Contradictions In The Martial Arts

Gerry Seymour

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And if that's the case, then I personally would want nothing to do with that place. Why are dan grades often referred to as "degrees"? Because they're credentials. And credentials are only as good as how widely recognized they are. But if you don't care about that, then more power to you.
Outside of whatever association the rank is from, rank doesnt really do much. I dont get the attitude that its only worthwhile if its from an association, since anything its worth within an association is only because your in that association, and doesnt reflect any real restrictions youd experience if you werent in that association.
 

Hot Lunch

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Outside of whatever association the rank is from, rank doesnt really do much. I dont get the attitude that its only worthwhile if its from an association, since anything its worth within an association is only because your in that association, and doesnt reflect any real restrictions youd experience if you werent in that association.
Generally speaking, associations recognize other associations. I can take my ISKF rank to SKIF, ITKF, or just about any major Shotokan association I want. Someone from an unaffiliated Shotokan dojo is going to have a much more difficult time.
 

Gerry Seymour

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Generally speaking, associations recognize other associations. I can take my ISKF rank to SKIF, ITKF, or just about any major Shotokan association I want. Someone from an unaffiliated Shotokan dojo is going to have a much more difficult time.
Being able to transfer rank is far less an issue, in practical terms, for most students than almost anything else worth worrying about.

As a side point, I'm personally not a fan of associations requiring that rank be transferrable. I've had multiple people transfer in from other dojos (when I was teaching at my instructor's dojo) who did not meet the standards of our school. The association left it to the receiving instructor to determine if the person could retain rank, or had to retest for it (even for dan ranking, with certain stipulations). Each of those transfers had to spend time in private lessons with me to get to an appropriate level for their rank.
 

HighKick

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Being able to transfer rank is far less an issue, in practical terms, for most students than almost anything else worth worrying about.

As a side point, I'm personally not a fan of associations requiring that rank be transferrable. I've had multiple people transfer in from other dojos (when I was teaching at my instructor's dojo) who did not meet the standards of our school. The association left it to the receiving instructor to determine if the person could retain rank, or had to retest for it (even for dan ranking, with certain stipulations). Each of those transfers had to spend time in private lessons with me to get to an appropriate level for their rank.
I think this is the point where the receiving instructor/school freezes the student's forward progression until they get up to speed and competency.
It varies from style to style, but not many schools automatically take a person's belt/rank away from them. If they are blowing hot air about their rank in the first place, it will rise to the surface. Usually, these people leave on their own.
We have seen this a few times, and I have had the talk with them when it was clear they did not know what they claimed, whether it was their fault or not. Practical people will come to the realization to simply start at white belt, or at least a lower belt. BSer's will just move on to the next school.
 

Gerry Seymour

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I think this is the point where the receiving instructor/school freezes the student's forward progression until they get up to speed and competency.
It varies from style to style, but not many schools automatically take a person's belt/rank away from them. If they are blowing hot air about their rank in the first place, it will rise to the surface. Usually, these people leave on their own.
We have seen this a few times, and I have had the talk with them when it was clear they did not know what they claimed, whether it was their fault or not. Practical people will come to the realization to simply start at white belt, or at least a lower belt. BSer's will just move on to the next school.
Agreed. In the two cases where there was the most discrepancy between our standard and the incoming student's ability, they were offered to either wear the previous rank until they got up to speed, or to ditch their rank and start over (with no time-in-grade requirements, since they'd already met all those). One of them simply opted to only do private lessons with me for a while (where rank wouldn't matter in any form), so he could start into full classes at the appropriate level for his rank.
 

isshinryuronin

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Why are dan grades often referred to as "degrees"? Because they're credentials.
"Degrees" are also increments of measure. "Degrees" may just be the rough popular translation of "dan" for lack of any better term. The literal translation I believe is "step" as in kaidan (stairway - a second semester Japanese vocabulary word). The rank is not a credential in and of itself. The recognized certificate may be.
I've had multiple people transfer in from other dojos (when I was teaching at my instructor's dojo) who did not meet the standards of our school.
I agree. Even within any given association the quality of belts will depend on the individual school. The best credential one can have going into a new school (within an association or otherwise) is his observable ability and knowledge in comparison with other students of his rank.
 
