Black Belt Kids – Get Off Their Backs

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.

Karate 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:


  • patrick
    i love that video clip, no i love that kid its a pleasure 2 see him train,I only hope that he keeps up the good work without pressure let him be a kid.
    • It's about 30 years old if not older ;)
  • Geoff
    I think its great when kids put in the effort and committment to earn a black belt. We shouldn't look down on kids with black belts simply because they're kids. I think that the reason some people look down on kids is that they think the kids couldn't defend themselves, but I think that could legitimately be said about adults who train for fitness and/or sport and/or the social aspects of a karate club because the training is different to that required for self protection. Obviously this doesn't apply to everyone because we all train for different reasons and I am not disparaging anyone's reason for training. As long as the black belt knows the reasons why they train and understands the limitations of their training, I don't think it matters what their age is. Besides, IMHO a ranking is just an indication of how far along you're journey you are.
  • Julia
    I am myself a junior black belt, so when I read the first three words, " Black Belt Kids" I prepared myself for an onslaught of abuse heaped at kids like me. I am thirteen years old, and the youngest person in my dojo (and no, its not a McDojo) to ever get a black belt, and I've had my fair share of naysayers. Thankfully, most of them have either decided that I was good enough to train with, or that my age isn't an issue after all. I was very pleasantly surprised when I saw that you were endorsing kids participating in the martial arts. It doesn't matter how old you are if you have the skill level, both physical and mental. Besides, shodan, as you said, is just the beginning. It's like starting over at white belt all over again. Thank you for this post, it has definitely put me in a good mood!
    • mel
      it would be impossible for me to get an black belt on/before my thirteenth. I always wanted to take karate classes, but the only dojo in my village (and the surrounding ones) only can be joined if you are thirteen or older. sorry for de bad english I am dutch :)
  • Te'o
    The issue of kids and belt ranks is definitely an idea that has to do with perspective. In our school for example, the kids can attain a "junior" rank until their 18th birthday and then they can test for an adult level. With that said...all martial arts systems deal with the issue of kids and the particular art. If you want to see a couple of extraordinary kids that train in MMA, please go to and watch the video of the Ruffo brothers. Make sure you pick your jaw off the floor when you realize they are like 6 and 8 years old. All I can say is that for a child, they need the perspective of a good teacher that will steer them in the right direction with humility and wisdom. Hope you enjoy the video.
  • Theodore Kruczek
    Interesting point. Having received my black belt as a kid, I think it is important that people train their younger students well, rather than complain someone else didn't - in their opinion. I loved the point about washing the belt - one of the most absurd legends to ever come about.
  • Rob
    Just did a google image search for "World Sokeship Council 10th dan". Thanks for that, made my day ;-) Just browsing this page now:
    • Priceless! If my IQ level was even half that of the combined number of dan levels that guy has, then even Einstein would have become jealous!
      • Szilard
        Nah, he just has 120 dan. But his sidekick, he is really something, the dude with the sword, he has a total of 227 dans.
  • Lecé
    The boy in the video trains like the wolverine, but when he talks he´s so cute, ja ja, very cool. The video is from the 80´s, so he must be older than me. Cool post, Jesse, as always. People like to give their belts too much meaning, way toooo much...
  • Szilard
    Oh blast... I wasn't supposed to wash my black belt? I guess it is too late now.
    • Sayo
      Deepending on the color, never wash it with your gi ;)
  • Szilard
    Maybe this question about kids and belt colors is a bit deeper. There are regulations after all about age and dan level. At JKF for 1st kyu the candidate has to be at least 15 years old, for 6th dan 38. In my stile it is a bit different, I think there is no age limit for junior black belts. As far as I understand, kids have only 1 black belt rank, and after they are 18 they can test for 2nd dan in the adult system. The age limitations come in at 5th dan only which can not be awarded before the age of 36th year. Not that it ever bothered me, I started training in this style around my 40th birthday... I could test tomorrow up to the 7th dan without hitting the age limit.
