Posts Tagged ‘fighting arts’

Why You Are Told Not To Wash Your Belt In Martial Arts

        When you start training in martial arts you most likely will either be told not to wash your new belt that you got with your new uniform when you sign up or you have read instructions on something somewhere that told you not to wash your belt. There are reasons why you should not wash your belt, but they have nothing to do with fantasy stories.

The main fantasy story you hear is that ancient old masters of martial arts (yet the belt system was introduced only in the 1880’s) never washed their belt and did not have new belts given to them. They wore a white belt and through years of hard training with sweat, dirt, blood etc. it became black. That means the black belt is a symbol of that hard work. This sounds good and all but it is not true. No martial arts masters ever did anything like that, and if they did it would be gross.

It is a nice story and philosophy though. Working hard and your pure effort is what makes you the master. The concept is interesting but still, why not just more than one belt if it is pure hard work that matters? Like you could not buy a black belt, you had to earn it by sweating on a white belt and rolling on the dojo floor, fighting people in challenge matches, getting their blood and your own blood on it. To me that sounds very gross and unhygienic. Would you want to practice with someone with a belt full of nasty bacteria on? Judo, Jiujitsu, Karate, Taekwondo, Hapkido, whatever. Do you want to be grabbing on, or even close to another guy who has such a belt around his waist? It would be very gross and probably smell.

Some dork made up this story to sound very mystical and it is just a silly martial arts myth to attract students and sound profound. I was told this in my first Taekwondo gym and believed it. But growing up I realized this could not be true. Why would you wash only your uniform, but not your belt? Japanese, and most Asians, are very clean people who want to make things nice and hygienic. There is no way that they would think having a nasty belt is important or good. They had to have washed their white belts with their uniforms. When people trained in martial arts in the old days, even ancient days, nobody wore special colored belts. They wore whatever training clothes were used at the time. They obviously washed everything when it needed to be one. When Jigoro Kano who invented Judo and the martial arts belt system idea started out he only had white belts and later added the black belt. Over time he added color belts. People washed their belts. They wouldn’t want that filthy piece of cloth in their dojo rolling around. People always hung dry clothing because they had no dryer machines. They most likely did not wash dark black belts with white gis either. And color belts students probably washed their belts in a separate bucket or basin as to not mix colors into the white clothing. Most likely they did not have to wash their belts as often as their uniforms as the cloth is smaller, and a thicker piece that absorbs well and dries off. But still there had to be times they needed to wash it.

Now days we use washing machines and dryer machines. These things can cause shrinkage of cloth. One reason you do not want to wash your belt is because it will shrink. If it fits you well you do not want it to shrink. But if you wash it once in awhile and air dry it, it should not shrink. So only washing when necessary is important. Not every day.

Another problem is color fades. Some of the dyes for color belts are very strong and can spread in the wash into other garments. I remember the green and red belts in Taekwondo had very strong dye that would even stain the waist of my white dobok through my sweat. I could only imagine what would happen if they went into the washing machine with white shirts. Not good. I never washed my color belts. Also, in Taekwondo color belts are only worn for about 3-4 months if you are regularly training and testing for the next keup ranks. So the amount of times you would need to wash them are slim to none.

In is my opinion that martial arts uniforms should look clean and good. It is part of the discipline. If you are a color belt you want people to see the color easily. Why fade out your green belt? It looks ugly. Why fade out a yellow belt? You worked hard to earn that color so why make it white again so fast? It just does not look good to have an old faded color belt. In the military they make sure that your uniform is worn correctly, and up to standard and clean. They want it to look good. I think the martial arts uniform should also look good including the belt.

In other martial arts styles like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu you hold your belt colors for much longer and have more ground and intense sweating moment between 2 bodies. Very close contact and grabbing and jerking the belts during sparring. You probably have a white belt for about 2-3 years and same with the blue belt etc. It is much slower to rank in this martial art. Once in awhile in that amount of time your belt is going to get caked in salt and dojo mat filth that you will need to wash it. Throwing it in the washing machine is a good thing. If your belt is blue or purple just put it in with like colors, or by itself. Air dry it. But usually you do not want to wash your belt for reasons mentioned above. Another reason is the tape on your belt for stripes in BJJ. Most tape stays on in the washing machine, but over time will peel off easy and need to be replaced. During my time in BJJ I washed my white belt several times, especially during the hot summer in Korea when I was training there. The tape stayed on.

