November 13, 2019, Israel
A martial artist posted the following: How long does it take the average person to earn a black belt? Answer: The average person does not earn a black belt.
The message is clear: Martial arts are for the elite. An "average" person may join a martial arts club but he will never be a star, he will certainly never earn a black belt. Many instructors have confided in me; the "average" student serves only one purpose; cannon fodder, he is there to pay the rent, to pay his membership dues so that the dojo can survive financially. The average student is there to serve the dojo, but the dojo is there to serve the elite student, the future black belt, the tournament champion. (sorry guys for spilling the beans, the truth).
The average student will not earn a black belt and the teacher does not expect this of him. Thus, there is really no reason to invest in this individual. They will train for a while, the instructor will try to get him to sign a long-term contract, but it is expected that this student will drop out. That is fine as long as he drops his money in the dojo, for the sake of the non-average students, the future champions, the future black belts. You might call this, "elite self defense", for the few, the privileged, the gifted.
Remember the post: the average person will not earn a black belt.
The message is clear; the rank of black belt is reserved for the non-average individual. The average person can never hope to attain this rank.
Perhaps we can say that the training, which is open to all, is actually a "weeding out" process, i.e. separating the "men from the boys", finding out who "has what it takes" and who does not, separating the average from the superior.
Or perhaps not.
Some schools may say - every individual has the potential to reach black belt. With the correct guidance, with the correct method, with a good instructor, the student can rise above himself, become more than he was when he first stepped into the dojo, he can be transformed into a more superior being.
This is indeed a lofty goal and many martial artists have achieved this. Many of the great martial artists that we admire were once awkward kids who were bullied by bigger kids. Like the stories in Blood Sport, or the Karate Kid, these individuals were guided by a great master to reach beyond what they thought was possible.
But perhaps there is another approach.
Perhaps there is a way for more people, even "average" people, to earn the coveted black belt?
Perhaps this can be achieved by lowering standards. In America I have met many children who at the age of 12 had the same rank I had after 3 decades in the martial arts. I have seen advertisements for tournaments, category: Black belt, ages 8 and under.
Or perhaps there is another way.
Our goal is not the black belt. Our goal is realistic self defense, survival. The belt is a motivational tool and a recognition of the effort invested by the student. The belt is never an end in itself, it is a means to an end.
Our goal is not to make the black belt easy to attain, but to make the skills to survive easy to attain. The black belt is the side effect. We aim to develop a method whereby "average" people can develop the skills to defend themselves.
We aim to have a system where these "average" individuals can learn these skills while leading normal, average, lives. They will not abandon their families, they will continue to go to school, or work, they will still have a social life. Our goal is a system that can be learned while leading an "average" lifestyle.
Our system is one which fits in with our average bodies, our average abilities and our average attention span. One need not be exceptional to lean our system, use it effectively, earn a black belt. For the fact is that most of us are indeed, average human beings.
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