"The Author, it must be remembered, writes from his own standpoint!"
My personal "Interpretive" Lens!

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If you have a question not covered in this blog feel free to send it to me at my email address, i.e. "snow" dot here "covered" dot here "bamboo" AT symbol here "gmail" dot here "com"

"One thing has always been true: That book ... or ... that person who can give me an idea or a new slant on an old idea is my friend." - Louis L'Amour

"Ideally, your self-defense will never get physical. Avoiding the situation and running or talking you way out - either of these is a higher order of strategy than winning a physical battle." - Wise Words of Rory Miller, Facing Violence: Chapter 7: after, subparagraph 7.1:medical

"Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider..." - Francis Bacon

Warning, Caveat and Note: The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books.

Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.

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Why are folks so focused on belts in MA?

Think of the belts and the colors as symbols. Humans gravitate toward such symbols as a "Symbol of belonging." That belonging is connected to human survival in a tribe or clan. Although modern times would indicate a loss of that need nature has not. Look to how humans tend to gravitate toward groups of all kinds just like karate-ka tend to gravitate toward a style or system that seems to match their personalities. This is why associations tend to be there along with such affiliations toward a dojo, style or system. We humans have a long way to go to rid ourselves of the trappings of ego, pride and survival as you find in tribes or clans. One of the first things many new tribes do is associate themselves with some symbolic representation that makes that tribe or clan "Unique," and so on.

Also, within any tribe or clan survival depends heavily on maintaining a hierarchy where everyone has a role to play that is inter-connected with that tribe or clan - for survival. Tribal members will look up within that hierarchy to increase their status and importance thereby a belt system in the dojo fundamentally does the same for that dojo's members.

What are the benefits of a cooperative uke vs one that is not (Cooperative vs. Resistive Tori/Uke Model)?

A question asked by a Mr. Milner on the Karate Friends FB Wall dtd Tuesday November 4, 2014 at 6:30 AM. This was my comment to him on this most excellent question. 

This is a pretty darn good question. I believe there are benefits in everything within a system of martial practice. As to the specific of a cooperative uke vs. resistive uke I believe both are critical tools for an MA in order to train the mind for defense. I feel strongly that a cooperative uke is the stepping stone to the resistive uke thereby creating the knowledge necessary to take it to the third step in a more free style practice with partners that include kumite, sport but more importantly the defensive aspects of MA.

For me the defensive aspects are primary along with the philosophical, theory and physiokinetic aspects making my practice and training holistic. 

Back to cooperative vs. resistive uke. In order for beginners and novice practitioners to gain the knowledge and encode it into the depths of the mind a cooperative uke is very much needed. I believe once a certain drill is learned adequately in this cooperative uke model then for that drill, that drill alone while newer drills remain in the cooperative state the tori must begin to experience resistive uke in such drills. This actually takes the tori/uke relationship a bit higher since this type of resistive uke training is actually fluid where both parties will actually take on the roles of both tori/uke. 

It is also my feelings that the tori/uke training model go back and forth between cooperative and resistive along with sessions that will actually take it more toward a reality based training model. Finally, the time when you pass from the tori/uke cooperative and resistive training models is when you take your defensive training to a group that can provide a “Reality Based No Bullshit” type of training where stress induced adrenal flooding occurs so that the encoding of the lizard brain will assimilate such training and superimpose that over the more human instinctive reactions. 

Finally I also recommend that the cooperative and resistive tori/uke model also introduce practitioners to the SD model, i.e. the full spectrum of self-defense as presented in the knowledge shared through the efforts of people like Rory Miller, Marc MacYoung and others, i.e. their books listed on my bibliography page here: http://isshindo.blogspot.com/2013/11/bibliography.html

Most of all, since you seem to prefer the resistive uke model for training, I would recommend the above simply because you are pushing your preferences on others by insisting (it seems that you are insisting from the way you describe your feelings, I could be wrong and if I am I apologize) to remain in resistive uke mode. Remember, as a Sensei or Senpai the dual cooperative relationship in MA is about learning and teaching each other equally and that means although you may be at a level where remaining in resistive uke mode is adequate for you the partners who train with you may still need to work the cooperative uke mode. Either way, even if it feels like the cooperative uke mode is not needed in your personal feelings that model still has a ton of stuff to teach even if it feels like it doesn’t - let it happen and I guarantee you will suddenly get this “Oh crap” feeling one day and gladly get that feeling that all of it was worth it. 

The benefits of cooperative tori/uke is it provides time and experience to teach and learn how MA fundamentals work, i.e. the fundamentals principles of martial systems (theory - physiokinetics - techniques - philosophy). It also benefits practitioners by laying ground work and experience that allows them to have some knowledge for the body, mind and spirit to tap into as they gravitate toward the resistive tori/uke models and is one reason why using both consistently and diligently contribute toward encoding it deeper than simply knowing the moves. 

The benefits of resistive tori/uke is to teach the mind and body how to extract what has been learned in a more fluid and opportunistic manner, i.e. in other words break the patterns in a kata two person drill type rhythm and allow the lizard brain to pull and parcel different appropriate responses without thought, instinctively. This benefit also is about preparation when the training goes the distance toward the reality based training and finally puts the frosting on the cake when you add in the SD knowledge and training for civil self-defense. 

When a Kyu Asks “What does it mean to be a black belt?”

Black Belt is a relative term dependent on the dojo and the Sensei. In my view “Sho-dan” is merely a sign of a novice in the martial arts with a particular emphasis on the system or style that awards that grade. As a kyu you are a beginner. In my view a person who remains diligent and steadfast in training and practice is recognized when they receive a first level yu-dan-sha. It is a sign someone is serious about being a martial artist and it is a sign that the person is ready to really buckle down and begin to study and learn MA.

It is NOT a sign of mastery, it is a sign of seriousness, dedication and diligence to become a mere “Novice” in the system or style practiced. It means they have achieved a level of fundamental basic understanding so that this base can be used to build the full system as symbolized in the “Shu-ha-ri and Shin-gi-tai, etc.” of said system/style. 

It is NOT a level or grade that gives one the perception or belief they are ready to teach the system/style, far from it. It is a level that allows at the discretion of the dojo Sensei to assist in teaching and practicing the kyu levels of go-kyu to ju-kyu (fifth kyu to tenth kyu only). Ni-dan usually assists with Ik-kyu to go-kyu levels. 

Black belts don’t take up a personal dojo until at least San-dan levels and the caveat is they should remain connected with their Sensei or at least Sensei of Go-dan or higher for guidance until they too reach Go-dan level. 

In reality one should get to a point where the belt and color are the lowest common dominator in training and practice because a mind to set on “winning and accumulating dan grades” is less focused on those aspects of fundamental principles of martial systems they tend to lose site of the systems/styles ultimate goal, i.e adhering to the principles of theory and philosophy while supplementing the principles of physiokinetics and techniques. 

Traveling the road of a martial system starts out with such goals but a black belt means they have transcending those egoistic and pride driven goals for something way more personal. 

Considering the question in general it is best to recommend one forget the black belt and simply get back to learning and achieving proficiency in the fundamental principles of martial systems, i.e. those principles that transcend any individualized symbolic meaning of a system or style in particular.