  • Dojorat
    Rank and skill is something that is very personal and usually understood only by the individual and the sensei. A long time ago before belts, all a student would get in recognition for improvement in skill was a word of approval. People these days, especially youths and kids NEED a tangible sign of achievement. McDojos in all their greediness are making oodles of cash exploiting this. That is why when people see a blackbelt tied to a person in his early teens or younger automatically think that kid did not earn it or truly deserve it. Any serious karateka training for the sake of skill has made this assumption at least once. Any dojo with a good sensei and programme makes clearly distinguishes between child/youth skills and belt requirements and that of adults but it is impossible to see that without knowing the black belt kid`s sensei and style/school. Which is why the assumption black belt kid=Poor kid must be a McDojo victim
  • Fleur Hindt
    At my school, my Sensei will not grant a blackbelt until around the age of 18years, the youngest ever was 16. Even if that kid has been training since he was 6. He doesn't do the junior black belt thing. I kinder feel a little sorry for these young colts, but man I respect them. Some of them have been wearing their brown belts now for like 8 years! But you know what's really cool - they just keep coming, week after week after week. Cos at our school there is no big emphesis on your belt - it's just about the training and the learning and the fun along the way. Our Sensei is not focussed on collecting money, he just wants to teach anyone who wants to learn, and that's why these kids just keep turning up. It's pretty cool really. As for why our Sensei does this, I think it is just a personal thing of his - he simply wont give a black belt to anyone he doesn't think could defend themselves on the street. And he just doesn't believe no matter how skilled a young kid is that they could defend themselves against a big violent thug. It's just his personal thing - it's not right, it's not wrong, it's just his thing. If your belt focussed and you don't want to wait I suppose you just go to another club, but interestingly enough - noone does. And I think it is because we are trained to focus on the training - period.
    • Dojorat
      The kind of sensei you referred to is exactly what I was thinking about. In my experience, a good sensei will promote a student for improvement in technical skills and the level of understanding of said skills. Some will wait until the student has developed the power and ability to apply the techniques. That is what usually distinguishes `junior` levels from regular ones. I have seen many black belt youths and kids with amazing techniques but I would bet money that none of them would match a more mature student at the equivalent level. No matter how skilled a 10 year old black belt is you will have a very hard time convincing anybody that he can match an 18 year old with the same skill level. In Okinawa where I train, young kids are often promoted up to shodan but only if and when the sensei decides and TELLS them to take the exam. After that, it does not matter if you are 12 or 80. If the sensei does not believe you have the appropriate skill AND power to match you cannot test. And that is after the minimum evaluation period has passed. That is why I am still at nidan after over 3 years and have not been told yet that I am ready to take a stab at sandan
      • Cinzia
        I agree with you guys. I suppose the disgust comes when you see a very young kid totally confused while trying to perform unsu, which is probably too elaborate for him since he misses all the heian kata, wearing a black belt. I swear I was sorry for that lil kid when our lil yellow belt got 5 flags with heian shodan against him ( it was a just-for-fun competition )The poor boy was a product of what a mcDojo seriously is. Belts are to keep up your pants, like Master Miyagi once told to Daniel San. But some things are so bad they are not even funny anymore.
    • Kim
      that really sucks that you have to be 18 to be a black belt. I got mine almost a year ago in August. I'm going for my second degree in December
  • karate gear
    Sorry to provide a link but this post of yours reminded me of another awesome video I saw the other day. I did some digging and here it is: These kids use every ounce of energy to take it to the next level. I just hope it is really what they want to be doing!
  • jamonco
    Jesse Sensei, You MUST check this out!!
    • That's EXACTLY what I've been trying to say! AWESOME video!
  • andrey from tampa bay ..
    it is very good subject. please tell me if i am wrong but on this video this kids top is fold on the left hand side? instead of right.??? there is a nice story when your dogi ends on the left handside.?? may be you should elaborate on this subject, dear jesse san. andrey from tampa bay.
    • Cinzia
      Hey you got me curious, what's the story?
