Originally Posted by marekny144
It's not directly on point, but I thought it'd be ok to ask here all you guys who actually practice a martial art: what is the real deal with the black belt designation? It's obviously supposed to mark a very high level of expertise in a given art, but what I don't understand is how people who look like they struggle to put their socks on or kids are given black belts. I read all the time how some prodigy 10-year-old kid who played clarinet with an orchestra at the age of 5 also has a black belt in karate. Is it a joke? Shouldn't you have to display a level of strength and stamina simply beyond capability of a prepubescent kid? Also, are black belts exclusive domain of a particular teaching school or are they regulated by some outside associations to provide uniformity and objectivity, which would perhaps explain why they seem to be given out so randomly, if the former. Thanks for shedding any light on the subject.
Each school (for the most part) dictates how they want to hand out belts.
That's the general problem I've noticed with most martial arts schools in the United States (as well as other Western nations, I'm sure). Most schools have to fight (no pun intended) to survive month-to-month so in order to maximize their student retention and income, they essentially hand out belts (including black belts) more frequently than what is actually earned.
Most of the "successful" schools (i.e. the ones who aren't financially starving every month) are ones that sponsor (or are sponsored by) professional MMA competitors.
On the original topic of which karate school/system is best to join? I think none. They're all mostly a waste of time (similar to Tae Kwon Do) for someone who wants to learn effective fighting techniques. About the only benefit you get out of them is how to make your body (especially the legs) more flexible to perform kicks (but you're probably learning some really ineffective kicking techniques from karate and Tae Kwon Do, too). I'd recommend Muay Thai kickboxing as the only true effective kicking art (and not to be confused with the watered down American kickboxing style). I think the best (and most famous) school out there in the United States may be Sidyodtong on the East Coast (Boston?). Mark Delagrotte (sp?) is the shit when it comes to striking coaches.
On a related note, it's also my personal opinion that most BJJ and Judo schools are watered down because of their heavy reliance on gi-training. There just aren't that many schools that are strictly no-gi. Why? Well, it's because the gi offers more techniques and therefore a student must spend more time at the school (and spend more money) to learn all the gi-related moves. The problem is, of course, that most realistic situations will render gi-related techniques useless. Worst case scenario, you spent too much time practicing gi-moves that your no gi-technique sucks against an average aggressive street thug.
The only good strictly no-gi school that I have even heard of is Eddie Bravo's 10th Planet Jiujitsu in Los Angeles. Some gi schools offer once or twice a week no-gi sessions on top of their standard gi sessions but that usually means their no-gi experience is somewhat limited.
This is all my personal opinion and you're more than welcome to disagree (wouldn't be the first time). Oh and my background? 1st degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do straight out of South Korea (and utterly useless). Watching Royce Gracie fight in the first couple UFCs taught me more (and cost me way less).