Baby Black Belts, Coming Soon, to a Dojo near You!


Yesterday I saw a face book post regarding a nineteen-year-old who had been awarded his 4th Degree Black Belt, well he had been training for ten years and was entitled (according to his sensei) to be called a "Master".

The post was followed by several derogatory comments from various martial artists in the box underneath, including the words Mc Dojo.


It set me thinking, how does this type of thing happen?    Black B 2

I know from my thirty years plus in karate that ten-year-old black belts are a reasonably common sight and as I teach upwards of two hundred and sixty children each week I thought I would write my thoughts on the subject.

As I see it, when karate came to the UK it was the domain of adults, the syllabus was for adults and the time scales applied to that syllabus was for adults. Three four, or five years for a serious student to get to black belt, was considered the norm and we teach what we were taught right?

But now the number of children training in the UK far outnumber the adults, and children are just like little adults, aren’t they?

So, syllabus which have their base in the 1960s with the hard-core stuff removed (for kids) still mean three or four years of training and the students are grading for a Black Belt.



My question is, is the school awarding a black belt to a 10 or 12-year-old student who has trained two or three times a week for four years, wrong to award that student a black belt?

After all, the same amount of training time and most adults would gain the award.

The young student in this case, can wave their arms and legs about in just the same way as many of their adult counter parts, (some times better) and can do what is required by a syllabus, some may be able to fight against their peer group, but really, we all know, they are not able to protect themselves to any real degree in the real world. (an abductor would just pick them up and carry them away, or slap the child and make them cry, or just be aggressive towards them and terrify them).

So, should they hold a black belt or not?


It is my belief that the holder of a black belt should have a reasonable chance of defending themselves in the real world, against real adults and that they would surely need a certain amount of physical development and strength, a certain amount of maturity and the ability to accept aggression and to be able to respond accordingly and may be to take and inflict pain.

To understand the world around them, the possible threats of being I a certain place or of danger signals when a situation is moving towards a danger.

That type of education and understanding takes maturity of thought that means a child simply is not equipped to have.

In school terms, I think a black belt award its at least comparable to a GCSE, possibly an A level, (and some may think degree level, but that’s another blog altogether).

We start a child’s education at nursery school at the age of three or four years old, and it is a truly exceptional child who gains an GCSE before the age of fourteen.

An adult attending night school, could gain from scratch, a GCSE, in a couple of years and part time at that.

For children, the whole of our school teaching structure, system and syllabus is aimed to the awarding of GCSEs when a child is sixteen years old (some 12 years after starting education).

Adult and children’s mental and physical abilities just do not compare.

It seems clear to me that there is a perfectly good reason for having Infant schools, Junior schools, Senior schools and then Colleges and Universities.

The experts in teaching, understand how the learning requirements, the content and the teaching styles, differ for each age group.

No child enters infant school and is presented with the GCSE syllabus.... why do we do it in Martial Arts?

We have baby black belts because we have because we have old fashioned, outdated, adult based, teaching structures and syllabus with instructors who can’t or won’t get with it.

It’s not good enough to just teach what you were taught. As Martial Artists, Instructors, so called Masters of our art, we should do better than that.

10-Year-Old Black Belts ........... a hardworking, dedicated, successful child, with a misguided sense of their ability to defend themselves in the real world and an instructor who needs to think more about how they teach, what they teach and when they teach it.

Just a thought!