  • andrei dima
    Good subject. This is only my opinion.For children training like play . With belts or not , depends on teacher. A friend of mine teach Karate to children , it is ok. No Martial Karate under aprox.18 years old , depends on each psihology and determination.For black belt ( colour not important , real level of experience is important )minimum 11 years of intense training with serious kumite . And minimum one Kobudo weapon mastering.That means much. Agree with the ideea that children are not miniadults, so belts for kids are belts for kids. Best regards , Andrei
  • Te'o
    After looking at the World Sokeship Council photos I think that I would like to be a part of this group. Let's see...I have an advanced degree in education from a real university and I'm a teacher - I'll take the title of Professor. My black belt has quite a bit of white showing and has cool red Kanji writing on it - I could probably order a cool red one with writing on it though. My white gi is nice but I need a flashier one, you know, with lots of patches and stuff and a cool color. Oh own style, yes - Te'o Ken Do Ganga Ryu. World Sokeship Council, please look for my application in the mail. Here I come! Jesse, gracias for da giggles.
  • Sean
    I agree with this article. having me many young black belts myself. and i think so often about how i'd be being able to start at five. Truth be told i probably wouldn't have got this far. then I see, I'm still young, and lucky. Going for Shodan in july this year. At the tender young age on 21.
  • Wilton Machak
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  • Gerry
    No doubt children have the ability to be technically advanced in all sorts of physical activities given the time and training (think of young gymnists for example). My question is what did the "black belt" mean when it was first introduced nearly a century ago compared to what it means today?
  • The Strongest Karate
    I take a somewhat softer stance when it comes to child black belts. And I should first say that I have a somewhat love-hate relationship with the whole colored-belt concept. Anyhow, if a kid works his ass off and earns it, then I am generally more okay with him earning a black belt (but preferably staying at 1st kyu until in his teens). The problem is that this hard working kid with a black belt is completely indistinguishable from the one who got his for his birthday! (Actually, this is a problem with GROWN UP black belts too - again, my love-hate relationship with belts). I place a certain amount of significance with what the black belt has come to mean which I imagine is pretty common (meaning that its not magical, just important) and for me, it would be very much an exception to award shodan to anyone under 16. Of course, I'm only 6th kyu today, so maybe I'll feel differently once I get there myself.
  • karatemom
    As the mother of two jr. shodans, I thought this was a great article. But I have to ask, what the hell is a McDojo???
    • Karatemom: Have you heard the term 'McJob'? ( Well, a McDojo is the Karate version ;)
      • karatemom
        Ah, sorry, I guess I'm a little slow on the uptake late at night. But in my defense, there aren't alot of dojos where I live. I live in the suburbs, but our Sensei's Sensei is Kiyohide Shinjo and we're lucky enough to train with him occasionally and the sempais from his dojo visit on a regular basis. I guess I thought all dojos operated like that.... :)
  • Jack M
    I will hopefully get my black belt around 16/17 years old. (14 year old 2nd kyu, Goju Ryu for 6/7 years). It kinda aggravates me that people can get a black belt in 3 years, regardless of age. respect to him for it but he can't be training everyday, he's probably going to school as well so I can't understand how you can get a shodan in 3 years. But yeah, I see no problem with children having black belts as long as they are at the same level of understanding as adults of that rank. Jesse San, if black belts are just repeating moves, then I don't think they really deserve it.
  • isshin
    The issue here is that we are all too willing to take on these Junior Students (and take the money from the Parents), enforce that they have to be at class for a minimum of two classes per week, enter tournaments (to promote our schools) yet when it comes to the crunch, we don’t want to let them grade to Balck Belt??? Guys, don’t be fooled to think that because your student ‘wins’ at a tournament, that they are true Black Belts? What do we do, make the Student ‘hang around’ class for another few years until we deem them old enough to test??? Remember, just a few decades ago we never taught kids Martial Arts! Times change and so should our way of thinking!
