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The Black Belt and the Grading System

In this month’s podcast we discuss the always controversial subject of the grading system and the coveted black belt. On internet forums, message boards, and in the letters pages in the martial arts magazines we frequently find discussion on how standards are falling, the black belt does not mean what it once did and that there is no uniform standard anymore. So in this podcast I’d like to give my take on the black belt and the plusses and pitfalls associated with the grading system in general.

I cover the origins of the black belt; how the grading system can encourage the pursuit of things that have no bearing on combative function; how the grading system can both encourage and discourage the inappropriate rise of ego; what could happen if we got rid of the grading system; the lack of standardisation in grading criteria (which I think is a good thing); what grades are legitimate; and many more of the issues surrounding the grading system.

This podcast also has a little bit of information on some of the exciting changes that will be coming to in the next few weeks! I hope that you enjoy the podcast and I’ll be back with a new one next month!

All the best,


PS The picture associated with this podcast is drawn by Lauren Fast and is of myself strangling Scott Knowles (the “official uke” of my recent Canadian trip) using a technique from Pinan Yodan. I’ll share high resolution versions of these with you in coming weeks, because they are amazing works of art! Thanks to James Freeman for arranging these pictures, to Lauren for drawing them … and to Scott for being happily strangled for a fortnight!

The Black Belt ...
Iain Abernethy