Every individual, school, association, and style develop their own customs and culture as time progresses. One thing that varies greatly is how people retire their belts. Some people view belts as sacred objects to be honored and respected. Others view belts as a utilitarian garment. Yet, most reside somewhere in the middle.
Some retire their belts by hanging them on the wall, or making some such display in their home.
Others repurpose belts by making useful items out of them, such as a bag or quilt.
It is also common in many schools to pass belts along to the next generation. Passing on your colored belts to other Kyu or Gup practitioners, or even passing on an old black belt to one of your trusted students. There’s also the popular act of simply packing them away in a box and forgeting about them.
These sorts of cultural developments are the kinds of things I enjoy observing and pondering. So recently as I approached my Shodan grading in Matsubayashi Ryu, I gave some thoughts about what to do with my old belts, that I’ve had lying around for over a decade.
My belts were all awarded to me in a former style that I no longer train in. I have no sentimental attachment to them. I have limited living space. I no longer felt a need to hold onto them. So what to do?
Reflecting on my past as a Cub Scout and Boy Scout, I remember how beautiful and symbolic a flag retirement service is.
If you are not familiar with such, the proper way to retire a USA Flag is Retirement by Fire.
This appealed to me greatly.
So the day after testing for my Shodan, I talked with my current instructor and proceeded with my plan.
Often times we martial artist become too attached with the tangible trappings of our arts: the uniform, the belt, patches, training halls, tourist sites in The Mother Land, etc. Doing so we often forget what is at the core: training, positive relationships, abilities, and knowledge
Thusly, I have no reason to cling to the past. Like smoke, I’m moving on and moving up. Leaving the ashes of the past where they belong.