Restrictions on who can award black belts

Discussion in 'Karate' started by Oldbear343, Oct 7, 2015.

  1. Oldbear343

    Oldbear343 Orange Belt

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    In the Japanese Seigokan Goju Ryu association I have trained with for 4 years now, the Japanese authorities have suddenly decided that non-Japanese instructors, whatever their rank, cannot award black belt grades.

    This includes people such as Santana Shihan, 6th Dan, Technical Director of Seigokan Europe. His grade was awarded by the Japanese, along with oversight of all Europe. Dan Grades awarded by him in previous times were recognised.

    I would be Interested in your opinions on this, because it seems to me that the Japanese, so keen on honour and respect, are denying honour and respect to non-Japanese instructors within their own hierarchy....
     
  2. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes Senior Master

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    Wow. Sounds like they're just begging for a political split of the organization. (Or more likely, several)

    Maybe the director of the organization woke up and thought, "You know what I'm missing in life? Drama! I wonder how I can generate more drama."
     
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  3. Oldbear343

    Oldbear343 Orange Belt

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    Reckon you might be right, Tony ☺
     
  4. hoshin1600

    hoshin1600 Senior Master

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    I'm not surprised by this. Things like this happen all the time. The people at the top are in a constant battle to stay on top of the heap. What happens to them when there are more high ranking practioners in the states then in Japan? What happens when the states has many 9th and 10th degrees and Japan has 1 or 2?. I have seen similar actions in my previous organization. In the beginning getting a 5th dan was the same process as all other ranks. Then there were more and more people getting to that rank so the standards where increased, then again and again. So now it's like getting a doctorate. You have to write an entire thesis just to get the rank. The high ranked want to remain the elite so the club gets more exclusive as time passes. The Japanese and Okinawan 's are good people but like it or not for many there is still a prejudice attitude towards non Asians.
     
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  5. Oldbear343

    Oldbear343 Orange Belt

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    Many thanks - this adds up perfectly.
     
  6. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    Tony and Hoshin are probably right (they usually are) but just to play Devil's advocate, when you consider "Japanese Seigokan Goju Ryu association"....look at the first word.

    And lastly, you do realize that Karate people are crazy bastards.
     
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  7. Tez3

    Tez3 Sr. Grandmaster

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    I resemble that remark!! Though I just get accused of being grumpy............
     
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  8. Oldbear343

    Oldbear343 Orange Belt

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    Thanks Buka, lol ☺
     
  9. RTKDCMB

    RTKDCMB Senior Master

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    It sounds like a case of discrimination and/or racism.
     
  10. KenpoDave

    KenpoDave 2nd Black Belt

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    Same old problem..."we want the art to grow, we just don't want to acknowledge that anyone is good enough to receive high rank, especially if they are not Japanese."
     
  11. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Okay. That's their prerogative.

    Okay. Again, their prerogative.

    How do you figure that?

    Possible.

    Doubtful.

    Honestly, we have no information to draw any such conclusions from here…

    Again, that's possible, but we don't have anything that actually supports that at all (I'm not denying the inherent racism in Japanese culture… and it's not just "non-Asians", it's "non-Japanese"… there's plenty of other Asian cultures they don't look to with much of a positive view either). I mean, I can come up with a number of Japanese case-studies that go directly against this (the large number of ridiculously high ranked Westerners in the Bujinkan… the high proportion of senior grades being Westerner in the Genbukan… the fact that all of the current Shihan of Toda-ha Buko Ryu, including it's current Soke-dairi, are all Westerners… high ranking Westerners in any number of classical Japanese arts…), but they'll all be simply individual examples.

    Which wouldn't be necessarily out of place, but again, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever for any of these ideas.

    No, there's even less evidence for that. There's no mention of Westerners not gaining rank, just not allowing Westerners to award rank to others. Westerners have been awarded, and continue to hold, high rank in the organisation.

    Look, the most important thing to remember when it comes to rank (no matter how it's done) is that it's only relevant within the school/association/organisation itself… with any standards, requirements, rituals, rules, or considerations being entirely up to them. And what strikes me as the most likely situation that caused this reaction is a perceived lack of standards, or dropping of standards, on a global level… with this as an attempt to take back control (centrally) of those standards. I'd probably suggest that it's not a rule that "only the Japanese can grade students to Dan ranking", but more "only the Hombu (which is in Japan) can grade students to Dan ranking"… or "only the head of the system (who is Japanese) will award Dan ranking going forward". Do we have the actual statement from the Seigokan about this? It's neither unusual, nor uncommon for a single central source to control rank within an organisation… particularly when it comes to higher ranks.
     
  12. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes Senior Master

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    I was of course, being facetious. However the end result is likely to be the same as if the head of the system was deliberately out to create drama.

    In essence, this is a demotion for those high-ranked instructors who are currently empowered to promote to black belt. In just about every art I'm aware of that uses the dan ranking system, a 6th dan is qualified to promote a student to 1st dan. This applies to arts as diverse as BJJ and the Bujinkan, which have very different approaches to belt ranking. I'm sure there are exceptions where a black belt must be awarded by a committee or by the founder or only at the world headquarters, but in such cases, the rules are usually there from the beginning. I don't think it's very common to promote someone to an senior instructor rank where they are permitted to give dan ranking and then tell them, "never mind, we don't trust your standards."

    Of course, this is all assuming that Oldbear343 is correct about the basic information. I've done a little googling and so far I haven't found any references to this news except in this thread.

    Here we get into deeper questions of who really makes up an organization and what it means for an association to "decide" something. Perhaps the bylaws of the association are set up so that the director (Seigo Tada III, I believe?) can issue whatever rules he wishes. However if a significant percentage of high-ranking practitioners in the art are non-Japanese who feel disrespected and disenfranchised by such edicts, then the association may abruptly become much smaller.