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PhotonGuy

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I could, but I dont want to give an unknown student unrealistic expectations. I honestly wont know until I observe the student in class. Every student will know what is required of them for the next gup or dan.
OK so you think that mentioning an average might give a student unrealistic expectations. How about mentioning a range? For instance if you were to say that it takes five to ten years to get a black belt, if that is the range at your dojo. Out of all your students who made black belt there would be a student who did it in the shortest amount of time and there would be a student who did it in the longest amount of time. Also, I don't know if you have a minimum time requirement for black belt, that somebody has to be a student at your dojo for at least an x number of years before they're eligible for the black belt. A student might ask about that.
 

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OK so you think that mentioning an average might give a student unrealistic expectations. How about mentioning a range? For instance if you were to say that it takes five to ten years to get a black belt, if that is the range at your dojo. Out of all your students who made black belt there would be a student who did it in the shortest amount of time and there would be a student who did it in the longest amount of time. Also, I don't know if you have a minimum time requirement for black belt, that somebody has to be a student at your dojo for at least an x number of years before they're eligible for the black belt. A student might ask about that.
Sure, I could give them a minimum time most likely. I try to focus them on their next task at hand however. This would be the skills that they to demonstrate proficiency in, to be able to progress.
 

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OK so you think that mentioning an average might give a student unrealistic expectations. How about mentioning a range? For instance if you were to say that it takes five to ten years to get a black belt, if that is the range at your dojo. Out of all your students who made black belt there would be a student who did it in the shortest amount of time and there would be a student who did it in the longest amount of time. Also, I don't know if you have a minimum time requirement for black belt, that somebody has to be a student at your dojo for at least an x number of years before they're eligible for the black belt. A student might ask about that.
I'm not understanding why you think that knowing a) the average time is more useful than knowing b) the minimum time (per rank) plus any attendance requirements.

You can actually use b to strategize your approach. You can't do that with a.
 
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PhotonGuy

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IMO, "average time" isn't useful information anyway.

The two pieces useful information are the following:

1. How many kyu grades are there?

2. When are the tests? The most common I've seen is quarterly.

From here, it's simple math: a x b = the minimum time it makes to make shodan (in months). Where:

a = the number of kyu grades, and
b = the frequency of the tests (every 3 months, etc)

Depending on the school, there may be something additional you have to look at:

3. What are the requirements for each grade up to shodan? When looking at the requirements, pay particular attention to any attendance requirements or time in grade requirements. Even if the test is every three months, some grades may have a six month time in grade requirement for example (and then you adjust your math from there). Also, if there are attendance requirements, do you have a personal or professional life that would keep you from meeting those requirements during those three months (or whatever it is)? If so, then adjust your math based on that.
Finding out how many kyu grades there are is usually quite easy to do upon visiting the dojo. Some dojos have a belt display right on the wall where all the belts are shown from white to black. If a dojo doesn't have such a display you can always ask. As for when the tests are done, that really depends on the system that the chief instructor has in place on how students go up in rank. Some instructors schedule tests regularly and some don't.

At my first dojo, tests would be run about every four months and it was up to the student if they wanted to sign up and test for their next belt, although testing and passing were two different things and students did sometimes fail. At the dojo Im at now, most of the testing is done by the instructor just watching you in class, so that much of the time you're being tested you don't know it. There is some formal testing but not for most ranks.

