Wednesday, September 13, 2017

From One Black Belt to Two

In a couple of months, I will be testing for my 1st Degree Black Belt in the kobudo program I've been studying with for the past three years.

This represents the second time I am earning this rank, albeit in a different style.  The first time was when my teacher secret-tested and surprise promoted me in 2013 to Dayang Isa (equivalent rank in Presas Arnis to 1st Degree Black).

This will be my first formal black belt test where I know I'm being tested.

The idea of being 1st Degree Black in more than one organization and style seems a little bizarre to me.  Not because it can't be done, but because I'm the one doing it.

I am not so far removed from being white belt. I started at a late age and I remember thinking that black belt rank(s) were very far off in the future and nearly unattainable for me.

And now here I am, getting ready to earn my second black belt.

I know, I can't believe it.

I know that you can go online and "earn" black belts in various martial arts styles by "home study".  Most of these amount to earning the black belt rank by the hard work of the check clearing.  There's folks out there collecting black belt certificates like Pokemon.

Most of us aren't doing that, thogh.  Most of us, when we earn this rank in a different art or style than our base style, have to work hard to earn it.  I certainly didn't buy this rank.  If at our last practice class they think I just can't put in the work to cut it, they won't let me test.  If I choke on the test, I'll fail.

Of course, to be in the program, you have to be a high rank Brown Belt or a Black Belt in another style already, so you aren't starting over completely from scratch in the martial arts.  A lot of narrow add-on programs like my kobudo class are like that.  They don't take a lot of calendar time, in the scheme of things, but they're often designed to skip other kinds of basics that we've already learned in our "base" styles.

That means that while I have been in kobudo class for three years, it is built upon the study I've been doing for the last nine years.  Ditto my classmates, who are by now all black belts (many of them are 2nd and 3rd degree) in their empty hand styles.

This just goes to support, yet again, that black belt isn't and shouldn't and can't be some objective measure outside of "basic proficiency in this style or system".

In kobudo, that's certainly true for me.  I'm nowhere near an "expert" in what I've studied, not by a long shot.  I'm reaching a level where I'm not fumbling around with the basics associated to the weapon so I can really learn going forward.

I rarely drop my weapons and heck, I only hit myself very rarely.

I admit I haven't attempted the flips yet.
Trust me, that's an accomplishment.

Some of us believe that 1st Black should be more than just that sort measure - that it should represent some level of combat competency.  I have no argument with this, but if your measure is "being able to win a fight", I'd like to know what that looks like in weapons system, given we can't free spar with what we train with (my bo and tonfa and nunchaku are not training versions; they'll HURT YOU, and my sai might be steel instead of iron but you don't want to be hit with them, trust me).

I think we'd end up going through students really quickly.

We will also accept your maimed.

So have you earned more than one 1st Degree Black Belt (or equivalent) rank in more than one system? What were the circumstances?  How long did it take?  Let us know in the comments!