I am not sure but here is what I have determined from google sources. Apparently a person testing for black belt is not awarded one but instead is provided a "probationary" ranking or level. In order to achieve a "certified" black belt one must maintain at least one year of consistent training as a provisional black belt to achieve "black belt - certified."
[Hm, does this mean one who rates a black belt is not trusted to wear it appropriately or to continue training? If so, who cares. If your goal in life is to gain a black belt and you are asked to test for it why would you diminish it by saying, "Although you are black belt material you have not proven yourself until you have worn it and shown us in the next year you deserve it." --- am I being too negative on this?]
In the source where I viewed this possible definition it also states that the certified black belt can then wear a "single gold bar embroidered" at one end of the belt. The gold stripe "designates that the student is a certified sho-dan black belt!" Hmmmm, my brain is going on overtime ... the buzzing is really kicking up on this one if it is true.
Ok, let me pose my "personal opinion" on this designation. First, in my opinion there is no provisional or probationary black belt. You are either a black belt or you are NOT a black belt. Second, this one year of consistent training to achieve/earn a certified black belt falls under the same statement above, you are either one or NOT one, no certified and not provisional; black belt or not.
I can only hypothesize that this may be an effort for system organizations to provide some additional incentive to remain at the dojo beyond achievement of Sho-dan. After all, most who earn the black belt usually "quit" after putting the belt on.
It could also, my opinion only, be another way to gain at least "one more year" of revenue too. I mean if you quit are you still paying dojo dues and organizational fees?
If the foundation is set and one achieves black belt it should, in most ideal and best case scenario's, mean that this person has assumed the practice as a lifetime endeavor. Are you diminishing the value of both instruction and the coveted black belt by saying it has to be provisional for one year first? Why? If instruction is correct and adequate then why provisional? Why bother to try and suggest one more year? I don't get it?
It seems to me that since the other black belt levels do not require some provisional/probationary period before being a certified, Ni-dan, that this one level has some particular significance. So I have to ask myself, "Why provisional?" I have asked a person who is going to test for a "provisional black belt" to see if I can determine a reason at least in this one system.
I can also hypothesize that maybe this is something adopted by a larger organization, i.e. some world association, etc., and that maybe the dojo in question is simply following their guidelines and requirements and that its presence has no real meaning or effect on that particular dojo, Sensei and practitioner. Yes? No? Maybe? Theories?
It just sounds "hinkey" to me. In my system, my day, my dojo you were promoted to black belt and that was it for life. I always hoped that if you achieved it with me you were past the black belt goal phase and dedicated to a lifetime of practice. I can say about half of the black belts I awarded are still practicing some martial system. That aint' too bad and honestly do I think if I had added a provisional/probationary level for one year it would have caused some miracle change in that persons attitude to remain beyond, nope. I suspect by the time a person is a black belt their personal predisposition is pretty much set and what ever happens, happens.
I also suspect that defining provisional is not going to be cut and dry but rather subjective to what ever organization, system, dojo, and/or Sensei decide is "their" way. Nothing wrong with this ...
p.s. by the way, the single gold stripe - The gold stripes seen on many Okinawan black belts represent the special title designations, i.e. a renshi, hanshi, etc. There are only three and depending on the title, etc. are either one, two or three gold stripes.
p.s.s. In some places it is taught that Okinawan Karate-ka don't bother with titles such as this nor do they use the gold stripes but many of the leaders in such as Uechi-ryu, etc. use them. Hmmm!