View Full Version : Tattoos?
In my school, there is a quiet custom that when one gets their blackbelt they get a tattoo of the school symbol. Does anyone else observe any kind of custom like this? Any other martial arts tattoos?
Pardon me for saying so, but getting a tattoo because you 'got your black belt' seems utterly ridiculous.
Then again, I am not fond of the term "getting your black belt"- that statement makes it seem as though you were entitled to it from the very beginning, and that 'accomplishing' that much, punches your ticket as far as your training goes.
From my own viewpoint, attaining Dan serves only one purpose- it distinguishes you as a genuine student. It means you're at a point where you can begin to learn. Prior to attaining that, you're a guest in the dojo, who is learning to 'speak the language' in order to begin training.
I'm also not very fond of calling it "rank"- that term gives the impression that one need only meet a particular set standard, and they are 'rewarded' with a 'promotion'.
This is not meant as a disparagement; rather, it's me being maudlin about "the good old days".
I understand that it's easy to find flaw in this custom. I called it a "quiet custom" because there's no pressure to do it, in fact it had never occured to the last black belt we promoted that all of the blackbelts had a simmilar tattoo (I guess he always just kept his eyes on the road in the locker room...). I have come to accept that a lot of people just don't like tattoos. It's something you come to grips with very quickly.
But on to why I did it.
In the boyscouts there is a rank called "life scout." It is called that because they believe that once you have reached that point the things you have learned will be with you for the rest of your life. Even if you don't continue in scouting (like me) you will always keep it with you (which I can verify).
Becomming a black belt is not, of course, the end but rather the things you need to start your journey - that journey is the rest of your life and the things that prepared you for it will always be with you. The tattoo is a symbol of the things that you will always take with you even if you do not continue in the martial arts. Like the tattoo, the things you learned will be with you whether you like it or not.
It is also a sort of rite of passage - an outward change to reflect the inward change. Is there a difference between a person holding a kyu rank and a person holding a dan rank? Absolutely.
And plus the tatoo's cool ;)
If it means something to you, I'd say get the tat. The best advice I ever heard on getting tattoos came from Axl Rose of Guns and Roses. He said that you should think about a particular tattoo for an entire year. If you still want it 12 months later, get it.
I know of a school where the black belts get tattoos, but it's of their personal sign or something. Like one of them got a tiger, and another got a scorpion, another a dragon, and so on.
I remember when I got my first black belt, after a couple of weeks my girlfriend said, "You are just somehow 'different'." I guess it was that sense of accomplishment, and recovering from the 4 hour beat-down of the belt test.
Oh, I already got it. I thought about it for four years before I got my black belt and then another two after. It's been two years since I got it and I've never once regretted it.
All of the tattoos are not identical - everybody's is customized. My teacher, for example, has the school symbol and the name under it. His step son has a celtic knot around it, and I've got some circles and kanji around it.
I got a tattoo when I was in my mid-20s and mark this as one of the biggest single mistakes of my life, so I like the "think about it for 12 months" advice. It costs literally thousands of dollars to get rid of a tattoo when you later determine that it was a mistake.
A tattoo that looks macho and cool on a buff 24 year old looks really, really dumba%# on a pasty-white 44 year old family man. Imagine that wolf or dagger tattoo on an overweight "I used to be a karate student" body. Really embarrassing. I'd be willing to bet that this happens more often than not. Martial arts amount to nothing more than temporary hobbies for the vast majority of us.
Your pal, former jiu-jitsu guy,
I got a tattoo when I first received a Black Belt.
Oh wait, no I didn't ... it was the bruises on my forearms that made me think I had carried a red hot temple pot.
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