13. Compare and contrast traditional badge systems
The badge systems diverge greatly, possibly because of their cultural origins, but demographic factors are probably more key. The scout system is built for a relatively short period of early or middle years; the martial arts system is built to support long term engagement, where the long term students can potentially become the supervisors, the leaders, and ultimately, the owners.
The badges in scouts are attainment based, and are if linked, e.g. a badge as a prerequiste to another badge, these badge groupings reach dead ends.
The badges in martial arts are grade based, and represent a breadcrumb to the highest attainment. One enters with a grade (blank). The martial arts badge system reinforces a contiguous classification system for participants.
Both are appropriate: the boy scouts system reinforces belonging and togetherness as primary values; the most important badge is arguably the boy scout club. The martial arts sytem also reinforces ethical norms, but has a more rigrous emphasis on personal mastery and attainment. Class is highly visible and one's class brings with it more sophisticated checks and balances in terms of responsibilities. It is a more adult, more sophisticated class system, if you like, with an more adult, economic basis: testing fees typically escalate as the participant progresses.
Each system - the more flat system of competency badges, and the linear system of contiguous, classified levels of attainment - can be limitless:
- Newer competencies can be discovered and tested in a scout-type system, and finer levels of distinction can be identified.
- In the linear system, it is harder and harder to get to the next level. Most difficult to "end" is the black belt Dan system.
Both systems convert trainees into trainers, but there is a limit to how much of a leader a 15 year old can be. As a marital artist one is tested to be a much more mature leader, even to the point of being capable of leading a school. The training required to get new Dan badges is extensive; in most cases, prohibitively so. Although the road lies ahead, one rests.