Black belt vs. Master vs. Grand Master

chi-ca

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At what point does a black belt become a "Master" and when does a Master become a "Grand Master"?
 

Satt

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Good question, I was wandering the same thing. :asian:
 

MJS

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All depends on the system. Could you be a bit more specific?

Mike
 

Miles

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A Master is a teacher of black belts (and below).

A GrandMaster is a teacher of Masters.

Good Luck in your training!

Miles
 

still learning

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Hello, That's a good question. My guess would be anyone who is at least a 6th degree and up could be call a Master and the Grand master would be the 10th degree. Every system is different and each could have their own rankings. Just my thoughts.....Aloha
 

Andrew Green

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Often it happens through flying.

Basically what you do is get on a plane in one place as a black belt, then when you land you are a Grandmaster. Ask about it at the airport.
 

TigerWoman

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In WTF Taekwondo, a master is 4th dan or above, a Grand Master is 7th, I believe. I witnessed a master test in our school for 4th, it was awesome! TW
 

Kembudo-Kai Kempoka

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There used to be a convention for such silliness that went something like this, for general guidelines:
5th degree black or 15 years active = Master. That was the easy part. Grandmaster came with being the highest ranked member of your system/style/organization. Styles may have many masters, but should only have one Grand-Master.

Kinda lets you know where the ego thing steps in. You can imagine that some of the arts that have been around -- and well-marketed -- for awhile have lpenty of guys who fit the "5th degree or 15 years" mark, but are one of dozens who do. So how to become a grand-master? Split the flock, and start your own gig. Poof! (like magic). You're a Grand-Master.

I personally don't like this def. of "Master", because there are plenty of guys in my own art of origin (and its sister/cousin arts) that have been in for aons, and still suck.

"They haven't practiced 20 years of kenpo. They've practiced thier 1st year of kenpo, 20 times."
-- Edmund K. Parker

Mastery is a more elusive prey, and is unfortunately not even remotely related to rank and time. If you are passionate and absorbed in what you do, striving for perfection even though it is unattainable, as approximately 15-20 years go by, you will develop an excellence of your craft and an ownership of skill that is undeniable to others in your field. When you are the marble floor layer that the other flooring guys call because your reputation precedes you; when you are the doctor who is sent articles for review by peer reviewed journals; when you are the BJJ senior who is called by other BJJ instructors for clarity on what defines a certain technique "well done", or a kenpo black belt who is asked by other kenpo black belts to show them how its done...that's mastery. Exemplary performance; absolute ownership of concepts and materials. Peer recognition not a pre-requisite (some may live in obscurity and still be masters...Leonardo and Michaelangelo did much of their work out of public scrutiny).

Unfortunately, peer and public recognition -- and not personal passion -- is what drives most martials artists to declare themselves masters or grandmasters long before they have become exemplars of their craft, or meet even the most minimal of criteria (i.e., the "5/15" rule of thumb).

Dave
 
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chi-ca

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Kembudo-Kai Kempoka said:
There used to be a convention for such silliness that went something like this, for general guidelines:
5th degree black or 15 years active = Master. That was the easy part. Grandmaster came with being the highest ranked member of your system/style/organization. Styles may have many masters, but should only have one Grand-Master . . . . Unfortunately, peer and public recognition -- and not personal passion -- is what drives most martials artists to declare themselves masters or grandmasters long before they have become exemplars of their craft, or meet even the most minimal of criteria (i.e., the "5/15" rule of thumb).

Dave
Thanks Dave,
That was helpful!
Chi-ca
 

bart

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It really depends on the system. A black belt has generally learned the curriculum of the system and is not poised to really learn the system. A master has achieved that level and has also taught others usually bringing at least one of their students to the black belt level. Some systems can have only one grandmaster. Others can have several with no trouble. Grandmaster generally refers to a leader within a system or art who has produced masters and contributed to the art in a significant way. Grandmaster is also sometimes awarded for support and contribution to the welfare of the art rather than excellence or achievement within it. Usually that is conferred as honorary though.

In general it's best to understand that grandmaster is higher than master is higher than black belt. Other than that, it depends greatly on what system you are looking at.
 

Cruentus

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chi-ca said:
At what point does a black belt become a "Master" and when does a Master become a "Grand Master"?

