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Himokiri Karate
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Joined: 13 Aug 2009
Posts: 310


PostPosted: Thu Sep 23, 2021 8:47 pm    Post subject: Teaching Karate without the belt system... Reply with quote

I train in Korean Karate. Now the thing is, recently, our Dojang is training more in the karate ruleset and less in Taekwondo. There is a drift towards beltless karate. The reason is, the colored belts in modern times seem to have been sullied by the whole black belt reputation. Now please understand that you all are very deep in the martial arts and to be specific karate. For you karatekas, karate is not part of your life but it is life itself.

Our teacher feels that it maybe time to abandon the belt system unless its for kids having the need to work towards a goal. (carrot on the stick)


Honestly, training is so brutal that at this point. Its so cardio heavy, its jump, kick, plank position, hold and everything is being timed. Rest breaks are being reduced while work rate during interval is increasing. Static training is getting tougher due to holding the kicks. My point is, everything I mentioned is everything I think about and that means...I do not think about belts and rankings due to the ardent but difficult training sessions.


In a way, I love every second of it. The cardio level is off the chart because of everything mentioned + bouncing all the time. Keep in mind that I train in boxing and sambo which are two prominent MMA styles and combat heavy. Yet the Korean Karate is super challenging.

But here is the problem here...



I am loving my training despite it being difficult. Its the opposite of fast food in a sense that I feel terrible when its happening but afterwards I feel like 3 million dollars. My curiosity pertains to the future. Our style is a mix of Taekwondo, Tang Soo Do and Kyokushin and here is the thing:

If I want to teach this style, would a lack of belt and rank hinder me from running the business side of my future dojo?


Keep in mind our style is a fusion of Tang Soo Do and Taekwondo yes, but is also very Kyokushin heavy and master Oyama apparently had Taekkyon experience or incorporated some of the moves because of him being ethnically Korean and him being in the Korean community during difficult times of divide as he was growing up. For this reason, I call our style Korean Karate as oppose to just Tang Soo Do or Taekwondo. This is my history and history is being made every training session that is intensively cardio heavy. Being successful as a martial artist transcends fighting and physical ability but its also winning from a cultural perspective of offering an art form with its own set of beliefs.

My question to each and everyone of you is, are there enough karate interest that allows students to try karate without the attainment of belts to any degree being an objective of karate?


One thing to clear up, mentioned Oyama sensei was important because heritage and roots is very important to us. The difficulties of being different tends to shape our character for better and worse. For Master Oyama it was for the better and we can teach it to our students that life difficulty can come from being judged by your ethnic background and yet you do not need to let that define you and that is a life lesson worth teaching and Master Oyama is a shinning example of overcoming prejudice during difficult times.
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sensei8
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Joined: 23 Feb 2008
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Location: Houston, TX
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Thu Sep 23, 2021 11:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It would be quite refreshing to train in a style that's void of any ranking structure. Rank has a nasty habit of getting in the way of training; either one's on the floor to train or for rank.

Will it be subjective of being culpable of going against tradition?? I'd not care one way or another because having never asked for anyone's approval, yet, I just expect them to respect my decision in forgoing any ranking structure.




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Zaine
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Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1783
Location: Dallas, TX
Styles: Matsumura-Seito, Shobayashi-Ryu, Shudokan, Long Fist, American Street Karate, Southern Mantis, HEMA

PostPosted: Fri Sep 24, 2021 7:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is an interesting problem. On the one hand, I think the people that you're going to get the most response out of here, like myself and Bob, are Shodan and above. We've been doing this a long time and I find that the longer you do MA the less rank actually matters. As long as we're still learning, we're fine.

However, the therapist in me knows that in everyone's head is a little grackle shouting for shiny things. We like to see our progress and have physical reminders that we are growing. We never really grow out of that child-like desire to see our progress charted out so that we have distinct points that we can look back on and know, really know that we've changed. Obviously the belt system creates challenges of its own. As Bob pointed out, the emotional high of getting new belts can cause some students to get on the floor simply to get the new shiny belt. I think that we all go through that as martial artists. The silver lining of that mentality is that sometimes getting in the dojo simply to rank up is sometimes what keeps us there. In my youth, there were times that I went because I was committed to another stripe on my belt despite not wanting to go for whatever reason and after awhile the love of it came back and I went because I wanted to be better.

Long story short, is their sufficient interest in karate to do away with belts? Maybe, I would certainly like to believe that is the case. My guess, however, is that the people who align with me are mostly martial artists who have been doing it for one of more decades and have stuck with it out of love for the art.
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Himokiri Karate
Blue Belt
Blue Belt

Joined: 13 Aug 2009
Posts: 310


PostPosted: Fri Sep 24, 2021 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sensei8 wrote:
It would be quite refreshing to train in a style that's void of any ranking structure. Rank has a nasty habit of getting in the way of training; either one's on the floor to train or for rank.

