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Does the Obi Reflect Experience?

Caveat: Please make note that this article/post is my personal analysis of the subject and the information used was chosen or picked by me. It is not an analysis piece because it lacks complete and comprehensive research, it was not adequately and completely investigated and it is not balanced, i.e., it is my personal view without the views of others including subject experts, etc. Look at this as “Infotainment rather then expert research.” This is an opinion/editorial article/post meant to persuade the reader to think, decide and accept or reject my premise. It is an attempt to cause change or reinforce attitudes, beliefs and values as they apply to martial arts and/or self-defense. It is merely a commentary on the subject in the particular article presented.

This article is mine and mine alone. I the author of this article assure you, the reader, that any of the opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my meandering mind interprets a particular situation and/or concept. The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of other martial arts and/or conflict/violence professionals or authors of source materials. It should be quite obvious that the sources I used herein have not approved, endorsed, embraced, friended, liked, tweeted or authorized this article. (Everything I think and write is true, within the limits of my knowledge and understanding. Oh, and just because I wrote it and just because it sounds reasonable and just because it makes sense, does not mean it is true.) 

I recently read a comment that said, “The belt should totally reflect your Karate experiences.” I immediately responded with, “how does the obi do that, you know, reflect your karate experiences? I know of folks who have had one forever with all the fading and fraying who can't really hold their own in karate?”

I have not received a response to my question to date but I will do a little bit of assumption, i.e., an experienced karate-ka can be implied by the state of one’s black belt, obi, in that it appears frayed to display the white material inside with a small amount of the actual black material still showing and the black material is faded, etc. (see snapshot that follows)

Experienced Karate-ka right? Not so much.

I don’t understand this even tho I had one like that in my early years of karate practice and teaching. In all honestly as I have continued that practice and training I have found that my black belt, if cared for correctly and cleaned appropriately, will hold its color for years to a couple of decades. It may be thought that as the obi relates to one fictional story, i.e., white belts through use become black and red with dirt, sweat, tears and blood, etc., one might assume that to get to that state means you have sweated, bleed, lost tears and through other efforts caused it to fade, fray and to lock aged. One issue on this one, there are those out there who would condition their obi’s through bleach, washing in hot and hard water then drag it behind a truck or other vehicle until it reaches a worn and “Experienced” state. Poppykosh!

The only wear apparent on my obi’s has been a relaxed state along with an ease in tying and maintaining the knot because of use while the color and state of the material remains, mostly, steadfast. Neither state, good or worn, tell me that the person has done anything in regard to experience or the build up of experience by the state of the obi, the belt. I have seen teens who have a belt in that condition and that does not equate to experience. 

So, the question then begs, “How can you tell of someone’s experience in martial arts?” Well, start by asking and then validate through a period of time, say at least three to six months, on the training hall floor learning, practicing, teaching and training in martial discipline(s). 

Now, here is where I diverge in the subject of experience. What kind of experience are we talking about here? Experience: as in the Way, as in kata, as in kumite, as in tournament competition, as in full-contact (koff koff, snicker snicker) competition, as in fighting sport, as in fighting in the street (sorta), as in combatives (military, police, etc.), or as in self-defense? Each one has specifics that say experience or experienced. Relatively few actually achieve any real experience in any of these categories and that includes me (I rate my experience as it would stand up against professionals such as those found in the bibliography that follows). They all do not relate to one another except in very small and insignificant ways.

Are you talking about experience in the dojo in general, are you talking about experience in a street altercation or attack, etc.? What is that experience and how does it relate to the state of anything let along one’s belt or obi?

Bibliography (Click the link)

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