Defining Progress in the Martial Arts

In some martial arts schools, progress is defined with belt ranks. Students learn new things, test, and then receive new belts. It’s a shiny process. Everyone loves receiving something new. But I’ve asked myself before, and now I’ll ask you:

Do belts equal progress? Which is more important: a pile o’ belts? Or real progress?

Pile o' belts.
Pile o’ belts.

We believe that black belts should be good at martial arts. But at a certain point in everyone’s martial arts career, the rate of technical progress slows. Progress depends greatly on the students’ self-awareness (age/maturity), effort, attendance, and perseverance.

That being said, I realize that it can seem discouraging not to move up in belt rank for a long time. So I’d like to share several other ways I define progress–ones that I think are much more meaningful than a rainbow of belts.