Review of “Should Children under 18 earn the rank of black belt” ?

I have came across blog emphasizing the martial arts industry regards to why children should not have a black belt before 18 (I’ll give my opinion on that after you read the statements) along other issues. According to 


Should children under the age of 18, be able to earn and wear a black belt?

That’s a tough one, but today, as the martial arts world is, as the world is, I would cast a definite “No” vote.

Now keep in mind, I’ve either promoted or participated in the promotion of (I’m guessing here) about 5000 kids to the rank of 1st degree black belt or higher. I started sitting on the testing boards of Master Ernie Reyes’ West Coast World Martial Arts Association in about 1982; thousands and thousands of young people have joined our schools –and many of those kids have not only earned their black belts, but have stayed involved with the martial arts into adulthood. 
But if you asked me how I feel about kids getting their black belts today, in 2011, as a 51 year old 6th degree black belt, I’d say no, I don’t think giving kids black belts is the right thing to do for them or for the martial arts. By the way, my first martial arts teacher, Master Lou Grasso of Reno, Nevada, didn’t promote black belts until they were over the age of 18. I earned my first degree from him at age 19 in 1979, after 8 years of participation. 
Kids should be encouraged to study and practice the martial arts. Parents should be encouraged to enroll their children in martial arts lessons. There are 14,600 reasons children should be deeply involved in the practice of the martial arts and all it entails (the number of days since I took my first lesson).

But as for the RANK of black belt –and people, of any age, earning one, here’s the issue:

We have to do something about the incredible, demeaning gutter-slide the requirements and standards for earning a black belt have gone through (since, I think, selling “black belt club memberships” became the crude-oil-dependency of the commercial martial arts school –and “the industry” that’s grown up around it). 
In the 30-plus years since I received my 1st degree black belt, there have been few, if any, industry-wide significant or noteworthy increases in the quantity or quality of educational requirements for earning the rank of black belt.

Yes, there are many exceptions to the statement above, as there are a good number of instructors who require far more than your average fare of one-steps, sparring matches,15 kata, and breaking half-boards (planed to half thickness) for their students black belt tests; it’s only that they’re very hard to find at the martial arts conventions; or the Dan Kennedy style “mastermind” group sales tactics meetings; or the billing service “power weekends” or in the folding chairs at the marketing meeting where the sharply dressed “business consultant,” is peacocking his way through ideas like the one’s I’ve heard recently: 
“I send my entire staff, in uniform, down to the local elementary schools (across the street from the school, of course, as businesses are banned from school grounds) to wave ‘Free Intro’ signs at the busses, kids, and parents as school lets out.”

“The best marketing for your martial arts school, today, is spamming peoples cell phones with text-sales messages, as the the open rate is far better than e-mail.”
“With the economic downturn, I suggest that when parents come to you looking for help or relief with their membership contract, that you tell them (this is, by the way, called “lying”) that it’s not in your power to adjust the contract, just tell them your billing service makes all arrangements and decisions. Then, make sure you’ve told your billing service that nobody gets out of their contract.”
Now maybe you’re asking what all of the above has to do with kids earning black belts?

Well, it’s about a martial arts industry that has hardly dumped a penny into teacher education, but millions of dollars and 2 decades of time into classes on how to answer the phone, how to teach the first sales-lesson, how to enroll an entire family, how to upgrade memberships, how to run “accelerated staff training” sessions, how to give pizza parties to increase school revenue, how to do after-school child care, how to do for-profit glow-chuck seminars, how to “double your gross,” and how to sign up (my favorite hyperbole) “floods of new students.”

My opinion: There were some extreme valid points discussed in his blog. However, my concern is when does age has anything to do with skill? Reflecting back from my martial arts background, I was 17 years old when I achieve the rank of black belt. This was one of the greatest moments of my life. The skill alone was not only reason I achieved. The work ethic, hunger for knowledge was the anchor of achieving such accomplishment. There were other black belts in the school, which I have felt were not as mature as I was (inside or outside the ring), so does this mean rank is required by age? Only depends on the mental capacity of the martial artist (not to mention, I have beaten 3rd or 4th dan as a junior underbelt #noLie).

Many kids perform traditional katas to get through rank. Throughout the years, they will understand the motives from these techniques. Within age, their comprehension of the techniques matured with their thinking. Therefore, I agree with his statement.

Yes, The compromise of building a martial arts franchise (McDojos rather) has diluted the quality of martial arts. The almighty dollar has substituted the integrity and focus of the martial arts. Parents are the blame as much as the instructors. Because little Timmy isn’t doing well in class doesn’t mean to give Instructors ultimatums to benefit for their child. Real instructors teach while the parent need to stay in their lane.


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