[I:http://martialarts.surrey-sussex.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/AlCase41.gif]It often irritates me when people talk about it taking four years to earn their Black Belt in Karate. This is one of the silliest ideas that has ever taken root in the martial arts. And, I might add, it is just as stupid in any art, be it Kenpo or Jujitsu or whatever.
Martial Arts sensei who advocate this concept often claim that it takes that long for the body to make certain changes. The tendons have to get longer and the muscles have to get stronger and the bones have to do whatever bones do when you block and punch. This is a justification to keep a student on contract, or to give them more authority, or some other dopey reason.
I’m sure there is some change that is going to happen in the body, but not as much as one might think. The fact is that if you gave physical tests to a black belt and a white belt, the black belt would do better, but only by a little. Black belts and white belts train together in many classes, and except for a little harder breathing in the beginning, within a month the white belt manages to keep up.
So it takes about a month to change the body, and this is easily provable if you just look at the military. They take a person and totally change his physique in a couple of months. So the notion that it is going to take four years to reach some mythical, ideal body is ridiculous.
The second half of this notion has to do with history and the people who have gotten to a black belt degree. There are people who have made it to black belt in a short time…Mike Stone took half a year, Chuck Norris a year and a half, Joe Lewis made black belt in three different systems in one year…and so on. So it is possible, but you have to break out of the mind set that has been sold you, that it takes four years to get to the rank of black belt.
Now we come to the real nuts and bolts of the question. Where did the four year to black belt concept have its beginnings? Actually, it came from a fellow who never earned his black belt…it originated with Ed Parker.
Ed Parker was teaching people kenpo when it was still just karate, and he was a brown belt. He went home to Hawaii and asked his instructor for more techniques because he was running out, and he was told no. I guess Thunderbolt Chow didn’t think much of Ed Parker, because he refused to teach him more, and he wouldn’t promote him.
So Ed Parker went back to the US, found somebody else to show him techniques, and began selling karate like you would sell cars. A couple of his students (the Tracey Brothers) actually got a car salesman to train them how to put people on four year contracts, which is the length of time it takes to pay off a car. And that is the real skinny behind why it takes four years to get a black belt in Karate, or Kung Fu, or Kenpo, or just about any martial art that bought into this idea.