How dirty is your belt?

I am obsessed with learning and learning styles. You know those people who are big fantasy football people and that always seems to come up in conversation...well that is how I am about learning. I love to learn. I love to figure out how other people learn. Over the past year and a half I have found myself on a bit of a holy grail quest for the best learning system and environment. I think the hallmark of great learning is that it creates an environment where mastery is possible and where re-teaching what you know to the next generation is natural. I have looked at dozens if not hundreds of models of education. Most are nonsense. Some kid needing a Master's thesis made up something that looks good on paper but doesn't work. It isn't sustainable. There is one environment that I keep returning to where multigenerational learning and instruction are culture: the martial arts. For any of you who have pursued a high-ranking level in any martial arts know what I am talking about. I grew up in a house of martial arts. My father is highly-ranked in Karate (his teach was from Okinawa), Jujutsu (a dirty form of grappling), Pekiti-Tirsia Kali (his teacher was Leo Gaje), and I think he also learned Sinawali from Leo.  Here is a video of my twin cousins doing a demo on Mexican television. They were trained by my father and went on to run one of the largest jui jitsu schools in the world.

So I called my dad this week to ask for more clarity on the ranking system of martial arts. I just didn't recall from childhood the history of the colored belts. He told me 2 interesting facts I did not know.

1. Prior to coming to US most martial arts forms only had a white belt and a black belt. How students knew who knew more and who knew less in the class was by how dirty there belt was. Sweat, dirt and blood would make a white belt progress to a black belt over time. However in the US we like recognition to "proove" what we know (certificates, degrees, and color belts) more than we appreciate the journey of learning. This is sad. Did you know a black belt is not viewed of as a master but rather a student who now knows the basics. Isn't it funny that we associate ranks, degrees and certificates with mastery and not experience or time studying. Go find an MBA and ask them what they really know about running a business. It is nothing. I often consult with many MBAs and a few PhDs in business because while they know the terminology and theory, they don't have the experience.

2. When he studied Jujutsu you were thrown (body slammed) for 10 years before you got to throw. 10 YEARS!!!. It is quite un-american to have the patience to learn anything for 10 years. I know I have been thrown thousands of times and my dad probably hundreds of thousands. My dad said Americans don't enjoy the learning, they just want the rank so they can show their friends. That is why we have colored belts and 3 year tracts to black belt and degrees within belts because Americans need to see progress or we quit. This is sad.

Are you someone who has recently entered a field or profession or hobby and expects instant mastery? Do you think that a $129 e-course on marketing is going to make you rich? Do you think that watching the cooking channel is going to make you a chef? We need to be honest with ourselves. We need to fall back in love with learning. We need to ignore the recognition and seek true mastery.

I find that in nearly every situation where I meet a true master at something they have no need to flaunt it. In fact, you may never learn of their mastery. They know that they know and they don't need your recognition to prove it.

So this begs a couple of questions. How dirty is your belt? How many times have you been thrown.

"One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular." - Tony Robbins