Will it be subjective of being culpable of going against tradition?? I'd not care one way or another because having never asked for anyone's approval, yet, I just expect them to respect my decision in forgoing any ranking structure.






My instructor is 12 years younger than me and he is a 3rd degree black belt in Taekwondo. I chose to have him become my mentor because of his maturity and wisdom. He said the same thing to me. To him, a belt is something that no longer has value. To him, its the quality of technique and the effort it takes to achieve the best techniques.

He is also a fighter and so his emphasis is on developing cardio to an unparalleled levels. He is very heavy on cardio training because cardio is a wins fights. Aside from that, I really like the fact that he explores every nook and cranny of technique and muscle functionality for better kicks. He knows my experience is in boxing and sambo outside of Karate( Tang Soo Do and Kyokushin). So he is very much in to "no belt" martial arts because his pet peeve is parents and students that want to become a black belt meanwhile to him, it serves as a distraction from learning the real potent moves.

That being said, there is an uncomfortable side to running a business. As martial artist, we just want to share our love, experience and the cultivation of our effort that is our martial arts to our community. Sadly, there is the business side of martial arts that must be tended to. Problem is, belts pay your bills. My sambo instructor who is a 3rd degree judo black belt uttered these sentiments as well. (he broke off from judo due to rule change)

One problem is, non belt martial arts tend to be Thai kickboxing and boxing as well as Kung Fu. I cannot speak about you guys but in our town, muay thai scene is tied to gangs but again, this may be an isolated thing in our province. Boxing tends to attract folks who come from broken homes. A boxing trainer in my town means you have to be a psychologist and boxing attracts fighters who tend to be very difficult to deal with on many levels.


As far as Kung Fu goes, in the 90s and early 2000s, we had a kung fu "Grandmaster" who scammed a bunch of people and taught them really bad kung fu. This led to public distrust and few years later, MMA became popular and Kung Fu ended up getting a bad rep.


Zaine wrote:
This is an interesting problem. On the one hand, I think the people that you're going to get the most response out of here, like myself and Bob, are Shodan and above. We've been doing this a long time and I find that the longer you do MA the less rank actually matters. As long as we're still learning, we're fine.

However, the therapist in me knows that in everyone's head is a little grackle shouting for shiny things. We like to see our progress and have physical reminders that we are growing. We never really grow out of that child-like desire to see our progress charted out so that we have distinct points that we can look back on and know, really know that we've changed. Obviously the belt system creates challenges of its own. As Bob pointed out, the emotional high of getting new belts can cause some students to get on the floor simply to get the new shiny belt. I think that we all go through that as martial artists. The silver lining of that mentality is that sometimes getting in the dojo simply to rank up is sometimes what keeps us there. In my youth, there were times that I went because I was committed to another stripe on my belt despite not wanting to go for whatever reason and after awhile the love of it came back and I went because I wanted to be better.

Long story short, is their sufficient interest in karate to do away with belts? Maybe, I would certainly like to believe that is the case. My guess, however, is that the people who align with me are mostly martial artists who have been doing it for one of more decades and have stuck with it out of love for the art.


Well said!

Like anything and everything, the novelty wears off and when that happens, that is when true passion comes to the forefront of ones continuation in the martial arts. Many great martial artist I know tend to have a specific move or combination as their focus of interest and not so much belt or ranking. Me and my teacher had a talk about jumping in with a lead roundhouse kick and then spin kick about landing forward as a follow up move. I mean these type of talks are the essence of martial arts as oppose to belts and ranks.

Also, we talk about various aspects of Tang Soo Do, Taekwondo and Kyokushin. Taekwondo is great for long range, Tang Soo Do is excellent for mid-range fighting and Kyokushin is king of infighting. Not saying we are right or it is right, but this is the type of talk we have after training. This is what gets us riled up. Amazingly enough, despite being a Taekwondo man, my instructor has great interest in grappling and boxing. He is 3rd to degree black belt but he is interested if punches come from hips while the feet are stationary or rotation of legs. I discuss wide stance and how it is ideal for hip punches like a Karate/Tang Soo Do reverse punch. While narrow stance, you can really turn the foot as well because they are closer to each other.


Anyways not to ramble off but it is so fun to talk about these things. The difference between Korean Karate and Japanese Karate as well as of course the original karate which is Okinawan karate. I wish to have a dojo/dojang fusion that teaches karate without the belt. I also love to encourage tournament fighting but in my town, you have to have an official title unless it is Kyokushin. This I need to double check. But that is the thing, belts and rankings does pay the belt and being business minded is very important for survival of a martial arts school.
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bushido_man96
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Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE

PostPosted: Sat Sep 25, 2021 12:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sports like wrestling and boxing have done very well without the use of a ranking system. However, if there is no ranking system, some method of determining a pecking order tends to rear it's head. In the case of boxing and wrestling, that outlet tends to be competition, or more specifically, competition results.

