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MatsuShinshii
Green Belt
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Joined: 15 Aug 2016
Posts: 371
Location: Kentucky
Styles: Matsumura Shorin Ryu, Ryukyu Kenpo, Kobudo

PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2017 7:02 pm    Post subject: Child Black Belts Reply with quote

I know this topic has been warn out and there are varied opinions on this topic. However I have to ask when enough is enough?

Before I go into this and ask the question let me first clarify my post by saying this is not a JBB.

I was talking to a customer today and happened to notice a picture on his shelves behind him. It was what appeared to be a 10 or maybe 12 year old girl wearing a black belt. I inquired about it and was told that it was his daughter. He said that she was 11 years old and she had just been awarded a Yondan grading. I asked if she was graded as a junior black belt and he said no.

He went on further to claim that it was traditional Karate that his daughter took. He took the picture down and showed me the picture and on her belt in Kanji was the grade of Yondan. Since I can not read Japanese and was unfamiliar with the styles Kanji, I have no idea what style of Karate she took and did not bother to ask as I was already getting a little sarcastic and did not want to offend him.

What is up with awarding real Dan grading's to kids? Does anyone here actually think an 11 year old can earn a Yondan much less a Shodan? Has the world turn inside out?

Again I know this topic has been warn out but I could not believe my eyes or my ears today and had to ask the question.

IMHO NO WAY!!!!! NO WAY!!!!!! I have to believe this is about money because it can not be about producing quality Karateka. CRAZY!

The ONLY way this could ever happen in my mind is if one of the founders were reincarnated in this girl and she came out of the womb with 9 years of experience and was able to whip her teacher around like a rag doll on the first day.

This is an absolute joke IMO. So I guess she'll be a Judan by the time she is in her late 20's and they'll have to create 10 more Dan grades just for her. CRAZY!!!!!!

The real question is would you bow to her grade and do you think you could respect her grade enough to be her student?

I can answer this with a big fat NO!
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Lupin1
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Joined: 15 Dec 2009
Posts: 1449
Location: NH USA
Styles: Isshinryu

PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2017 7:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Honestly, I think some of the problem is our (Western) idea that a black belt is a master.

As has been oft-repeated-- Shodan means first step. It's not meant to be a mastery rank. It means you've learned the very basics and have proven yourself to be a dedicated student.

I don't know much about Japan, but I know in Korea it's very common for kids to get their black belt after about a year of training. And that's fine. Because they view black belt differently. They also view a black belt on a child as different than a black belt on an adult-- without having to specify that it's a junior black belt. Just like we don't view a kid on his Little League's All Star Team as taking away from the accomplishments of the MLB's All Star Team, they don't view a child with a black belt as taking away from the accomplishments of an adult with a black belt.

Now, I'm not suggesting we hand out black belts to everyone after less than a year of training. I think the usual 3-5 years most places require is about right, but I honestly don't see a problem with child black belts as long as "black belt" is being treated the right way. I know there are places out there who give children black belts while telling them they're masters and are deadly weapons and just giving them false ideas about what their belt represents. That's not right. But I don't see a problem with giving kids black belts if what a black belt is is made very clear to everyone involved.


Last edited by Lupin1 on Thu Apr 06, 2017 5:14 am; edited 1 time in total
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Bulltahr
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Joined: 08 Mar 2015
Posts: 351
Location: NEW ZEALAND
Styles: Shotokan, Seido Juku

PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 2:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's all about the $$$$$$$$$.................
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catlike
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Joined: 07 Jul 2016
Posts: 32


PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 3:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I struggle with this. On the one hand, getting a child (that's anyone below the age of 16) up to a known standard with regard to discipline, structure, technique is really, really admirable. On the other, would I, as a Kyu student, feel like the child 'outranks' me?

I saw several high (low?) kyu graded children training and grading at a previous club and based on their performance, understanding and general behaviour, I absolutely cannot see any other reason than extracting cash from their parents for their colour of belt. And I certainly would not consider them to be my senior in rank. Could i spar with them? Could they teach me the finer points of technique?

This feeling I had would not go away, and after countless sessions where I have to wait patiently in line while kids cocked about and did things kids (they are kids, I get that!) do I felt like I had less respect for the school, dojo, CI and ultimately myself for not doing anything about it.

