The tradition of belt colors comes from way, way back in the dark ages of martial arts. Originally, you would get one belt. It would be white. You would train in it very hard. It would see you through long, sweaty hours of kata practice and hitting punching bags until your knuckles were raw. You would wear it as you did forward rolls until your head spun, and sparred with people with twice your skill. Eventually, the belt would get pretty grimy, since you don't wash it. By the time your skills had reached their peak, the belt would be so dirty it was practically black.
Nowadays, for whatever reason, we use belt color. In the style I practice, when a student is promoted, she receives a new belt. Her old belt is given to a junior student. With white belts, this is not so. A student keeps her white belt until she is ready to test for black belt. For one month before the test, she wears her white belt because really, she's still a beginner. There's always room to improve and more to learn.
I am fortunate that at my dojo, we have White Belt Classes. These classes aren't strictly for white belts; it's just white belt material. It's a great place to work on basics, which might seem a little boring once you've had a taste of the jumping knee kick, but it's actually a lot of fun.
Things I Have Done In White Belt Class:
- Met new students as they joined the dojo
- Learned how to do the side kick without hurting my hip
- Kicked a floppy target across the room as a demonstration of the awesomeness of the outside-in crescent kick.
- Messed up the most basic kata in our style.
- Fixed my mistake on the most basic kata in our style.
- Realized that I've been doing the high block all wrong for quite some time.
I keep my white belt on a shelf in my closet. Sometimes I put it on, just for a minute, to remind myself that in a way, I am still that thirteen-year-old girl with two braids who stood at the end of the line of students at the beginning of class, and struggled to master a simple front kick. I am still that girl, and even when I am in my thirties or forties and I'm a black belt and I teach at the dojo, I'll always keep that girl with me. She's got a lot to teach me.