I often come across people saying that the belt system in traditional martial arts is worthless. I am of a completely different opinion. Not only because I practice a traditional martial art, but because the belt system make logical sense to me. As with any other “tradition” within a traditional martial art, there is sense behind it.
Here are just a few good reasons for the belt system. Some of them are closely related and should intertwine:
- Goal setting.I am a firm believer in goal setting. To have a goal is to have direction. Each belt offers a new goal to be achieved. Each belt has a syllabus that goes with it – a road map to follow in order to get you to your destination. A student is more likely to progress and to stay if they know what it is they are trying to achieve. You cannot hit your mark if you are blindly ambling around.
- Motivation and incentive.The belt system offers motivation. A student wanting to progress to a higher rank will work harder if you incentivize the deal. Work hard, perfect and receive the incentive – in this case, a belt.
- Recognition.Whether a person wants to admit it or not, we all want recognition in one form or another. A belt is a wayof showing that hard work, dedication and skill are recognized.
- Achievement.To work tirelessly for months and years on end can be draining. The sense of achievement a student will feel at the attainment of a new belt can bring new life and vigour to the student’s long journey on which he has embarked.
- Easy instruction.A full class of students will have people of all skill levels. To quickly distinguish which exercise to assign to whom is easily achieved by looking at the colour of a student’s belt.
- Hierarchy.The belt system shows hierarchy. While people may not like it, there is hierarchy in every part of society and nature. Like in the military, belts distinguish a person’s rank. Having rank within a class helps to keep order. Everybody knows where to stand, who gives instructions and, very importantly, who to ask for help when it is needed.
Perhaps I am not as evolved or enlightened as others, but I am proud of my rank. I am also striving to achieve my next belt. I wear my belt with pride around my heart and my waist unapologetically. People may still argue that a belt means nothing, but it actually does.