Every person has heard a proud parent say how their 9 year old is a black belt or that their child is training under a 10th degree black belt. Most martial artist will sit quietly and fake that we are impressed. We will let people leave with their lack of understanding but when asked some people are shocked to learn the truth.
When someone does not know, such as publisher, Hollywood, parents looking for the best for their children, they think that a higher rank means that the person is better prepared. If all arts and organizations were the same it would be true but NOT all KARATE are equally.
Let’s start with the meaning of 10th dan, or 10th degree black belt. The 10th dan is the highest that a particular organization can give. So a 10th dan is the best example of the organization that ranked him. This rank does not transfer to another organization as a general rule.
If a Karate 10th dan has the same skill level of a Karate 1st dan of another organization, one can obviously conclude that the 10th dan’s organization has low standards. As the 10th dan is the highest level of that organization, the amount of knowledge maxes out there. If you need to choose between a 10th dan and an equally skilled 1st dan, it becomes obvious that one will get better training under a 1st dan as he will have access to people with more information than himself.
Once upon a time, just having a black belt showed a certain level of knowledge. If someone WAS a black belt in Karate they could produce forces that boxers would be impressed with. On Okinawa, Japan, the birthplace of Karate-do, it was seen as the time when the person was initiated to the deeper meanings.
It was not until a child reached black belt that techniques were really explained. How long it took varied even for adults. Up to the Black Belt level, the Karate taught was “hidden” in front of them until the teachers felt they were ready. To prepare the Karateka various beginning Kata were made.
Think about this, Karate was not the name of a martial art until 1935. That was the year that Okinawan Masters came to a consensus to use that as the name for their family of martial arts. In a time when boxers would die in the ring, Karate impressed boxers.
As for a child with a black belt, a black belt is required to train like an adult. Some exercises that are beneficial to adults are harmful for children. Most people want their students to be able to train for a lifetime. As a rule, this prevents a black belt to be handed to a child by reputable organizations.