  • Auora
    I don't agree with this at all. Child black belts are becoming a large problem. I have nothing wrong with CHILD black belts, but when 10 yr olds are wearing adult 1st Dans than there is a problem. A 1st Dan used to mean something. It took me 9 yrs to achieve my first and another 4 to earn my second dan. I know a guy from a site a use who wrote a good post on this topic. He wrote: "Traditionally in Japan, the minimum age for black belt was 16 years of age. The reason was simple. A boy was not considered a man until he turned 16. The term Shodan does not mean 1st degree black belt. It means 1st (Sho), Man (Dan). The Japanese felt that one must be mature enough to be a black belt. Children were rarely ever allowed to train until a few years ago. For rank promotion the rules were strict for many years traditional Japanese arts used something similar to this as guidelines. NOTE: the time in grade is from one rank to the next. It is not counted from how long you have trained, but from one rank to the next. That means that if it takes longer to reach a belt rank you don't get to test for the next rank sooner. Here is the age time requirements as they should be: RANK / MINIMUM TIME IN GRADE / MINIMUM AGE Shodan / 1st dan / 3-5 years (or more) of training / 16 Nidan / 2nd dan / 2 years / 18 Sandan / 3rd dan / 3 years / 21 Yondan / 4th dan / 4 years / 25 Godan / 5th dan / 5 years / 30 Ranks above 5th dan are considered honorary ranks in many styles. NOTE: in actual practice, I have not seen anyone achieve the rank of 2nd dan (Nidan) (legitimately) that was under the age of 25. EDIT: I have never heard anyone give me a good reason for any child ever being awarded a black belt. No matter if it is supposed to be a real black belt, or junior black belt. There was no such thing in the 1960's and into the early 1970's. The McDojo started this practice. Children are not mature enough to learn real marital arts self-defense. It is watered down play time at best. The martial arts in the 1960's was a brutal, hard contact, no protective gear, realistic fighting experience. Many adults could not take the abuse. so no one can convince me that if adults run for the door that some child could ever study and earn a black belt in that way.... The guys that are in favor of children having black belts are either children, or so young that they were not around to see what the martial arts were before commercialism changed them. In the 1960's there were no children black belts. there were no children training in the martial arts in the U.S.A. Black Belt Magazine stated that less than 3% of the public was even interested in studying the martial arts at that time. Less than 3% of adults ever reached black belt. Of those few, less than 50% ever reached second degree black belt. Today 85% of all martial arts students in the U.S.A. are children. Now you see the problem... If this does not convince those that thing that children should have black belts, then I guess you should continue training in a school that gives them to children. EDIT: No reputable martial arts school would tell anyone how long it takes to reach black belt. Any that do have promotion figured out based on time, not knowledge, skill level, or the ability to use what they teach effectively. No instructor knows how long a student will take to reach black belt level. Each person is different. Frankly, many people don't have what it takes to ever be a legitimate black belt. For comparison in the 1960's and 1970's most legitimate martial artists that reached black belt had spent 5-7 years of serious training to get there. A few students might do it in 5 years, but that was rare. Many guys I know did not see their black belt until they had studied 10 years or more. But I must say something that is generally not understood. Or that is to say has been presented in a totally incorrect way to the public. Black belt is a big achievement from a legitimate school. however, black belt is considered a beginner, not an expert. The Asian attitude is that a student reaching black belt has learned the basics. But, they are not necessarily good at them. It is at black belt that the real learning begins. In Japanese all color belts are collectively called Mudansha, and all black belt levels are know as Yudansha. The term Mu-Dan-Sha is meant to mean "nothing". This is because as I said upon reaching black belt, you are only beginning to learn the true art. In case you are wondering,... it took me from June of 1967 to May of 1975 (just short of 8 years) to reach my first black belt. Those years included training of no less than 10-12 hours a week. form 1973 on, I trained, taught, and studied under my instructor at least 20 hours a week". THAT is the dedication, blood, sweat, tears, etc, etc, that used to be what earning a 1st Dan was all about! What ever happened to those days? I understand people want to defend themselves and their art but no-one under the age of 15 or 16 should be a 1st Dan and they must have an exceptional amount of knowledge and be able to apply that knowledge in a way that is real. EX: How many people train against a knife attack realistically? As in the assailant rushes you and tries to stab you 10 times in 5 seconds. The most skilled martial artists have a hard time dealing with such harsh realities. I plan to start cross training in Kyokushin from an 8th degree master who trained in Japan for most of his life. He said he never gives 1st dans to people younger than 18. He said he only did that once to a kid who was 16 bc the student showed exceptional skill and knew how to truly fight. In short, I do not agree with this in the slightest.