I think it's all about balance, and I don't think there's a correct answer, more likely wiser points of view. If I might add mine; I think 4th kyu (based on 9 or 10 total) would be the most achievable for someone who still has physical development to come. So, like a 'blue' belt would be about the most a child could achieve.
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JR 137
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 4:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

YONDAN at 11? Maybe I should ask it in English... 4th degree black belt at 11 years old? Where I've come from and practically everything else I've seen, yondan takes longer than 11 years to earn. Key word - earn. There could be legitimate exceptions to the 11 years total - something like a gold medal Olympian Judo player, a Kyokushin World Open winner, etc.

Since it takes 99.9999% of the people out there more than 11 years to EARN a yondan, I'm going to have to say I have zero respect for an 11 year old's yondan rank.

Show me a legitimate international gold medal won against adults of the highest caliber, or something reasonably similar, and I'll show the utmost respect for the 11 year old's yondan rank. Anything short of that won't change my mind. There's legitimate adult sandans who've trained longer than that kid's been alive. At 11 years old, if she started training at 3, she'd have about 8 years of experience. And what would the quality of the training be at that age?

Again, show me indesputable proof that she's worthy of that rank, and I'll show respect for the rank. Until then, I'll walk away shaking my head.
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Nidan Melbourne
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Joined: 21 Aug 2013
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Styles: Goju-Ryu, BJJ, Balintawak Arnis

PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 5:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Something sounds fishy if an 11 year old is a 4th dan.

At my dojo we don't award a JBB. As we grade students to a Shodan-Ho Ranking and not straight to Shodan.

All our students once they attain Shodan-Ho must complete Time in Grade. So our Juniors who wish to grade to Shodan MUST do the same requirements as our seniors. So they (juniors) will wait several years prior to grading to shodan so they can learn what they need to know.
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JR 137
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was reminded about a somewhat similar situation a while back...

There was a huge TKD demo and competition going on in a mall I used to frequent. I was waiting in line at Fatburger (I love Fatburger!) and a girl ahead of me was wearing her dobak and belt. Looking at it, it had 4 stripes. I first thought they were tape, like signifying levels within a rank, but no; they were embroidered. Then I saw the English calligraphy one one side of her belt - Sensei Amanda.

I thought maybe she looked a lot younger than she actually was, trying to give the benefit of the doubt. And I'm getting old. After she ordered, mom came up to pay. The cashier said "wow, you're a 4th degree black belt. That's great! My son is ready for his 1st degree, but he has to wait until he's 16 to get his black belt." The mother replied "Why? She's 14 and has her 4th degree." The look on the cashier's face was priceless, and probably mirrored mine.
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MatsuShinshii
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Joined: 15 Aug 2016
Posts: 371
Location: Kentucky
Styles: Matsumura Shorin Ryu, Ryukyu Kenpo, Kobudo

PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 4:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JR 137 wrote:
YONDAN at 11? Maybe I should ask it in English... 4th degree black belt at 11 years old? Where I've come from and practically everything else I've seen, yondan takes longer than 11 years to earn. Key word - earn. There could be legitimate exceptions to the 11 years total - something like a gold medal Olympian Judo player, a Kyokushin World Open winner, etc.

Since it takes 99.9999% of the people out there more than 11 years to EARN a yondan, I'm going to have to say I have zero respect for an 11 year old's yondan rank.

Show me a legitimate international gold medal won against adults of the highest caliber, or something reasonably similar, and I'll show the utmost respect for the 11 year old's yondan rank. Anything short of that won't change my mind. There's legitimate adult sandans who've trained longer than that kid's been alive. At 11 years old, if she started training at 3, she'd have about 8 years of experience. And what would the quality of the training be at that age?

Again, show me indesputable proof that she's worthy of that rank, and I'll show respect for the rank. Until then, I'll walk away shaking my head.


I agree 100%. I know I base most things on my experience and our organization has very stringent guide lines but even if I lower my organizations requirements and my own, I can not accept an 11 year old much less a 18 year old as a Yondan. I personally think this is a good indicator of a McDojo.