As you mention, a dojo might have time requirements beyond just the time that the tests are scheduled apart, or for higher ranks it just might typically take students longer to advance because the tests will naturally get harder as the student gets higher in rank. For instance, at my first dojo it would usually take at least eight months for a student to get from 3rd kyu to 2nd kyu and at least eight months for a student to get from 2nd kyu to 1st kyu, even though tests were only scheduled four months apart. Why? Because the material and skill level required to pass was harder thus it would usually take a student longer to get to that required skill level.
 
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PhotonGuy

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And if that's the case, then I personally would want nothing to do with that place. Why are dan grades often referred to as "degrees"? Because they're credentials. And credentials are only as good as how widely recognized they are. But if you don't care about that, then more power to you.
Sometimes, not all the time but sometimes, when a dojo belongs to a larger organization the art can become watered down. I've known senseis that've refused to expand their business for this very reason. You saw that with Tiger Schulmann's when it was around. And there are some independently run dojos that do become famous for having really good instruction. As for me, Im much more interested in getting good instruction than I am in getting flashy credentials from big organizations. Having good instruction is much more important for developing good skill than going to a dojo that has well recognized credentials because it belongs to a big association.
I can only picture someone who is used to it saying this.
Depending on what you want out of life, you sometimes have to put up with some embarrassment.
When someone's looking at the car they want, the first thing they want to know is "how much?" By omitting the price for the listing and having you come in, the car salesman is going to try to convince you to look beyond the price.
That's true not just with car sales but with just about every kind of sales. One of the first things, if not the first thing a customer is going to think about when checking out a product or service they might want to buy is how much it will cost. A salesman will want to direct their attention away from the cost and instead focus on all the good qualities of said product or service and why it would be a good idea to buy it. I know this because I have some experience working in sales.
Now, replace "price" with "black belt."
When somebody visits a dojo and is thinking about signing up for lessons, getting a black belt and how much time it will take, ect. is not always the first thing they want to know, or necessarily something they even want to know (unlike a customer who is looking to buy a car or whatnot.) People take up the martial arts for all different reasons and not everybody takes it up because they're interested in belts. Maybe somebody wants to lose weight and they heard that the martial arts is a great way to lose weight and get in good shape and so they're doing it for that reason and they don't care what belt they've got. People do it for all different reasons and they have all different goals and motivations.

Now as far as looking beyond black belt, most MA students do look beyond black belt including myself as it is certainly not the end. It's been said that it's about the journey not the destination and I would agree with that as long as we're clear on what the destination is. A black belt is A destination but it is not THE destination as there is no final destination in the martial arts. Although I've occasionally seen students drop out after making black belt it is not all that often. Most students realize that when you make black belt you're just getting started. So of course most students are going to look beyond black belt. That doesn't mean there aren't going to be students that have it as a goal and there is no reason an instructor should object to that.
You could. But, once again, I'm not going to a car lot that omits the prices from any of their listings, as long as there are other car lots in the area that don't do this.
You might be able to get a better deal if you visit all the lots, but again taking classes in martial arts is not the same thing as buying a car.
I could. But I'm also used too used to being talked to like an adult, and I like to keep it that way.
So you think you would be treated like a child if you ask about minimum time requirements?
 
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PhotonGuy

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I'm not understanding why you think that knowing a) the average time is more useful than knowing b) the minimum time (per rank) plus any attendance requirements.

You can actually use b to strategize your approach. You can't do that with a.
I never said I did think knowing the average time would be more useful, it's just something a student might ask. As you point out, it would make more sense to know about minimum time requirements and attendance requirements, as well as any other requirements.
 

Gerry Seymour

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OK so you think that mentioning an average might give a student unrealistic expectations. How about mentioning a range? For instance if you were to say that it takes five to ten years to get a black belt, if that is the range at your dojo. Out of all your students who made black belt there would be a student who did it in the shortest amount of time and there would be a student who did it in the longest amount of time. Also, I don't know if you have a minimum time requirement for black belt, that somebody has to be a student at your dojo for at least an x number of years before they're eligible for the black belt. A student might ask about that.
I think the point being made is that sometimes that information isn't very...informative. If I gave the expected range at my instructor's school, the answer would be 5-12 years, but you can technically manage it in just over 3.5 years. I don't know how a prospective student would make any use of that, so I used what seemed the most common number (in that it fit about 4 people): 7 years. It's a fairly meaningless number.
 

