Heads of Organizations

Raistlin

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People end up heading up their own organizations for various reasons; the former head died or retired, they left their previous organization due to politics, geographic location did not make it feasible to stay with their previous organization, they are tired of the bs that comes along with some of the larger organizations, etc.

As the head of an organization I have seen people get promoted by other organizations or other high ranking masters from other organizations. On one hand, it is more generally accepted for someone to receive rank from a higher ranking martial artist of the same style. On the other hand, receiving rank from another organization that has different requirements, different views, different standards etc. seems to make receiving rank from another organization irrelevant.

I have also seen instances of people self-promoting when they founded their own organization. That generally isn't very well received by the martial arts community. My opinion of rank is that it is really only important within one's own organization. You can only compare your rank to others within your own organization. Comparing rank from one organization to another is like comparing apples to oranges, they all have different requirements. So if you decide to be a part of a particular organization, you are essentially agreeing that whomever is sitting at the top is the ultimate authority on what is being taught, what the rules are and what the promotion requirements are. Should they not be assuming the highest rank attainable? Regardless of how they got it?

The third instance I have seen is when a board of masters (of lower rank than the leader) decide that they all want to follow their leader and feel he/she should have the highest rank attainable, and they promote them as an organization. To me, this instance seems every bit as meaningful as being promoted by a higher ranking individual. Don't get me wrong, generally speaking I'm not in favor of groups of lower ranking black belts getting together and promoting their instructors to a higher rank. However, in the instance of an organization head being promoted by a group of masters that have dedicated their lives to an art, I think it is a different situation.

I have no judgement either way. I can see the pros and cons of each situation. I'm curious to hear others thoughts on this.
 

skribs

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I've been thinking about this as well, but from the perspective of someone who wants to leave Kukkiwon and open an unaffiliated school. How do I get my rank? How do my students get rank beyond what I am now?

I think you covered the options I was considering.
  • Promotional through another organization.
  • Self-promotion.
  • Promotion through a board of my highest students.
Each of those presents issues. I don't want to spend a bunch of time on the requirements and rank for an organization that my students are not part of. And I don't want my teachings to be bound by those requirements.

Self-promotion is frowned on. I wouldn't just jump from 3rd degree to 10th degree. If I did self-promote, I would do so in keeping with typical time requirements. But, self-promotion is such a taboo subject that even a conservative approach to it is probably a bad idea.

Promotion through an internal board presents two problems. On the one hand, there's no accountability. They promote me because what I teach is all they know, and because it means they can get their next degree as well. On the other hand, if I'm starting a school with a bunch of white belts, it's going to be a long time before I have a board of folks that are worthy of promoting me. I do think it's different if it's a bunch of 5th-8th degree black belts promoting you to 9th, than if it's a bunch of 3rd and 4th degree promoting me to 5th, so this discussion may be context-dependent.

This is something that's been on my mind for a while, and I think I have a solution, which is what I plan to start pursuing in the near future, especially when I open my own school:
  • Look for a mentor (likely remote), who is a higher rank than me in Taekwondo, who can give me advice and sanity checks, and who can act as a 3rd party auditor for my abilities and curriculum.
My day job is in cybersecurity. Every organization has different requirements for what their security is. Yet, third-party auditors are able to come in and do analysis on the effectiveness and implementation of your security requirements. My forms are my own, my curriculum is my own, and I've made specific decisions on the versions of techniques that are used as the foundation of the technique, and these will likely be different than what my mentor has.

But someone who is a high-ranking black belt without an ego should be able to look at these decisions and help me judge them from a pros/cons perspective instead of black-and-white right-and-wrong, where "right" is the way they do it and "wrong" is every other option. Someone who can sign off and say, "I, as a 7th degree black belt in XYZ organization, certify that Skribs knows how to punch and kick, and his forms are good, and his lesson plan will teach you Taekwondo, and he has a variety of training to teach practical self-defense, up to the level of 4th degree." (Only more eloquently written than that).

The reason I highlight "without an ego" is because there are a lot of Masters, particularly the one I did the bulk of my training under, and the one I recently tried and left his school, where you have to do techniques exactly their way or they say it's incorrect. I don't anticipate this type of Master being open reviewing a curriculum other than theirs, expect to point out where it's different, and therefore "wrong".
 

