Honorary Rank

Discussion in 'Kenpo / Kempo - General' started by MJS, Dec 30, 2007.

  1. MJS

    MJS Administrator Staff Member

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    Honorary rank...what do you think about it? Should you wear or more importantly, accept an honorary rank?
     
  2. Kacey

    Kacey Sr. Grandmaster

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    Honorary rank, like honorary college degrees, denote a high level of respect from the person(s) who bestows it, and, generally, a recognition of some type of significant event - usually over the long term. I don't see a particular problem with accepting it, as long as anyone who becomes aware of such rank knows it is honorary, and doesn't imply the level of knowledge or skill in the art that the rank would otherwise stand for.

    Wearing such rank... I wouldn't. It would imply, as I said, a level of knowledge and skill in that art the is unlikely to exist - not that the person could not be knowledgeable and skilled, but if the rank is honorary, it's not likely to be given to someone who has knowledge and skill in that art. If the person actually had the knowledge and skill to earn the rank, there's no reason why honorary rank would be awarded. Displaying such rank - especially if the display makes the honorary nature evident - is one thing, but wearing it would not be appropriate, IMHO.
     
  3. Big Don

    Big Don Sr. Grandmaster

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    Frame it, hang it on the wall and be proud of it, sure. Wear it? Hell no. You may have earned the respect, but, you didn't earn the rank.
     
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  4. terryl965

    terryl965 <center><font size="2"><B>Martial Talk Ultimate<BR

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    To me you can except a Honary rank, because your peers feel you deserve it. But to say or tell someone you earned it and wearing it is a whole different story.
     
  5. Drac

    Drac Sr. Grandmaster

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    Accept with humility and thanks...Someone feels you deserve it and that in itself is an honor..
     
  6. 14 Kempo

    14 Kempo Grandmaster

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    I believe it would be disrespectful to not accept it, to wear it is another story. If the person that bestowed it upon you asks that you wear it in his/her presence, then that should be done, again, out of respect. But it should not be worn outside that arena. Just my two cents.
     
  7. terryl965

    terryl965 <center><font size="2"><B>Martial Talk Ultimate<BR

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    Let me add something in here, in the case where someone has been training in a particular art dor a period of time and then the power to be bestow you your BB it is then acceptable to wear it everywhere. In essence you have earned that title and not recieved an hoarary belt.
     
  8. Drac

    Drac Sr. Grandmaster

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    I agree...
     
  9. Danjo

    Danjo Master Black Belt

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    Well, my take on honorary rank can be summed up as that of Will Rogers regarding honorary college degrees:

    "In May of 1931, Will Rogers declined accepting a doctorate in Humanity & Letters. He said, "What are you trying to do? Make a joke out of college degrees? They are in bad enough repute as it is, without handing them out to comedians." Rogers did, however, say that he might possibly accept an A.D.–for 'Doctor of Applesauce' from the kindergarten where he grew up."

    In other words, they're a joke and those that would wear such rank are clowns.
     
  10. bdparsons

    bdparsons Black Belt

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    Aren't "honorary" and "earned" diametrically opposed? Accept, yes. Wear, no.

    Respects,
    Bill Parsons
    Triangle Kenpo Institute
     
  11. John Bishop

    John Bishop Master Black Belt

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    I've been offered honorary ranks and have always thanked the person for the honor, and then graciously refused them. I would rather insult the person offering the rank, then insult my instructor by accepting rank from someone who never taught me.
    The instructor/student relationship is something that is built on years of training, friendship, support, and loyalty. This should be the way rank is earned and received.
     
  12. michaeledward

    michaeledward Grandmaster

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    That sort of raise the question, doesn't it.
    Receiving (or refusing) honorary rank is only half of the transaction. What of the other half?
    Why would someone choose to award an 'honorary' belt?
    Who here has done so?
     
  13. KenpoDave

    KenpoDave 2nd Black Belt

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    I know a woman who was a top female competitor in the late 70s, early 80s. She has not trained since the early 80s when an accident and illnesses left her paralyzed and wheelchair bound. However, for 20 some odd years, nearly 30, she has remained a vibrant part of the organization to which she is connected, attending gatherings, offering support, telling great stories, basically doing whatever she can to remain a part of a lifestyle that was her love.

    So, about 4 years ago when she was awarded her 3rd degree black belt after having not physically trained, or even walked, for 20 years, no one in attendance felt that the award in any way "lowered" any one else's achievement. On the contrary, although she cannot train, she lives a life that, in the opinion of most who know her, exemplifies what it means to be a martial artist.

    Honorary rank is like any other rank. It's true meaning is based on why it was given and/or accepted, and that meaning is really most significant to the giver and the receiver. Personally, I tend to view honorary rank as a recognition of someone's character rather than martial skill. James Mitose once referred to Abraham Lincoln as a great master of Kosho. I doubt that Lincoln ever trained in the martial arts, so Mitose's reference must have been about something else.
     
