Thoughts on Belt Demotions

I know I’m super late to the party on this one, but a couple of weeks ago there were some discussions regarding demoting a student, especially when popular blogger Megjitsu announced she was going from purple belt to white belt.

Here are my two cents on the idea of demotion: first of all, rank is just rank. It doesn’t bestow any magical superpowers: it’s a narrow piece of cotton that’s dyed a particular color because someone thought it was a brilliant idea to show the amount of experience and/or skill someone has in the particular sport. At the heart of it all we’re all still white belts- still learning, still growing, still advancing our sport- as one of our purple belts put it once, “I’m just an 8 stripe white belt”.

My main hesitation with going wholeheartedly into the whole demotion idea is that yes, you can start from the beginning in the ranking system, but that won’t take away the training, habits, experiences you’ve had up until this point. You can’t negate the drilling, the competitions, the joy of victory or the disappointment of defeat.

Ultimately I think people should do what feels right to them: if you want to start back at white belt, go right ahead. But the question is are you really starting as a white belt all over again, entering the sport as a true “tabula rasa”?  You see it with judo players and wrestlers- even when entering the sport with an open mind and a willingness to learn can’t help but make associations with the skills they’ve developed up til now. We can’t help it- it’s just how that beautiful organ we call the brain works: it makes associations and connects ideas together in order to make our crazy, mixed-up world make more sense.

Again, I’m not condemning a belt demotion: I feel we all need to still take an open minded, beginners approach to the sport- not just assuming we know certain moves and techniques in order to really understand and learn the fine details and nuances of the sport and art. I’m just offering my thoughts on the matter.

What do you guys think? Let me know- Otherwise have a great day everyone!

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Thoughts on Belt Demotions

  1. She just unilaterally decided to demote herself?

  2. Pingback: June 10, 2015 - BJJ News

  3. I switched Hapkido schools last fall. The styles are different, and both schools had a relationship and trained together sometimes. I was fully ready and at peace with starting over at the new school, leaving my old black belt behind.

    White belt or black belt, I’d still have to start from scratch in that I’d want to reconsider even fundamental techniques to get a solid foundation in a different style of Hapkido. I also feel that if I were to be a black belt in a new school, I’ll have had to show fluency in everything the colored belts were expected to know.

    In the end, my new instructor preferred I keep my black belt. We didn’t discuss why, so I’m not sure his thinking. It’s definitely a challenge to be both old and new at the same time. Lower rank look to me for guidance and I have to be careful with that – I’m still learning this new curriculum.

    Humbling, certainly! I can see why Megjitsu made the decision she did. It’s not a demotion. It’s a fork in the road. She hasn’t lost anything.

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