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This weekend was pretty good. I pulled both hamstrings in wushu during basics. During Kick-Punch actually. so it was right at the start of class. Of course I finished class — and now my legs are mad at me. Stupid Stupid Stupid. Oh well, only one wushu class this week because of thanksgiving. Sunday I went to Chinese school ‘ it was horrible, we had a test that I had forgotten about, and I was supposed to write a dialogue. That had slipped my mind. I knew I didn’t have any flashcards to make because I had done extra the past few weeks, and my sentences were up to date, but forgot the dialogue. We went to Cheryl’s birthday party after a quick nap after class. IT was fun, but man, talk about an abundance of trendy Asians. Kelly and I were the token white people for a while. Which is find by me, but we were also the token non-trendy people and that was a little awkward. Heh.

Speaking of thanksgiving ‘ I am a little annoyed at my parents right now. Every time I talk to them they have been giving me this little guilt trip type thing. Like we don’t come down enough or call enough. I am thoroughly annoyed. Every thing they have been doing is pretty blatant guilt tripping ’ like we are neglecting them. But you know what? It only pisses me off. They tell my wife to call them ‘Mr. And Mrs.’ or “Sir’! I really shouldn’t get upset about it, but I am not going to go and change my plans or life around to appease them until they show interest in me for things other than computer help and show Kelly a little’no, a lot more respect. Arrghhh!

Here is a little reply I wrote to something posted on Raffi’s board about wushu and belt rank systems:

I have some serious issues for belt ranking systems. While from what I have seen many wushu schools tend to do a pretty good job in assigning rank I fear that they will slip down that same path that the other styles that have come before us.

From my experience there is a lot of bad connotations with the Japanese based belt ranking system. Too many people put too much emphasis on their rank. How many times have you told someone that you study martial arts only to have them ask, ‘Are you a black belt?’ If you say no they kinda brush you off with an ‘oh.’ I know just about all the kids I teach always come in with one question, they want to know what belt I am ‘ and I always insist that wushu doesn’t have belts. I am very proud of this fact, it keeps us free from the bad stigma of this type of ranking system; which allows people get judged more for their skill than their pants-holder-upper.

This is not limited to outsiders simply misunderstanding the internal workings of martial arts. There are plenty of people that will look down upon those who easily surpass them in skill only because they have more stripes on their belt. This leads to people convinced they are better simply because they have a high impressive sounding rank. While sometimes it will push people to train harder because they have to uphold the image of the belt, others view it as a goal they have already reached and often quit all together. I have seen it happen dozens of times; they get their black belt, come for a few more classes and never show up again. They up and quit, and move on to check off yet another task from their list.

There are 4th degrees that have been training 5 years. 13-year-old kids convinced they could handle them selves in bar fights. All because people take this conception of rank and make the rank important instead of allowing the belt color to simply represent their actual skill level. This way of thinking cheapens the rank to the point of making it worthless.

A lot of coaches implement the system because they think Americans want it. I cannot think of a more stupid reason out there. Just about the only thing it will fix is simplicity of explaining how testing or ranking will work to a new student. If you explain that there is not need for this sort of system people will normally understand. And if they don’t get it right away they will once they see it in practice.

I understand that the ranking systems can be useful for keeping track of students’ progress. However I believe this can be done with out enforcing the apparently universal system of Japanese style belt ranking. As you go form school to school the ranking can be so different that it won’t even apply. I have seen orange belts from one school easily beat black belts from another. So this tells me if you want a rank system for tracking the students’ progress that is fine ‘ just don’t use belts. Please. Numbered levels would be fine. Perhaps a nice Chinese style of ranking and call each level a different animal (Crain, tiger, dragon ’ yeah it’s cheesy) At least it would avoid the apparent universal aspect of a very local system.

A specific school system also leaves open the possibility of using testing as a way to milk your students for more money. Sometimes this is a necessary evil. Many schools depend on the supplemental income that testing brings in, others can do just fine with out it.

I see no reason to force a ranking system upon wushu, and allow a means to undermine and cheapen all the hard work we put into it. If it comes down to belts it will quickly be dragged into a contest of what rank are you ‘ instead of a contest of skill. Rank is way too frequently given to those who pay their dues to the school. Monetarily or otherwise.