As much as I'm a believer in the pursuit of climbing the ladder of ranks within a martial arts system, there are few potential “pitfalls” that students can fall into when considering ranking systems and the perception around one's rank.
One pitfall is becoming too focused on the end result and symbol of achievement, rather than focusing on the present state of learning and developing as a martial artist.
There's a great Zen story that talks of a student who wants to achieve mastery and asks his instructor how long will it take.
Whatever time frame instructor tells him, the young student states he will add more and more time to his study in order to speed up the result. As he proposes to add more time to achieving mastery, his instructor tells him “well, then it will take even longer”.
The student gets confused and doesn't understand how the more time he's willing to commit to mastery, he gets farther away from achieving it.
The lesson is that by focusing on the result, the student misses all the lessons along the way. In doing so, he gets farther from “mastery”.
I have been guilty of this myself. We can sometimes get too caught up in our rank or achieving a rank, rather than being present with where we are at and what we are doing at this very moment. Sometimes students tie too much of their identity to their rank which can muddy the intention behind striving for the next belt.
Another misconception that I see with regards to martial arts rank is that the person's belt or rank or level is somehow a "magic bullet" when it comes to performance or application of martial skills.
I have a Brown Belt in jiu-jitsu which took many years and a lot of mat time to earn, but these past few months I've not been "rolling", which is imperative to maintaining and developing BJJ skills. So when I roll with a lower belt who is constantly training, I'm at a disadvantage. The color of my belt doesn't save me.
Sure, I have a large bed of knowledge in my muscle memory that is still accessible, thank God, but it's not automatic that I can outperform lower ranked students who are putting in more time and effort, and/or have better attributes.
One should definitely feel a sense of great pride and fulfillment when being promoted or passing a test, but you are not suddenly super powered beyond your natural abilities, your physical reality, or the time and effort spent developing your skills under pressure.
On top of that, there are people who are naturally gifted and/or have put in more training time, and can defeat a higher ranked person, or execute the techniques cleaner, learn new techniques faster, etc.
I've seen Blue Belts in BJJ go unconscious because they didn't want to tap to a White Belt. They made the mistake of judging the person by their rank. What they didn't know was that white belt had been training submission grappling on and off for ten years. He just never stayed with a school long enough to get ranked. Some schools or systems don't use ranking at all!
As I've stated a few times already, I encourage the pursuit of moving up the ranking process under whatever system or systems one takes on. It shows loyalty, honor, and dedication to one's school, system, and instructor. But it's important to keep in check the "intention" for getting promoted.
Hope you are having a lovely day and thanks for your time!
What is "Area 12"?
Our Kali system has 12 areas of knowledge. Areas 1-11 are all different aspects of physical combat.