When I recently returned from the Nia 2nd Degree Black Belt, my Mum asked me “what exactly does that mean?”.
For the past 26 years I’ve been involved in the Nia continuing education, a program that models the Martial Arts Belt System. My Nia path began in 1993 with the white belt, I then progressed through Blue, Brown, Black. I took the Nia Green Belt when it was introduced and now I am a White, Green, Blue, Brown, Nia 5 stages trainer, which this means I teach others these belt levels.
Being a Nia Black belt doesn’t necessarily mean you are a “master” of Nia, it simply means you’ve taken at least the 4 belts, in some ways like a 4 year bachelors degree, you’ve covered the course work. There are no tests in any belt with the exception of the Nia Green Belt.
After attending Black the next levels of course go in degrees. So far in Nia there have been 1st degree and 2nd degree courses offered.
In Judo the highest belt level is a 10th Degree. This 98 year old women is the 4th person, and only woman, to be awarded this highest honor.
The Nia system begins with White belt and progresses through Blue, Brown and Black belt. The Green belt can be taken any time after the white Belt. I’ve heard Nia students share
“oh my I’m so glad I took the Green before the Blue Belt”
and I’ve also heard students say
“oh my! I cannot imagine my Green belt if I’d not taken the blue belt first!”
In summary Green Belt is a floater course, taken after the white belt, usually before or after Blue Belt. Whenever someone chooses to take the Green Belt they appear to believe it landed in the perfect place for their continuing education.
White belt is the pre-requisite to teaching Nia. About half the people attend the white belt with the dream/intent to teach, the other half purely attend for personal growth. Often by the end of the course participants who have said they only want to attend for personal growth begin to warm up the idea with comments like “Well maybe I could teach at my church” or “with my family”, or “as a volunteer” or “after all!”.
Focus: Music-Movement-Magic | Intent: To condition the central nervous system
Time: 5 days (45 hours)
Green Belt focuses on developing skills to effectively teach Nia using Nia White Belt Principles.
Delivering the Nia Experience is a phrase we use to express the transformative power of Nia. As a teacher you aim to deliver the Nia Experience every time you teach; your role is to guide people through a meaningful journey of physical conditioning and self-discovery. The student's transformative experience comes from your ability to listen to the music with detail, dance the choreography with passion and share your personal experience of sensation in your body.
Focus: Art of Sensation | Intent: To embody the foundation of Nia
Nia White Belt Training takes you on a journey of self-discovery by exploring the art of sensation. Beginning with the Joy of Movement, you learn 13 principles for body-centered awareness. Each principle teaches you a variety of somatic skills for connecting to physical sensation in your body. Through the science, craft and art of sensation, you will learn Nia's body-centered approach to health, wellness and fitness. Crafting with sensation is the starting point for all Nia teachers. The Art of Sensation is what brings magic to the Nia class experience.
Focus: Art of Communication | Intent: To create intimacy through somatic relationships
Blue Belt, the second level of Nia education, explores how to create healthy relationships through body-centered communication. This intensive introduces the next set of 13 Nia principles, which focus on the 4 realms of body, mind, emotions and spirit.
While the White Belt curriculum focuses entirely on awareness of physical sensation, Blue Belt applies these skills to explore internal sensations as perceived through – but distinct from – physical sensations in the body.
Blue Belt Principle #1: The Joy of Being in Relationship, integrates the sensation of Joy with the awareness that Joy is something outside the self, which we can invite into our physical experience.
As a result, we begin to deepen our ability to listen with clarity and sustain awareness of details outside our body.
Art of Sensation is rooted in Nia's philosophy of The Body's Way. Sensation guides you to create health and vitality by moving your body in ways that feel good. Nia White Belt teaches you to develop body literacy - the ability to listen to your body, making choices that lead to health and total body well-being.
Nia White Belt teaches you the Art of Sensation through five core areas of study.
Movement - the study of moving, health + potential
Anatomy - the study of body parts + systems
Science - the study of body awareness, health + vitality
Music - the study of sound, health + expression
Philosophy - the study of the body's inherent wisdom.
Anyone can take the Nia White Belt; no experience is required. If you have a desire to share Nia in a professional capacity, the White Belt Training is your entryway into teaching. Those who choose to pursue the path of personal enrichment use this training as a starting point for becoming a master student.
Focus: Art of Perception | Intent: To live as an energetic being
By the time you reach Brown Belt, the third level of Nia education, you have developed a proficiency in sustaining awareness of your physical body and paying attention to the sensory details of the four realms: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
This level of training explores the experience of living as energy beings, as every experience of sensation in the body is an energy experience.
Brown Belt Principle 1: The Joy of Movement in the Zone, introduces "The Zone," a place of no thinking, a universe unto itself.
The Zone is a state of heightened sensation inside and out, from which you can think with both the logical mind and the intuitive parts of your being.
In The Zone, energy fields are tactile and readily available to you; Brown Belt teaches you how to tap into this energy to make positive changes in each of the four realms of your life.
Focus: Art of Creativity | Intent: Conscious Transformation
Black Belt, the fourth level of Nia education, invites you to let go of all you know and enter the River of the Unknown, a place of infinite and endless creativity.
