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Bowley Kenpo Karate » Philosophy » Although Belt Color Show . . .

Although Belt Color Show . . .

One of the first things you learn in Kenpo class is respect. Respect for the Art. Respect for the instructor. Respect for higher belt colors. Respect for all the students. In our school we practice this respect diligently.

Logan (age 6) receiving first yellow stripe

Logan (age 6) receiving first yellow stripe

Respect for the belt color though can be a funny thing. Especially in these current times where you can practically buy a black belt at some dojos. American Kenpo has a philosophy applicable to this: Although belt color show, it is no proof that you know.

Like another Kenpo saying, (Whatever the attitude, so the response), this philosophy is multidirectional. I teach my students the primary meaning is they know more than is represented by their belt rank. The colored rank is not the be-all, end-all goal. Sweat and hard work are more important. The rank is nice, but the effort is more important. And for the most part, I believe everyone understands.

But there is a flip side to the saying as well. Sometimes you don’t know as much as what might be expected with a color rank. Again this has multiple meanings, so the positive first. For instance an instructor might promote an individual with the belief they will grow into their rank. On a personal level, I firmly believe I had to grow into my Green belt. Although I didn’t know my green belt curriculum as well as I probably should have, the promotion was a necessary step to continue progress down the path. I’m a better Kenpoist now for it.

Seth (age 7) receiving second yellow stripe

Seth (age 7) receiving second yellow stripe

Of course there is the worst case scenario where the skill level is far below that represented by belt color. Perhaps the belt wearer purchased the rank, perhaps it was handed to him. Whatever the reason though, the skill level and rank don’t match. The color implies knowledge and ability the wearer can’t deliver.

However the case though, respect should always be shown.  Why?  Because in a first meeting you may not know the skill level of the individual you just met.  Better to err on the positive belief side.  But even if proven otherwise, you must show respect. Paying respect shows as much about your character as the honor it bestows on others.

Sam Bowley
McKinney, TX


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