Martial Arts White Belt

Anyone who has been a fan of any specific martial art or martial arts in general has heard the mythical tales of honor in which a master at the highest level chooses in his or her wisdom to identify themselves with a white belt.

Everyone surely feels the weight of the virtue in that. The master exemplifying the need to be a perpetual student. Even mentioning it feels like cheapening it or lessening its significance. There is something to the old idea that makes its way idiomatically into most cultures and most times. It could be there is some of the same stuff (stuff is a technical word – look it up) in the idea on the other side of that age coin - that youth is wasted on the young. Even that legendary martial arts trainer Sensei Mark Twain once quipped how at fourteen years old he thought his father was ignorant and at twenty one he was amazed at how much old dad had learned in seven years. Before you suggest Twain was not a Sensei, you might want to also check if that quote wasn't apocryphal too. Mandela effect much?

Digression aside, it is undeniable that it takes years to become anything like a master in martial arts. Unless, of course you can get the online degree at the same place as the $5 ordinations for clergy that merely says you are a master. Martial arts history is rife with legends of such masters being put to the test. It is pretty clear though why there are no refunds for those digital black belts. So, how is it fair that once someone reaches master level status, their age is such that they are implored by good sense and health concerns to step aside and make way for the young even when they are in their maturity prime and more capable of humbly learning without ego in the way? Aside from those few and notable exceptions like a Randy Couture who comes out of retirement to win a belt at 44 years old, or someone like Glover Teixeira (who has earned a title shot against Jan Blachowicz) turning back the clock, the cliché proves true that father time is undefeated – and we could add, doesn't care what color you think your belt is.

Teixeira Blachowicz

It might be seen as cruel that the wisest fighters have the least ability to use their wisdom, but it is also beautiful that at least in this arena (literally in some cases), there is still a tradition of passing knowledge on to the next generation. Gone are the days when it was common that a blacksmith hands the hammer and anvil to his son. But alive and well are the days where a former champ like Mike Brown of American Top Team fame can take his wisdom and pass it along. Instead of a fairy tale sunset or a sad fading into oblivion, it behooves those old warriors to not think themselves as having nothing to offer when their hardware is no longer compatible with their software. No need to ask why it is that just when you start to figure something out, you are too old to be good at it. Maybe the answer is because you are supposed to help others get good at it and be prepared to do the same for their fighting progeny. Youth might be wasted on the young, but it should not be that wisdom and knowledge is wasted on the old either.

Photos Courtesy of ONE Championship

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