Blue Belts vs. Black Belts

Excerpts from an article written by Professor Dennis Estes in the Winter 2009 Kiai Echo, the newsletter of the American Judo and Jujitsu Federation (AJJF).

Our Blue Belts Can Beat Your Black Belts and other such bull----

…Much has been written about who is tougher than whom. This guy’s brother can beat that guy’s brother. Our style is better than your style…

The conflict appears to rage over what is important: being able to beat up everybody, or developing yourself into something that is better today than it was yesterday.

…It would appear that there is great conflict between these ideas, but if one were to look deeper there are more similarities than differences. The writer and philosopher Eric Hoffer once said, “In times of change, the learners will inherit the future, while the learned will be beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

…When one anchors to the past, and refuses to adapt, one is soon lost. Master Okazaki himself was indeed a learner. He adapted, developed and modified all of his life. The fact that his style exists today is a testament to his ability to be a learner.

The real winners constantly test themselves. They constantly push through barriers into areas they have never been before. Winners are always developing themselves.

You are not being honest with yourself… if you are not… teaching and practicing the philosophical teachings of your art. It takes both to be a complete martial artist. Without the philosophical and spiritual teachings, the student becomes nothing more than a martial athlete.

If we… hold back and do not teach the next generation with the intent of making them stronger and better than we are, then the next generation is weaker than the first…. We must train to be complete martial artists... We must move from the old, keeping what is right and good, and adopt the new. Such is the essence of Jujitsu, and indeed… Danzan Ryu.

It is ludicrous to assume that someone who has never finished the complete course of study in one system of martial art could accurately compare the effectiveness or completeness of that system to another, especially if they also have not completed the course work from the second system.

The martial athlete is fixed on winning, not self-improvement... fixed on always having to beat the other guy... always wearing their ego on their sleeve. They are always crowing about how good they are and how poor those around them are.

…It is not about winning, but about losing. It’s about losing the ego, losing the comparisons, losing the drive to compete… Learn to abandon the ego... [and] find one of the secrets of Danzan Ryu: Sutemi.

...Most martial arts students will never need their training in a real self-defense situation. Then again, maybe it is their martial training that allows them to avoid situations in which their training would be needed.

Fighting, competition, or contests are not a true indication of one’s self-defense capabilities. The energies replicated in a real struggle for your life cannot be duplicated in a contest or competition.

Fighting also does not allow someone to truly measure his or her self-defense skills. Fighting requires two egos out of control. Anger is usually an integral part of a fight. When one is angry or one is afraid, or one is filled with hate, that person is not in control.

If most students will never need to physically use their training, why train? Okazaki answers this question in the first paragraph of the Esoteric Principles when he states “The primary purpose for the practice of our martial art is for the perfection of character.” Perfection of character requires the development of mind, body and spirit. It requires a balance or harmony between all three.

…The way you train in class is the way you will respond on the street. If you are not pushed beyond your comfort zone in class, you will not respond appropriately on the street.

…Understanding comes from doing. Be proactive, be willing to take risks. Growth only comes by risking.

We must maintain the integrity of our system, as historically taught. We must be true to our roots, or risk losing the Ryu. We must adapt, flow, adjust and ever be vigilant to keep our Ryu strong. We must teach our younger leaders how to find the secrets of the Ryu. We must strengthen our requirements of what constitutes a black belt. We must become warriors, not fighters; Martial Artists, not Martial Athletes; givers and not hoarders.

The deepest secrets are often the most obvious.