Rank compared to Martial Arts

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Many pros refer to Go as a kind of "Mental Martial Art." The term shodan, used in Go to describe a 1 dan, is also used in many martial arts. As such, I thought it might be neat to compare the progression of a brand new player working towards shodan to the same feat in a martial art.

The eloquent definitions found in each belt explanation were found on wmacenter.com

White Belt (first play, some people consider starting as 25 kyu and others think of it as 30 kyu. In the end it doesn't matter, no one is consistent enough at this level to be considered as having a rank. A brand new player has to develop his intuition on his own, metaphorically pushing through the first barrier, the ground itself) - "White signifies a birth, or beginning, of a seed. A white belt student is a beginner searching for knowledge of the Art. The white belt is the beginning of life's cycle, and represents the seed as it lies beneath the snow in the winter."

Yellow Belt (Perhaps 20 kyu, this player has made enough leaps forward, and, more importantly, enough mistakes, to actually absorb advice and information from players. Characterized by sensible opening moves and the first steps towards good reading ability, advice helps these players a lot) - "Yellow signifies the first beams of sunlight which shines upon the seed giving it new strength with the beginning of new life. A yellow belt student is given his first ray of knowledge, opening his mind, from his instructors."

Orange Belt (Somewhere around 15 kyu, this player is still moving forward and starting to minimize those mistakes from before, although, as we all know, mistakes never leave your game of go, they just become more subtle) - "Orange represents the growing power of the sun as it warms the earth to prepare for new growth in the spring. The orange belt is starting to feel his body and mind open and develop."

Green Belt (I'd say around 11 kyu, this player is starting to understand the many different skills in the game of go, and trying to refine them. Perhaps he is studying up on the opening and doing tons of L&D on the side. The student benefits greatly from studying tesuji and shape) - "Green signifies the growth of the seed as it sprouts from the earth reaching toward the sun and begins to grow into a plant. A green belt student learns to strengthen and refine his techniques."

Blue Belt (Perhaps 8 kyu, now the student has a very solid foundation with which to really begin study) - "Blue signifies the blue sky as the plant continues to grow toward it. A blue belt student moves up higher in rank just as the plant grows taller. The light feeds the plant so it can continue to grow. The student is fed additional knowledge of the Art in order for his body and mind continue to grow and develop."

Purple Belt (5 kyu, the true beauty of the game is starting to reveal itself to this student. They're starting to realize just what it means to get that 'dan' in their rank. Einstein once explained that the more we know, the more we realize we don't know, and at this level, one realizes just how much more there is to learn) - Purple represents the changing sky of dawn, as once again the student undergoes a new change and prepares for the transition to advanced student. A purple belt begins to understand the meaning of the black belt.

Brown Belt (3 kyu, this player is pushing on through the rough times that Go's learning curve have in store for people around this rank) - "Brown represents the ripening of the seed, a maturing and harvesting process. A brown belt is an advanced student whose techniques are beginning to mature, and he is beginning to understand the fruits of his hard work as a beginner."

Red Belt (1 kyu, so close but so far away. That being said, just because you have a dan in your rank, doesn't mean you can be lax against this player) - "Red signifies the red-hot heat of the Sun as the plant continues growing toward it. As a red belt student acquires more detailed knowledge, just as the plant grows slowly toward the Sun, so the red belt student learns to be more cautious with his knowledge and physical abilities. Red is a sign of danger, and the red belt is beginning to become dangerous with their knowledge and abilities."

Black Belt (Shodan!!! Congrats, there's still a road ahead but this player has a lot of knowledge to share with players of all levels. The information this player seeks is sometimes beyond even the comprehension of kyu players) - "Black signifies the darkness beyond the Sun. A black belt seeks new, more profound knowledge of the Art. As he begins to teach others, he plants new seeds and helps them grow and mature. His students, many whom will form roots deep into the Art, blossom and grow through the ranks in a never-ending process of self-growth, knowledge, and enlightenment."

Now this isn't an overly researched write-up and I can't say I really have enough experience with either martial arts or with go to appreciate the importance of becoming shodan, but I find having goals really helps reaching new levels.


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Rank compared to Martial Arts last edited by nadoss on December 17, 2013 - 05:37
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