  14. Kacey

    Kacey Sr. Grandmaster

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    Great example! There are people who make a difference, who go above and beyond the expectations - for an organization, a community, any other group - who deserve to be recognized for the difference they make. In the military, such people are given medals and promotions; in the corporate world, such people are given promotions and bonuses; in the educational community such people are awarded honorary degrees.

    I see no difference in the martial arts community. Do I think such awards should be the norm? Not at all. But I do see examples - such as the one KenpoDave gave above - in which such an award would be appropriate, both for the giver and the recipient.
     
  15. Danjo

    Danjo Master Black Belt

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    Doesn't sound like the rank was honorary to me then. It sounds like the rank was given to her from the people she trained with and that her other qualities qualified her for the honor.

    This is clearly not the type of example that we are talking about. It doesn't sound like she's going to put up a website listing 15 high ranks from various organizations.
     
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  16. KenpoDave

    KenpoDave 2nd Black Belt

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    You are mostly correct. It illustrates that gray area. Her rank is honorary because there is a specific physical curriculum that accompanies that rank. The rank is not honorary for the very reasons you mentioned.

    Rank of any sort is subjective, and by definition, rules have exceptions.
     
  17. arnisador

    arnisador Sr. Grandmaster

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    But was this award truly honorary? Did it come with some restriction? It sounds like an actual award of a belt level that includes in essence a 'waiver' of certain requirements being met.

    Well...some people get honorary degrees. Anymore it's typically for having given money or because doing so will bring the school fame, as when Kermit the Frog was given an honorary degree by Southampton College. These degrees are distinguished from other degrees in at least one of two ways: The degree is reserved for honorary usage only at the school in question (e.g., Doctor of Humane Letters, or an udnergraduate school which awards no earned doctoral degrees, only honorary ones), and by being awarded honoris causa (h.c.), which is meant to follow any listing of the degree (John Doe, D.H.L. (h.c.)).

    But someone who is disabled, as in the example above, is usually given an earned degree for which some waiver/exception/substitution is granted, as at universities with a swimming requirement for graduation (these still exist). So, there's a difference between someone outside the community being awarded an honorary degree and someone within the community being awarded an earned degree under exceptional circumstances.

    Compare also the case of an ad eundem degree, which is considered an earned degree but not one earned at the given college. This may well be the real model being followed by martial arts instructors who grant rank to someone from a different system. It recognizes formal, systemized, graded learning...that occurred elsewhere (and also, in the case of senior faculty promoted from within rather than hired from without, may reflect research they have done at their current position to earn the promotion), and in addition this education is considered to have been of comparable value bythe granting school's standards. (Heh, I just was promoted to full prof. myself this year but my school doesn't do this!) Truly, I think this is what is likely to be going through a martial arts instructor's mind when he or she grants honorary rank for reasons of skill (rather than for P.R.)--that the person displays skills comparable to one of his or her own students and as the person is now "in the area" that person can be ad eundem gradum; the awardee is admitted to the same degree (rank).

    By the way, I question this practice in both academics and martial arts--the honorary degree has been cheapened to the point of being thoroughly devalued in my mind, and honorary rank often amounts to rank-swapping for P.R. purposes--but I think it's helpful to clarify our model nonetheless!


     
  18. Andy Moynihan

    Andy Moynihan Senior Master

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    As long as the honorary rank awarded is never afterward presented to people by the recipient as though it were genuine, I see no problem with it.
     
  19. jks9199

    jks9199 Administrator Staff Member

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    Honorary degrees, whether martial arts or scholarly, seem to me to be a big mess; they demean the real thing unless the way they are conferred or granted or given is clearly established, and distinguishes them from the legitimate degree. For example, Arnisador(Congrats on the full professorship!) mentioned Kermit the Frog's degree, which was an Honorary Doctorate of Amphibious Letters; I'm quite confident that nobody has received and actual doctorate of Amphibous Letters, nor would anyone mistake a puppet frog's degree as a legitimately awarded degree.

    Similarly, there are honorary black belts awarded people where it's clear that they haven't trained, won't train, and won't instruct the style. (I wouldn't be surprised if Kermit has been given a black belt in Frog Fu or some other martial art, for example.)

    Where it gets confusing, to me, is when the honorary degree is given someone who might have legitimately earned a like degree. For example, if Chuck Norris were given an honorary doctorate in Physical Education. (I don't recall whether he even has a bachelor's, but I don't think that there's any doubt he has the basic intelligence and learning ability to acquire a legitimate degree, if he put the time and work in.) Or if someone were to offer Dr. David Bevers (he's one of the people who run the LawFit law enforcement fitness program; I presume he's got a certain level of physical ability, but I don't know if he's studied martial arts) an honorary black belt. In either case, there's potential confusion of the honorary degree with a real, earned degree.

    On top of that, adding to the confusion, are the styles who grant titles like "professor" which have different scholarly meanings... I even think that there are some styles where they address black belts of certain ranks as "doctor."
     
  20. green meanie

    green meanie Master Black Belt

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    What he said. [​IMG]
     

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