How did it take to get a black belt under Gichin Funakoshi?

Discussion in 'Japanese Martial Arts - General' started by Kinghercules, Jul 8, 2017.

  1. Kinghercules

    Kinghercules Blue Belt

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    Im curious about this. Back in the old days like the 1930's & 40's.
    And did they do the 2yrs to get 2nd Dan, 3yrs to get 3rd Dan, 4yrs to get 4th Dan....etc?
     
  2. jobo

    jobo Senior Master

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    I believed the belts, ranking system is very much a modern and mostly western concept. .
     
  3. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    If my memory serves me right...

    From what I understand, Funakoshi was awarded his black belt from either the Emperor of Japan or the Emperor's family member. He was a 5th dan, which was the highest dan rank at the time. He was awarded 10th dan by his students after his death. I don't think Funakoshi ranked anyone any specific dan rank, just ranked them as black belts. If he did give actual dan ranks, they most likely weren't higher than 3rd or 4th. One of his senior-most students wouldn't accept anything over 5th dan because he kept with the 5th dan as the highest rank tradition. That was several years ago, so he may have passed away since then and possibly been promoted posthumously. I know there was a strong contingent who wanted to award him a 10th dan. I can't remember his name to look it up.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2017
  4. Kinghercules

    Kinghercules Blue Belt

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    That suppose to say "How LONG did it take......"
     
  5. Kinghercules

    Kinghercules Blue Belt

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    I know he got his certificate of Hanshi (?) meaning he had the right to teach, from Itosu.
    There had to be a Dan system by the 1940's because Im always seeing ppl saying that they were promoted by Funakoshi to "this level".

    Im just curious to how long did they train before they were handed their Dan certificates?
     
  6. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    You raise some good questions. I'm not a historian, so take what I say as you will...

    In many systems/organizations, teaching credentials and titles aren't totally dependent on dan rank. The organization I'm in (Seido Juku) has specific titles corresponding to specific dan ranks, it that's not universal. I know people in Okinawan systems that their title is independent of their rank. For instance, one person at 8th dan may have been awarded the title of Hanshi while another person in the same organization with the same rank and time in the system may not have. Same goes for other titles such as Renshi, Kyoshi, etc.

    A "license" to teach/pass on the art (menkyo kaiden?) isn't automatic at a specific rank in every system. It is in some systems though.

    I'm pretty sure Itosu gave Funakoshi permission to teach long before they even considered using a ranking system and even longer before they devised any sort of official and set curriculum. Funakoshi didn't hold any dan rank until after he demonstrated his Karate to mainland Japan.

    I'm guessing there was no set time in grade for his students. He probably ranked them as he saw fit and when he felt they earned any promotion. I'm sure he based their rank on the quality of their knowledge, performance, and character.

    Keep in mind the origin of kyu and dan ranking...

    Black belt ranking allegedly started when Jigoro Kano (founder of judo) brought his own students to one of his top students' club to train together. The owner of the other club asked Kano which ones were his top students so the top students from both clubs could work together. Kano got strips of black fabric and had the top students wear them so they could be easily identified. Soon afterward, Kano devised a ranking system with kyu and dan ranking, similar to the game Go and/or swimming.

    I'm pretty sure karate' first exposure to this system was when Funakoshi met Kano after it was in place. In order to satisfy the Japanese government and have karate recognized, he adapted the system into his karate, which later would be called Shotokan.

    As a side note...
    Chojun Miyagi (founder of Goju Ryu) never awarded any of his students a black belt. The Emperor's brother (or similar) gave him his black belt. He felt the only one who should award such a rank was the Emperor or someone designated by the Emperor. It wasn't until after Miyagi's death that any Goju Ryu student wore a black belt of any rank. After Miyagi's death, his senior most students ranked Miyagi at 10th dan and ranked each other at various dan ranks. The only "Miyagi black belt" awarded was to Meitoku Yagi. Chojun Miyagi's family gave him Miyagi's belt and gi a few years after Miyagi's death, thereby endorsing him as the rightful successor of Goju Ryu.

    So history tells us dan ranks in and of themselves didn't translate to teaching credentials nor titles. Time in grade and official requirements for promotion are have been added/changed/tweaked since the founders of these modern systems (Shotokan, Goju Ryu, Uechi Ryu, etc.) passed away. I'd bet that the senior students came up with the requirements after the founder passed away as a way to simplify things and make things consistent rather than someone saying "that guy's pretty good, he should be a 6th dan" and others disagreeing.
     
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  7. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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