If she where studying under me or any of our instructors she would not see Shodan until the age of 18. Again I know our guidelines are more strict than most but the minimum time in grade (Which only means that others have achieved said goal in this time frame is 5 years but typically it takes 6 or 7 to reach Shodan. If I take the minimum of 5 and add the minimum of 2 for Nidan, 3 for Sandan and 4 for Yondan she has not been alive long enough to reach that grade.

And lets face it, from the age of 3 to 6 their attention span is as big as a flee. How do you absorb that much knowledge to be able to "earn" the grade of Yondan? CRAZY!
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MatsuShinshii
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Joined: 15 Aug 2016
Posts: 371
Location: Kentucky
Styles: Matsumura Shorin Ryu, Ryukyu Kenpo, Kobudo

PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 4:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nidan Melbourne wrote:
Something sounds fishy if an 11 year old is a 4th dan.

At my dojo we don't award a JBB. As we grade students to a Shodan-Ho Ranking and not straight to Shodan.

All our students once they attain Shodan-Ho must complete Time in Grade. So our Juniors who wish to grade to Shodan MUST do the same requirements as our seniors. So they (juniors) will wait several years prior to grading to shodan so they can learn what they need to know.


Agreed. Something is fishy. It's called belts for cash.
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MatsuShinshii
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Joined: 15 Aug 2016
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Location: Kentucky
Styles: Matsumura Shorin Ryu, Ryukyu Kenpo, Kobudo

PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 5:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lupin1 wrote:
Honestly, I think some of the problem is our (Western) idea that a black belt is a master.

As has been oft-repeated-- Shodan means first step. It's not meant to be a mastery rank. It means you've learned the very basics and have proven yourself to be a dedicated student.

I don't know much about Japan, but I know in Korea it's very common for kids to get their black belt after about a year of training. And that's fine. Because they view black belt differently. They also view a black belt on a child as different than a black belt on an adult-- without having to specify that it's a junior black belt. Just like we don't view a kid on his Little League's All Star Team as taking away from the accomplishments of the MLB's All Star Team, they don't view a child with a black belt as taking away from the accomplishments of an adult with a black belt.

Now, I'm not suggesting we hand out black belts to everyone after less than a year of training. I think the usual 3-5 years most places require is about right, but I honestly don't see a problem with child black belts as long as "black belt" is being treated the right way. I know there are places out there who give children black belts while telling them they're masters and are deadly weapons and just giving them false ideas about what their belt represents. That's not right. But I don't see a problem with giving kids black belts if what a black belt is is made very clear to everyone involved.


I respect your comments but must respectfully disagree with you.

I personally think the problem is the lack of requirements and respect for the grade. I know Shodan means first step and no one within my art or any other I have taken thinks that the grade means mastery.

However when I was coming up the grade of Shodan was highly respected and even though this does not happen anymore, some Shodan's actually had there own schools and were respected by their students.

The difference is back then, and depending on your art/teacher still today, a Shodan was not just another belt. It meant something and that something was that you could more than handle yourself. As a black belt (pick a grade) you are a direct reflection of the art, school and of your Shinshii/Sensei. I would not dream of promoting a student to Shodan knowing that they do not have the skill and knowledge to defend themselves. Back then it brought dishonor to the teacher and the school if some Joe off the streets was able to destroy one of your black belt students.

No I think the problem is western culture tries to justify promoting students to higher levels because they are afraid that the fast food mentality of kids today will cost them students and thus a pay check.

Don't get me wrong I like money too and I do not condemn those that make a living teaching but not due to a sacrifice of quality. Now days it's all about how fast can we get to the next belt and no one concerns themselves with whether they have really retained what was taught previously. I have said it on other discussions and will say it again, I miss the days when you had two belts because I think they produced better Karateka then because they were not concerned with the next belt. It was about how much knowledge you could obtain and perfecting what you had learned.

Can anyone tell me that the average child today, with there instant gratification, actually perfects anything? I highly doubt it. They do enough to get by and their instructors have been conditioned to accept this.

So what becomes of the Shodan level? It becomes just another belt instead of what it use to represent, something to be looked up to. If the grade of Shodan has been reduced then if you really think about it what does the grade of Sandan represent. If the standards are reduced at one level all subsequent levels are reduced. By this logic a Shodan back when I was coming up was the equivalent of a Sandan today. Does that make sense?

