Martial Arts Myths & Misconceptions
A Black Belt Is A Master
By Jonathan Maberry
Not even close. A first-degree black belt is a very advanced beginner
student. The belt signifies his passage from the ranks of those students
who are still learning to the ranks of those persons who have now learned
how to learn. This is a significant difference.
The process between white belt and black belt has a lot less to do with
techniques than it does with learning the methodology and procedures
necessary for a person to think like a martial artist. A black belt should
be able to genuinely grasp the concepts upon which the martial arts are
based, which is far more important than his ability to perform any given
technique. There is a saying about human survival: “Give a man
a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him
for life.” This is very similar to the process of transitioning
from colored belt to black belt. The black belt has learned how to learn,
and therefore becomes more proactive in the process of his own education.
Does this mean that the black belt is an expert? Well, my colleagues
in the martial arts are fairly evenly split on that point. One point
of view is: Yes, the first-degree black belt is an expert on the basic
gross motor skills necessary to perform martial arts skills. The other
point of view is: No, a first-degree black belt is not an expert but
is rather a very advanced beginner who is just grasping the concepts
he will need in order to become an expert within a few years.
Most of the traditional instructors I know maintain that a person becomes
a true “expert” of the basics of their martial art by the
time they reach third degree black belt, which is for many arts the point
at which that person is allowed to begin teaching.
In modern times, especially with rapidly growing chain schools, first
and second degree black belts are often assigned to teach classes and
many are even called “sensei”. This marketing procedure greatly
confuses the issue -- and confuses younger students -- who then equate
anyone with a black belt with instructor-level expertise.
About the Author:
Jonathan Maberry is the award-winning author of over 700 articles as
well as several books, including Ultimate Jujutsu Principles and Practices
and The Martial Arts Student Logbook. He holds an 8th degree black belt
in jujutsu and a 5th dan in Hapkido, is a member of the Martial Arts
Hall of Fame, and is co-founder of the COP-Safe program. Visit his website