The bank, karate and black belts…

Ok, ok… so I promised to tell you about my experience at the bank.

No I wasn’t held up by any crazed maniacs with shotguns. That doesn’t happen so much at my new bank – it seems the B of A in our area wins 1st prize in that contest. It was held up 3 times in 18 months…

Anyhow, I walked into WaMu and the young male teller who was serving me commented about karate. I hadn’t spoken to him much before and he seemed excited to chat, but at the same time looked a little nervous. He was very slightly built, and very effeminate.

I could tell he wanted to tell me something, so I asked him “Have you got some karate experience?”

“Yes”, he replied. “I just got my black belt.”

“Congratulations.” I said.

“Thanks… but it’s only 1st degree.”

I couldn’t help but wonder why he would be proud enough of his achievement to tell me about it, but then downplay it with the big “BUT it’s only 1st degree.”

Hmmm. I pondered.

“So what style of karate do you practice?”

“Tae Kwon Do”

(Hmmm. Last time I checked karate and TKD were 2 different things, but anyhow…)

“Well good for you. That’s a great achievement.”

“Well, yeah… it’s ok. I’ve only been training for just over one year. It’s not like a 5th degree or anything.”

Wow! At last, there it was… I’d finally seen one in the wild! The 12 month black belt!


Now if you detect a *hint* of sarcasm, forgive me. I’m just not all that thrilled that people with 12 months of experience who train 2 hours per week should be awarded their black belt. That’s approximately a total of 100 lessons.

Now I understood why he felt uneasy about admitting he was “only a 1st degree”. But then I guess I could be wrong – perhaps he was a child genius and is a true master of his art. Highly unlikely, but possible?

As teachers in charge of issuing black belts, I believe it’s important for us to hold black belt for a high standard and not to “sell out”, just to have another black belt at our schools.

In the short term it might seem like a good idea to give the appearance to the public that “we are a black belt academy”, but in the long run the low standard will compromise the reputation of your school and the reputation of you as a serious instructor.

I tested for my black belt on Sept 11, 1993. Thirteen other students tested that day. 6 failed their test. 8 passed.

Achieving black belt should be revered as an outstanding achievement, not the norm. Not all who attempt the test will achieve it the first time. And that’s not to say that there should be a percentage that fails every time either. My point is that high standards should be set and should never be compromised.

Your thoughts? Post ’em below! (Click on the link where it says # comments)

– Jason

5 thoughts on “The bank, karate and black belts…”

  1. We have a Karate school in my area that awards Tae Kwon Do black belts to chidlren in under a year.

    What style of Karate do they practice?


    Not even sure that's a proper Karate style, let alone Tae Kwon Do style.

  2. That's great Dan… I'd love to see the curriculum for that system. Perhaps it would look something like this…

    12 Month Black Belt Requirement
    – Minimum 50 lessons

    – Maximum 100 lessons (any more than that and we'll have to give you a 2nd dan)

    – Students should be able to make front kick only, and not particularly well.

    – Hands must be held down at all times!!

    (There is no sense protecting your head, because we don't teach you how to punch, and the helmet will of course soften the blows of the kicks should you ever be hit with one. This is highly unlikely because we don't practice front kick to the face.)

    – Students must be able to bounce up and down in place with their hands by their sides while wearing full protective gear. No contact is permitted when sparring.

    – Students who can satisfy the above criteria shall receive their black belt within 12 months.

    – Students whose parents can pay more, are entitled to receive their black belt faster. How much cash you got?

    – Students must never use their learned skills. EVER. Your skills are secret and should never be revealed. You have full permission to be beat up by anyone at anytime and are entitled to reference this curriculum as to why you didn't protect yourself. Remember your black belt skills are a secret!

  3. Obtaining a black belt should feel like a mountain ascent, a lot of grueling work for joy of seeing the view from the peek! A 1 year black belt is the equivilent of a climbing wall at the fairground.
    There can be no excuse for such a delusion. Any instructor doing so should be roundly condemned. Just think of the damage to the student.

  4. I don't believe any legitimate instructor would award Dan or anyone else for that matter, a Rank of 1rst Dan after one year of training. I think he's LYING! Dan probably watched 6 Jackie Chan movies, 4 Jet Li movies and 2 Steven Segal flicks and thought that was it, "now I'm a Black Belt". Scary!

  5. i agree with you all – one year to black belt is a joke, my friends sister got her TKD black belt after a year and half and her husband was brown after a year, it took me that long to get from purple to brown – and they wonder why i dont respect their belts??

    whats sad is there are some TKD schools that really take years to advance – but their solid reputations are soiled by all the schools who issue out black belts with ease.


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