  • Danny
    Good point, but like everything else, times change. MOST Martial Arts schools will advise how long it takes to get a Black Belt because while ever money is exchanged for services, the customer (Student) has a right to know. There will always be opinions on Junior Black Belts and watered down systems etc. The bottom line is if a Sensei doesn't want a 'Junior' Black Belt, then don't teach kids period!
    • AKBAN
      I understand schools changing and the world changing etc, but: I agree with Auroa 100% on this. A school SHOULD NOT guarantee their student a 1st Dan nor should they advise to them "it will take about this long". Ay, the average time for arts like Karate and Tae Kwon Do in the US is 4yrs. But at the end of the day the student isn't guaranteed a thing, nor are they given it. It is earned through blood, sweat, pain, and performance. A 1st Dan should mean something. Not perfection in forms or kata, fancy non practical bo twirling, or point sparring. It is REAL practical self defense. It does not guarantee safety in a fight, it means nothing. I have seen HUNDREDS of blackbelts, adult and child alike, who can't fight their way out of a wet paper bag. It's not about what is around the waist, it's about what is in the head. The knowledge acquired and the ability to use it successfully. If you go to a bad school, under a bad instructor, you won't learn a thing. Why? Bc to the instructor it's all about the money, the easy way to make the student comfortable so they can come back. As mentioned in the post above mine: "The martial arts in the 1960?s was a brutal, hard contact, no protective gear, realistic fighting experience. Many adults could not take the abuse. so no one can convince me that if adults run for the door that some child could ever study and earn a black belt in that way…." Look at the problem the Bujinkan has. Back in the 60s and 70s it was a tough, enduring martial art, with endless repetition, and violent application of technique. It was still a martial art and some or all of the 18 skills was learned. It was tough and demanding and therefore... Not valuable... as in it did not sell. Too many people couldn't handle it. It was too hard, and people did not have the heart, dedication, and drive to stay with it. Thus, Hatsumi's organization was losing money. Then along came Stephen who watered it down into what it is today. A near fraud. Laughable at best. Ruining the reputation of the art. Ask a majority of marital artists what they think of the bujinkan and they do not take it seriously. It's a joke. Not all are bad, but a-lot are. So it has nothing to do with belts, "we guarantee you a black belt in 3 to 4 years", "we advise you that it may take 3 to 4 yrs"... it's not that at all. IT IS EARNED! YOU WANT IT? EARN IT! And it is earned the hard way. Nothing is given. It can take 4 yrs, it can take 8. Depends on the student and in some arts age. In my current art applicants must be 18 or older and it normally takes about 12 years to qualify for rank of 1st Dan. And in truth a belt is nothing more than belt. Sure, some can spend 10 years of hard work to earn that belt through a legit school thus making it special. But it's still a belt. It knowledge and application of technique that is important. Last week at a seminar I met a 15 yr old 3rd Dan who took ---------. He was pathetic. Moved like a yellow belt and it was apparent he went to a mcdojo. And I was sad for him. He thought he was good and in reality he was atrocious. All from his master. Point is... what is the worth of a a 1st Dan to you? Are they given out? Bought? Are you guaranteed one? How are they earned? To what means? These days they are given out like candy. And the student does not truly prove they deserve one. I hope that changes. My Opinion: Martial Artist 14 yrs and counting.
