What are Degrees of Black Belt?

From time to time students and parents have asked about “Degrees of Black Belt” and what they represent. Most students and parents know when they sign up for classes that their goal is to achieve the Black Belt rank. Although not all systems of the Martial Arts are the same, most recognize an expert level of achievement at completion of a basic curriculum by awarding a Black Belt. Changes have been made recently in our MuDoKai curriculum in order to update the program from the beginner level (kyu) through to Black Belt. Additionally, adjustments have been made to the Dan (Black Belt) curriculum so that it will better fit the needs of our advanced students and our Dojo.

After achieving Black Belt students have been thoroughly trained in the Basics of the MuDoKai style. They have learned a number of self-defense techniques (sixty) and have attained an understanding of the principles that support those techniques. Nine Kata (forms) are required knowledge for Black Belts as are defenses against knife and club attacks. The next step for Black Belts students involves training for promotion from Shodan (1st Degree) to Nidan (2nd Degree). Basic skills must be preserved, while a new level of understanding must be developed so that expertise continues to grow. Many students choose to teach classes at this stage of their training, as this is an excellent way to deepen their own understanding of their Martial Arts skills. It is also useful in developing patience, along with other interpersonal skills. Weapons Training and advanced weapons defense is also required at this stage.

Once Nidan has been achieved, usually between one and four years after Shodan, the advanced student will begin working towards Sandan (3rd Degree). For this rank an even more thorough understanding of the principles of the system is required. To advance from Nidan to Sandan normally takes at least two years; however, due to the recent changes to our curriculum, the usual time requirements will be waived this year in order that advanced students, some with over fifteen years of training, will be able to move on to an appropriate rank.

Altogether there are ten Degrees of Black Belt that denote ever higher levels of achievement and knowledge, enough to last anyone a lifetime. In the Martial Arts you are both the instrument and the player and there is no limit as to how good you can get. The key to excellence is to practice regularly, practice hard and put in the time that it takes to master every skill that you are taught. Many aspects of the Martial Arts are impossible for beginners to learn. That is why they are reserved for advanced students who have developed a strong platform, based on sufficiently strong fundamentals, to allow the possibility of advanced training. At the end if the day the rank follows the student, rather than the student chasing the rank. While setting goals to achieve results in Karate is a useful and legitimate tool for improvement, the final destination is the journey itself.

Shihan Robert H. Mason © 2005

Sensei Mason - TobiYokoGeri