Updated: Jun 15
The belt ranking system is a hallmark of the martial arts journey which has long been part of the martial arts experience. This rank system is not only a tailor-made ladder toward success in training, it's also a great way for students to foster a sense of pride in their accomplishments. So what, then, is a Jr. Black Belt?
Well, if we begin at the beginning (which is white belt) we are starting off our journey in a position of readiness to learn. A white belt signifies that a student hasn't yet reached their first belt goal but they are working toward that. Students at the white belt level are often brand new in the martial arts world and must learn the foundational principles of their style, as well as dedicate themselves to this new endeavor wholeheartedly.
As a student reaches their first goal, yellow belt, they begin to feel an increased sense of pride and are likely beginning to understand the basic movements and workings of the class. Young students especially will benefit from this tangible achievement and feel a sense of accomplishment every time they tie their belt around their waist. It's an outward acknowledgement of not only the courage it takes to begin something new, but the recognition that a student is on the journey toward black belt.
The belt ranking system progresses through 10 levels from white to black belt, and with each belt level comes a new understanding of Isshinryu Karate as well as a new set of challenges and curriculum to learn. Old techniques must be practiced and polished, while new techniques are added with each new belt promotion.
Students are measured in class on their readiness to progress in rank, and a Sensei will invite a student to test when it's shown that the student is proficient and can perform the required techniques with accuracy. This journey to black belt helps students break a large goal into smaller 'bite sized' pieces so that the challenge feels attainable. As the student progresses, it can be expected that their balance and strength will increase. It is also expected that a student's proficiency will continue to improve, because with each accomplished rank comes a higher standard.
These standards are highly personalized because each student begins their karate journey with a unique skill set, as well as a unique set of challenges and setbacks. Sensei are hyper focused on watching for improvement on an individual level, and no student is ever compared to another; rather, students' skills and improvements are measured against their abilities from the past. This is why it is important to trust your Sensei and know that they are watching each student closely with a keen memory of their previous setbacks so that they can truly see how far a student has come in their training.
When a student has shown diligence and perseverance, a willingness to work hard in class, and the patience it takes to stay through the long treck toward black belt a Sensei will invite that student to test for black belt; however, for a student to be recognized as a black belt they must be at least 16 years of age. This presents a quandary for students who began their karate journey at the age of 3 or 4 and have shown dedication and hard work toward their training for many years.
We at Ingram's believe that the dedication of a young student is just as important as that of an older student, so we developed our children's curriculum to allow for young martial artists to achieve a Jr Black Belt. We value their effort and want to recognize them for accepting and achieving such a difficult challenge; we believe it's important for them to be able to wear with pride their Jr Black Belt as a symbol of the many years of training and focus it takes to achieve it.
Children who stick it out and achieve their black belt demonstrate extreme dedication to a goal, as the Jr Black Belt is not easy to earn. Physical strengthening, emotional fortitude, and a deep understanding of oneself is part and parcel to becoming a Jr Black Belt. Giving back is also a requirement, and young martial artists who are nearing their black belt test are expected to volunteer to help out and be an example in the classes for the younger ranks as a way to lead by example and further their understanding of what it means to be a Sensei.
All of these things work together to create a deep love and respect for the style of Isshinryu Karate, an appreciation for the dojo, and a sense of commitment to others that a Sensei should embody. This is what it means to earn a Jr Black Belt. Here at Ingram's, we're very proud of our Jr Black Belts. We believe they represent the very best of the future and we stand beside them in class with pride.
If you're interested in finding out more about our children's karate program, check out other articles relating to our competition team, as well as other informative articles in our blog.
For information about how to get started, contact us today and we would be happy to show you the benefits of training at Ingram's! We have locations in New Port Richey and Tampa and we'd love to have you join us!
We'll see you on the mats!
~Sensei Jen Davenport