It really does depend on the system, and sometimes region plays a role.

In Modern Arnis (a modern Filipino art that I do), one could be considered a "master instructor" at 5th degree (Lakan Apat; which actually translates to 'male 4').

In Anciong's original Balintawak (Manong Ted Buot Lineage) [a more traditional Filipino art that I do], your basically a student. At some point your teacher may refer to you as "an eskrimador" to others when he feels that you can handle yourself, but that is as far as it goes. We call our teacher "Manong" which is an endearing term that sort of means 'uncle.' We may refer to our Manong as "Grandmaster" when speaking to Americans so that they will understand his status. But, in reality, there isn't really a belt system, or a master or GM title.

In Korean ITF TKD you were considered a master instructor at 5th. In WTF it was 4th. I assume that something along these lines is the same for the other Korean arts...

In Western arts like old European arms and pugalism schools, the "master" or Meastro was whoever was the teacher, or whoever owned the school. There were no belts, and the person with the title didn't even have to be "good" to have the title. Grandmasters had to be 'good' though, otherwise someone would challenge them and ruin their name (or even kill them).

In Chinese arts, and each one is different, but a lot of the traditional ones you are just a student for a very long time...no belts. Then, when you have 'mastered' the system you become a Sifu, which means teacher.

Japanese arts can be a little more strict with giving out 'master' titles, from what I understand.

So, as I am sure your getting, there is no easy answer to your question.

Important Point: I think the problem that occurs with these titles today is that no one can really challenge them anymore. Before our wonderful litigation system, you could take the title of "master" or "grandmaster" if you wanted, any time you wanted too. Your teacher might stop teaching you if he felt you were misrepresenting yourself, though. But, people could challenge you without having to worry about legal repricusions. So, being called 'master' or some simliar title too soon could mean humiliation, injury, or even death.

Now a days, anyone can get a black belt through the internet, anyone can make any claims to mastery all they want; and there is no quality control or proving ground.

I think that is why you see a lot of the "masters" and "grandmasters" that you see today...

Paul
 

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Tulisan said:
Important Point: I think the problem that occurs with these titles today is that no one can really challenge them anymore. Before our wonderful litigation system, you could take the title of "master" or "grandmaster" if you wanted, any time you wanted too. Your teacher might stop teaching you if he felt you were misrepresenting yourself, though. But, people could challenge you without having to worry about legal repricusions. So, being called 'master' or some simliar title too soon could mean humiliation, injury, or even death.

Now a days, anyone can get a black belt through the internet, anyone can make any claims to mastery all they want; and there is no quality control or proving ground.

I think that is why you see a lot of the "masters" and "grandmasters" that you see today...

Paul

Paul, I disagree with you that the problem is due to a litigious society, but agree that there are not a lot of standards.

In Taekwondo (Kukkiwon), there are standards though unfortunately, sometimes they are not adhered to. People tend to do what they want and call themselves whatever title they can think of. In Korea, one can not get a business license to open a Taekwondo school without passing the Kukkiwon 3rd Class instructor course (for 4th-6th dans).

In the USA, one can get a business license to teach any martial art without proving any ability. That's not the fault of the lawyers, it is the fault of martial artists.

Miles
(lawyer and graduate of 3rd Class Instructor Course :)
 

Ronin Moose

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MILES: What a shock to look at your profile and see that you are an attorney.
I have always believed that Wm. Shakespeare had it right. Regards...
 

Miles

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Ronin Moose said:
MILES: What a shock to look at your profile and see that you are an attorney.
I have always believed that Wm. Shakespeare had it right. Regards...

Why shocked?

You mean Shakespeare's line, "First we kiSS all the lawyers?" :)

Miles
 

Cruentus

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Miles said:
Paul, I disagree with you that the problem is due to a litigious society, but agree that there are not a lot of standards.

In Taekwondo (Kukkiwon), there are standards though unfortunately, sometimes they are not adhered to. People tend to do what they want and call themselves whatever title they can think of. In Korea, one can not get a business license to open a Taekwondo school without passing the Kukkiwon 3rd Class instructor course (for 4th-6th dans).

In the USA, one can get a business license to teach any martial art without proving any ability. That's not the fault of the lawyers, it is the fault of martial artists.