HighKick

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I've been thinking about this as well, but from the perspective of someone who wants to leave Kukkiwon and open an unaffiliated school. How do I get my rank? How do my students get rank beyond what I am now?

I think you covered the options I was considering.
  • Promotional through another organization.
  • Self-promotion.
  • Promotion through a board of my highest students.
Each of those presents issues. I don't want to spend a bunch of time on the requirements and rank for an organization that my students are not part of. And I don't want my teachings to be bound by those requirements.

Self-promotion is frowned on. I wouldn't just jump from 3rd degree to 10th degree. If I did self-promote, I would do so in keeping with typical time requirements. But, self-promotion is such a taboo subject that even a conservative approach to it is probably a bad idea.

Promotion through an internal board presents two problems. On the one hand, there's no accountability. They promote me because what I teach is all they know, and because it means they can get their next degree as well. On the other hand, if I'm starting a school with a bunch of white belts, it's going to be a long time before I have a board of folks that are worthy of promoting me. I do think it's different if it's a bunch of 5th-8th degree black belts promoting you to 9th, than if it's a bunch of 3rd and 4th degree promoting me to 5th, so this discussion may be context-dependent.

This is something that's been on my mind for a while, and I think I have a solution, which is what I plan to start pursuing in the near future, especially when I open my own school:
  • Look for a mentor (likely remote), who is a higher rank than me in Taekwondo, who can give me advice and sanity checks, and who can act as a 3rd party auditor for my abilities and curriculum.
My day job is in cybersecurity. Every organization has different requirements for what their security is. Yet, third-party auditors are able to come in and do analysis on the effectiveness and implementation of your security requirements. My forms are my own, my curriculum is my own, and I've made specific decisions on the versions of techniques that are used as the foundation of the technique, and these will likely be different than what my mentor has.

But someone who is a high-ranking black belt without an ego should be able to look at these decisions and help me judge them from a pros/cons perspective instead of black-and-white right-and-wrong, where "right" is the way they do it and "wrong" is every other option. Someone who can sign off and say, "I, as a 7th degree black belt in XYZ organization, certify that Skribs knows how to punch and kick, and his forms are good, and his lesson plan will teach you Taekwondo, and he has a variety of training to teach practical self-defense, up to the level of 4th degree." (Only more eloquently written than that).

The reason I highlight "without an ego" is because there are a lot of Masters, particularly the one I did the bulk of my training under, and the one I recently tried and left his school, where you have to do techniques exactly their way or they say it's incorrect. I don't anticipate this type of Master being open reviewing a curriculum other than theirs, expect to point out where it's different, and therefore "wrong".
The biggest caveat I can see is if the 7th Dan is one of the people you mention who have only been training in a very narrow vein. How would they know what is 'right' in your given style?
While I am high ranking, I made it my mission to branch and experiment and learn styles that offset and augment my primary training. One consistency I learned is that a punch is a punch is a punch is just Not true. It is always style or purpose specific.
Should any learned 7th Dan be able to look at dynamics and determine if 'that should work'? Yes, I certainly hope so.
 

skribs

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The biggest caveat I can see is if the 7th Dan is one of the people you mention who have only been training in a very narrow vein. How would they know what is 'right' in your given style?
In this case, it would be someone with whom I have a mentor/mentee relationship.
 

Gerry Seymour

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People end up heading up their own organizations for various reasons; the former head died or retired, they left their previous organization due to politics, geographic location did not make it feasible to stay with their previous organization, they are tired of the bs that comes along with some of the larger organizations, etc.

As the head of an organization I have seen people get promoted by other organizations or other high ranking masters from other organizations. On one hand, it is more generally accepted for someone to receive rank from a higher ranking martial artist of the same style. On the other hand, receiving rank from another organization that has different requirements, different views, different standards etc. seems to make receiving rank from another organization irrelevant.

