Feature Article of the Quarter


By: IKKF President C. Bruce Heilman

Recently when looking through the 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition of BLACK BELT Magazine, I came across an article entitled "Black Belt: What Is It And What Does It Represent?" The article was written by Bob Orlando, a free-lance writer and martial artists based in Lakewood, California. In his article, the author attempts to take a look at what a Black Belt was, its standard and the current reality.

In reading over the article, the last two paragraphs really caught my attention as they seemed to totally sum up the basis of the article, and I thought that they were particularly significant in light of the recent rash of "Hanshi Promotions" within the RKKF program.

In the section of his article under the heading of "Everything and Nothing", the author states that :

..."Despite the uninitiated public's fairly uniform expectation of what a black belt is and what it represents, the reality is that the rank is not so easily defined. Like paper currency, black belt rank is subject to the risks of inflation, but with an important difference: the worth of tpaper money is objectively established by comparing it with other stable currencies. such comparisons are all but impossible in the martial arts because requirements for black belt vary widely between arts, schools and teachers.

The problem is that the black belt represents an ideal, not some tangible product. Just as paper currency is only as strong as the government that stands behind it, a black belt certificate is only as good as the training that went into it, the standards that were met to earn it and the instructor who awarded it. Black belt, then, means simultaneously everything and nothing. Everything for the lifelong practitioner, Everything for the individual whose life depends on the "expert" skill. But nothing to those who routinely turn out inflated paper certificates."

While our IKKF standards were always high, over the last year, Mrs. H. and I, with the support of the IKKF Renshi-Kai, have made a renewed commitment to requiring a higher level of excellence to be achieved by our successful IKKF Yudansha Candidates. The bottom line is that there is no substitute for quality and without quality the value of an organizations rank becomes suspect. Only through maintaining high standards will we be able to "keep the old ways alive".

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