Different Strokes Part I : New or old belts?
One school of thought regarding the belts is that the
belts literally and symbolically represent your own sweat and effort.
In some styles/schools they even make the students dye the belts themselves,
just to further emphasise the point, firstly through the effort of dyeing
it, and secondly so that they have the same belt throughout training
to ensure that the sweat in it is all theirs. If you want evidence of
my sweat in training, look at the back of my dogi where the belt
goes. The rainbow of colours leached from the belts by my sweat, and
then FIXED by salt in my sweat is there as proof for all to see!
On the other hand, in one of the dojo I have trained there
was a tradition of giving your belt to a person below you who had just
been awarded that rank, and you got your "new" one from the
person above you who was just promoted. In the dojo where I gained my
shodan, one of my fellow students wore what had been my brown belt,
and he did so with pride. He wore my green belt before that. Different
strokes for different folks.
Different Strokes Part II : To wash or not to wash?
In our syllabus, we are also told never to wash the belt,
again because we would symbolically be washing away our hard work. Fair
enough. Many styles have that, and every culture has similar little
My reasons for not washing belts are simple the
colours run. I want a red belt, not a pink one, a blue belt, not turquoise,
yellow belt, not a cream one, a green belt, not an aquamarine one, a
brown belt, not a tan belt, and a black belt, not a grey one (though
if you keep it long enough, it does turn grey). Since all the belts
but the black and brown are usually worn for less than a year, I couldn't
be bothered with washing in salt water to fix the colour etc...
Different Strokes Part III : Discussion
Everyone needs symbols, some more than others. Some are
dictated to us, while others are voluntary. At work, some of us have
a mobile phone, a BMW, or both (not me, I work at a University!). Others
have gold chains and a leather jacket. Some people have a problem with
the incorrect treatment of flags. Yet others require a be-haloed mother
and child. Numerous now-torn-down statues of Marcos and Lenin show us
the durability of involuntarily imposed symbols. The new symbol
in those places is the prone position or the state of decapitation of
the statues. The point is, we pretty well all need them.
My instructor and I both need no proof of effort, (though
the grade certificate feels good to have and, with it, an instructor
who doesn't know you will be sure you didn't buy the belt in the Power
Rangers' section of the local toy store!). The belt is to let others
know, particularly in other Kyokushin dojo, where I am supposed to stand
when we're told to line up in rank order.