Q: Why does my neighbor's child
already have a black belt?
A: Because of the multitude of styles, martial arts schools are not rules by a central governing body. Each Franchise, Organization, or School can set their own belt testing requirements. While other schools award stripes for brushing your teeth (yes, that's true), good school grades, and physical exercise - ISMA requirements are strictly martial arts skills related.
ISMA Yellow Belt requirements are more in-depth than some school's Black Belt requirements; and while other schools spot test requirements or only test a student on the requirements for the specific color increase they are making in belt rank, ISMA tests are inclusive... meaning all requirements from white belt through the belt rank the student is testing for is expected to be shown with increased proficiency on each test. After-all the ultimate goal in martial arts is to get the skills in muscle memory proficiently so they can present themselves without the student having to think in a survival situation.
I think back to the saying "all I ever need to know I learned in Kindergarten". Yes, the fundamentals are taught from White to Yellow Belt... but why wouldn't you want those reinforced with each rank and to a level that shows greater expertise than the previous?
I've had students join ISMA from other schools where they've already earned higher belt ranks or even a Black Belt. Most find ISMA requirements too difficult. It saddens me to think about the commercialism of martial arts and how instructors at these schools are not challenging their students and also potentially giving them a false sense of security. Many of these students come to ISMA with the attitude that they can defend themselves in any situation. Most find out quickly, in reflex drills, that this is not the case and instead of "emptying their cup" (open to learning more), they get frustrated and drop out. It's human nature to take the path of least resistance, but sometimes in self defense running away (the easiest defense) is not always possible.
If you have any questions on this topic not answered in this Q&A, please feel free to ask. Our website and manuals are great sources for information and if you have a question for an upcoming Q&A topic that you think would benefit others too, please send it via email to Sifu Bales at ISMA-Bales@Juno.com