When thinking of someone who studies martial arts, the average lay person immediately asks “what belt”? Belts have become (since the 1950’s or so) a prominent way to mark advancement in the martial arts, but in reality what a belt shows is how far a person has advanced in a tiny set of requirements in a tiny arena accepted by a tiny group of people. Unless of course the school is part of a larger organization. Then substitute the word “tiny” with something else.
Nevertheless, for the tiny world that is our Integral Martial Arts class, belts signify how far you are in the curriculum which includes progression in gross, subtle, and causal elements. We have an additional wrist band system in our school that tracks the colors of Ken Wilber’s Stages of growth as well, and once again these wrist bands are personal and only look at individual development along our particular martial arts Line. The difference is the requirements for the wrist bands are not based on physical proficiency, but outlook and worldview regarding the martial arts.
In class this past Monday, I was looking at our group and noticing as a whole how the group has progressed. It’s easy to see as an instructor. One minute you are looking at a sea of white belts. The next minute, the sea has turned orange or green or something else. This is not the first time for me. I’ve seen the sea turn from white to black several times already, only to start over. However, it still never ceases to remind me that we are not just single lone entities. We are part of something bigger.
Classes advance like people do. Groups develop. This is Lower Left Quadrant stuff, i.e. the development of the internal communal self that we all share together in our communities. People think about martial arts as a lone practice, but even a hundred years ago the practitioners realized it was also about growing and supporting a group.