In the martial arts, belt exams test a student’s ability to meet certain qualifications. The belt exam motivates students to improve their skills through hard work and continued training. Unfortunately, many martial arts schools have adopted the practice of belt cycles, where every student gets a new belt regardless of effort or achievement. This practice has become so run-of-the-mill that those in the martial arts world have coined these schools “Belt Factories.”
Many years ago, when Karate was practiced in Okinawa, the birthplace of Karate, the belt was simply a way to keep a student’s pants from falling down. Basically, the same reason we wear belts today. However, Kano Jigoro, a teacher of Judo in Japan, started to use belts to distinguish between students’ ability levels. Eventually, many other types of martial arts in Japan saw the benefits of this system and adopted the practice. As a result, the system became commonplace in the martial arts.
At KenZen-Do Karate & Foxhall Wellness, we have a three-step process: 1) The student identifies the skill that needs improvement. 2) The student practices until the skill is perfected. The length of time this takes varies by student. 3) The student takes a test demonstrating proficiency in the skill.
One of the most important parts of this process is that the tests are not unchallenging. There should be a level of difficulty that requires sustained practice. If there is no struggle involved or no obstacles to overcome, there is no value to what is achieved.
At many Karate schools, if you spend enough time and money, you’re given a belt. This may make money for the school but does nothing for the student. It’s like giving a child a medal for simply showing up at an activity. At KenZen-Do, you must earn your belts. Our students are motivated to keep training and improving upon their disciplines, which in turn builds fortitude, resilience, and confidence.