Friday, August 3, 2012

Rank, an Award or an Acquisition?

  Over the years, I've had numerous individual's come to me that were interested in learning something that I happened to teach. In relation to the martial arts, that's usually been (either) RyuTe® or Shuji/Shodo. They tend to do so, because I have a Yudansha ranking in both of those subjects, and both are from respected organizations.
  Personally, I've never been impressed by “Rank” (in this case, meaning a level of Yudansha /“Black-Belt” grading). When I was a kid, yeah. But once I got past 16 (or so), the whole “Dan” thing began to look a little fishy.
  That opinion hasn't really changed much over the years either. The Dan system, was originally intended to indicate an acquired amount of knowledge, skill or even time that was obtained from one's involvement within a particular system/methodology of study.
  Having been involved with several (different) systems of martial arts, those beliefs have been dis-proven time and again. The only time I've found it (the “Dan” system) to be a useful reference, has been in/for Japanese Calligraphy (Shuji/Shodo). 
  My RyuTe® student's are instructed to address me by my first name. There's numerous reasons for my having them do so, but mainly, it stem's from the fact that I disagree with the superiority implications that are being made with the use of the aforementioned title's.
  This doesn't mean that I don't teach (and expect) our students to utilize those titles for non/outside of our Dojo person's. To myself (and from my own observations), titles can become a passive form of intimidation (and are very often used in non-passive/ie. Aggressive and/or Dominating manners as well).
  I also disagree with the expectation of (unwarranted) respect. There is a level of (general) respect, that should be presented to all individual's (IMO). I feel that it's (also) those individual's responsibility to do the same for myself. That respect should only be negated, because of any actions perpetrated by that individual.
  I believe that there are some individual's, that (actually) believe that by proclaiming that they have (such and such) ranking, that they deserve a greater amount of respect (than the average individual, or the lowliest “kyu-ranked” student).
  To that end, it has become (ever) increasingly popular to promote one's “self” (or to have their close friends do so for them, so as to feign legitimacy) to ever higher levels of rank.
  Whether one believes it or not (LOL), I'm not directing this at any particular individual's. This situation is rampant throughout the industry. As I've stated before, I was ecstatic when Taika did away with the different Yudansha belts (having either none worn w/the hakama, or only by an unadorned “Black” belt).
  It is the first thing I notice when viewing another system's website. I see the different belt color's, stripes (of different colors/number) patches and all manner of “pimping-out” done to one's belt and Gi/Hakama (kind of reminds you of being at a “stock-car” race, just not as exciting).
  Personally, I'd like to see the awarding of rank, being based upon something besides (or even in addition to) having the required funds (available) to pay for something that will return nothing (or very little) to you in (real) “life”. 
  Obtaining the rank of Shodan, commonly entitles you to teach kyu-rank (Mudansha) requirements to new student's. It doesn't (really) establish or confirm much more than that alone. Beyond that level, the Yudansha ranks are very (very) vague on what they supposedly require for consecutive rankings (aside from the testing fee's).
  As it stands now (for most systems), the only people who can test for a Yudansha rank (which would include Shodan), are those who have the money to blow on this luxury item. And whether one want's it or not, as the present system is set-up, only those with money will be allowed to be of any (higher) Yudansha rankings.
 To some degree, rumor has it that the new RyuTe® board will be addressing that situation, and if so, I would applaud them for their attempts at doing so. 
  This is a problem, that has been present for (at least) the previous 35/40 years (here in the U.S.). That problem, when coupled with the “fast-food/Strip-mall” mentality of/for training, has turned training in the martial arts, into only being a marketing challenge (for the owner, instead of a learning challenge for the student).
  Training (IMO), should be a regular teaching challenge (for the instructor) to create evermore proficient and knowledgeable student's. Simply being a “model” for your student's, is self-defeating for the art, and the industry as a whole.
  If your student's are not turning out better than yourself (or at least more proficiently trained), you are (only) providing a disservice to (both) your student's, and to your art. As the saying goes, "Shape up, or Ship out*", LOL

(*or at least stop pretending to be an instructor

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