I’m still working on my basic skills as a white belt in my martial arts class. I have my uniform now and consequently I’ve had to learn to tie my belt properly which is an art in itself. Last night, one of the black belts in the class took me aside to explain the ritual behind the correct knot.
One of the things I’m learning and really enjoying is the fact that no movement or action is wasted. I remember a time not too long ago that I wondered how much mobility I’d have and I would plan even short trips from my bed to the kitchen, taking used cups and books to drop off along the way and returning with supplies for the afternoon, to save another energy sapping trip.
I’m learning that every action in martial arts has meaning and fluidity. It might be a functional movement, one that allows you to defend. It might be a stretch that opens and lengthens part of your body. It might be a breathing technique or even a stance that helps maintain balance. Nothing is wasted, nothing is superfluous.
Dressing for class is a ritual in itself and reminds me to stop, reflect and focus. Here is the meaning and ritual of the belt tying and why it is so important to martial artists.
The belts are LONG. They wrap around your body twice. To start, you fold it in half lengthwise to find the centre. It must be even and symbolises the importance of balance, reminding us that there are two sides to training – the study and the application.
You then seem to put the belt on backwards by first placing the centre of the belt over your navel (your centre) and taking both ends around your back. The placement on the navel reminds us that we have received life and we are also givers of life. It reminds us to respect all those we come into contact with as co-creators.
When we cross the belt behind our backs, it reminds us to be prepared for things that are unseen, things that can go on behind our backs. As the ends return to the front, we remember that ‘what goes around comes around’ eventually. The belt is now encircling us and we’re holding an end in each hand towards the front.
We cross the two ends over which reminds us that we can be double crossed behind our backs but also right in front of us too. We must be prepared for whatever difficulties come our way because they can come from various directions.
We bring one end of the belt up and under the waist which starts the knot. One end is now held up and the other down. This reminds us that there are two directions for us to travel – we can get up and we can fall down. It is important to keep getting up and striving to improve ourselves.
The Belt knot
The last part of the knot tightens the fastening. It reminds us that we need to be steadfast in whatever we do. It does not slip. The knot forms an arrow shape and reminds us that we can find our direction in life. After the knot is complete, we again check that each end of the belt is perfectly even. We are balanced and ready to go.