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Martial Arts Organizations

Today, there are many Martial Arts Organizations available to perspective Martial Artists. What do they do? What is their purpose?

Online, I have read many people bashing them as rank farms and worse. These people should hope that they never find themselves in situations like their own teacher no longer being active or, worse yet, their teacher no longer being alive. Some may have started their own system, which may leave the instructor isolated from his sensei, since this new system may not be recognized by the style by which he previously was ranked. With that in mind, an instructor may be limited to ranking overdue students for promotions because he, himself, cannot be promoted above his current rank due to any of the scenarios listed here, or because of other unforeseen circumstances. Dan ranks also can be denied because an instructor has refused to be part of the political nonsense that seems to be inherent in Martial Arts today; thereby rendering teachers with 20+ years experience abandoned at very low teacher rankings. Would you be willing to remain part of something you no longer believe in? As an instructor and sensei, you are responsible to the students you teach; you are their Mentor and they look up to you. What do you think will happen after you have had many years of training and you want to change things? What if you want to change techniques and/or requirements for rank? In addition, what if you no longer want to be part of the politics and limitations your current system has forced upon you? What happens to you if the "politicians" in your system are not in agreement with the changes you want to make? For reasons such as these, you may want to become part of an organization that you hope will not regulate policies and procedures for running your school, while still being able to meet requirements for rank promotions.

No matter what style you teach or study, at some point, if you truly are on the right path, you will be taught things you just do not agree with. In many cases, I have seen students, after only a few years of training, surpass their own instructors, not only in technique, but in theory and moral character as well. Should these individuals forever be stuck passing on the misinformation they have been taught just to be to a part of something they have no respect for anymore? Should you not be able to pass down to your students what you truly believe?

For these reasons, Martial Arts organizations do have a very valid purpose. They are there to rank teachers who truly need it. They offer help and advice when an instructor has no one to turn to. Martial Arts organizations are a great way to meet many other instructors from hundreds of different arts. In addition, they provide a venue for training, learning and sharing knowledge with others.

There is no doubt that, sometimes, people do slip through the cracks within these associations. On occasion, ranks are given to people who do not deserve them. What does this mean, exactly? What do such people do with these ranks? Martial Arts organizations are not the only institutions that create such unwanted situations. I challenge anyone reading this to evaluate the system or school they are a part of now. Do you see people several ranks above yourself without the experience, knowledge or ability you have? Do you have instructors under the age of 50 who have a 9th or 10th Dan? Do you have people of high rank who entirely lack decent moral character? Does your system or school have black belts walking around the dojo with teacher’s ranks for which they never have been tested? It appears that the ability to perform techniques no longer is a requirement for promotion to ranks beyond black belt, at least in most systems; time at rank appears to be the only pivotal criterion for many. In addition, it seems that even time requirements for rank are not adhered to, in many cases. Furthermore, there are systems out there that have no set requirements for rank after Shodan, at all; it is at the whim of the highest-ranking instructors as to who gets what promotion and when. Why do these individuals not realize that not promoting deserving instructors eventually will cause the demise of their own lineage? Requirements for rank should be stated clearly, strictly adhered to, and apply to everyone who meets the requirements! What about 4th, 5th or even 6th Dan-ranked assistant instructors who never have had their own school? Keep in mind that these are teaching ranks and yet these people never have taught their own students without being under the watchful eye of their instructors. At some point, these black belts need to be kicked out of the nest or not promoted any more. Teaching your own students in your own dojo should be looked upon as further training after a black belt, and as a requirement for promotion to teaching ranks. Showing up at your sensei’s dojo night after night, waiting to meet your time requirement to pass by so that you become eligible for your next Dan rank… is pathetic. All this is happening in your Sensei’s school, and you cannot even be promoted high enough to give your own students the ranks they deserve and are overdue for. I believe that ANY instructor who cares about his or her students, dojo and system should do whatever is necessary to give those students the ranks they deserve. What happens when your students want to open a school of their own someday? Will they be able to promote their own students? Plain and simple, restricting access to fair rank is not fair to them. It also does not help you, as a dojo owner, to retain students who have not been promoted for many years. Sure, we all know that belt ranks should not be the reason for training in the martial arts; but lets face it… having students stuck at 1st Dan for ten years just is not right. I think it is fair to say that you will lose at least some students with this scenario. It also does not make students feel that they are a part of a bigger organization, if their Sensei is being grossly neglected by the system. Furthermore, it can make students doubt the credibility of their own Sensei to see his superiors showing no interest whatsoever in their own students’ school.

