It has been an eventful week. Keeping with Korean tradition, faith, and my own decision, I do not have functions or martial arts classes at my school on Sundays. This became a bit of a public debate and issue which I had to end quickly between myself and some in my jiu-jitsu program. The instructor who I had teaching my program was at odds with me and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. There had been an increasing disrespect of those that came for this program. I told him I did not want to have division in my school. I gave him a chance, but he responded with insults. This is what some Jiu-jitsu and certainly MMA has become. The saying is that BJJ, MMA is rough around the edges.
I had the pleasure of meeting a seventy-one year old black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu this weekend who respectfully took my seminar. It was an honor to meet him and learn from him. He has been training in the martial arts for many years and his perspective is rooted in respect and honor. He spoke against the direction of the masses and competition. He said that they have lost their way, that they do not do real Jiu-jitsu anymore. It is not pure. Even worse for MMA. MMA is not a real martial art, it is a combination of martial arts, if that, for the purpose of bludgeoning one’s opponent in the cage. This system does not teach discipline, respect, vital points, or anything matching a respectable martial art. Let’s return to BJJ. This group prides them selves in that their black belt takes much longer to reach, typically the time span that other arts would reach master level. This is understandable. In psychology, we learn that one does not gain mastery over a skill for at least ten years and yet in Taekwondo, for instance, one could earn their black belt in three to four years. In Korea, it only takes one and a half years. This begs the question, what does black belt mean? We will answer that later. For now, Lets continue on the BJJ issue. As I said, BJJ prides them selves in their drawn out black belt. It is as if their blue belt is more representative of a traditional Jiu-jitsu black belt and, purple is second degree, brown third degree, and black, 4th degree. This would be more consistent with the timeline of their training. So where is the pride? They have lost their way from the roots of Japanese and even Brazilian. Honor and respect are thrown by the wayside when pride is forefront.
What is black belt? Black belt in my program is a cumulative knowledge of the basics and preparedness to apply them to practice. For black belt, my students must be physically ready, they must have my curriculum memorized and be able to demonstrate it proficiently. They must be able to apply their understanding of martial arts and training. They must be the best they can be at that time with what they can be, with no excuses. They are required to meet all the demands of my specifications and Kukkiwon before they can be considered a black belt. Before this, they must put time in, they must be dedicated, they must show me their honor and respect. Their character must be that of a black belt. I tell them if they want to be a black belt, they must carry themselves like a black belt. They must help their classmates and the school. There must be dignity in the martial arts and in the black belt.
Martial arts must be balanced. It is a form of war tactics, how to fight, how to defend and how to attack. If you teach this with only an aggressive nature, then you will be unbalanced. If your style is rough, harsh, abusive and arrogant, it is unbalanced and it will not flow. A fighter who has no compassion for his enemy has lost his way.
You must balance the martial art out with peace, with kindness, with humility, compassion, with respect and honor. In contrast to the prideful and tough persona that often accompanies BJJ/MMA, true Taekwondo matches its form with honor, respect, and humility. There is a pride to our style, practice and training, however this must be kept in check. Power must be under control. You may say, this is just a list of of virtues, but these qualities must be considered and adhered in training.