In Taekwondo washing your black belt fades it and makes it a lighter color. A lot of people think having and old black belt that is used up is somehow super cool and important. Somehow it “proves” you trained hard and are a master. As if your physical prowess does not prove it enough, they need some fashionable belt that looks gray, peeling off the surface, sides all tethered, tags missing and rubbed off, and almost white in color. They believe it has some symbol of working hard to turn your white belt black, then somehow, for some reason, not based on science, the belt then turns white again through more sweating, blood, dirty from training. This is impossible and also stupid. Why would you want that to happen? Do you really think that if you rubbed a white cloth in dirt for 20 years and other nasty stuff it would turn black then turn white? No…it won’t. How anyone came up with this is probably because they wore cheap black belts with a white layer underneath the black part. Through peeling, ripping, and washing and faded their belt the dyes washed out and underneath the layers became exposed. So they thought “Oh this must be some oriental philosophy of reincarnation and rebirth! So philosophical and so deep!!!” Probably some western dork made this up, or some Asian trying to take advantage of stupid foreigners gullibility for all things eastern and mystical. Emotional man!

There is no way this guy could have gotten belts to look this ratty and torn up from the few amount of years in between each belt without him purposefully ripping on them and washing them over and over. He is claiming that within 6 years or his black belts got this old looking! Impossible unless he buys the absolute most cheapest and poor quality belts on the market! If you earn a black belt or master rank wouldn’t you want your belt to last and be the highest quality? People have 1 belt the ends up this way but he has 6! Yeah right…

Like I said before, I think the martial arts uniform should look clean, pristine, bright in color with belts looking good. Of course tying a belt over and over may cause parts of it to tether but there is no reason the belt should look like it was found in a garbage bin. Some nominal fading will occur if you wash your belt once in awhile. I have probably washed my black belt 4 times in my life. Once because an older belt was cheap and thin and sweat caked up on it and it was gross. The latest belt I have I washed it a couple of times because it got very sweaty. So far it is still very black. Other people want to wash their belt over and over on purpose in hopes it faded and makes them look super badass like they trained for millions of years. I think this is silly and dishonest and makes you look like a tool. Especially if you are young. I remember seeing that blogger and youtube guy Karate by Jesse have almost a pure white belt on with a couple of black marks. What is that kid in his 20s? SO STUPID! No way it happened through training!

Image result for mooto old belt

       This belt was about $35 listed online. Mooto has some cool looking Taekwondo uniforms but this kind of stuff really angers me. I wear Mooto all the time, but I think they should stop making pre-worn out and made to look old belts

        What is even worse is some companies sell faded black belts to look like grandmaster belts. I like my Mooto black belt, but this company actually sells an $85 belt made to look old that some suckers will buy to feel important. I hate this kind of stuff! How lame it is for people to buy a belt to look old. How fake! How pretentious! How idiotic and morally wrong!

Image result for mooto old belt

The $89.50 belt.

        Just wear the belt of your rank! If it is black then make sure it is black! If you need a new belt then get one! What are you doing to your belt, and what cheap lame quality of belts are you wasting money on, to make your belt look sooooo old and used up and nasty? You want an old belt that hardy keeps your dobok or gi closed because it is so tethered the knot never stays tight? What is the point? You don’t look cool! You look dumb! What is the point if other people can kick your ass if you have an old belt on? Make sure your skill is good!

Over the years exploring other martial arts beyond Taekwondo I have found myself just wearing athletic clothes and training poomsae outside and wearing MMA clothes often to work on kickboxing. I still wear my dobok with pride, but what I am saying is many years I have not even worn a belt. The sweat and wear and tear will no be shown on my belt since I was not wearing it sometimes. But does it mean my skill is not there? The wear and tear on my body is what matters to me. Not a piece of cloth.

In this documentary an Okinawan Karate master tells a foreigner traveling to train under him to take off his belt and not care. The master himself is only wearing shorts and a tshirt. He is giving the foreign students a lesson in humility and destroying your ego.

This master does not wear an old worn out belt. He does not even wear a belt anymore!

