All of us have seen ripples growing in concentric rings from a pebble thrown into a pond, and how they build and gently span out over the entire pond, and most of us are familiar with horrific stories about riptides pulling swimmers to their deaths, or slowly breaking down sea walls, and eroding away beaches.


        Both the poet and the six o’clock newscaster love to sometimes write and talk about ripples, but more often they dwell upon riptides. They both make good illustrations of the turmoil that is dividing the Martial Arts world.


        The Martial Arts teacher whose only concern is to build positive and productive students gently sends out ripples of goodwill, health, self-confidence, motivation and character building to each and every student. Self-defense is now a by-product that naturally occurs with training and time that is founded in a strong martial art. This is what the majority of students and parents are seeking for themselves, and for their children.


        On the other side, riptides that pull the Martial Arts deeply under the cold waters are produced by self- Gratification and personal glorification of those dinosaurs who refuse to accept new and innovative ideas, those who will not recognize the value that other martial arts have to offer, and by those who no longer train nor study to improve themselves, and who believe that they are god’s gift to the Martial Arts.


        These people desire to have higher Dan ranks given to them based only on the merits of their seniority.


        They also believe that their tenure in the arts is good enough to be inducted in the various martial arts hall of fame, even though they may be just run-of-the-mill black belts. It is their opinion that what they teach is superior to all others. Ripples and Riptides do not mix because riptides can destroy ripples in a matter of seconds.


        The truth is that the gentle ripples will prevail because the stormy riptides, their beliefs and attitudes are fading away and dying off. You can see this change in the eyes of the younger instructors and students as they listen to, observe, and put into action the wisdom they learn from the wiser, older, gentler teachers, who display their talents and skills at seminars, trade shows, or wherever these gentle giants are assembled to pass on their knowledge.


        For the ripples to be really far reaching, and for the martial arts to grow to an acceptable and responsible profession, standards will have to be established as to what is required of a certified black belt, master, professor, grandmaster, soke, or doctor.


        Until this is done on a college type level, these titles will float around in the riptides for the amateurs and the unqualified to crown them selves with, and for the public to continue to be led astray.


        As P.T. Barnum said, “There is a sucker born every minute”, and the self-serving, glory seekers know this fact and use it to their advantage. As we all become deeply involved in the Martial Arts, we must seek out the ripple makers, and avoid the riptides at all costs.


        Today, students and parents desire a higher quality of information, not necessarily more technical, but fresher, more detailed, more reliable, than they may have received elsewhere. With students and various Martial Arts styles meeting together at the many events being offered at these same trade shows and conferences, questions are being asked and information is constantly sought after for students to enhance their personal training. Questions such as “why do some people holding black belt rank in some arts have very limited material to learn for their shodan, while others need to possess volumes of information to earn their rank in other martial arts? Shouldn’t a black belt be a black belt, and shouldn’t all the needed information be of equal value, just as it is in chemistry 101.


            2. Why do some styles or schools offer a Black Belt in two years, while in some other arts it may take five or six years to earn this very same belt?


            3. Why do some schools award Black Belts to young children, while others believe that Black Belt rank should only be earned by the mature professional, who can sit down with the doctor or lawyer and discuss his/her profession on an equal footing?


        As the questions are being asked, and solutions are being sought after, it is the responsibility of the ripple makers to develop standards and criteria to make a Black Belt candidate a real professional, to shore up the dam, and to stop the flood waters from raging, because of inflated egos, money, or lack of style content.


       Our industry is slowly becoming a shallow profession where the general public no longer believes in the power of the almighty Black Belt.  


        I ask the ripple makers, where do we go from here? Take a good look at what you are teaching, analyze the material and yourself. Strive to produce greatness and excellence. Do not accept second best.








by Zachary Sell

14 yr old Green Belt


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