How Rank is Handled in the Bujinkan.

Status
Not open for further replies.

Brian R. VanCise

MT Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Sep 9, 2004
Messages
27,758
Reaction score
1,516
Location
Las Vegas, Nevada
Based on another thread I thought I would (and was politely asked) to start a thread regarding how rank in the Bujinkan is handled.

Personally for myself I avoided rank for a long, long, long time. To me it was more about my growth and still is. Having said that rank in the Bujinkan is handled differently than many other arts.

A. Sometimes very little emphasis is placed on it
B. Sometimes you receive a rank so that you can grow into it
C. Rank does not always mean that you are the most skilled (though it certainly can)
D. What is really important is that you grow as a Budoka and that your rank is your own personal issue and not anyone else's

Note that the above is just some of my personal opinons!

Hopefully that can get us started and I will let some other's place their views on the ranking structure in the Bujinkan.
 

Tengu6

Green Belt
Joined
Oct 14, 2004
Messages
104
Reaction score
4
Lets add a few more:

E. Rank is a personal structure between the individual student and the teacher.

F. The reasons for anothers rank may not be readily understandable to others, and needn't be (See E.).

Markk Bush
www.bujinmag.com
 

Grey Eyed Bandit

Master of Arts
Joined
Mar 14, 2004
Messages
1,503
Reaction score
48
Location
MAP Hell
Last time I had the opportunity to test for new rank I was sitting in a small room with no windows waiting for the police to come and pick up my catch of the day. The time before that I chose not to attend.
 

bencole

Green Belt
Joined
Oct 22, 2004
Messages
114
Reaction score
3
In another thread, Fallen Ninja asserted that: "I'm know I'm going to get trashed on this... but doesn't anyone else feel that he is a bit young to be a 15th Dan?" and then added the comment "It just seems like we give out rank for no reason. I know other arts that some never reach Nidan but in ours after Shodan..."

In my opinion, this is the single largest issue for people who become disenfranchised with the Bujinkan. And it is an issue that comes up again and again and again and again.

SeattleTCJ posted a retort, saying:

SeattleTCJ said:
His confusion about rank is understandable. Most people see grades being a reflection of skill. You earn a doctorate in college by demonstrating advanced skill in your field. Not by earning the friendship of your professors, or by demonstrating other random qualities. You must be able to apply your skill at the highest levels in order to reach the higher levels. So, IMO a reasonable question, and reasonable confusion by Fallen ninja.

I believe that any instructor or institution who provides grades does so under the following premise, best summarized by Paul Dressel:

"A grade is an inadequate report of an inaccurate judgment by a biased and variable judge of the extent to which a student has achieved an undefined level of mastery of an unknown proportion of an indefinite material."

Unless you are taking mathematics, which has only "one right answer" (assuming you set aside implicit presumptions that you are using real numbers to solve the equation), almost every single grade (be it in "strategy" or "sociology" or "martial arts") falls under Dressel's definition. To pretend otherwise is simply simple-minded.

There is simply no way for SeattleTCJ to "pass" a test that I give him, but he may easily pass a test that his teacher gives him. Is it because I am a "bully"? Or because what we both look for is different? I proffer the latter. And this is precisely what Soke has empowered *EVERY* Shidoshi worldwide to determine individually.

If you cannot live with the fact that your teacher's grades cannot be compared to my grades, then you are in the wrong art. Period.

As I have stated, there are only three grades that can be "compared"--the Godan, the Judan and Jugodan. The Godan means that your teacher feels that you have the proper body and heart to sit the Godan test and be "touched" by Soke; Soke trusts that judgment and then tests whether the student actually has the proper body and heart. The Judan means that three other Judan or higher feel that you have the proper body and heart to be called a Judan. Soke (usually) trusts that judgment. The Jugodan means that Soke sees something special in you that others do not possess. If you consider the Bujinkan teachings as a puzzle, these puzzle pieces are scattered throughout the world in various bodies and hearts. It is your job as a student to seek out those pieces. Only these three levels have quantifiable requirements; everything else is a personal assessment by an imperfect teacher of how the teacher believes the person has progressed since last subjectively determining to make the assessment. And history is on the side of those who agree with this assessment of everything else, seeing how that is how Budo has *ALWAYS* been graded.

I will add one final point, because I cannot retort the comment on the original thread as per the mod's request. SeattleTCJ suggested that "As far as being bullied.....to say someone deserves to be hit in the jaw for asking what you see to be a naive question, is a bully tactic Ben."

I answered Fallen Ninja's original question without "bullying," but Fallen Ninja clearly was unwilling to chew on what we being written.