Wash your belt to the absolute minimum, but make sure you wash it. Do not wash it over and over either. Only as needed and to make your uniform look good. If your black belt fades some it’s ok. If it does tether some and have rips after 20 years so be it. There is nothing wrong with that. I have seen grandmasters with older looking belts that are obviously worn. But they look nothing like some of the ridiculous things I have seen on the internet. Wearing the belt your master gave you when you reached your rank is a sentimental thing. But it is also okay to buy a new belt too. In my opinion a belt is great to wear. It is earned, it is sentimental, it is honorable, it is motivating, it identifies your mastery, and is an overall positive thing. But there are times you don’t need to prove anything with a belt either. But when you wear a belt why not wash it if you need to? Just make sure with like colors as not to stain other clothes. Make your uniform clean and nice! Over the years you most likely will have a slightly faded belt with some tears here and there and that is okay, but should not be your goal! your goal should be your physical skills and strong character from a life of martial arts training! You will be in your 60’s before your belt gets that tethered!!!

 

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Fighting Is Imperative To Taekwondo Training

       *Authored by White Dragon. 

        If you claim to be a Martial Artist and you don’t fight then you really know nothing of the Martial Arts. This holds true for Taekwondo. You will know nothing of Taekwondo unless you fight. Regardless of physical ability (possibly handicaps, injuries, mental challenges etc.) a student must train to fight the best he can. By fighting, it does not mean you must fight in a tournament, or in a cage fight, or some kickboxing event only. No, by fighting, it simply means at least sparring in your dojang and sometimes going hard on one another. Another way to fight is outside of the dojang. If someone attacks you then you fight them. If no one attacks you then you could provoke them into fighting you so you can try out your techniques, but that really is not a good goal to have, for the essence of self-defense is to only fight back when attacked. Going out looking for a fight is immoral and against the principles of Taekwondo’s martial philosophy. Nonetheless, a Taekwondoin must fight if he wants to prove he knows anything about Taekwondo. This can easily be done in a gym environment supervised by a qualified instructor.

        It is a myth that for one to prove he is black belt quality he has to fight in an MMA cage, or Kickboxing ring for sport fighting. You can still be a decent fighter without competing. An example of this reality is when author Sam Sheridan (2o10) paid a visit to Renzo Gracie’s (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu master) gym in New York and met John Danaher “New Zealand John.”  Danaher is Renzo Gracie’s top Professor (Instructor) and a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu genius (Sheridan, p. 235). He has never competed! He had a childhood surgery go wrong on his knee so he does not compete but is excellent in knowledge and physical abilities in the gym (Sheridan, p. 236). He is so respected that even Georges St. Pierre took private lessons from him and many other top names in MMA. The point being, even though he does not train to fight in competitions he is still a good fighter. You can be a fighter even if you do not compete.

        The meaning of being a fighter does not necessarily mean you practice combat sports and are a paid professional fighter. The word fighter simply means “a person with the will and disposition to fight, struggle, and resist.” A Taekwondo fighter is simply that same kind of person with such a will and disposition who trains in Taekwondo. It should be acknowledged that any true Taekwondo black belt should, thus, be a Taekwondo fighter whether or not they participate in combat sports. Also whether or not they are soldiers in the military. Sport fighters and soldiers are fighters, but not all fighters are sport competitors or in the military. All true Martial Artists train to be ready in case there is a need to fight; whether or not they plan to fight in the ring or in honorable duty calls to defend one’s family, friends, and personal interests. Hopefully, all Taekwondo fighters embrace the 5 tenets of Taekwondo and will fight for what is good and not selfish ambition.

        There is no excuse not to spar in your school. At first sparring can seem scary, but over time confidence can be built through contact training drills that build up over time to harder connecting techniques. This can be from defensive drills where you allow yourself to get hit either on your body or padded gear; and also within sparring you can start out light contact with realistic techniques and over time develop into a fearless full contact fighter. Every Taekwondo fighter should experience full contact sparring at some point in their training history, at least in a controlled environment in the dojang under the safety of instructors watching. Hopefully the Taekwondo fighter makes this a reoccurring practice throughout his training life in order to keep skills up. Gradually, the Taekwondoin soon enough will develop self confidence and be able to control his fear.

