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ZEN MARTIAL ARTS ABSTRACT SYSTEM

The purpose of a belt system is to provide a clear pathway for progression in the martial arts. Almost all martial arts systems, including the Zen Martial Arts (ZMA), use belt systems for this purpose. ZMA has established a standard curriculum that can be followed by four different paths: the standard path, the tarnu path, the junior path, and the no-test path. All routes lead to the black belt, which is earned once a Zen Martial Artist becomes an instructor in their own right. However, not everyone who trains under ZMA instructors will desire to learn the standard ZMA curriculum.

The ZMA abstract belt system proposed here is for these students: those who want training in the martial arts, but have no desire to learn through the standard ZMA curriculum. Instead, their desire would be specific, such that they would have a personal purpose or focus in mind for their training. A focus could be on anything martial arts related; such as a style, weapon, philosophy, or something entirely unique. They would work with their instructor to develop goals for themselves, creating a system tailored specifically to the individual. Therefore, the belts they earn in the abstract belt system have no true standard nor direct equivalency to the belts earned through the ZMA curriculum. The meaning of each belt is up to the individual to work out with their instructor. The general guidelines for a system such as this are as seen below.

This system is not recommended for the vast majority of people training under ZMA instructors. The instructors themselves might not be experts in the area of focus the students select. As a result of this, while an abstract black belt has a lot to show for their training as a martial artist, they must be aware that their black belt is not directly associated with any established style or system.

General Belt Expectations

 

Yellow Belt:

  • Earning a standard yellow belt in the ZMA curriculum would be required as the baseline.

  • This is a prerequisite for choosing the abstract belt system for any reason.

  • Another prerequisite for choosing the abstract belt system is that the person is 16 years old.

Yellow Belt (3 bars):

  • At this early stage in training, the student should begin to explore their area of focus and outline their future goals with an instructor.

  • Here it should become clear if the training is the right fit for them.

Yellow w/ Blue (+3 bars):

  • Completion of this stage of training would require a solid understanding of the basics of their martial focus.

Yellow w/ Red (+3 bars):

  • Completion of this stage of training would require demonstrating the applied use of their martial focus in a sparring and/or grappling setting.

Yellow w/ Black (+3 bars):

  • Completion of this stage of training would require exploration of the different aspects of their martial focus.

Blue w/ Yellow (+3 bars):

  • Completion of this stage of training would require the student to acquire or generate new knowledge in their martial focus and incorporate it into their practice.

  • Ideally, upon earning the abstract blue belt, the student would have been training consistently for at least two years.

Red w/ Yellow (+3 bars):

  • Completion of this stage of training involves learning basic, intermediate, and advanced self-defense proficiency as taught in the Zen Martial Arts curriculum to anyone approaching the black belt, as well as a further exploration within the martial focus.

  • Ideally, upon earning the abstract red belt, the student would have been training consistently for at least three years.

Black w/ Yellow:

  • This belt is earned once it is clear that the student is an expert in their area of focus and can represent the martial arts well as a black belt.

  • Ideally, upon earning the abstract black belt, the student would have been training consistently for at least five years.

Black w/ Yellow (1 bar):

  • This belt is earned once the student submits an general outline of how they can use their focus to benefit their community.

Black w/ Yellow (2 bars):

  • This belt is earned once the student has something external to themselves to show for their work.

Black w/ Yellow (3 bars):

  • This belt is earned once the student has established their own system of training, practiced by their own students.

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