I have also seen instances of people self-promoting when they founded their own organization. That generally isn't very well received by the martial arts community. My opinion of rank is that it is really only important within one's own organization. You can only compare your rank to others within your own organization. Comparing rank from one organization to another is like comparing apples to oranges, they all have different requirements. So if you decide to be a part of a particular organization, you are essentially agreeing that whomever is sitting at the top is the ultimate authority on what is being taught, what the rules are and what the promotion requirements are. Should they not be assuming the highest rank attainable? Regardless of how they got it?

The third instance I have seen is when a board of masters (of lower rank than the leader) decide that they all want to follow their leader and feel he/she should have the highest rank attainable, and they promote them as an organization. To me, this instance seems every bit as meaningful as being promoted by a higher ranking individual. Don't get me wrong, generally speaking I'm not in favor of groups of lower ranking black belts getting together and promoting their instructors to a higher rank. However, in the instance of an organization head being promoted by a group of masters that have dedicated their lives to an art, I think it is a different situation.

I have no judgement either way. I can see the pros and cons of each situation. I'm curious to hear others thoughts on this.
Addressing what I think was a question you asked in here (and if this wasn't one of your intended questions, I'm answering it anyway!)...

If someone decides to be the head of their own organization, they may determine that they don't yet meet the criteria they set for the highest rank. For instance, if the primary requirement for being 5th dan was to have had 3 students promoted to 3rd dan and actively teaching at the same time for more than a year, they may hold themselves at 4th dan until they can meet that requirement.

I can give an example from my own experience. I never actually met the requirement in my own system for the designation of "master instructor" (I didn't use traditional ranks above a point, so the instructing designations were separate), because that would require having 2 students qualified as "instructor", which I never did...within that system. I was ambitious in setting out the promotion/certification guidelines, on the offhand chance I'd ever get to use them. Had I somehow managed to actually grow that system, at some point I'd have met that requirement.

I chose to use the designation, anyway, because I'd met it in my previous experience, and there wasn't anyone else who'd be able to certify any of my students to instructor besides me, so it seemed sensible. I don't think it would have made any difference either way if the system had ever grown to where it mattered.
 

HighKick

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Addressing what I think was a question you asked in here (and if this wasn't one of your intended questions, I'm answering it anyway!)...

If someone decides to be the head of their own organization, they may determine that they don't yet meet the criteria they set for the highest rank. For instance, if the primary requirement for being 5th dan was to have had 3 students promoted to 3rd dan and actively teaching at the same time for more than a year, they may hold themselves at 4th dan until they can meet that requirement.

I can give an example from my own experience. I never actually met the requirement in my own system for the designation of "master instructor" (I didn't use traditional ranks above a point, so the instructing designations were separate), because that would require having 2 students qualified as "instructor", which I never did...within that system. I was ambitious in setting out the promotion/certification guidelines, on the offhand chance I'd ever get to use them. Had I somehow managed to actually grow that system, at some point I'd have met that requirement.

I chose to use the designation, anyway, because I'd met it in my previous experience, and there wasn't anyone else who'd be able to certify any of my students to instructor besides me, so it seemed sensible. I don't think it would have made any difference either way if the system had ever grown to where it mattered.
Just curious; was the promotion issue(s) because the people 'above' you were far away or even overseas? Or were there other reasons? No judgement, just curious what caused the threshold.
 

Gerry Seymour

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Just curious; was the promotion issue(s) because the people 'above' you were far away or even overseas? Or were there other reasons? No judgement, just curious what caused the threshold.
Nihon Goshin Aikido is a relatively small art - maybe 30-40 dojos at its height. In the NGAA (where I got my rank), theres no technical rank above nidan, and honestly not much content at nidan. Essentially nidan is awarded when youre considered ready to promote students to Shodan, so the focus is on teaching and retesting Shodan material. What little material there was at nidan felt like an afterthought. Everything above nidan is essentially representative of contributions to the art and leadership accomplishments.

When I left the NGAA, I saw no need for anything above the Shodan material. I added more requirements at each level, and just ended the ranks at black belt (no dan nomenclature). I considered instructor certification a separate thing from the technical ranks.
 
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Raistlin

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Addressing what I think was a question you asked in here (and if this wasn't one of your intended questions, I'm answering it anyway!)...