Miles
(lawyer and graduate of 3rd Class Instructor Course :)

Well, I guess that came out all wrong. Sorry, your right. I am not blaming it on lawyers, really. It's more or less because we are more "civilized..." so there is none of the old "So your a "master" eh? Prove it, lets fight." If one beats up another over a silly title, then one will end up in jail or sued. I actually think that this is a good thing, however sometimes good things have negative consequences. The negative consequence in this case is a lot of people walking around with titles that they don't deserve or cannot uphold.

Now...please don't sue me! :angel: lol ;)
 

Miles

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Tulisan said:
The negative consequence in this case is a lot of people walking around with titles that they don't deserve or cannot uphold.

Now...please don't sue me! :angel: lol ;)
Paul,

:) No suit filed...but it IS a holiday, so the Courts are closed! :)

Lots of folks get hung up on and love to be referred to by titles-that's human nature-they want to have that recognition. It's the same reason you see folks with stripes up and down their belts and patches all over their multi-colored uniforms. At the Instructor Course in Korea, if you even wore one of those Adidas uniforms with the stripes, they would not let you take the final test.

Take Care,

Miles
 

TigerWoman

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MilesAt the Instructor Course in Korea said:
I guess that is why I could never wear one with stripes. They are for Grandmaster's? Just curious, since my instructor, 5th, wears one with stripes. TW
 

Miles

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TigerWoman said:
MilesAt the Instructor Course in Korea said:
I guess that is why I could never wear one with stripes. They are for Grandmaster's? Just curious, since my instructor, 5th, wears one with stripes. TW
TW, anyone can wear the uniform-you just have to have the $$ to buy one. At the course, they wanted the attendees to concentrate on their TKD, not their appearance. So, they wanted plain, unadorned white doboks-no patches/stripes, etc.

Miles
 

MichiganTKD

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it is more than that though.

In WTF Tae Kwon Do, 1st-3rd Dans are considered Black Belts/Assistant Instructors; 4th-6th Dan is considered Master Instructor/Senior Master; 7th is considered Junior Grandmaster; 8th-9th Dans are considered Grandmaster and Senior Grandmaster. Those are your "official" ranks.

Then there is what those ranks really mean. The ranks of 1st-3rd Dan are concerned with the technical aspects of Tae Kwon Do. Your jobs are to:
1. Learn and practice as much technique as you can
2. Help junior students understand the basic manners and etiquette of your school.
3. Assist your Instructor. Notice, I did not say break off and form your own school as soon as you can.
4. Represent your organization and school at various Tae Kwon Do activities in the area. There is more, but I don't want to go too much into it.

The duties and responsibilities of a Master Instructor include the following:
1. Teach and guide the black belts in your organization. Not just in physical technique, but in manners/etiquette, history, and their duties as Dan holders.
2. Be a model of Tae Kwon Do, personal, civil, and national behavior. Real Master Instructors are involved in their communities to help the welfare of students and non-students alike. They do not have, as I like to call, "ugly minds". They are not concerned with making money off Tae Kwon Do, getting their faces in magazines, or self promotion. Their reputation should be excellent.
3. They begin to develop black belts of their own and grow their class and organization.
Being a true Master Instructor is an awesome responsibility, much like being a parent.

A Grandmaster Instructor has the following duties:
1. Develop, teach, and guide Master Instructors in your organization.
2. Be a leader of Tae Kwon Do on the national and world stage. I've read about so-called "Grandmasters" with 2-3 schools in the same area. These are not Grandmasters. A junior instructor can do that. A Grandmaster is recognized nationally and worldwide for their contributions to Tae Kwon Do
3. Develop your own Tae Kwon Do organization. Up til now, your teaching was done under the eyes of your Instructor and with his guidance and help. A Grandmaster is his own man, responsible for himself. His Instructor can no longer control how he runs his organization. Same is true in the West. Once you have established yourself as an adult, your father can no longer tell you how to run your life. It is strictly up to you.
 

TigerWoman

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Thanks MichTKD for the excellent breakdown. But to have control of your own school and its income to wait to become Grandmaster first seems a bit much. How would anyone be able to support a family on one school when you are sending part and testings to the Grandmaster? (not that I'm ever going to) I just think its no wonder masters break away-it's for survival. TW
 
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