How Long It Takes to Get A Black Belt? Part 3

This is the final installment in my discussion regarding the time it takes to earn black belt rank.  In the previous two articles I discussed time requirements up to 6th Dan.  I argued that using training hours instead of minimum number of years to achieve rank makes more sense, or at least shows how much of a discrepancy can occur.  This article will discuss time requirements for the highest level of black belt.  It should be noted that these are just my opinions and I fully recognize my youthful short sidedness.

Highest Dan Rank Time Requirements

I am going to argue that minimum time requirements are irrelevant and should not be applied to the highest dan ranks.  First of all, the individual’s pursuit of rank at this level should not even be a factor.  If someone is only doing martial arts so they can be called grandmaster, they shouldn’t be a grandmaster.  My sole criteria can be summed up in the following statement if anyone is asked if an individual should be promoted to grandmaster:

“Duh, that’s a no brainier!”

Essentially there is overwhelming evidence that this person needs to be promoted.  Not should, needs.  It is not for the individual but for others.

It is very common for people to achieve grandmaster titles in a very short amount of time
It is very common for people to achieve grandmaster titles in a very short amount of time

Grandmaster Criteria

Some things I think should be included in that no brainer conclusion are:

Has several masters under them

Has a student ready to assume their current rank

Travels to many areas to teach the art

Has a thorough knowledge of the art including history, philosophy, and application

Now, how long does it take to accomplish these things?  Who knows!  These aren’t simply boxes to check on an application.  Each of these things takes years to accomplish the no brainer status.

To me a grandmaster is more of an ambassador of the art.  They have dedicated their lives to spreading the art to all who care to listen.  Having an extensive knowledge of the art is clearly a prerequisite.  

Simply teaching in your own studio in your own town is great but I don’t feel staying confined in your small corner warrants the title of grandmaster.In the previous 2 articles I mentioned how many training hours it actually is to achieve black belt ranks.  I am not even going to put a number on how many training hours individuals at this level put in.  It is like counting the stars in the night sky.  You can’t count them because there are so many.  The training hours per year of a grandmaster eclipse those of all previous ranks by at least 10 times.  It is much harder to define since the “training” consists of so many things.  It is not just taking classes or teaching classes.

A true grandmaster in karate achieves that title when there is a need for it, not when their ego wants it.
Grandmaster Jae Chul Shin

An Example of a True Grandmaster

When I think about what it takes to be a grandmaster I can’t help but think of the late Grandmaster Jae Chul Shin, founder of the World Tang Soo Do Association.  He said, “Black belts teach students, Masters teach black belts, and Grandmasters teach Masters”.  He also remained an 8th Dan for about 30 years while many of his former students left him to branch out on their own and became 9th Dan.  Regardless of what path my personal journey in martial arts takes me, he will always serve as the standard model in my eyes for what a grandmaster should be.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out.  I would be more than happy to share my system with anyone who is interested.

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