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by George Mattson

Some of my students are looking in my Black Belt Test Guide by Sensei George Mattson and questioning some of the content.  Our discussions were mainly on the section of “time in grade”.  Seems every student and their mothers think their little ninja is an exceptional student.  If not, it’s the sensei’s fault and they will leave and find a sensei who’ll believe their child is exceptional.  Please be informed this applies for adult rank more so then children as according to the guide, real black belts are awarded only to students 16 years of age and over. 

 I see many children wearing black belts and I must admit are very good.  The huge difference is they do not have the strength of an adult and regardless, they do not have the mentality of an adult.  A real black belt is someone with not only the knowledge and the physical abilities but one who has the proper mind set, attitude and control. 

Sensei Mattson listed in the kyu rank section the suggested workout hours required along with the time expected.  However, this was not so clear in the dan (black belt) section.  Therefore, it’s become an issue of discussion and there are many who’ll spin the wording to circumvent the spirit and intention of the guide and rules for self gratification and unwarranted gains.      

My explanation on this subject of “time in grade” is meant for a student to mature in their present rank.  That “time in grade” give that student time to workout and become more familiar with the movements in our system, gain greater strength and acquire an understanding of oneself.  We need to know what our strengths are and understand our personal limitations.  And that changes with age.  

We lose speed but we gain in knowledge.  This can only be realized if we have time spent on a dojo floor working out.  If we past our precious time watching television, playing on our computers or just staying home, we gain nothing.  Yet I see people coming back for promotions simply because they have the “required” time in grade and no evidence of working out.

A dojo must insist on dojo workouts along with that time passed (time in grade) to insure this student has really improved and obtained enough improvements to earn a promotion.

An average student works out twice a week which adds up to 104 workouts a year.  Taking holidays into consideration, I suppose we could accept workouts in the mid 80s plus their “time in grade” to be considered “average”. 

An exceptional student has little to do with their physical abilities but is a student who dedicates more of their time to working out and the understanding of the arts.  Those who commits an “exceptional” time to their study of karate are “exceptional” students.  A student is described as someone who studies not someone who is most physically fit.  You need to study in order to be a student.  The more you study, the more exceptional you are as a student.

I hope all senseis take my suggestions to heart and consider all factors before we promote.  We should not offer promotions to keep a student in our registry.  If we do not control some of the run-a-way promotions, we will hurt ourselves and weaken our entire system.  We must maintain respect by honoring the spirit of our regulations and suggested guides from pioneers and visionaries such as Sensei George Mattson.

These suggestions are already in place.  I am simply adding to the explanation to keep poorer, less honorable students from exploiting our organization.  I want people to view IUKF black belts as respected, quality students.  What would the world think of organizations who passes out promotion once a year regardless of the dedication, commitment, knowledge and maturity that only working out in that “time in grade” can provide us?  There is a lack of Bushido when you try to fool others.  It’s even worst when you fool yourself.  You are the one who’ll always know who you are regardless of the paperwork you’ve convinced other to issue you.

Darin Yee                 

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