I get that everything changes but it's a slippery slope. When I was a kid you did not see children wearing black belts and if you did you took them off of them because you knew without question they did not earn it. Enter the McDojo's/ belts for money and now it is perfectly acceptable to give out belts without substance. As long as you have "x" months/years and you have paid "x" you get the next grade. Now we can accept an 11 year old wearing the grade of Yondan? We can accept students calling her Shinshii/Sensei? NO WAY!!!! Not in my Dojo. Not ever. It is all justified by a reduction of requirements or giving the grade because of something other than the requirements like, "he has made an effort and everyone deserves a trophy" type of mentality.

What ever happened to winners and losers? What happened to standards? Not every kid deserves a trophy and not every kid deserves to grade!!!! If you didn't win you lost. This was not a hard concept to understand when I was a kid. God forbid little Johnny gets upset because he didn't get a new belt. God forbid little Johnny has to be told that if you do not practice outside of the Dojo and pay attention when your in the Dojo, your not going to be able to test.

If you didn't earn it you don't get it. If that means that little Johnny leaves then he leaves. As an instructor my time and what I have to pass on is valuable. Give belts away for requirements that have been reduced from what I had to do to earn said grades? Nope not ever. Hold your students to the same standards as you were. That is the only way to keep your art and it's grades/belts from meaning nothing. It's called paper tigers. It's what Sensei8 always says, proof is on the mat/floor. If you can not fight at the level of your grade your certificate is worth less than the ink on it and the belt you wear is worth as much as it cost. Its reduced to just a piece of fabric just like Shodan has been reduced to just another rank. Lets just call it a continuation of the Mudansha grades and do away with Yudansha until you reach say the grade of Hachidan. While your at it just get rid of Kodansah grades because they mean nothing since the requirements for grades before them have been reduced.

Call me old fashioned for my ways and methods but I can guarantee that none of my Shodan's are going to be taken to town by some street thug. I doubt this girls Shinshii/Sensei can say that about theirs.

I will never say anyone has mastered anything because I personally do not think the art can be mastered. Mastery to me means you have nothing left to learn.
Having said that I would instead say that in order to achieve the grade of Shodan my students have to be "highly proficient" in the grades below them (Mudansha grades) and have proved that they have leaned and become "highly" skilled in the requirements of the Mudansha grades and more importantly have been able to translate that into the ability to fight and hold there own.

I think somewhere down the line and through the years most have forgotten that the Mudansha grades were the basic's or the foundation. You can not in my mind start you journey (Shodan to Kudan/Judan) unless you have a foundation to walk your path. How can you claim to be a Yudansha if you haven't first concurred Mudansha first. And within this same statement, what does Shodan or any of the Yudansha grade mean if an 11 year old can achieve what most of us took many more years to achieve? Did you really EARN it or where you given it?

I think that is the real problem. Given versus eared. Or should I say bought versus earned. It used to be you could not buy respect or a grade/belt, you had to earn them. So how do you respect someone that has been given something today? How do you call someone that you can wipe the floor with teacher?

Can anyone tell me that an 11 year old can teach a class of adults and go one on one in a Kumite match with them and win their respect? Respect her grade?

Again this may be because I'm old school but I can tell you right now if I walked into a school and saw a child at the head of the class I would walk out and write that art off completely. Not the teacher, the art itself.

Somehow instructors have forgotten this ideal that they are responsible for preserving the name of their art by passing down what was taught to them and that their responsibility is to assuring that only worthy students are promoted and that every student is a reflection of them and of the art itself. If little Johnny, wearing his new shiny black belt is beaten to a pulp by a younger kid with no training why would anyone want to go to his teacher for instruction? I wouldn't.

I'm sure I will get a little heat for my views and some of the "DO" guys will tell me that it's about more than being able to fight but to them I say, It's really not. Why did you really join a Dojo? Why did you start training?

If you can't hold your own why would someone take lessons from you to learn how to defend themselves? Discipline, respect, and learning to be a humble and good person is important but if we are all honest we did not start training for these reasons. They were learned along the way but the real reason 99% of students join a Dojo is to learn how to defend themselves effectively. If not, why not just join a church group or play sports?

How can anyone justify giving an 11 year old boy or girl the grade of Yondan and sleep at night is beyond me.
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