by Jennifer Thompson
Master Funakoshi said,
Mentality over technique.
Hitotsu, gijitsu yori shinjitsu
Which is why I do not understand these dojos giving black belts people under 16.
Let’s be real, many recipients of shodans from these dojos (you know the ones I’m talking about) do not have the mentality, strength, stamina, etc. required for a shodan. Yeah, their technique is good and they have everything memorized, but where is their mind?
From my experience, these kinds of dojos tend to have no kind of governing board. In some organizations, there is a minimum age for one to achieve shodan (or even to start training - traditionally, a student would begin training around middle school age so that they would have enough maturity for it) which is usually 16, or some dojos have black belts with a white stripe to indicate that the shodan has been reached, but not truly due to the immature age of the karate-ka.
Going into a more personal aspect, there’s a 14 year-old girl in my dojo who got her shodan at age 12. Based on performance, I would rank higher than her. There’s a guy who’s 17 and is now a sandan after having achieved his shodan at 12 (comparing to my sensei, who is a sandan, he is at a much lower level). A friend of mine has her shodan at age 16 but can’t run 400m. I have my 2nd kyu, and am expecting to go for my shodan in 1-2 years. I’ve been training for 4 years, with a four year break between each two. In short, I would likely have my shodan by now had it not been for moving countries and not joining a dojo right away. I wouldn’t say that I’m jealous that I’m a brown belt - Rather, I feel that immature karate-ka achieving shodan devalues the rank and karate as a whole, as certain elements of karate (eg mindset, fitness, kumite, etc) are often overlooked.
Honestly, I’d rather rise slowly in a traditional dojo and learn all the aspects of karate than belt-hunt for my shodan at a more popular one.
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