Kenpo Ranking Question

Discussion in 'Kenpo / Kempo - General' started by Tames D, Oct 28, 2016.

  1. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes Senior Master

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    By necessity, the multi-level dan ranking system where practitioners can only be promoted by higher ranked instructors of the art has to break down at the higher ranks. To begin with, if the founder of the art is considered to have a rank in that style, then he either promotes himself, is promoted by his students, or is given a rank by someone outside the art being ranked in. (For an example of this last, see the recently-bumped thread from 2003 referencing Dan Anderson's promotion to 8th dan.)

    After the founder, adherence to the "promotion only from higher ranks" rule would result in the highest possible rank gradually decreasing in each generation. If the founder's highest ranked student was a 6th dan, then he/she could never promote past 5th, the next gen couldn't promote past 4th, and so on, until no one was left who was qualified to promote to black belt (or whatever the minimum rank is for promoting at all.)

    There are various ways around this.

    The old Japanese menkyo system topped out at mekyo kaiden, which basically indicated total transmission of the system: the giver is awarding the recipient the same rank that he/she holds. This has analogies in other contexts. For example, in the apprentice-journeyman-master craftsman system the rank of master was awarded by other masters. Ph.D. candidates need their dissertations approved by other Ph.Ds. (The analogy isn't perfect - doctorates are granted by a credentialed education institution with standards set by doctorate holders. Master craftsman status was typically awarded by multiple masters in a guild. I'm sure there are probably better examples of rank awarded by a single person of the same level, but they're not coming to mind right now.)

    Some modern arts have certifications (associate instructor, full instructor, etc) which map pretty well to the menkyo system.

    In some systems, rank may be controlled by a single administrative institution (like the Kodokan for Judo). In this case the highest ranks are typically awarded by a committee of high-ranking practitioner and the ranks may be equal to or higher than that held by the members of the committee. I think this has worked well for the Kodokan, which has promoted only a handful of people to the highest rank over the last century. I'm less impressed by organizations where the top people all cross-promote each other so everybody can hold a high rank.

    Some people just end up promoting themselves or acquiring rank certification from outside organizations which exist just to award ranks (either for cash or for the "status" gained when everybody gets to cross-promote each other to higher and higher ranks.) I'm not a huge fan of this.

    I think the BJJ system works reasonably well. In most cases, black belt is the highest rank awarded based on demonstrated skill, knowledge, and ability. It's not "complete transmission" like a menkyo kaiden, because there is no complete transmission possible in BJJ - the art is constantly evolving. However a black belt in BJJ is considered a fully fledged representative of the art and qualified to run a school. Subsequent degrees of black belt are awarded based on active time in grade (training/teaching/competing), with the time requirements set so the highest ranks are reachable only towards the end of a practitioners lifespan. An given 8th degree black belt might not be more skilled than a given second degree black belt, but you know that the 8th degree has probably been actively contributing to the art for at least around 40-50 years or so.

    In any case, any rank in any art is only meaningful insomuch as you understand the criteria applied by the person(s) awarding the rank. Maybe a particular rank means that you showed up for 2-3 years and learned to demonstrate a certain catalog of techniques. Maybe it means you won a certain number of competitions. Maybe it means you pushed yourself to the limit for 15 years and demonstrated a certain level of technical fighting ability. Maybe it means that you've contributed to the art by teaching for a number of years. Maybe it means you're good buddies with the person giving the promotion. Maybe it means your check cleared.

    I only concern myself with a person's rank when I know what those promotion criteria are. In BJJ, standards are generally consistent enough that I can assume a BJJ black belt has a certain minimum level of functional expertise in submission grappling with a heavy focus on ground fighting. In contrast, if someone has a 10th dan in Whatever-Jutsu-Do awarded by the International Council of MisUsedJapaneseTitleShip, that tells me exactly nothing about the person's ability or knowledge. They might be great. They might be terrible. I have no idea, so I don't worry about it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2017
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  2. MI_martialist

    MI_martialist Blue Belt

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    We only ever promote on the basis of merit...accumulation of knowledge and eventually giving back to the curriculum in a significant way.

     
  3. Headhunter

    Headhunter Master of Arts

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    Well not saying you do or don't because I don't know you but all the fake promotions will have the same things said. Words are easy to say
     
  4. gpseymour

    gpseymour Grandmaster

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    If 7th is an honorary rank (for contributions to the art), it wouldn't require him stepping on the mat. His instructor may have decided he made some contribution (building instructors, opening schools, etc.) that warranted it. Or it might be crap. IMO, the upper ranks really only matter among the upper ranks.
     
  5. gpseymour

    gpseymour Grandmaster

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    This is the model I used when figuring ranks for Shojin-ryu. I don't know when or if it will ever matter (I'd have to actually promote some folks to BB, first), but I only have 2 instructor ranks. Once someone gets to BB, they can train to become an instructor (and the rank is..."instructor"). Once they do that, they can start promoting others to any rank EXCEPT instructor. Once they prove they can train instructors, they are promoted to "senior instructor". A senior instructor can make instructors. And senior instructors.
     
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  6. MI_martialist

    MI_martialist Blue Belt

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    Divorcing kyu / dan grades from instructional authority is a good thing. So many systems believe that since there is a black belt, on can become Sensei, or whatever, open a school, and start "teaching".