The bottom line is this: Martial Arts organizations are necessary. However, they cannot possibly evaluate every member to the extent that most people would think is required to weed out the hackers. Nor should they be expected to do so, given that most very legitimate individual systems/styles cannot always weed these people out, either. Surprisingly, Martial Arts organizations do not hand out undeserved ranks very often and, when they do, it rarely is intentional. Most organizations also will investigate any reports of fraudulent instructors claiming ranks from them and revoke those ranks if the claims are substantiated. If, in fact, the number of non-legitimate instructors holding ranks they do not deserve is so wide spread, why is it so extremely rare that anyone is reported? The answer is not that other members are not willing to report these violations; it is that, luckily, most Martial Artists are honest people. After all, isn’t that what this is all about? The ones who do slip through the cracks eventually will come to realize that they do not have the knowledge or skills to fool anyone for very long, and just fade away anyway.

The hackers are out there… no question about that. However, how much time and effort should be spent on exposing these people? Who is going to do it? These individuals know they do not posses the knowledge, training and skills that their ranks signify. Maybe it should be seen as punishment enough that, every time they look at their certificates, they know they did not earn them. For me, I would rather use my time teaching, practicing and learning. These fraudulent individuals just do not deserve the effort. Phil Porter of the USMA has said: "everyone knows who can dance"… and I agree. Everyone can recognize a good instructor regardless of his affiliations, period! Let us stop bickering over what is legitimate and what is not. Time is short for any of us who want to learn and teach as much as we can before we no longer are able. Let’s get to it!

One thing to definitely consider is whether the others in your system will accept you at the rank the association has given you. Usually not. However, if your system was taking care of its members in the first place, this probably would not even be an issue. It seems that many of the instructors I have spoken with who, themselves, are members of a Martial Arts Association already are totally fed up with their current system. Therefore, not being recognized should not be a problem. In general, no one likes anyone else promoting his or her students. This is very understandable. However, if you neglect your own students, you are opening up the door for this. These associations do not solicit or strong-arm anyone to join, in my opinion at least not the legitimate ones. The door is open to walk through, if you wish. Instructors with no need to join are not interested. That speaks highly for the systems themselves that they obviously are treating their members fairly.

So how do you find a good Martial Arts organization to join if you are interested?

Speak with people who are members and ask them how they feel about the association they are a member of. Ask questions like: What are the requirements and policies? Who are the members? How many members are there? And so on. I also recommend that you directly contact the officers of these organizations. See if these individuals seem to have the same beliefs and values that you have, since there is no reason to be a part of another organization that you do not believe in.

How do these groups actually rank anyone from a different system?

Some require testing to join, which really weeds out potential hackers. Other associations go about verifying your current rank as the starting point to joining. All organizations seem to have some ranking committee that evaluates potential members for membership and rank promotions. On these committees, there usually are very high-ranking individuals from many different arts. (If the organization accepts different styles, as some are limited to specific arts.) Since time in rank usually is the deciding factor, at least with instructors’ ranks, as long as you have proven your current rank and meet the criteria for the next one, what is the difference where it comes from? They have just done what your current system should have done in the first place. As far as time requirements for Dan ranks above Shodan are concerned, they seem to be pretty darn close across the board to just about any system I have seen.

Finally, I would suggest making sure that some reasonable standards are adhered to before joining up with any association. These standards exist to ensure that you are not joining a rank farm, and that you will be proud to be a member.



Jim Barry

Budokai South Defensive Arts Institute

www.aiki-ju jitsu.com

Budokai South Defensive Arts Institute
Minami Budo Ryu
Ju Jitsu / Aiki Jujitsu / Judo / Self Defense
Aiken, SC
Phone: (843) 864-3125
Email: newtobudokai@gmail.com

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