    Once again, this is all based on the idea that the original statement from Oldbear343 is more or less correct. If so, I haven't found any discussion of it anywhere.
     
  13. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    I can imagine situations that might have legitimately led to considering this (e.g.: the leaders finding poorly-trained students wearing a black belt). I can say I don't see any legitimate justification for the result. There is zero evidence that Japanese are naturally more gifted at either doing or evaluating the art. If the decision had been that only the top 20 people in the organization's leadership could award them, that would be different (and it wouldn't matter if they were all Japanese at that point). If, in fact, the decision is that a non-Japanese instructor has less authority to grade than a Japanese instructor of the same experience and rank, then that's foolish jingoism, and something I've seen before.

    Yes, it's a Japanese art. That's just the origin. If the head of the European arm is creating quality yudansha, there's no reason he shouldn't be doing so. And I agree that this is a recipe for fracturing the association. And that might, in fact, be the idea. While there's no way to know, it is possible that the leadership decided they want a more-Japanese association, and that this is the best way to get to a point where all leadership is Japanese - those who want to be able to lead who aren't Japanese might choose to go lead elsewhere. Again, no way to know what their expectations or intentions were, but I can see no legitimate justification for a decision based solely on ethnicity.


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  14. Grenadier

    Grenadier Administrator Staff Member

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    Their house, their rules. If an organization wants to restrict the growth of the art, and maintain an iron fisted grip over who grants dan rankings, then that's their choice. They may not like the consequences that follow, though.

    If the people in the org are OK with this policy, then so be it.

    Such a gesture doesn't mean that much these days, since there's nothing to stop the seniors who disagree with this policy, from breaking away and joining a different Goju Ryu organization, or even forming their own organizations. It's not as if they're the only Goju Ryu organization in the country, much less the continent or world.
     
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  15. Dirty Dog

    Dirty Dog MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    As others have said, their house, their rules.

    But I'd anticipate a large volume of people heading for the door.

    There was a recent thread over in the TKD section about the KKW doing something similar - changing the rules and complicating the promotion process - which if it's actually implemented will likely have a similar result.
     
  16. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Ha, yeah, I got that. My point was more that there was likely a well-intended, thought out reasoning behind the decision (whatever the actual decision was), rather than a simple, flippant "let's see what happens" one.

    Sure, I can see it being seen as such… I can think of a number of arts where it's not a case… but that's really besides the point. In those cases, the rules are there from the beginning. This change is unusual, of course.

    Same. Hence my request for such in my initial post.

    Yep, and I'm not denying that that could be a direct result of such action. My comments were based on the ideals behind the change itself.

    Yep.
     
  17. Oldbear343

    Oldbear343 Orange Belt

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    [QUOTE
    arker, post: 1727753, member: 15886"]Okay. That's their prerogative.



    Okay. Again, their prerogative.



    How do you figure that?



    Possible.



    Doubtful.

    Honestly, we have no information to draw any such conclusions from here…



    Again, that's possible, but we don't have anything that actually supports that at all (I'm not denying the inherent racism in Japanese culture… and it's not just "non-Asians", it's "non-Japanese"… there's plenty of other Asian cultures they don't look to with much of a positive view either). I mean, I can come up with a number of Japanese case-studies that go directly against this (the large number of ridiculously high ranked Westerners in the Bujinkan… the high proportion of senior grades being Westerner in the Genbukan… the fact that all of the current Shihan of Toda-ha Buko Ryu, including it's current Soke-dairi, are all Westerners… high ranking Westerners in any number of classical Japanese arts…), but they'll all be simply individual examples.



    Which wouldn't be necessarily out of place, but again, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever for any of these ideas.



    No, there's even less evidence for that. There's no mention of Westerners not gaining rank, just not allowing Westerners to award rank to others. Westerners have been awarded, and continue to hold, high rank in the organisation.

    Look, the most important thing to remember when it comes to rank (no matter how it's done) is that it's only relevant within the school/association/organisation itself… with any standards, requirements, rituals, rules, or considerations being entirely up to them. And what strikes me as the most likely situation that caused this reaction is a perceived lack of standards, or dropping of standards, on a global level… with this as an attempt to take back control (centrally) of those standards. I'd probably suggest that it's not a rule that "only the Japanese can grade students to Dan ranking", but more "only the Hombu (which is in Japan) can grade students to Dan ranking"… or "only the head of the system (who is Japanese) will award Dan ranking going forward". Do we have the actual statement from the Seigokan about this? It's neither unusual, nor uncommon for a single central source to control rank within an organisation… particularly when it comes to higher ranks.[/QUOTE]
    Hi Chris, I ave
     
  18. Oldbear343

    Oldbear343 Orange Belt

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    Thanks guys. I have not seen a Seigokan statement on this. However, the UK Chief Instructor Richard Marsh, 2nd Dan awarded by Santana 6th Dan, Technical Director of Seigokan Europe, went to Japan this year for a 3rd Dan grading, only to be told at the grading the his 2nd Dan grade was not recognised. He ended up re-grading for 2nd Dan and passed, effectively returning to the UK at the same grade he was already at. The same applied to 2 young Shodans he took with him. A few years earlier, Eduardo Lopes was graded by the Japanese, who recognised his 2nd Dan grade awarded by Santana....
     
  19. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes Senior Master

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    Hmmm ... I wonder if Dan ranks have to be registered with the central organization? That's relatively common. Could Mr. Santana have failed to file the necessary paperwork or forward the necessary fees when he promoted Mr. Marsh?
     
  20. Oldbear343

    Oldbear343 Orange Belt

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    Yes, that is possible, I suppose....
     

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