        Many dojangs today over emphasize self confidence for emotional security and self esteem while spending hardly any time on physical self confidence. If people are built up to believe in themselves without proving it physically they are going to be in a lot of trouble as they will have a false sense of security. Overconfidence destroys Martial Artists. Grandmaster Hee Il Cho explains that “physical confidence can only be gained by learning how to fight and knowing how to take care of yourself in a real situation” (p. 52). That means not simply doing sport sparring for a tournament rules format, but free sparring with a wide variety of target areas and self defense techniques. Cho also expresses, “Fighting is imperative in the martial arts. Without fighting, you’re not understanding total and complete martial arts, because until you get physically hit by someone, you won’t know if something works” (p. 52). In the Martial Arts it is expected you will get bumped and bruised and even bloodied. This is just a fact and it is something to expect and fight through. Your instructor should help you with mental strength and pain tolerance. This is not to say it’s okay to be injured, it is not. A real Taekwondo instructor watches for the safety of his students and helps them avoid real injuries. Safety gear is important to start off with and can gradually thin out over time, and if one chooses to spar without gear that is up to them with a partner of mutual understanding and common sense. But bumps and bruises and even blood should be expected! Students must learn to get over it and realize it only makes them stronger when they heal up.

        Training for tournament fighting is a good start for any Taekwondo student wanting a fight experience with some benefits of extra safety. But it should not be the main goal of the overall fighting technique that student will know in his Taekwondo life. Becoming a tournament champion and earning trophies and medals in a point fight system can bread unnecessary arrogance and embellished claims of skill if one is not careful, nor has an instructor there to make him check himself. The development of the W.T.F.  has been a blessing and a curse for the art of Taekwondo. On one hand it brought world-wide awareness of Taekwondo and has received acknowledgment in many countries and governments and within international organizations such as the IOC. This has been great for the spread of Taekwondo, but the curse in all of this is that the W.T.F. explicitly only represents sport sparring and sport poomsae competition. They exist solely to promote the tournament sport with all of its rules and regulations and all of its limitations for real world combat. They do not care about anything else. This has caused so many Taekwondo masters to only care about their students winning sport fighting, point tournaments and poomsae competitions. They have a total lack of focus for open rules competitions such as Kickboxing and MMA, as well as an unconcern for real world self defense.

        If Taekwondo is realistically going to keep up with the times and develop further in the Martial Arts world this overemphasis on sport has got to stop. Sport is great, but not an overemphasis on it. If the Kukkiwon is going to be the leader in Taekwondo development and advancement then they should start developing fighters for other modes of combat sports such as Kickboxing, Knockdown style, and MMA. Why not create a Kukkiwon Fight Team and train them for such events? Taekwondo is, first and foremost, a fighting art. Such competitions will only allow Taekwondo to prove itself in more combative avenues which will increase its credibility. This will only cause people to notice effective techniques that could transfer over to self defense.

        Taekwondo also is in general, a fighting art for self defense. The republic of Korea teaches it’s soldiers Taekwondo, and the Martial Art has been used in the Vietnam War to kill the enemies by ROK Marines. Morgan (1992) concurs,

“As anyone who has faced the army of the Republic of Korea can testify, Taekwondo can be a devastating method of unarmed fighting. But to learn true combat, students must practice without the constraints of tournament rules.” (p. 53)

        To understand fully the art of Taekwondo, the practitioner must spend quality time in sparring; not just for tournaments but also for real life situations targeting all over the body from leg kicks, face punches, knees, and elbows. This can be done in a safe environment and there is no excuse not to spend significant time training in such a way to help the Taekwondo fighter become adequate with the full range of Taekwondo techniques. You cannot simply practice for spin kick tricks, poomsae competitions and demonstrations, or board breaking. One especially should avoid wasting time on “Taekwondo-dance” and all of the other silly antics that people have created to impress ignorant masses of pop-culture followers who have no concern for the warrior way or self defense, and just enjoy showing off and dancing. The Taekwondo student must  practice using Taekwondo for what it was originally intended for, which is fighting.

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White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program. 

Works Cited

        Cho, H.I. (1988). The Complete Black Belt Hyung W.T.F. Hee Il Cho: Los Angeles, CA.

        Morgan, F.E. (1992). Living The Martial Way. Barricade Books, Inc.: Fort Lee, NJ.

        Sheridan, S. (2010). A Fighter’s Mind. Atlantic Monthly Press: New York, NY.