The belt is a symbol that, I fear, is losing its meaning. People are training in the martial arts in order to acquire this belt, not the knowledge that is gained from martial arts. I have actually known people that, on the day they received their black belt, they quit. They said that they were "done". It was once a symbol of the beginning of mastery, a sign that one had the desire to forge forward and begin a deeper understanding of all that they have learned up to that point. To later becoming the endpoint, a symbol of completion. Anyone who truly understands budo knows that it has no end.
In our dojo we do not "do" martial arts. We study the martial ways and focus our training on strengthening the mind, body, and spirit. Yes, we do have colored belts; and, yes, we do consider rank within our dojo. However, instead of weeks or months, there are often years between belt ranks because testing is taken very seriously. In fact, in order to test, one has to personally apply to test. For us, belts are used to show where that individual is on his or her personal journey within the martial arts. The true meaning of the belt is known only by the student wearing it. We do not view the belt as a way to judge a student because the belt, itself, does not make one person better than another. If one wants to admit it or not, usually, the moment someone steps into any dojo they quickly take inventory of all of the belts and, based upon that information, they immediately size up each person's ability in martial arts. In this instance, the belt, not the person, becomes the focus. For this very reason, my students do not put on their belts until class begins; and, at the moment class is over, the belts are removed and put away. This is to ensure that each student is treated equally. One should judge another by the manner in which they carry his/herself and interact with others. One should never respect someone more or less because of the color of their belt. If you study budo, take a moment to think about why you began your training. What did you hope to gain? . . . Was it a belt or something more? And, if you are thinking about studying budo, make sure you begin your study because you seek enlightenment, not because you seek a belt.
Budo is something that flows through you - something you feel;
not something you wear around your waist… Understand?