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OK so you think that mentioning an average might give a student unrealistic expectations. How about mentioning a range? For instance if you were to say that it takes five to ten years to get a black belt, if that is the range at your dojo. Out of all your students who made black belt there would be a student who did it in the shortest amount of time and there would be a student who did it in the longest amount of time. Also, I don't know if you have a minimum time requirement for black belt, that somebody has to be a student at your dojo for at least an x number of years before they're eligible for the black belt. A student might ask about that.
Um, you mentioned an 'average' several posts back. Which is quite irrelevant. It takes time to determine a reliable average. And a realistic average always has weighting. I don't think you understand the three 'M's' in graphing.
 

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Sometimes, not all the time but sometimes, when a dojo belongs to a larger organization the art can become watered down.

Nope. I look at it like religion. Look at the likes of Creflo Dollar, Joel Olsteen, TD Jakes, the late Eddie Long, etc.

What do they have in common? They're either non-denominational or belong to Christian denominations with a congregational polity. In other words, their churches do not belong to larger organizations where bishops or elders can hold individual pastors accountable.

Back in the 80's, when Jimmy Swaggart got caught in his scandal, he was immediately dealt with by the World Assemblies of God Fellowship (which has a presbyterian polity).

Who's going to hold Creflo Dollar or Joel Olsteen accountable? No one.

Is this to say that martial arts instructors will immediately take their schools in bad directions if they're independent? No. But there's also no one to stop them if they choose to do so.
I've known senseis that've refused to expand their business for this very reason. You saw that with Tiger Schulmann's when it was around. And there are some independently run dojos that do become famous for having really good instruction. As for me, Im much more interested in getting good instruction than I am in getting flashy credentials from big organizations. Having good instruction is much more important for developing good skill than going to a dojo that has well recognized credentials because it belongs to a big association.
How do you assess the quality of the material being taught? If you're qualified to judge that, then why don't you have your own dojo?

Depending on what you want out of life, you sometimes have to put up with some embarrassment.
If that's the only way to get it, sure. But if there are other ways, I'd rather try them first and risk embarrassment as a last resort.

So you think you would be treated like a child if you ask about minimum time requirements?
Yes. You yourself have given numerous examples of this happening. I've never asked an instructor this question before, so I can't speak from experience. However, I'm taking your word for it. I'm also taking the word of posters here who've discussed the times that they themselves answered this question.
 

SahBumNimRush

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I think it's very much an individual decision. If an organization exists that fits your school's technical, philosophical, and ritual practices, then I see no reason not to belong to a broader organization that helps to bolster those aspects of the art, as well as police those who do not conform.

Unfortunately, depending on the art, or the particular school, finding an organization that fits those needs are not always an option.

Then the question becomes, do you compromise what you are doing to conform to a parent organization for the sake of "legitimacy"
or do you maintain the traditions handed down to you and remain independent?
 

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Then the question becomes, do you compromise what you are doing to conform to a parent organization for the sake of "legitimacy"
I don't see how these things are mutually exclusive. At least from what I've seen, the only things that need to remain consistent are the testable material. Outside of that, there's plenty of room for instructor's to exercise their own creativity.

or do you maintain the traditions handed down to you and remain independent?
Do these things not happen within associations? Do SKIF karateka not maintain the traditions handed down to them from Kanazawa Sensei or ASAI from Yokota Sensei?
 

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I don't see how these things are mutually exclusive. At least from what I've seen, the only things that need to remain consistent are the testable material. Outside of that, there's plenty of room for instructor's to exercise their own creativity.


