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Black Belt War

This is a story.

A new instructor opened a Karate school in a small town. He advertised himself as a "First Degree Black Belt!"

Things went well for a few months. He got many new students as he was the only Karate instructor in town.

One day, he noticed some construction across the street. A new Karate school was opening. The new instructor's sign prominently stated "Second Degree Black Belt!"

Immediately, the first instructor noticed that he had fewer inquiries and new students. He even lost some of his existing students to the new school. This would not do. He called his instructor at the U.S. headquarters of the style he taught and explained the situation. Since the headquarters received a percentage of each student's tuition, it had a vested interest in maintaining and increasing the enrollment. Within a week, the instructor had a brand new 3rd dan certificate and he advertised the fact with great satisfaction.

Not to be outdone, the neighboring instructor called the U.S. headquarters of his style, which had a similar stake in the success of his school. Before the ink had dried on his competitor's signs, he was advertising that he was a "FOURTH DEGREE BLACK BELT!"

No way, said the first instructor. Calls and pleas were made to the international headquarters of the style. The very existence of the style was being challenged. If one town fell, others would too, and soon even the masters themselves would suffer. A board meeting was held and a special resolution was passed. The instructor would be promoted to 5th dan. Since he did not have enough time, experience, and skill, the certificate would be post dated ten years. But the public would not know this. For all they knew, he was a "FIFTH DEGREE BLACK BELT!"

This meant war! The neighboring school took the same action and got the same result, except now he became a "SIXTH DEGREE BLACK BELT AND RENSHI!" The Renshi was a nice touch.

But Kyoshi is better, and that is what the first instructor demanded and received, along with a 7th dan certificate.

Haaa! The neighbor was already taking action. If Kyoshi is good then HANSHI is better, with an 8th dan to go along with it!

Now the first instructor was in a bind. The highest living instructor in his style was an 8th dan. He could not ask for such a rank (well he could, but he knew he could not get it). So.... he switched associations and lateraled into a 9th dan position. It took all his savings, but he got the rank he wanted and constructed a sign covering almost his entire storefront.

The neighbor pondered what to do. How could he compete with a 9th dan? Of course! He left his system and created his own. Now he claimed to be a "10TH DEGREE BLACK BELT, SOKE!" His sign was in neon with moving arms and legs. He had to mortgage his house to pay for the sign and advertising but he knew it would be worth it!

The first instructor was actually impressed with his competitor's boldness, so he did the same thing! He became the "GREAT GRAND MASTER" of his own system, complete with a "10TH DEGREE BLACK BELT!" Actually, his belt was gold, silver, and red (black was simply too plain).

The students in the town were so confused by the black belt war that most lost interest and quit practicing Karate. Instead, they all took up mixed martial arts, where the students typically wear no belts at all.

Both schools quickly closed. The only one who missed them was the owner of the printing shop which had made their many signs, posters, and business cards. He was very sad to see them go!

The End.


Charles C. Goodin