  • Danny
    Good point! A hell of a lot of Martial Arts are watered down. For those that want to advertise that they 'give' Black Belts in xxx amount of years, good luck to them. I never have. That is not what a good school is about. BUT when asked, I am obliged to give them some type of legit answer! You see, this is not about the student painting Mr Myagi's house or gardening for him, this is about people paying money. There is NOT ONE school in this world that doesn't take money for lessons and therefore the Student (Customer) needs answers! We award these Kyu levels as a gauge of your advancement and then the Student strives beyond the Kyu level to the 'next level'. Is this rank the be all / end all....not at all. It's just one door closing and another opening! Why not for Juniors?????? I awarded a Black Belt to a Junior Student that DESERVED IT! This whole scenario started over some ego driven whinger compalining that Juniors shouldn't earn a Black Belt. I've seen the tough guys of some of the Martial Arts Schools and their Black Belt gradings, it's pathetic. They get a Black Belt candidate up and beat him about until he can't stand and call it a grading. It's just a ego driven slug fest. I read the stories of Sho Dans "peeing blood for a day" after their Black Belt grading. Man, those guys are just too tough for me :) RANK FOLLOWS THE MAN My opinion too Martial Artist of 36 years
    • AKBAN
      Ay, great points.
  • Danny
    Thanks Akban :) I think some of these comments can get a little out of hand though (and I'm just as at fault as anyone). But nonetheless, that's all they are just comments, no malice intended.
  • Harry
    I am one of these "junior black belts" getting it when I was eleven, but karate isn't about what age you are or really what belt you are. Karate is about your own path to success whether it takes 2 years or 10. Everybody's different in their own skill levels and that's how their judged. There is no benchmark where you have to be able to punch this hard to pass your grading or do every single Kata, no! It's your own journey. I am 14 now and all adults treat me as equal. I have what it takes to become a black belt and I've proved it. This is the same for every "junior black belt" all I have left to say is no matter how long it takes you, if your friends overtake you, don't give up, This is your own journey and make the most of it!
  • Court Ellis
    I do have a 9 year old who is a 1st Poom Dan and when she trains she gives it her all, but when she needs guidance she looks to me for approval and instead of shooting her down we encourage her to keep going.
  • Brian Rooker
    If I see a small kid with a blackbelt - I just assume even the adult can't defend themselves - but love playing "deadly" blackbelt - hope these people never experience a real street assault like I did. The attacker left running with a limp - but not before I got stabbed - twice!
  • Zack
    I wouldn’t tell a junior BB he shouldn’t have the rank, but I believe the black belt isn’t an arbitrary thing. I believe the black belt stands for something. It represents a certain level of maturity, personal development, knowledge and proficiency, and I do not believe most kids even in high school are at that level. I’m a kenpoists, judoka, and jiujiteiro. Neither judo nor Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu award black below a certain age(16 for judo and 19 for bjj)
  • Ian Haynes
    "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." Unfortunately the kids do. It is very rarely explained to the kids (or parents) that they are testing for a junior black belt and even fewer schools re-test them to adult shodan when they are old enough. The EKF rules even state that you must be 16 to be a recognised shodan grade under them, any one younger is just a "junior black belt" regardless of shodan/nidan etc. That is my only issue with the junior black belt and that is down to the teachers/schools rather than the kids themselves or their abilities.
