in the past as one of our senior instructors battled (and survived) cancer in support as well.

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