Martial Arts Ranking Revealed!


(Sept ‘98/#43)

I was a 1st degree brown belt, and so was my friend, and I was better than him. Simply, I won our freestyle contests regularly.

I know, that doesn’t make me better than him, but bear with my youthful foibles so I can make a point.

He was promoted to black belt before me (if this doesn’t shed light on the quality of ‘betterness’ I don’t know what will) and, funny thing, suddenly he was better at freestyle than me.

I couldn’t touch him, and he pummeled me.

I quickly realized what had happened. By being promoted he had gotten more confidence in himself, and decided that he was better.

So I, sans promotion, decided that was not to be so, and went back to beating him.

The point of all this is that rank is a made up thing, an investiture by somebody who we have put in authority over ourselves.

It can mean everything–and it can mean nothing.

Every school that depends upon the sale of belts for continued existence proclaims that it means everything.

Reality schools claim that it means nothing.

The truth, of course, is somewhere inbetween.

Yes. A person should be awarded as he progresses, and commensurate with his increased abilities.

Unfortunately, many arts are degraded to the point where abilities are not increased no matter how much one studies.

And, here is the rub, there has been a somewhat mystical perception of this concept of rank.

A ‘black belt’ is sometimes held up as a mystical achievement.

I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me if I had to kill somebody to get my black belt, and the way some people ogle my hands makes me want to buy stock in a glove factory.

The point I am making here concerns the concept of mysticism.

Mysticism is a word that comes from ‘mystery,’ which means ‘to not know about something.’

A black belt is therefore mystical because somebody doesn’t know what it is.

Unfortunately, this state is profligated through people’s lack of definitions.

What mystical really means, or should mean, is that a person can do things the common folk can’t.

Most common folk can earn a black belt. It just takes hard work over a little time utilizing a proper methodology. This is not mystical.

The fellow who could turn wine to water would be most mystical.

The fellow who could levitate, or disappear and reappear elsewhere would be mystical.

The common martial arts don’t involve themselves in that spectrum except through some rather mundane actions that, over time, become so polished that others can’t perceive them.

That which can’t be perceived can’t be understood…and we have mystical actions.

Anyway, in keeping with the nature of this Case History, let me make up a rather mundane conclusion that, should you be able to perceive it, will dazzle you with it’s inherent mystical possibilities.

Practice the Arts long enough and rank won’t matter.

The Realists, you see, are right, but, unfortunately, they are trying to take a short cut.

And, here it is:

Real mystics never take a short cut.

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