I wonder how many people who watched Kung Fu: The Legend Continues are aware of the fact that David Carradine, the actor who plays Caine, had little or no martial arts experience. It’s also worth noting that Bruce Lee was turned down for this role. It’s interesting because not only is Caine a myth, but Carradine is too. I bet there are a few people who assumed the late actor was some sort of martial arts expert. The people who believe this are probably among the horde that continue to take martial arts myths as fact. They see a black belt and are immediately in awe. In their eyes, this person is a martial arts legend. The trouble is, they have no idea what the black belt actually means.
Believe it or not, the black belt is worth the square root of nothing when it comes to martial arts mastery. We hear stories of people gaining a black belt in karate or some other martial arts form and automatically assume they are some sort of master. There have been reports of people earning this belt in 5 years or so. Aside from the fact that these belts may have come from a ‘belt factory’, do you really think someone can become a master in 5 years? If so, then you really know absolutely nothing about martial arts. With the amount of misinformation available relating to martial arts, this is no surprise.
Instead of being an end, a black belt really only signifies the beginning. All this really means is that you have ‘mastered’ the basics and can now move on to the more advanced and difficult to understand elements of your chosen martial art. This is confusing to the average person who believes they have already achieved mastery. It explains why such a large percentage of people stop trying to learn once they hit black belt status. One of the reasons for this is because they were ‘sold’ a martial arts black belt as something that can be achieved in a few years. In reality, mastery of martial arts takes a lifetime with true ‘masters’ only achieving this exalted status after 40+ years of training.
One of the more humorous black belt myths revolves around ‘deadly weapon’ status. Believe it or not, some people actually think that black belts have to register as deadly weapons. One of the origins of this myth came after the Second World War when traditional Japanese martial arts were made illegal for a few years. This only applied to Japan and did not last very long. Also, in and around the 1930s, boxing had publicity stunts whereby the police were around to register the pugilists as deadly weapons. This was of course complete nonsense and had no basis in fact.
While it is true that juries in court cases sometimes take into account a person’s martial arts ability, this is a far cry from ‘deadly weapon’ status. Laughably and lamentably, some unscrupulous ‘teachers’ manage to convince young, impressionable students that this is the case. As a result, they can extort money from them under the guise of providing them with a ‘registration card’ which is completely worthless. Police officers in various nations confirm that the idea of a black belt being a ‘deadly weapon’ is completely nonsense.
While a black belt is a noteworthy achievement, provided it came from a proper school, it is nothing more than a step on the martial arts path. You are still a long way from mastery and have plenty to learn. And for heaven’s sake, don’t go around pretending that you’re a deadly weapon!
AUTHOR: Justin Wheeler works for Black Eagle, suppliers of Martial Arts GIs and equipment. Between the team they have over 40 years of Martial Arts experience, which is why they’ve become the trusted shop for all combat sport supplies.