Authenticity requires vulnerability, transparency and integrity (JL Johnson)
It’s cliched to say you can find just about anything online now and if whatever you fancy is not on the ‘normal’ web, you can definitely find it on the dark web. There I’ve seen everything from your garden variety hitman to carrots made of LSD…that one confused me, why carrots?? Much has also been written about how people covet their online imagery, we’ve seen the growth of the #nofilter brigade with their lipstick covered pouting lips and heavily made up vacuous eyes… no filter indeed.
This is not a post about the net and her vices but about the steps some people take to create an image that they feel will somehow enhance their Karate… what sort of rubbish is she talking about I hear you ask…
Well today I saw something that really blew my mind. You can purchase anything online, at a recent work event, a colleague spoke about how any niche interest on the web can generate a following and ultimately a revenue stream. The example used to illustrate his point consisted of footage from large boats in huge waves and to his credit, afterwards, I found he was absolutely correct and I spent far too long looking at boats cresting waves.
I digress, as a karateka I am interested in sites that sell equipment but then I found products for sale that really stunned me. Which after all these years did come as a shock. I mean I’ve had the knock on the door from the guy who wanted to promote his local martial arts club, he had a combined Dan grade of about 22 Dans from his 4 ‘specialist’ styles. He also looked about 30 at most. I asked him if he was on his third trip through life or if he was in fact 400 years old? He didn’t seem to get it…So when this site came to my attention I decided to investigate a bit further, what was the product… fabricated, ‘Worn karate belts’, which the site called vintage… would take 1-2 weeks to make, to order in China. I have to say I was completely shocked, they were selling ‘worn’ belts… why would anybody want that??
Now I distinctly remember getting my first black belt. Opening the box, feeling the stiffness of the material and the smoothness of the silk…wearing it for the first time I was filled with all the emotions that had gone into earning the right to wear it coupled with a stark sense of disbelief. For several classes I would even answer to the moniker ‘brown belts’.
It took time to grow into my belt and to feel that I was worthy of the title Yudansha. As time went by, my belt started to fade, but this took years and years, the knot became softer, the ends didn’t stick out as it had when first worn and from the knot the belt started to age. As did I and my karate. Sadly, this first belt was taken at a gasshuku (I had visited another style and worn a white belt, my blackbelt was taken from my bag 😦 )
By the time it was taken, it was more grey/white than black, it had been with me for years and sad as it was, it was replaced by another belt and that was that. No big deal. I wasn’t treated any differently because I had a new new belt and why would I?
For sure there are plenty of ringers out there, so I can see why a site like this might have a specific clientele. I decided to investigate further, what I found was shocking, in the first instance, there are loads of sites that give step by step instructions as to how to fade a black belt. If that’s not enough for you, there are sites from ebay to specialist karate equipment sites that will actually sell a distressed belt. Not only that, but you can, in some cases, request the amount of ageing to be applied. I was lost for words at this point.
For me and many of my karate colleagues we share a common belief, a belt is just a belt, to hold up trousers and it is the person who is wearing the belt that ‘is’ the karate, not the belt. Even the colour of the belt can be misleading, I’ve seen Kyu Grades who have been massively impressive with their training ethos and abilities, just as I’ve seen Dan Grades who well… you see where I am going with this. Karate is personal, we have all have a journey to follow and each step of the way should be embraced, savoured and most importantly, treasured.
One final thought, in conversation recently, someone said that every time they pass a grading (they are a very senior graded blackbelt) they purchase a new black belt. I thought this a very good idea, they saw this as starting again at the grade they had just been awarded.
For me, you are the karateka you are either on the floor or in life, no belt is going to make you a superduper grade.