Warning: going off on a tangent here....

Now, I'm not saying it has to be that way; I'm sure there are some schools and instructors out there that could pull off the teaching of Martial Arts without the use of ranks. The way you describe your school makes it sound like it is competition focused, which will not appeal to everyone, and may lead to a very limited student body. I, for one, would not sign up for a cardio class if I wanted to learn Martial Arts. I want to be taught Martial technique, concepts, and applications if I'm paying for it; I'll handled my own fitness levels outside of that.

I look it at in a similar way that some styles like to use implements to "strength train." The clubs they swing, holding the jars, etc. I would not be terribly interested in that kind of training, because I spend time strength training using barbells. Spending a half hour of class time that I pay for wanting to learn Martial Arts on carrying jars or swinging an Indian club is not what I would consider a valuable use of my time. I'd rather spend that half hour on learning an application, or sparring, or self-defense work.

Ok, tangent over...

Now, back to the rank discussion. I do think it's possible to do without rank. I do think it may limit the student body your school attracts. And this is ok; some instructors would rather narrowcast than broadcast. I do find it interesting in that in this discussion you've mentioned your instructor's rank a few times; you've stated that he's a third degree. But what if he wasn't? You know his rank right now; what if you didn't when you first met him? Would that have affected whether or not you wanted to train with him? Will you and your instructor put your belts away and not concern yourselves with your ranks in the class anymore? Will some other titles end up being used, like "instructor" or "coach?" Or will there be complete autonomy within the group?
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Himokiri Karate
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Joined: 13 Aug 2009
Posts: 310


PostPosted: Sat Sep 25, 2021 2:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bushido_man96, I hit the quote button but it doesn't work.

To address few things, the cardio training is tied to the technique. We have technique days in which we go slow to get the mechanic down.

Cardio day is blasting the techniques in rapid succession. Its the type of cardio training that revolves around pressure fighting.


Regarding his rank, when I met him, I had no idea who he was. I thought I was going to work with the master of the school. Afterwards he came with loose attire and 12 years younger than me, although I look super young and I know young looking people tend to get scrutinized in any knowledge based profession. But after the conclusion of the session, I felt like this was going to work. He turned out to be one of the best teachers that I have ever had.

I have known him for 4 months and two weeks ago I found out his rank. That and one thing to mention is, he has high IQ in general and I realized that to an extent, IQ is a genetic thing because I know way too many people who are adults and older that do not have high level IQ. What I mean by IQ is that he is extremely aware of body mechanics, he has the ability to correctly deduce that I am relying on certain type of muscle and for example, he found out that I had flexible ankles but toe had to be strengthened.


The result of his nuanced training allowed me to gain significant gains in my physical attribute which I took to my boxing and grappling due to greater range of flexibility and more dynamic explosive movement which is the nature of Korean karate.


Regarding strength equipment, I hear you on that. For muscle building, I would go to a regular gym. But weights in a boxing and taekwondo gym is done in spirit of achieving a very specific physical attribute as oppose to doing a regular weight workout. Although boxing gyms have open gym hours and some have decent enough weight areas. But I agree with you, I used to be at a boxing gym that made us to endless pushups and burpees. I found a better trainer who has produced high level boxers and many local champions. He focuses on offense, defense, counter-punching, pressure fighting, footwork training for specific evasion and then...session is over!

As human beings, we only have so much time in a day. This is where productivity comes in to play. Great trainers give purposeful exercises so that the student can achieve their objective in the field of their interest in order to feel fulfilled in terms of learning things they love and find meaning in.
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Spartacus Maximus
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Joined: 01 Jun 2014
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Styles: Shorin ryu

PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2021 3:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is absolutely possible to train and teach without any belt system, but it would mean that everyone knows exactly what skill and knowledge they have; as well as everyone elseís who trains with them and their instructor. This just isnít practical with larger groups and it was one of the many reasons the belts came to be in the first place. When pondering the pros and cons of this system, we ought to remember that styles that have it were never intended to be taught to very large groups. Quite often it was just the instructor and one student who usually was unaware if there were other students and how many. For a long time martial arts instructors had no need for marking a studentís progress. They would just see it at a glance each time they watched their students training. It stood out more because the student had all the attention focussed on them instead of having five or ten or twenty different students with different levels to check or make corrections with.

My dojo has exactly four belts, including black. How long it takes to progress to shodan depends completely on how and how often the person trains as well as how much effort they put into it outside of dojo hours.
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