Last week one of my martial arts colleagues forwarded a video to me to have a chuckle at. Rather than laughing at the video, I found myself becoming increasing irritated at what I say and heard in the video. I found myself so flabbergasted as the absurdity of it, I shared it with a few of my students; though not in a "har-har look at this nonsense" manner, but in a "yes, this type of crap is out there" message.
I am not going to link this video because 1) I find this line of thinking both toxic and embarrassing the martial arts community as a whole and 2) I am in no way going to give this organization any sort of promotion or publication at all.
The premise of the video was an advertisement one of those multi-style martial arts organizations that will test you in whatever style you want if you pay them enough money. And yes, those are almost predominately complete crap. There is absolutely no way anyone who spent years studying Tae Kwon Do (no offense to any TKD reader, just an example) will know the curriculum of Shogen-Ryu and be qualified to "award" me rank in Shogen-Ryu. Could they be competent martial artists in their own right, absolutely. But that does not mean they themselves are qualified to even hand out rank in a style they've never trained in.
But I digress, that is another rant for another.
These belt mills are not anything new and are easy to find if you know where to look a few keywords to Google. In fact, I know of one high-ranking instructor who bought one of his most recent ranks as well as a another whom I suspect did the same.
However, the thing that struck a nerve with me was one sentence in particular in this very slick advertisement. It started with the typical crap such as "Are you not being recognized in your training, have been training hard don't think you're being recognized enough, or have been you prevented from gaining new rank blah blah, come join us." (note: I'm paraphrasing the dialogue to condense it down) Okay, nothing I haven't heard and been disgusted by before.
"We take all your training into consideration, regardless of style," *eyeroll* Yeah, yeah, "We'll take into consideration your training in various styles, seminars attended, tournaments competed in, books read, and videos watched, or any educational experience related to martial arts...."
I'm sorry, WHAT?!?
So, If I give you money and write a little essay (per the organizations website), I can get rank based on the number of books I've read and YouTube videos I've watched??
So much for, you know, actually training. I guess I can buy - sorry - "earn" a black belt if I just watch enough YouTube and read enough books on it. I'll never actually have to learn how the body works or apply techniques against a resisting opponent. Hell, I won't even have to break a sweat!
I guess the past two decades plus of actual training - injuries and all - were pointless - I could have just read a handful of books and watched videos for rank. Never mind the sense of accomplishment I've felt with every belt I've earned through blood, sweat, and tears; I could have done it all from the comfort of my living room couch.
This is an absolute disgrace to martial arts as a whole.
There have been more classes than I can count where I've had to physically limp out of the school at the end of the day because my body was so sore. I've had to carry/help my friends walk to their cars after class because they were so banged up or got injured in class. On more than one occasion I've literally gone straight from the dojo or gym to the hospital to deal with serious injuries sustained in class.
And you know what? I wouldn't trade any of that in for the worthless piece of paper these "certifications and ranks" are printed on. Because as much as training does suck from time to time, the others are filled with wonderful experiences you can't get reading a book or watching a video.
Oh, and if you're reading this and you've bought your belt through one of these belt mill, just know I think you're a joke.