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The Legend of the Unwashed Black Belt in Martial Arts
If you have read my hub on Taekwon-do belt colours and their meanings you would have learned that the black belt signifies the student’s maturity and proficiency, and that there are nine degrees in this belt rank. The tenth is only awarded posthumously.
The black belt is the highest belt in martial arts and there have been successful efforts to standarise the award of black belt especially in Taekwon-do. To add to the mystique and sense of achievement with possessing the black belt degree is the legend that in ancient days the fighters wore the same white belt throughout the period of training and it was never washed so it ended up black. This is a popular misconception, yet there are some persons who may believe in the legend because of the fear that washing the belt would "wash away the knowledge" or "wash one's Qi away".
The use of belt colour to denote rank in the martial art is a recent phenomenon, originating in the 19th century in Japan, so there is no truth to the myth that there is great ancient significance to belt colour. This whole belt colour thing is of more value to the organizational discipline and balance sheet of martial arts clubs than to the standard of training and fighting.
I have heard that grading and award of belt ranks vary around the world, but I can testify that the local Taekwon-do club has extreme strict grading requirements which the student must fulfill.
Interestingly, in my White Belt manual I find that one of the rule is “Ti - belt - is not to be worn around the neck and is not to be washed.”