  • Viking Viking
    My take is simply this and I hope it doesn't sound too harsh because I don't mean it to be: I think if a martial arts school/gym/dojo has a separate program for kids where they earn like a 'jr' or 'student' 'black belt' to set them up for entering the adult system that's fine. But they need to be clear up front about it, that there are different standards for adults and kids. But they should not enter the adult system as a black belt even if they come out of the 'junior black belt' or 'student black belt' ranks. They should be allowed to transfer into the adult system at about the halfway mark until they can hold their own against adults. So it might take them an extra 1-3 years to earn the adult black belt (which I think should be given at 18-21years of age, but that's just my opinion; take it or leave it). The reason I say this is that I've had like 13/14 year old kids want to train in the adult class. They last about 10minutes. Can't even get through the warmup without nearly collapsing. I ask myself, "What the heck are they being allowed in here for?" (It's not my school.) That's why I am leaving the dojo I have trained at for several years simply because the instructor (who is very knowledgeable in martial arts, especially his own) has started giving black belts to like 12 year old children when years ago he openly stated he wouldn't give a black belt to anyone until they were in their 16th year. It seems every subsequent year he's giving one to someone a few months younger until this past year when a 12 year old and a 13 year old got one. I was at the test and thinking the whole time, "I can't believe this crap. I busted my a** getting my black belt. 45months of a solid 6-7hrs a week training: forms, pushups, planks, staying in stances for up to 15-20minutes, drilling, sparring, nasty busted lip 2-3x, black eye, bruised ribs on multiple occasions, jammed fingers and split knuckles, being dropped/thrown down hundreds of times on flimsy mats with about 1/4in cushioning on top of brushed concrete. These kids are just doing forms and sparring and drills and saying what they think the 'testing board' wants to hear." I'm not saying that to brag or to be harsh on the kids (I guess they paid the $$ so give them the colored piece of cotton/polyester) but that I worked much, much harder than these kids who he's just awarded equal rank to me. And other adults in the program did as well. But the kids, the parents, and the head instructor seem to equate the 12/13 year old black belts to be equivalent. Um, no. Makes me question what the Western martial arts world is doing. I'm not saying the kids aren't good at copying moves, copying drills, but that's all it is; much like a kid doing a good cover of some popular song on YouTube. I'm not saying that they aren't responsible and self-controlled (which if nothing else, it seems a few years of coming has helped them develop) for their ages, but they aren't "black belts." They're "bought belts." I'll explain that in a moment**. They haven't worked near as hard, nor have the emotional maturity to understand the significance of the 'journey' or what certain 'techniques' can do to a person when applied with real life adrenaline fueled power. (A full on groin kick or a full on palm heel to side of ear, etc). I won't say there aren't rare occasions out there when there are some true young phenoms out there, but in general I would say no. I don't really care about the 'color' of a belt. After I made 'black' belt I realized that in one sense it's just a joke. It just means I worked hard for about 4 years, paid my dues, showed up, helped out, took some beatings, gave some beatings, etc. But that's it. It doesn't make you a bada**. It doesn't mean you're some new person or some better person. And whatever discipline it took you to earn it...guess what? You had that within you already and it could have been applied to any avocation whether martial arts, basket weaving, cycling, growing vegetables, whatever... **So here's the dirty little secret why kids under like 15 years of age are getting black belts, especially after they've been at a school for 2-3 years and if they still aren't all that 'good'. The instructor is running a business. Just admit it. It's a business. Not insulting some 'art' form or fitness requirements, but it's a business out to make money. The #1 rule of running a business is "survive until the next day and hope that day is better than this one." So these instructors realize that if kids don't hit a certain 'belt' level by a certain time parents will pull kids out and go elsewhere. So to keep that revenue coming in and keep kids interested they have them test every few months (usually for a small fee in addition to monthly fee for the 6-10classes). I've watched about 3 dozen of these 'tests'. In my experience over 8-9 years most of these tests are a mix of about 1/2 the kids showing development and about 1/2 that still look like day 1. But guess what, if parents are paying money the kids looking like crap still get promoted. My point is that in the end it's all about money. When you see young kids with a 'black belt' is about how much money a parent is willing to spend and how much money the dojo can get out of them to keep a customer coming in. That's it.
  • Jesse , l want to improve on getting better in tournaments and a champion in kumite ,means I want to get better at kata,in shotokan karate #?
  • Jesse , l want to improve on getting better in tournaments and a champion in kumite ,means I want to get better at kata,in shotokan karate #? is it OK?
  • Hi Jesse, I am getting my black belt lately and I want to improve my kata but not kumite because I am champion so .I have to get better at kata,and I practice shotokan karate. Is it ??

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