A while back I posted an image in a post, where a black belt kid (age 11) threatens an adult brown belt woman (age “none of your business”) with a sai. It was a picture I took during a Kobudo camp at our club, and there was nothing special about the picture, really.
Well, at least not for me.
However, one comment left in the comment section under the article said the following:
“A CHILD (wearing a junior black belt… ugh) using sai.”
I don’t know about you, but “ugh” is what I say when I’m disgusted. Apparently, some people don’t think kids should be wearing children’s black belts while swinging “sai forks” around.
It… disgusts them.
Well, it doesn’t disgust me.
And if it disgusts you, then you need to take a chill pill.
Because there are far more important things to care about in this world than if some unknown, random, kid is wearing a certain colored piece of textile around his jacket in a place you don’t care about in a country you’ve never been to.
You see, I don’t think anyone has any place in commenting on anyones belt, rank, age, club or style. At least not when it comes to kids, because they just do what they’re told. Contrary to popular belief, kids are not mini-sized adults.
Adults however… that’s another matter!
Soke-dokeys here, McDojo’s there… they amuse me. I have a good time thinking about them. I’m neither angry nor upset, I am happy. Joyous. Because these “grandmasters” make the rest of us look so much better!
Seriously, a quick google search for some nice “World Sokeship Council 10th dan” -pictures makes my day most of the time! Just switch it up and throw in some additional words like hanshi/traditional/shihan/kancho/kaicho/classical etc. and you have a lifetime’s worth of amusement right there!
But I do get slightly irritated.
Irritated when people get upset about this whole belt/rank/degree issue, throwing around words like “respect” and “tradition” as if the world would go under in an apocalyptic thunderstorm of biblical proportions if you so much as even think about washing your Karate belt (“but, but… I thought its magical powers would go away if I washed it!”). No. It’s okay. Please wash your equipment.
And prime example of this peculiar phenomenon is black belt kids.
If there ever was a sharper chopstick in the eye of most Karate desktop warriors than children wearing black belts, then I don’t know what it is. More often than not, these self-proclaimed (and surprisingly often slightly overweight) grandmasters totally frown upon kids wearing black belts, because they “haven’t got the superior skill, understanding, wisdom, toughness and persistance” that are required for your average adult (normal) black belt holder to achieve this honorable rank.
Congrats, Sherlock. Nobody except you presumed they would.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m quite sure nobody believes a kid with a black belt is in any way equal to an adult with a black belt. At least not within the same dojo or organization. Like I’ve written numerous times before, this whole system (really, it’s not even a system, but more like an idea or notion) can’t even be used for comparison. Comparing belts and ranks is like when you were a kid comparing toys in the playground.
Seems like a good idea, until you grow up.
Yet, there are kids who show superb skills when it comes to a technical display of Karate. Not surprisingly, most of these live in Japan and Okinawa. And if you don’t believe me, go there yourself, and you will quickly notice that every other kid you see has a black belt around his/her waist. It’s nothing special. After all, “shodan” simply means “first level”. Before that, you are zero. A nothing.
Note that I use the word “display” instead of “understanding”, because in 9 times out of 10, this is what it’s all about. These black belt kids are masters of imitating forms and movements, copying these and showing them off like there’s no tomorrow!
So what’s wrong with that?
I’ve met hundreds of adult black belts who haven’t reached that stage of Karate.
So it’s quite frightening that somewhere along the way it became cool to denigrate kids who are skilled, train hard for several years, and finally get awarded a shiny black belt. Where is the sense in that? I mean, why do other people even care? And why do I care that other people care? Because I’m a Karate nerd, that’s why.
(Don’t act like you didn’t know…)
At the end of the day, what more people need to understand is that the amount of commitment these kids (along with their parents, family and trainers) put into Karate is nothing short of admirable.
And yo, it’s totally okay for you to be jealous, but the rest of us don’t need to know, okay?
It’s nobody’s business to tell black belt kids what they can or can’t be/do/have.
So I suggest we leave them alone for a while.
Let’s take a few steps back and look at these awesome kids, and go; “Hey, that’s cool! Imagine how fortunate I would have been if I could have started at such a young age! I hope he/she continues and perhaps one day becomes a true master, developing both internally and externally to be a fine addition to society!”
I think we should all be happy that a kid chooses to channel their energy into something positive.
And if that means they’ll have a “junior black belt” around their waist after years of training, then let’s try not to disrespect the amount of dedication, skill, money, time, commitment and talent lying behind that.
It’s so much more than just a “belt”.
Here’s an example: