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The Stigma of Belt Hunger
[12/13/2004] [Fitz]

Everywhere you go in Amtgard, someone, somewhere is gonna say it. Whether it’s said about yourself or somebody else, we’ve all heard it. And it seems to be cropping up more and more as the game -- and the quest for the White Belt -- grows.

“He’s so belt hungry!”

I’ve often wondered at that phrase. It’s become an insult and an accusation of insincerity. Maybe it’s always been that way. Who knows?


Like so many newbies in the game, I read the rulebook my first week and saw those two locked classes. My first thought was, “Ok, so how do I become a knight?” I went in search of the answer and found the award system Amtgard embraces -- a system designed to weed out the week in spirit, the lazy, the non-driven.

“Want to be a knight?” the corpora cried. “Well, this is what you have to do to get it. Straight up! A clear path to not one but four different classifications to knighthood!”

“Wow!” I said to myself, “I can do this. It’s so easy, it’s defined so clear, and there are so many paths to get there. Man, I can do this one, or that one, hell I can do any and all of them! It’ll be a cinch! Somebody better start engraving my name on the next piece of white hide they can find. . . Yeah, that’s spelled F. . . I. . . T. . ."

All right, so maybe I was never that cocky, but you get the idea. If you look far enough back into your own memories, you’ll probably find a similar monologue, unless you were born with a white belt like Michael and a few others.

So, what did we do? Well, we started working on those paths, right? We spent countless hours on the ditch field or in a friend’s back yard sparring, perfecting our weapon tech, slaving over an unfamiliar sewing machine, and just what the heck is a bobbin anyway? We dropped a crap load of entries into our first Dragon Master or Crown Quals, thinking to ourselves “All righty, I’m halfway there, three more months and I’ll get that serpent belt then start on another, one down, three to go.” –or- “I’m the best fighter in three states, I’ve got black belts in three martial arts, I was All State in two sports and lettered in five. . . 21 in a row? Is that all? I can do that in my sleep.“

And then we got one award for effort in constructing weapons and maybe our first Order of the Warrior for a real lucky streak of 3 in a row. What the heck? One Owl? One Warrior? But, but I kicked ass! Why wasn’t it awarded to me. . . oh, you mean I actually gotta work for this? Each time better than my last? Oh . . .

Then, if we were humble enough, we got help. We learned that our crap load of entries were just that, a crap load. Our martial arts training, while helpful, didn’t mean much in the sport of foam fighting Amtgard has grown into.

Reality eventually sets in. Politics. Government. Alliances. They all came into play. We learned the term ‘Belt Hungry’ in its derogative form. We learned about the elusive Circle of Knights and how THEY decided when you were ready or not. . . that is, once you had qualified through the award prerequisites. We learned that to even be considered a peer we had to grovel in humility all the way up those award chains.


I’ve noticed that lately the term has been picked up increasingly in the newer population of Amtgard. Most frequently when it is used it is applied to the flame, crown, and serpent belts. Why is that?

Well, I’d surmise that with candidates for sword you have to fight your way to the top. In a game of foam, this gains you the respect of almost everyone on the field. The other belts are more subjective. In the cases of serpent and flame, there are multiple paths you can take, but only a few chances to prove yourself in comparison to the weekly proof of sword knight prowess.

What does that provoke? In a word, effort. Maybe that should be two words -- continual effort. You won’t make it in one try. You’ve gotta keep putting forth your best efforts and increasing in ability. Isn’t that the same thing you have to do for a sword belt?

Why then is an aspiring fighter considered ‘driven’ by those who already have the sword belt, while the craftier or service-oriented type, looking for one of the other belts, is often seen as ‘belt hungry’ or ‘award hungry’ by those around them?

After much discussion with many who already wear a white belt, I believe there is more of a misconception about what the term really means by many of the newer players. This misconception is much more prolific, in my opinion, than actual instances of True Belt Hunger. Those who misconstrue the label often use it to explain away their own failures or lack of dedication when comparing themselves or friends to those who are excelling in the awards system. “Oh, he’s so belt hungry that he’s just putting in stuff or effort so he can qualify for a belt. What a hypocrite!”

But what is hypocritical about it? Isn’t that how you are supposed to get there? That’s how the system was designed. Just like the fighter that goes out and gives his all in every ditch, battlegame, and tourney, every one looking towards crown, flame, or serpent must put their all into every chance they can get, if they ever want to get there at all.


Belt hunger is hard to define because those who truly are belt hungry must by definition be doing something to get themselves qualified through the awards system. So, they will be doing everything they can to get there, just as the driven will be. However, the true definition of belt hunger has little to do with the award system, how much effort one is putting in to qualify, or how fast one is doing it all. It is the attitude they have while doing it.

“I deserve it!” “I’ve earned it!” “It is owed to me!” “I got robbed!” Those thoughts and words are the sign of True Belt Hunger. Belt hunger is all in your attitude while performing your tasks for qualification. Don’t worry, almost all of us are a bit belt hungry at one time or another by this definition. Just don’t stay that way. Grow. If all you can do is complain that your not being given your due, you’ll never make it.

As a side note, many true belt hungry folks are those who will do the minimum effort required. Once they’ve done what they think deserves an award, all they’ll do is sit around and complain about not being recognized for what they did before doing anything else.


Last summer, I was given a great example of a driven knighthood candidate. At Rakis 2004, I was walking around being introduced to people I hadn’t met before when a certain knight introduced me to one of his squires. In the following chat, I learned that this squire was already qualified for his serpent and flame belts and that following his upcoming term in office would qualify for his crown as well. Pretty impressive, huh? Well, not as impressive as when I found out that he didn’t consider himself ready for knighthood. The man has put in all the required effort for three belts, yet doesn’t consider himself ready for any? Wow!

Would it be easy for him to complain? To say, “Hey, I’ve earned these by rights!” Yeah, he could have been doing that since he finished his qualifications for his first. Maybe it has something to do with wanting to qualify for all four before stepping up to the white, but if you ask me that’s what the difference between belt hunger and being driven is all about -- not just doing what is minimally required once, but going the extra mile despite awards, recognition, or advancement.

A driven person might be upset for a minute that they were overlooked, but then they’ll hunker down and go the extra mile yet again to prove themselves.


I hope by now we all realize it’s a long hard road to knighthood and many of us are just starting out on it. So what happens between here and there? Well, there are too many possibilities to go in to here so I’ll generalize three categories.

  1. You’ll be too lazy to follow through with it once you realize the work it takes. You’ll go play the game, participate as much as life allows, and do what you can.
  2. You’ll get disenchanted with the whole system and give up.
  3. You’ll believe in yourself and get the drive.

It’s number three that I want to talk about. That’s where it starts; that’s where it ends. A knight will be a knight with one’s own self long before a kingdom says he’s so.

To be driven, you’ve got to believe you have the potential. You’ve got to believe that knighthood is already inside you in one shape or another. If you say to yourself, “Man, I’ll never be a knight, it’s just not in me,” then you’re not going to make it. You won’t have the motivation or the drive to stick it out through the weeding process. If, on the other hand, you say to yourself, “I am a knight to my self, so let me show my friends what I believe that to be,” then you just might have a chance.

Cultivate the drive in yourself to do better. Be better at whatever path, or paths, you choose. In the meantime, between now and then, remove the word ‘deserve’ from your vocabulary when pertaining to yourself and replace it with the phrase ‘prove myself’.

And to all those who frequent your mouths with the phrase ‘belt hungry’, take a moment to pause and consider. Is that person you are about to label the one who just beat you out in Dragon Master, or has their hand in everything, really belt hungry? Or are they just driven?

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