Sunday, October 07, 2007


Red BeltWhen you take your first class at the dojo, you are dressed in a clean white gui. If you have learned your creed by heart, you are wearing your white belt.

Once a month, if you attend regularly and progress, you get a new stripe on your belt. In the third month, you will "spotlight" (ie perform) during the regular class. This means performing your kata in front of the class. For the white belts, this is the white belt appreciation form and the Kempo Kata Short One. Actually, the performance will also includes some partner drills, kicking and punching, some holds and grabs, and just for giggles, a surprising amount of pushups!

The next week on Wednesday night, there is Testing. This is a bit of a misnomer since it's really a demo night of your new skills and a test of whether you can perform well in front of your family and friends. It's not a test in the sense Testing Teamthat everybody who has been invited to the testing will get passed up to the next belt level.

The big jumps in class are from orange to purple. And then from green to brown. In both cases, this means a change in class. Once your are green or brown, it's time to start doing some distance running outside of class. One to two miles is the general target.

It takes about three months a belt until you get to green and red. Then it often takes four months since you have to spotlight twice. Of course, there are no rules and it's all subject to the sensei trying to do the best thing for everybody.

Going from high red to black is another kettle of fish.
Once you are high red and show some interest and commitment in becoming a black belt, you become a Candidate and are considered in cycle. As best I can tell, you need to be in two cycles to make it to black belt.

As I write this, I am late in my second cycle. Since nobody has sworn me to secrecy, I will reveal the highlights of being in cycle. I do so with with some fear of a faux pas and of course, the school constantly evolves so it's possible that what I'm going thru is different than what the others go thru.

1.Running four times a week with times required to be under 16 minutes for two miles.
2. Pushups, situps, kicks, squats four times a week
3. Three SWATs (assisting with classes) per week.
4. An indeterminate amount of demo team.
5. Lots of fun intensity in the regular class.
6. Especially vigorous Candidate classes, often with Keoshi leading them on Saturday morning or Friday night.
7. Kiss your personal/professional life goodbye for awhile. Just give up on balance, this is about intensity.

All in all, the trip of a lifetime. Come and join us. Part of the fun is that you are part of a team going thru it. And while I often have trouble seeing my own progress, I am awed by the visible progress of some of the others in my promotion. And presumably, I must be making similar strides although I am extremely aware of my challenges....


Anonymous said...

i am 53 yrs, old and am wondering if it is too late to take up martial arts-i am slow in learning new things and wonder if i can keep up with those younger than me=any advice

BBat50 said...

This is an impossible question for anyone other than you to actually answer. I would say it depends on:
- picking the right karate studio. There are some that handle different ages well (like Lavallees). Others don't.
- your own body & attitude. When I started at 45, I looked exactly like a middle aged man trying to move in ways that were foreign to me and awkward. But I thought it was more humorous than humiliating. Especially since I made real progress over the first six months.
- your health and other sports choices.

Good luck. simple answer. We've had 80 year olds start.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your successes in the martial arts. Like you, I began training in the martial arts after watching my son for several months,and am currently a blue belt in the Ed Parker American Kenpo system. I began my journey to black belt at the age of 53, and while the training is hard, it has been very rewarding. For the gentleman that asked whether he was too old to begin, I'd say you are never too old so long as you are young in spirit.