After my very first class following my nidan grading, training partner Ed handed me a new belt he'd ordered a few weeks before, embroidered with two shiny new red stripes. Although it is absolutely beautiful (it is much thicker and heavier than the belt I was given at my shodan grading) and I was quite flattered he'd thought of me, I promptly tucked into my gear bag where it slipped underneath my sparring gear. For class two days later, my very first black belt - Ol' Faithful (the brand without the stripes) - was the one I tied around my waist.
The next week, Ed had switched bags and forgot to grab his belt when he packed his gi. When we got to the dojo - which is an hour away from home - he asked if I had an extra one he could borrow, so I left both the one he'd given me and my old one on top of my bag when I dashed into the locker room to get changed. I had a mild panic attack when I came out and found he'd taken Ol' Faithful and left the new belt for me to wear.
Now, I'm not even remotely superstitious or feel like my obi has any magical powers or anything, but I hafta tell you that tying that new belt was a hard thing for me to do - not just because it was so stiff, LOL, but because it was so BIG and had TWO STRIPES on it. Strappng it on felt a bit pretentious, like I was shouting to anyone within earshot that I was a nidan now, damnit! - and that just ain't me.
Everyone in the room was at the grading. They saw me do kata, miss one of my breaks, get pummeled by the seniors I sparred and eventually get a new certificate. But no stripes were added to my belt during the grading. It seemed to go without saying that no further outward recognition of the new rank was needed - which was totally fine with me.
But as I stood there trying to tie that new belt and remember which side the stipes had to start on to end up where they belonged (hey, it had been years since I'd had any stripes, for crying out loud!), I felt so conspicuous and, well...showy.
There are only a few folks I train with who wear their full rank on the mat. My sensei is not one of them. We all know his rank - but most importantly, he knows his rank. Although some of the other seniors I train with occassionally don their stripes for promotions, seminars or other formal functions (and I don't see anything wrong with that), my sensei never does (and I don't see anything wrong with that, either). It is what it is.
Last weekend, I headed to a tournament in Connecticut and met a karateka I'd only known before via the Internet. A fellow Goju practitioner, she and I talked about all things karate between rounds of her watching the competition me jumping into the mix for kata and kumite. When I noticed that one of the judges in the ring we were watching had eight stripes on her black obi, I asked my compadre what she thought about the wearing of full rank after shodan. She said she thought practioners should always display who they were - meaning it may be a bit disengenuous to suit up in an unadorned black obi if you are actually a yondan - and that makes sense to me.
But still I wore Ol' Faithful last night to train. It is what it is, I guess.
If you a nidan equivalent or higher, do you wear your full rank on your obi when you train? When you compete or travel to other places like seminars to learn? Why or why not? If you haven't yet gotten that second or third or sixth or eighth stripe, will you wear it/them when you do?