Sunday, October 3, 2010

The 'No-belt' test

What if belts didn't exist?  Who would you learn from?  Who would you believe was qualified to teach?

We make assumptions based on belt colour.  This is a natural thing to do.  Assumptions, of course, can be problematic.  We can't let the colour of a person's belt be the only thing we see.

I'd be curious to see what would happen if some instructors donned a white or yellow belt and swapped out their black belt to a beginner to run a class.  Would people visiting the school discount the comments of the lower belt and accept the black belt's lessons by rote?

How much would we let slide or not question just because of belt colour?

It's always important to look past belt colour.  What skills do you see? How does the person move?  How well can they manipulate your body?

What if everyone in a dojo wore a white belt?  How easily would you be able to pick out the most talented people?

The reason for this post is to make sure that you are learning from the best instructors or people that you can.  Hold your teacher up to the no belt test.  Honestly ask yourself if you would be drawn to that person's knowledge and ability if there was no belt system.

There are lots of people out there who wear belts that they don't deserve, and lots of people who deserve belts but don't wear them. It's important to recognize both on your journey.

I've blogged about the good and the bad parts of the coloured belt system in the past.

See the good here here and the bad here.

Food for thought.


  1. I've been blessed with finding two excellent instructors (one is 4th dan karate, the other 5th dan jujitsu)but I am very aware of the difference between say a 1st dan and a 3rd dan - it's enourmous. The black belt itself is not a good indicator of teaching standard - a 1st dan is not much more than a beginner. Cricky...I may be a black belt in less than a year but there is no way I would be ready to run a club! You are so right - looking at the person is far more important than looking at the belt.

  2. I have often learned as much from the other students in the Dojo as I have from my Sensai. The Kata, Bunkai and techniques can be passed from Sensai to student but it is often the interaction between students which stimulates the learning and understanding.

  3. Sue,

    You're so right, teaching ability and belt colour are very different.


    Thanks for the comment. You are correct, there are always those moments of discovery which only can come by doing, and your fellow students are the ones that allow this to happen. Thanks for commenting.