View Full Version : Black Belts staying power

3rd November 2003, 09:56
We all know that most students once they reach black belt decide they know it all and quit.

Here's the question............. How many students in YOUR Dojo have stuck around after Shodan for a long time? How many are still there 5 years later? Whats the average time they last?

(I don't mean the teacher and I don't mean people who say they are studying because they go to Japan once a year)

3rd November 2003, 16:22
In our dojo (I am a student, not a teacher, but I've been around almost as long as the dojo itself - around a decade), we have two students at shodan and above. One was given his shodan last December, the other one is 3rd dan now.

It is usually impressed upon the students in our club that grades are not important. Those who are in it just for grades don't last very long and won't reach shodan anyway!

Jay Bell
3rd November 2003, 17:05
We all know that most students once they reach black belt decide they know it all and quit.

I don't think that's a fair judgement. Does it happen? Of course it does...but saying most fall into that catagory I don't think is right to say.

Many things happen that can lead to people leaving training. They find something that they'd rather be doing, life, family...you name it.

When I was active in the Bujinkan, most people in our dojo stuck around after Shodan. As far as I'm aware, most are still training.

3rd November 2003, 18:11
Okay, I should re-word that bit :)

Most students quit after black belt for some or another reason ;) I would say about 80%

3rd November 2003, 18:44
It is true that a lot of people, once reaching shodan will disapear. However, it is also true that many people will disappear before reaching 9th kyu, around 6th kyu, and 3rd kyu as well. I don't know why these points tend to be special for people to leave. Something about thirds (a joke)?

Many people wish to get a "black belt." I have talked to many people who have said, "I got my black belt, and I moved on to accomplish other things." The truth is these people are serious go getters in the modern interpretation of this word. It is like that Budweiser commercial where the one gecko is talking to the other and says that he and the weasel are going to play raquet ball on tuesday, take a Tae Kwon Do class on Wednesday, etc., etc.

Like it or not Black Belt is seen as a hallmark of achievement. Those of us who have stuck around, realize this is not the case. Most people, don't see Martial Arts as a life or death study, and will look at you funny if you say that they are. Of course in the same breath they will complain about the crime rate and all the "random" violence on the streets, which is funny, because crime rates have been down and falling generally for the last 25 years at least (some small fluctuations do occur, which are statistically expected). So, to begin with, there is a giant disconnect with reality in most people's minds. Martial Arts is a life or death study, but not because there is a thug waiting on the streets to do you in. It is a life or death study because it teaches the arts of combat and warfare, that is its nature.

The commodification of Martial Arts is partly to blame. However, even the diehard traditionalists will not turn these people away most of the time. How many instructors here have said, "this is not for you, I don't think I can accept you as a student." When they know in their heart of hearts this person will not pursue training for the long-term. This has been done to a lot of women, who I find to be some of the best students, but that is sexism and not an honest evaulation of the person.

Could it be the fault of the instructors? How well is the student at Shodan guided into the deeper aspects of the art. Although at shodan and an "advanced student", the student is now a new type of beginner, and you will begin to tear down all of their preconceived notions concerning the basics on which they have worked so hard to assimilate. Let me knock down some of your assimilated assumptions about life in a two hour period and see how long you stand in front of me listening. Some instructors take almost a sadistic glee in confusing their students when they pull the old shodan bait and switch. Hatsumi sensei does the puzzling things he does, at the base of it, with a deadly seriousness, I suspect. A lot of instructors tend to play at this like it is some kind of game, like they have an ant and a magnifying glass. This is wrong.

In some cases it really is a superficiality on the part of the student, but that is life. In some cases it is because of massive life change in the students life. However, I have found these students usually come back in time with a thirst.

So, these are my devil's advocate responses to this question.

3rd November 2003, 21:37
I once had a student (Kyu Rank) that was sure he was supposed to take the Godan (Sakki) test. He seemed to be frustrated with his rank. In the spirit of the Bujinkan, I gave him a Shodan Rank so that he could just "Shut up and train"! I think he only showed up for a couple of other classes and then he "disapeared":nin:

Funny though, he never came back to get his "Shodan Menkyo".

4th November 2003, 01:18
Who cares what they do. I just keep training with whomever shows up. If some of my students decide that they can't learn anything more from me and want to go off somewhere else, they are right. I can't teach them Jack. Close the door on your way out.

Don't stress out on the little stuff. I'm sure you have many good fine people in your school still.

4th November 2003, 03:46
So, these are my devil's advocate responses to this question. Ummm No you didnt actually answer the question LOL

Who cares what they do. No one, I was just making conversation.... :(

Don't stress out on the little stuff. I'm sure you have many good fine people in your school still. I Don't and I do ... Was just making conversation as I said :rolleyes:

The Tengu
4th November 2003, 13:22
There are three shoden-level students who are under my instructor. I still train, but the other two haven't showed up to train with us for a couple of years now.

I think in America we have the concept of shodan as being an award to win. Once we've won it, the game's over. Time to go home and find another hobby.

5th November 2003, 03:03

Just for the record, I am unaware of only on shodan with my current instructor who has stopped training in the four years I have been with this particular dojo. In fact, all his current black belts followed him from one state to another. Many, many, many people have stopped before shodan, however. Total number over five years 5 or 6 at least, about 9 over two years, and some new people were just promoted to shodan and I am sure they are staying for a while.

My other experiences are with a karate dojo located at a college campus. The retention rate for post-shodan students was also quite high, usually most people stayed at least for two-years past shodan, only a handful were there for a time past five, of which I was one. This was mostly due to the nature of being a college based dojo.

So, both of those dojo have a high post-shodan retention rate and produce very solid martial artists, imo. We had a pretty large number of black belts, but statistically we had a great population from which to sample, controlled the PE classes, etc. That dojo was definitely an anomaly.

And just for the record...devil's advocate responses generally don't answer the question posed, but rather take the subject and examine it from a new perspective. But that is ok, I understand your point. I hijacked your thread and I apologize.

David T Anderson
5th November 2003, 15:38
Originally posted by The Tengu
I think in America we have the concept of shodan as being an award to win. Once we've won it, the game's over. Time to go home and find another hobby.

I agree with this. A better question might be to ask why people _don't_ want to make their MA a lifetime [or at least an indefinite] study. In our small dojo we have two longtime members who are at or beyond shodan level [we don't grade or rank] and who are making Aikido their lifetime study, and 3 or 4 more who intend to do the same, including myself. As for the rest...well, I guess life gets in the way, or they become disenchanted when they find out they won't be supermen, or maybe they just don't like the dojo or the sensei or the other regular members. As well, most people nowadays don't have the mindset of dedicating their lives to _anything_, it seems to me...

Martyn van Halm
5th November 2003, 18:59
Our dojo is split in an aikido section and a kobujutsu section.
At the aikido section the pupils fluctuate [all levels], but the kobujutsu students that reach kirikami shoden [shodan level] continue to train, as this is where the real training starts.

Jeremy Hulley
6th November 2003, 05:52
At my primary dojo we have roughly twenty students at shodan or above still training, We have six or more who have 10+years after shodan.
I feel truly lucky.

17th November 2003, 20:17
When I did karate, 12 of us got to shodan level in the approximately 12 years the dojang was open (it may have been more like 15 years). Of those 12, three of us are still active, though that school has closed. This number includes instructors and assistant instructors.

In my jujitsu organization, 12 of us (not the same as the previous 12) of us have reached shodan level and 7 of us are still training and/or teaching. Of these 7, 4 of us are above shodan, not counting our teacher.

I hate the thought of rocking chair black belts.

Becky Sheetz-Runkle
Sho Bushido Ryu Bujutsu