First Degree Black Belt
Focus: Art of Self | Intent: To explore your personal potential
Art of Self is a profound step on the Nia Journey. It is the Belt that celebrates not just you, but your advanced potential. It's about stepping even further, out of your excellence and into your genius. Being in genius, in the zone, means letting go. It is expressed in beauty, power, and wisdom of spirit.
The desire for First Degree is "more". More personal knowing and more about how to live in a world of pleasure, purpose, and freedom. Plato wrote that "all knowledge is already within us, no one really teaches anything new."
The Origin of the Martial Arts Colored Belt System
The martial arts colored belt ranking system was originated by Dr. Jigoro Kano, who was Japanese and known as the "Founder of Modern Judo", who first devised many of the concepts that are the foundation of Modern martial arts. Dr. Kano devised the colored belt system as a visible sign of a student’s progress, awarding the first “black belts” in the 1880's.
Gichin Funakoshi, who was Okinawan and the founder of Shotokan Karate and often referred to as the "Founder of Modern Karate" adopted the belt ranking system and other organizational and philosophical concepts from Dr. Kano, who was both his contemporary and friend.
Byung Jick Ro, who was Korean and the founder of Song Moo Kwan and known as "Founder of Modern Taekwondo" was a student of Gichin Funakoshi, receiving his black belt from him in 1939, and thus, the color belt ranking system has been part of Taekwondo since it was developed in the early 1940's.
Dispelling an Urban Legend
One common “legend” concerning the tradition of belts claims that early martial artists began their training with a white belt, which eventually became stained black from years of sweat, dirt, and blood. However, there is no real evidence for this story, so it should be relegated to the status of myth. In fact, given the standard of cleanliness common in the traditional Judo or Karate dojo, a student arriving with a bloodied or dirty uniform would probably not have been allowed to train. In some arts and schools there is the opinion that the belt should not be washed; by doing that one would "wash away the knowledge" or "wash one's ki away." This is all related to the “dirty belt” myth.
Levels of Advancement
Another common misbelief that needs to be clarified is the "black belt as master" stereotype,. In reality, a black belt indicates the wearer is competent in a style's basic technique. Since in Song Moo Kwan a black belt takes approximately 2 to 4 years of training to achieve, a good intuitive analogy would be a 1st Dan Black Belt is equivalent to a college Bachelor's degree. The 1st Dan black belt is thus seen not so much as an end, but rather as a beginning, a doorway to advanced learning. The 4th Dan is “Master” in Song Moo Kwan, and can be viewed similar to a college Master’s degree, and 8th degree black belt “Grandmaster” can be seen being equivalent to a university Doctoral degree.
Meaning of the Colors
Originally, the white belt was simply dyed to a new color. This repeated dying process dictated the type of belt color and the order of the colors. The standard belt color system is white, yellow, gold, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, red and black. Due to the dying process, it was only practical to increasingly use darker colors. All of this came about shortly after the Second World War, when Korea and Japan were very poor countries. Dying the belts to a new color was a cheap way to have a visible, simple and effective ranking system.
White Belt: White signifies a birth, or beginning, of a seed. A white belt student is a beginner searching for knowledge of the Art. The white belt is the beginning of life's cycle, and represents the seed as it lies beneath the snow in the winter.
Yellow Belt or Sash: Yellow signifies the first beams of sunlight which shines upon the seed giving it new strength with the beginning of new life. A yellow belt student is given his first ray of knowledge, opening his mind, from his instructors.
Orange Belt or Sash: Orange represents the growing power of the sun as it warms the earth to prepare for new growth in the spring. The orange belt is starting to feel his body and mind open and develop.
Green Belt or Sash: Green signifies the growth of the seed as it sprouts from the earth reaching toward the sun and begins to grow into a plant. A green belt student learns to strengthen and refine his techniques.
Blue Belt or Sash: Blue signifies the blue sky as the plant continues to grow toward it. A blue belt student moves up higher in rank just as the plant grows taller. The light feeds the plant so it can continue to grow. The student is fed additional knowledge of the Art in order for his body and mind continue to grow and develop.
Purple Belt or Sash: Purple represents the changing sky of dawn, as once again the student undergoes a new change and prepares for the transition to advanced student. A purple belt begins to understand the meaning of the black belt.
Brown Belt or Sash: Brown represents the ripening of the seed, a maturing and harvesting process. A brown belt is an advanced student whose techniques are beginning to mature, and he is beginning to understand the fruits of his hard work as a beginner.
Red Belt or Sash: Red signifies the red-hot heat of the Sun as the plant continues growing toward it. As a red belt student acquires more detailed knowledge, just as the plant grows slowly toward the Sun, so the red belt student learns to be more cautious with his knowledge and physical abilities. Red is a sign of danger, and the red belt is beginning to become dangerous with their knowledge and abilities.
Black Belt or Sash: Black signifies the darkness beyond the Sun. A black belt seeks new, more profound knowledge of the Art. As he begins to teach others, he plants new seeds and helps them grow and mature. His students, many whom will form roots deep into the Art, blossom and grow through the ranks in a never-ending process of self-growth, knowledge, and enlightenment.