A Question On Rank

Daniel Sullivan

MT Mentor
May 27, 2008
Reaction score
Olney, Maryland
I think that one thing that needs to be emphasized about rank is who it is important to.

Inside the dojang, it is important to kyu/geub/equivalent grade students who have a goal of blackbelt or its equivalent. After that, it is unimportant inside of the school. The guy or gal in front of the class directing the students is the teacher. He or she knows more than you do and has the ability to transmit that knowledge, which is why they are the teacher.

The guys and gals with the black belts or equivalent at the head of the class are senior students. The rest are less experienced students.

In a weird way, your rank is least important inside of your school. It is most important to potential customers, who think that rank = quality. Rank is used to both insure qualification of a teacher and to fake quallification of a teacher, depending upon the school.

Within your school, the only time that rank really becomes an issue is if there is an organizational factor such as the one MJS mentioned regarding the two dan grade below maximum promotion.

If your school is independent, this is not a factor. Just teach up to your own level.

Yes, rank is used as a business tool. Good business people make good use of their credentials. It is not a problem unless rank is either over inflated or dubiously attained.

Bottom line is you wear the rank. The rank doesn't wear you. It is a lesson that the students should learn early on.



Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Jun 21, 2003
Reaction score
So we have Kenpo for example. We have 5 Kenpo schools. All of which teach Parker Kenpo. Should we assume that all 5 school owners teach the exact same way? What if we have someone like Jeff Speakman or Paul Mills, both trained with Parker, yet they're doing their own thing with the art.

So Joe comes along and decides he wants to align himself with Mills group. Seems only natural to me, that Joe should or would, spend quality time, ie: more than 4 hrs, and more than a few seminars, and actually learn the way Mills does HIS Kenpo.

What would be the right amount of time for Joe to spend with the teacher before accepting a rank from him?


Senior Master
Aug 7, 2010
Reaction score
Kansas City MO
Once again, I'm finding myself agreeing with Flying Crane. at a certain point, rank shouldn't mean very much anyway. If you are learning, you are learning. If you aren't, then it might be time to move on. If you are at a school to achieve a rank, then the focus isn't on the martial arts, but something else, in my opinion.

I also do not think "testing" can be done in a short time span. Yes, the technical aspects can be viewed, butnot if a person is actually understanding what it is they are doing to an appropriate level. This information can only be understood by working over time with an individual. I feel that once you feel an individual understands what they are doing to an appropriate level, then it is time to test, to see if the technique will come out under stress. Technique without understanding is very hollow...much the same as a rank without the appropriate training.


Black Belt
Lifetime Supporting Member
Jan 19, 2009
Reaction score
Just tossing this out for opinion.

Would you take rank from someone in the same art that you also teach, but you are either not affiliated with this persons group, nor have you trained with this person on a regular basis?

For example: Lets say Joe has his own school. He has black belts in a few different arts. Joe brings in people for seminars from time to time. However, Joe is not affiliated with any particular teacher. Of course, at some point, your students are going to need to advance, so that means that Joe will need to advance somehow as well. Joe brings in someone to do a seminar. Joe at some point, during some 1 on 1 time with the seminar instructor, mentions that he's an independant group, he doesnt have a teacher to go to, but you feel that you're worthy of a bump in rank. So you drop some hints, subtly or not, about the seminar teacher awarding you rank.

Should the seminar instructor award Joe a new rank, again, keeping in mind, that Joe has not trained extensively with the teacher and is not part of his group?

Should Joe have even asked for a bump in rank, given the fact that he hasnt spent time working with the seminar teacher?

Ok Mike, lets start by saying it's someone else besides Joe! Lol
For me, I think it's wrong. If I went to another school, in the same system, yes they would recognize my belt, but why would I take rank from them? I have not trained with them.
If I were so concerned with rank, and something happened to my instructors, we have 2 sister schools I could go to if need be. But like WC said, if youre belt chasing, then what are you really getting out of the art?
I have 3 black belts and 5 brown belts. Most are for dress pants that I rarely wear, but a couple I wear with my cargo shorts! :)

Latest Discussions