Instead, he quickly followed with these gems (reminiscent of high school chatter, or the idiot foreigner who shows up at Hombu that resident Don Roley is always banging his head about):
  • "I just think it is so confusing and embarressing when we try and promote our art and show videos just for those that don't know to mock us and say it doesn't look real."
  • "The world expects to see old gray men with high ranks... not 30 yr. olds that hold a judan."
  • "I know a lot of people that will not train because our art to them looks watered down and slow."
Had Fallen Ninja said such things after a senior student in Japan took the time to explain what he should be considering important, there would be two reactions, depending on who was instructing.

Some instructors would just roll their eyes and ignore the individual for a few weeks. Online, this type of "social distancing" is obviously difficult to show and for the oblivious to become aware of.... ;)

Other instructors would request that the individual punch for a technique. Immediately, that individual would be knocked to the floor and told to keep training until he understood what was important. ;)

My teachers have been of the latter type.

And seeing how I learned this art in Japan, I tend to take their perspective on learning (and getting through thick skulls...mine included).

Hope that clarifies....

-ben
 

Fallen Ninja

Green Belt
Joined
Sep 1, 2005
Messages
112
Reaction score
3
I believe many feel that there should be a standard of competency with each rank given. Not given because someone makes more trips to Japan, he deserves more rank. If thats the case it would be the equivelent of purchasing rank. Spending money to achieve rank. I know many that every time they go to Japan they come back with a new rank. Has their taijutsu improved...? I know of someone who just recieved his 9th Dan and was told the next time he goes back to Japan he will become a Shihan. Why? Because he spent $2000 to make a trip?
I don't think people really care if their art rank is equal to other arts... but I do think they place importance on their rank being equal to someone else's in the same art. If that is the case we could essentially have a 10th Kyu who refuses to rank... better than a 10th Dan who makes his bi-annual trip to Japan every year. Right?
Then we start heated discussions about someone not having Menkyo Kaiden or not recieving more than a 5th Dan (Robert Bussey, Ralph Severe, Stephen Hayes, Shoto Tanemura, etc.) when we proclaim that rank has nothing to do with skill. Its about a relationship?:mst:
So because I am closer to my teacher I can have a higher rank than someone who is twice as good as I am? That is wrong on so many levels! By rights there are many that out rank now Tanemura Soke... are they better than he is?
You may think this is a juvenial way of seeing things but this is the world. There is comparisons in everything we do. If we could get past the comic book version of seeing things (bananas vs. oranges) we can see that this reality. Let's get granular here people!:tantrum:
 

Carol

Crazy like a...
MT Mentor
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Jan 16, 2006
Messages
20,311
Reaction score
540
Location
NH
Ranks over 5th black in nearly any ranked art are political.
 

Seattletcj

Green Belt
Joined
May 3, 2005
Messages
127
Reaction score
4
Location
Seattle
Other instructors would request that the individual punch for a technique. Immediately, that individual would be knocked to the floor and told to keep training until he understood what was important. ;)

My teachers have been of the latter type.

And seeing how I learned this art in Japan, I tend to take their perspective on learning (and getting through thick skulls...mine included).

Hope that clarifies....

-ben

Interesting teaching model. Maybe its just its a cultural thing I couldnt understand. You know, knocking an inquisitive student to the floor when he says he does not understand how the ranking works. :whip1:

I found a clip of your training group Ben. It looks pretty hardcore.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juKj5Ek24Xc&mode=related&search=

:)
 

mrhnau

Senior Master
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Messages
2,269
Reaction score
34
Location
NC
Ranks over 5th black in nearly any ranked art are political.

More so in the Bujinkan, from my understanding. The 5th Dan test is one of the only ranking with strident conditions (that I am aware of). You also can open your own dojo. The ranking per visit is a bit silly though...

Is this similar in other arts? I personally like a bit more stringent conditions. I'd like to know that someone is better in skill as they progress in rank.
 

Grey Eyed Bandit

Master of Arts
Joined
Mar 14, 2004
Messages
1,503
Reaction score
48
Location
MAP Hell
Not given because someone makes more trips to Japan, he deserves more rank. If thats the case it would be the equivelent of purchasing rank.

In a way, perhaps. However, going to Japan does indicate at least a moderate amount of dedication to training. I'm not saying I approve of this method, because I don't.

Then we start heated discussions about someone not having Menkyo Kaiden or not recieving more than a 5th Dan (Robert Bussey, Ralph Severe, Stephen Hayes, Shoto Tanemura, etc.) when we proclaim that rank has nothing to do with skill. Its about a relationship?:mst:
So because I am closer to my teacher I can have a higher rank than someone who is twice as good as I am? That is wrong on so many levels!

You're misinterpreting stuff here.

