A Brief Discussion of Growth in the Martial Arts

There is a lot of discussion, and debate on the subject of growth. This is especially true when we turn our gaze to martial arts. The definition of what constitute growth and rank progression varies significantly between organizations. There is, however; a commonality of thought that seems to permeate this issue revolving around definable progress. Unfortunately, there is no bench mark standard between styles or organizations that lends to an apples to apples comparison between schools or organizations. Time in grade, skill set development, and maturity generally factor into the measurements but with varying degrees of importance.

It is this lack of standardization that leads many potential students (parents of potential students) befuddled as they search for new martial arts home. Does the path to black belt take 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, or more? The varied answers are also confused by what the black belt represents between these different organizations. How can one school allow 5 year old black belts and another require a minimum of 5 years just to obtain a black belt? The short answer is philosophy. Just as the requirements vary between organizations so do the standards which they represent. In other words, the belt colors may represent growth within a particular organization, but that rank is not necessarily transferable to a different organization that has more stringent or different standards.

This brings us back to a ‘standardized’ definition of growth. While we can not always agree how growth is recognized, we can (hopefully) agree that the concept of growth is tied to the evolution of the martial artist as he/she/they progresses through their personal martial arts journey. It should be easy to extrapolate that concept of growth in this construct is an outcome of learning, skill development and personal betterment. Rank progression is an arbitrary measurement of that growth within the structural confines of a specific school or organization. The measurement should not be confused with the process or more weight given to outcomes based on externally variable measurements.

It is important to celebrate positive growth regardless of external measurements by recognizing the value those newly developed skills and attributes impact the individuals personal journey. Most of these developed assets are transferable to other facets of the practitioners life including, but not limited to: school, work, and personal relationships regardless of external recognition.

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