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Are Belt Tests simply "glorified hazing?"

The inspiration for this post comes from the blog, Martial Views by John Vesia Sensei of Isshinryu in Long Island New York. You can read it here. : http://www.martialviews.com/ titled: Black Belts and Red Flags.

He makes some great points of which I agree on all and feel in addition his terming it "glorified hazing" fits in most cases I have witnessed over the years including some of my own in the early days.

Some of the things required for today's martial systems in promotions to black belt seem to simply provide a false sense of accomplishment. It is this false sense of accomplishment that bothers me.

Why? Because martial systems traditionally are meant to provide one protection in physical conflict. All other things aside including moral spiritual development its core is still to train/teach a person to fight. In that light giving folks the false sense of accomplishment in fighting sets them up for failure.

Granted, most will never get into a conflict requiring martial skills but it only takes one person to suffer the consequences of such training and practice. I have covered this enough in other posts so will no go into any greater details.

It is imperative martial systems teach reality and it they insist on testing then it should fall into that same category, reality. This "100 man kumite" for an endurance and/or shugyo approach is in my opinion a group ego trip to do the monkey/gorilla pound your chest and display by power trip vs. real and authenticate strength of character and reality based proficiency. You don't find any of what is necessary in a group setting where one performs and others grade - it is self-reflecting grades that count, yours and yours alone.

As Vesia posts, fostering "indomitable spirit" is not a public validation process but rather a personal one inside yourself. All the yelling, kiai'ing, endurance exercises and practice are great to build the body strength and endurance but I can tell you from experience that simply having strength and endurance will not get you through a violent conflict. It is only a small part of a whole that is required to achieve not-dying.

" ... if you insist on hanging on to your myths because they are more comfortable to believe in, people will suffer." Sgt. Rory Miller, Chiron Blog: http://chirontraining.blogspot.com/2012/04/layers-of-complexity.html

Last Question: How would we know if it were glorified hazing or realty martial training?


  1. "Glorified Hazing": I think that might summarize most of the Kyokushin philosophy! Jokes aside, I think there is a place for all things as long as "all things are in moderation".

    100-man kumite: this is the Everest for Kyokushin fighters. But I've always seen it as the 'epilogue' to what training for a 100-man kumite does to a person. It is merely the physical measure of the journey, it can't measure what you learned or how you changed along it.

    Tests: To my view, part of the intensity seen is the culture of a fighting style being expressed (I can only speak of my own, of course). Part of it is a bulwark against automatic promotions based on attendance. And yes, part of it is also a form of hazing - ratcheting up the violence and intensity so to give the student who passes, or merely survives, a sense of "Wow, I really did it".

    To the mature student, this isn't so much a danger as they will recognize that the fresh new belt does imbue skills and power you didn't have yesterday. But herein lies the risk - what do tests like this do to the still developing student?


    1. Typo: "To the mature student, this isn't so much a danger as they will recognize that the fresh new belt DOESN'T imbue skills and power you didn't have yesterday."

      That missing little "n't" undermined my whole point!

  2. 100 man kumite? That's not fighting, that's crowd control....

    1. An unnecessary endeavor from my point of view but .... thanks for the laugh!

  3. Is requiring a 12 year old to fight 15 rounds vs adult black belts an acceptable practice for awarding junior black belt

    1. Requiring twelve year olds to spar fifteen rounds against adults does not sit well with me and even supports my view of hazing. I also still don't believe in junior black belts. There is so much still going on with young adults that says this type of responsibility needs to wait for maturity, maturity in the physical as well as mental to include allowing the body and brain to reach their full potential in nature as to growth, etc.

      Not easy nor achievable since it appears that most karate schools today are filled with kids and have become a primary source of income.