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  • sarahcarolinesmith

Should kids be black belts?

*The student pictured above is a model not a black belt

The ranking system used by many martial arts are colour belts with the most advanced skill level represented by the black belt. Martial arts such as Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can take over a decade of dedication and training against experienced opponents to develop the skills required to become a black belt.

In recent years, many martial art academies have been awarding belts at lower and lower standards to undeserving students so that they don't lose heart and continue with their lessons. I have even heard of an academy where you can register your child and they are guaranteed to receive their black belt in a popular martial art in only 2 years when you pay them $2000 up front. Many people are looking for a shortcut these days which is a big reason that kids receiving their "black belts" in certain martial arts is becoming more and more prevalent. Having trained martial arts for over 20 years and having received my black belt in both Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I strongly disagree with this new marketing trend and believe that it is detrimental and irresponsible.

Earning a black belt is a sign that a student has mastered the fundamentals of a particular martial art and can be considered an expert in the field. How can an 8 year old child have possibly mastered anything nevertheless a complex martial art and if it were possible for an 8 year old to have truly earned their black belt, then what does that say about the martial art they study? It just doesn't make sense to me that years of accumulated martial arts knowledge can be mastered by a child in a few short years of study even if they are training everyday with the best instructor as they just don't have the maturity to process it all. In Malcolm Gladwell’s famous book, "The Outliers", he discusses the concept that 10,000 hours of dedicated practice in any given field or area of expertise is required to become an expert. Having twice been through the process myself in the arts of Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I couldn't agree more. I began training in Judo at the age of 7, competed at at a high level in the sport, and only received my black belt when I was 18 years old. The youngest you can be to earn a black belt in Judo is 16 years old, and those that receive it that young are phenomenal and can hold their own against most adults out there. Giving young kids that have yet to mature their black belts breeds an extremely false sense of security and feeling of invincibilitywhich can be a very dangerous thing that I've personally witnessed and seen the downfall of. When I was in elementary school, there was a kid in my class who often bragged about being a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. One day a slightly larger bully challenged him to a fight after school which he quickly and confidently accepted and then the inevitable happened - the bully made quick work of the poor child sending him home crying with a black eye. Giving a black belt to a child waters down the concept of what a black belt is supposed to represent. A black belt should represent years of hard work and a high proficiency in any given martial art.

Enter the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu belt system. Helio and Carlos Gracie(The founders of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) understood the concerns mentioned above and quickly decided that not only could a child not earn a black belt in BJJ(Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), but they could not earn any rank that was the same as an adult rank. This is because they believed that children could not be judged to have the same maturity and moral reasoning as an adult. In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, students are expected to uphold values such as discipline, respect and integrity along with the skills to adequately defend themselves which is all closely connected with their rank. In fact, the highest rank a child the age of 15 can receive in BJJ is a green belt, which is the highest junior rank. Once they turn 16, they are able to receive their first adult rank after white belt, which is a blue belt. A blue belt is very significant because it signifies that a student has the skills and maturity to be able to adequately defend themselves against 98 percent of the population, a pretty big deal. Could you say the same about an 8 year old black belt? Furthermore a student cannot earn a black belt in BJJ until they are 19 and that is only for phenoms who usually train full time. It takes most adults 8-10 years of consistent training to receive a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This is how Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is maintaining the integrity of the art, by ensuring that our black belt practitioners are highly skilled and capable of defending themselves in realistic scenarios against adults along with holding upstanding values in our communities. The famous UFC champion Royce Gracie(Helio Gracie's son) said it best: "A black belt only covers two inches of your butt, you have to cover the rest".

If you are located in Durham Region and are interested in enrolling your child (or yourself) in martial arts, come try a full week of free classes at DNA BJJ to see why we are right gym for your family.

Your child's first class will be an intro to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu lesson with one of our instructors (usually Coach Sarah) where they will learn how to fall safely, fundamental movements, and to help them get comfortable in a new environment.

Does your child feel too intimidated to try a class? Check out our schedule and come watch one of our classes from our viewing area with your child to see what we are all about. We specialize in teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but also have a Judo and Wrestling program to complement it.

Contact us today to book your child's free intro to BJJ lesson and kickstart their 7 day trial, we are located in Whitby, close to HWY 401 and the Oshawa border.

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