If someone decides to be the head of their own organization, they may determine that they don't yet meet the criteria they set for the highest rank. For instance, if the primary requirement for being 5th dan was to have had 3 students promoted to 3rd dan and actively teaching at the same time for more than a year, they may hold themselves at 4th dan until they can meet that requirement.

I can give an example from my own experience. I never actually met the requirement in my own system for the designation of "master instructor" (I didn't use traditional ranks above a point, so the instructing designations were separate), because that would require having 2 students qualified as "instructor", which I never did...within that system. I was ambitious in setting out the promotion/certification guidelines, on the offhand chance I'd ever get to use them. Had I somehow managed to actually grow that system, at some point I'd have met that requirement.

I chose to use the designation, anyway, because I'd met it in my previous experience, and there wasn't anyone else who'd be able to certify any of my students to instructor besides me, so it seemed sensible. I don't think it would have made any difference either way if the system had ever grown to where it mattered.
Thank you for your reply. In my case, my instructor has officially retired from teaching and from his position within our small association (6 schools). He is aging and his health is not well. He has appointed me as his successor. I currently hold a 7th Dan. All promotions I have received to date have come from him and honestly, any future promotions won't have the same meaning to me as the ones I received from him. It really doesn't affect my life in any way whether or not I receive another promotion. It does affect the growth of my organization though if I don't promote up at some point. I do have a large, well respected organization that I have an affiliation with that I could promote through. It would mean learning some different forms that I don't train in.

So here are the options available to me as I see it:

1. Promote myself when I feel the time is right. No judgement intended for those that have gone this route. It just isn't for me. I want to feel like I have earned it. I want to be recognized by others.

2. Test under the large organization that I am affiliated with. This is an option that I am seriously considering. It is a very well respected organization that has members far more senior than myself. I would feel honored to be recognized by them. My first hesitation with going this route is I would be learning new forms and materials just for the sake of a promotion. Promotions have never been my motivation for learning new materials and I'm not completely sure that I would want to add them to my organizations curriculum. My second hesitation with going this route, is the people in this organization don't really know me or my character. The promotion would seem a little impersonal.

3. Accept a promotion from the board of directors in my organization when they feel the time is right. This board is comprised of 4th to 6th Dan black belts. Some are my students, some are students of my students, some are direct students of my instructor. I have had a relationship with many of these masters for over 30 years. I would be honored to receive a promotion internally from them as they all know me, they know my character and they know my skill and knowledge. My hesitations with going this route are they are junior to me, and in some ways, this is self serving for them to promote me as they know their promotions will be limited if I don't promote up. Is that how I want to be promoted?

Anyway, I have only had my 7th Dan for a little over 5 years now and I would not consider accepting a promotion for at least another 3 years. I'm looking for some feedback from some of the senior black belts in this group. Your thoughts are appreciated.
 

skribs

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@Raistlin
As you said, the growth of your organization is the biggest reason for you to be promoted. So the board of your organization would be the perfect group to promote you, as their promotion is also beneficial to the growth of the organization.

I don't think it would work in my case, as I don't have that much history in my board. You do, so I would leverage that.

Also, you could consider your Master's students to be his legacy that is promoting you, even if he's not doing it directly.
 

Hanshi

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I have found that if I were in a dojo with 12 black belts I didn't personally know there would be no question that I would not be able to decide what rank each happened to be. Too many variables exist to be definitive about anyone's rank. How does a stranger judge rank under different physical abilities, arts and requirements.

I belong to four organizations and have rank from each one, have tested under each one mostly in the same arts. All but one of these are national or international organization. One is not but a great sensei and friend, now sadly having passed on, was the grandmaster who traveled around much of the world teaching and giving seminars. Another is the USJA who promoted me to 3rd dan. Personally, I've never truly thought I deserved most of my promotions but the head grandmasters assured me that I was.

I have a "friend" who teaches on his own and possesses "some fair skills" went the self promotion route. In this case I know he's not being legitimate. When I was promoted to 8th dan and became a grandmaster a year or two later I was stunned. True I studied under some of the finest sensei in the US. I know I must sometimes annoy them by periodically asking about what I'd already been told many times before. It's my assertion that I have more trust in these sensei to make such decisions than I have simply in an organization. Any promotion should be based on the sensei's stature and respect others show him and his standing in the martial arts.
 
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