Do these things not happen within associations? Do SKIF karateka not maintain the traditions handed down to them from Kanazawa Sensei or ASAI from Yokota Sensei?
That is exactly the problem. One organization says that these are the testable forms or the forms are done in style x, while another organization says that they are different. This happens when schools split over disagreements.
 

SahBumNimRush

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I don't see how these things are mutually exclusive. At least from what I've seen, the only things that need to remain consistent are the testable material. Outside of that, there's plenty of room for instructor's to exercise their own creativity.


Do these things not happen within associations? Do SKIF karateka not maintain the traditions handed down to them from Kanazawa Sensei or ASAI from Yokota Sensei?

I cannot speak to what goes on in the SKIF or the ASAI, or Japanese/Okinawan federations in general. What I can comment on is my personal experience. The art that I train is part of the evolution/transition between Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do. While we use the term Tae Kwon Do, it could easily be argued that a better term is just Korean Karate. I remember when I first started training, that was the sign that hung on the front of the main school's building, "Kang's Korean Karate."

I practice the old Tang Soo Do/Karate forms, so my curriculum isn't analogous to the Kukkiwon or International Tae Kwon-Do Federation (the two most widely known TKD organizations). While there are many splinter Tang Soo Do organizations, most of the original kwans supported unification, so there weren't really any "official" governing bodies for the old ways.

During those transitional times, many instructors immigrated across the globe spreading what they were experts in. In my region of the USA, there were many tang soo do/ tae kwon do schools with significant pedigree of training that didn't belong to the KKW or ITF. As they passed on their art/schools to the next generation, some conformed to the new TKD curriculum, which now looks very different than what their teachers passed on to them.

I admit it's not an ideal situation, because a good governing body is beneficial. My Kwan Jang Nim joined with 5 other seniors of the old kwans to create a non profit organization in an attempt to preserve the training methods and curriculum of that era. Unfortunately, due to a number of events, it has diminished in its presence.

I know there have been instances in the past where folks with similar backgrounds to mine have been "grandfathered" in to the KKW, but since I don't use their terms, forms, uniforms, etc.. . what is the appeal? what is the benefit?
 

gyoja

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I cannot speak to what goes on in the SKIF or the ASAI, or Japanese/Okinawan federations in general. What I can comment on is my personal experience. The art that I train is part of the evolution/transition between Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do. While we use the term Tae Kwon Do, it could easily be argued that a better term is just Korean Karate. I remember when I first started training, that was the sign that hung on the front of the main school's building, "Kang's Korean Karate."

I practice the old Tang Soo Do/Karate forms, so my curriculum isn't analogous to the Kukkiwon or International Tae Kwon-Do Federation (the two most widely known TKD organizations). While there are many splinter Tang Soo Do organizations, most of the original kwans supported unification, so there weren't really any "official" governing bodies for the old ways.

During those transitional times, many instructors immigrated across the globe spreading what they were experts in. In my region of the USA, there were many tang soo do/ tae kwon do schools with significant pedigree of training that didn't belong to the KKW or ITF. As they passed on their art/schools to the next generation, some conformed to the new TKD curriculum, which now looks very different than what their teachers passed on to them.

I admit it's not an ideal situation, because a good governing body is beneficial. My Kwan Jang Nim joined with 5 other seniors of the old kwans to create a non profit organization in an attempt to preserve the training methods and curriculum of that era. Unfortunately, due to a number of events, it has diminished in its presence.

I know there have been instances in the past where folks with similar backgrounds to mine have been "grandfathered" in to the KKW, but since I don't use their terms, forms, uniforms, etc.. . what is the appeal? what is the benefit?
Exactly. I was with one of the Kwans that didnt support unification, but left when SBD was being formed because it broke with tradition. Then a certain U.S. based TSD organization decided to change the curriculum, so we broke from them as well. So what do you do? Join with an organization that violates an oath to pass on the teachings faithfully, or continue on as an independent?
 
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