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The Black Belt Myth


Every once in a while I get an email from some misguided and offended martial artist with his or her knickers in a twist telling me where I go wrong by saying “Martial Arts will Fail You Every time”. But facts are facts.

Just because you have a black belt doesn’t mean you can fight and just because you can fight, doesn’t mean you are a black belt.

Can martial artists, boxers, judo players, wrestlers, mixed martial artists bee good street fighters? Sure. But a fight is an entirely different proposition than combative sport or a hobby. The problem is that martial artists have propagated this “myth” about the black belt since they realized money could be made. To compound the problem, most instructors are true believers. Thinking that what they are saying is 100% true.

The techniques used by successful street fighters range from the simple and straight forward to brutal and down right nasty. Never underestimate the depths of human nature or the levels to which some people will go to impose their will over another human being.

The difference between a successful and unsuccessful street fighter is attitude and no hesitation. Contrary to the old school yard Marcus of Queensbury rules, who ever strikes first in a real fight usually wins. I’m not talking about people in the local pub having a shoving match. Leave the bar fight out of it. I am talking about a real street smart criminal. So you think that junkie is just trying to slap you- no he’s got razor blades between his fingers and he’s trying to slice your face open. (Thanks for the example Bill). If you wait for him to make his move, you’re done. If you pause, wait for them to “throw the first punch” you’ll lose. And before you question my motivation as one of those guys who never spent time in a real dojo or never received his black belt (I have 3 of them) go to I am a real person and I can be found any day of the week working out at this location teaching none other than martial arts. But like my Sensei, I refuse to limit my self by the confines of my ego and insecurity. Because that’s what it all comes down to: ego. Hey, I know you have a lot of time an effort invested into your study and this is the last thing you want to hear, but earning a black belt doesn’t make you a superhero. Having a black belt does not give you the ability to take on all comers in all any and all situations.

A street fight or close quarters battle has entirely different dynamics than a competitive sport. In a competitive fight, the possibility of being seriously injured or killed is not a paramount concern. You have the normal injuries associated with contact sports, but if it were really lethal you would have people dying in the ring regularly. The combative sport is only SYMBOLIC of the real thing. This is where we all get confused. The term symbolic

So why bother getting a black belt or what does it mean to earn a black belt? This subject has been beaten to death and I offer my opinion only to ad some perspective. First of all, I hold a special place for those of you who have the determination to see your training through to the end and I hope those same people continue to study for an entire life time. It does set you above all others as having accomplished a great task that requires years of dedication and sacrifice. But learning to fight is only a small part

Do you think the night before your black belt exam you are immediately transformed in to the Ultimate Warrior. Martial Arts use fighting and combative skills to affect and overall change on the practitioner. If you study martial arts to learn how to fight, you will find your self very disappointed. Fighting is and should be a smaller percentage of why you study. If you study just to learn how to fight or just to learn how to compete you will not last very long. Because after your competitive career is over, now what? Once you start coaching, training and teaching you really begin to understand that competition is a useful tool, but it’s not what martial arts is about.

Street fighting is not about honor and fair play. That’s how you live your life, but when push comes to shove, knowing how to street fight requires very little skill, just a lot of attitude and nerve.

The Japanese words “Budo” and “Bujutsu” are used to describe this difference between combat and the way of combat.


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