    We follow standard kyu / dan for students, and when one is sponsored (invited) for advanced instructor training, Menkyo titles are awarded after completion of the program.

    Of course, in order to do this, one must train under a Menkyo graded instructor.

     
  7. gpseymour

    gpseymour Grandmaster

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    In the NGAA, they actually require (and always have) instructor training/student teaching prior to black belt. So, for them, BB was a teaching certification. I liked the approach, but wanted to allow folks with no interest in teaching to get their BB (I saw a couple get held back at brown). I'm not in favor of people getting certification/permission to teach without some instruction in how to teach, wherever that certification occurs.
     
  8. Headhunter

    Headhunter Master of Arts

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    He didnt make any new contribution all he did was run his class the same way he'd done for the last 10 years. Personally I believe any promotion should require a test. What if the guy has stopped training and his skills are basically garbage now and he can't even perform basic moves, does he deserve to be promoted then?
     
  9. gpseymour

    gpseymour Grandmaster

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    IMO, the point of promotions NOT requiring a test is that they may apply to those of more advanced years. Someone at 70 who is still active in teaching after 50+ years often cannot pass the tests required for the early dan ranks, nor should they need to.

    This is actually why I created ranks simply designated "instructor" and "senior instructor". Those ranks are specifically for those purposes. I don't really care if they can still do the techniques at the appropriate level or not - I care whether they can teach them to the appropriate level. It's unlikely they can teach and prepare students effectively without doing the techniques properly, but the goal is the students, so that's where the "test" is.
     
  10. Headhunter

    Headhunter Master of Arts

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    Well for me I'm not going to want to learn from a guy who looks worse than a brown belt I'm just not going to do it. How can i listen to a guys advice when he doesn't follow his own advice.
     
  11. gpseymour

    gpseymour Grandmaster

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    There's a difference between age-related degradation of skill, and "worse than a brown belt". There are guys I know couldn't perform the testing I went through for BB, but who can still demonstrate and teach the techniques better than me. If that weren't true, the best instructors would all be in their late 20's.
     
  12. JR 137

    JR 137 Master of Arts

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    My CI's kicks in some ways are worse than most people with a few months of experience. He's a 7th dan. He's had both hips replaced, and is putting off getting one of them replaced again for as long as he can.

    But he can look at my kicks and anyone else's kicks who walk into his dojo, pick apart every flaw, and tell you how to correct those flaws. That's teaching. If I want to be entertained, I'll look for a teacher who's got impeccable technique. If I want to improve, I'll take the guy who'll break down my flaws and tell me how to realistically fix them.

    Notice how most hall of fame coaches weren't hall of fame players? The only hall of fame player that is also a hall of fame coach that I can think of is Dan Gable - collegiate wrestler and collegiate wrestling coach. If anyone can name another in any high level sport (no little league or high school stuff), I'm all ears.
     
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  13. Headhunter

    Headhunter Master of Arts

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    There's a difference between medical reasons and just plain laziness. If someone's injured then okay but the ones I've seen are just lazy who can't be bothered to train and go out getting drunk every weekend and smoking and theyre in their 50s and 60s
     
  14. gpseymour

    gpseymour Grandmaster

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    How is that out of line with what I said earlier about advanced ranks not needing testing, because those skills should already have been developed? I've not yet met anyone who was that lazy (drunk every weekend, smoking, etc.) who was an upper rank. Generally, if they are that lazy, they can't teach all that well, either, so promotions for building the art wouldn't apply.
     
  15. JR 137

    JR 137 Master of Arts

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    There was a local judo club a while back. The top students were fantastic, and pretty much EVERY MA instructor in the area trained there at one point. Seriously.

    A work friend that trained there invited me to open mat night. I wasn't too far along in karate, but I was a few months removed from competitive wrestling. I walked in, and there was this legendary CI I'd heard about from everyone and their brother, previously and afterwards.

    He was sitting on a couch in an office, drinking a beer, smoking a cigarette, and watching tv. He didn't even take the cigarette out of his mouth when he greeted me and shook my hand. People say he had a lot of very bad things happen in a short stretch of time. The place closed a few years afterwards. A few of his senior students started a judo club across the river.
     
  16. gpseymour

    gpseymour Grandmaster

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    That's in line with my point. His laziness - whatever the cause - kept him from building anything that would bring further promotions in most associations.
     
  17. Azulx

    Azulx Brown Belt

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    Zinedine Zidane will be in the hall of fame for coaching once he is done with Real Madrid.
     
  18. JR 137

    JR 137 Master of Arts

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    Ok. That makes two. Potentially.
     
  19. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    Can't leave out Curly Lambeau.
     
  20. JR 137

    JR 137 Master of Arts

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    Not to sound argumentative, but is Lambeau a hall of fame player AND coach?

    I know he was part of the inaugural hall of fame class, so he wouldn't be enshrined twice (if such a thing exists). Everything I've read about him focuses on his starting the Packers franchise and coaching. I'm just wondering if his playing abilities were up to his other stuff's standards.

    But I'll say I can now name 3. :)
    Edit: Zidane isn't in a hall of fame as a coach yet, so 2.5? Almost 3?
     

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