You may think this is a juvenial way of seeing things but this is the world. There is comparisons in everything we do. If we could get past the comic book version of seeing things (bananas vs. oranges) we can see that this reality. Let's get granular here people!:tantrum:

This is your way of looking at the world.
I know people who don't travel to Japan regularly whom I'd seek out much sooner than frequent Japan visitors, should my aim be to learn how to handle myself.
 

Grey Eyed Bandit

Master of Arts
Joined
Mar 14, 2004
Messages
1,503
Reaction score
48
Location
MAP Hell
Interesting teaching model. Maybe its just its a cultural thing I couldnt understand. You know, knocking an inquisitive student to the floor when he says he does not understand how the ranking works. :whip1:

There were a few more parameters Ben set up in order for that to happen, rather than just claiming not to understand something.
 

Tenguru

Yellow Belt
Joined
Nov 24, 2006
Messages
42
Reaction score
1
...
Other instructors would request that the individual punch for a technique. Immediately, that individual would be knocked to the floor and told to keep training until he understood what was important. ;)
...
-ben

Ha! At least give the STUDENT a chance to defend himself/herself .... An INSTRUCTOR having his/her student "punch in" with a telegraphed, choreagraphed attack in order to be intentionally "knocked to the floor" in order to be taught a lesson sounds cowardly and lame.

I am sure you were joking. Right?


Bwahahahahahahahahaha!
 

Tenguru

Yellow Belt
Joined
Nov 24, 2006
Messages
42
Reaction score
1
I'm not proud to admit this, but I have pissed off several instructors in various martial arts in my younger years. The ones that decided to "teach me a lesson" would either have me step into a ring, step on the mat, etc. .... they would let me know it was "on". Never have I had a teacher get angry, and then tell me to "punch in" so they could unleash their martial fury.

Bwahahahahahahahaha!
 

Kreth

Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Joined
Aug 26, 2003
Messages
6,980
Reaction score
86
Location
Oneonta, NY
ATTENTION ALL USERS:

Please, keep the conversation polite and respectful.

-Kreth/Jeff Velten
-MT Senior Moderator
 

Bigshadow

Senior Master
MTS Alumni
Joined
Apr 13, 2005
Messages
4,033
Reaction score
45
Location
Saint Cloud, Florida
I'm not proud to admit this, but I have pissed off several instructors in various martial arts in my younger years. The ones that decided to "teach me a lesson" would either have me step into a ring, step on the mat, etc. .... they would let me know it was "on". Never have I had a teacher get angry, and then tell me to "punch in" so they could unleash their martial fury.

Bwahahahahahahahaha!

I think you have misunderstood what Ben was saying. :)
 

Grey Eyed Bandit

Master of Arts
Joined
Mar 14, 2004
Messages
1,503
Reaction score
48
Location
MAP Hell
Ha! At least give the STUDENT a chance to defend himself/herself .... An INSTRUCTOR having his/her student "punch in" with a telegraphed, choreagraphed attack in order to be intentionally "knocked to the floor" in order to be taught a lesson sounds cowardly and lame.

Perhaps the student in question hasn't been respectful enough to be given a fair chance to fight back.

Personally, I can spar with my instructor any time I feel like it after the session's over. In fact we have a new guy who does that after each training.
 

makoto-dojo

Orange Belt
Joined
Apr 28, 2005
Messages
81
Reaction score
1
Then we start heated discussions about someone not having Menkyo Kaiden or not recieving more than a 5th Dan (Robert Bussey, Ralph Severe, Stephen Hayes, Shoto Tanemura, etc.) when we proclaim that rank has nothing to do with skill. Its about a relationship?:mst:
So because I am closer to my teacher I can have a higher rank than someone who is twice as good as I am? That is wrong on so many levels! By rights there are many that out rank now Tanemura Soke... are they better than he is?

Hello,

I just wanted to make a quick note here for clairity. It is not my intention to start any arguments here, but there are some mistakes in the quoted text. I would like to clear these up for the sake of correct information.

While in the bujinkan Tanemura Sensei had the rank of 9th dan and vice president at a time when ranks stopped at 9th dan (10th being the next grandmaster).

In addition, he held menkyo kaiden in many of the arts Mr. Hatsumi was Soke of.

Since he left 23 years ago, he has been awarded menkyo kaiden and Soke in various ryu ha. He has had many teachers since being in the bujinkan, Sato kinbei, Kimura Sensei, Fukamoto Sensei etc. He is still training with Suzuki Sensei and Nagao Sensei from whom he received menkyo in Daito Ryu and mugen Shinto Ryu Iai.

So these are some examples. There are more...

I hope that helps shed some light on this subject concerning Tanemura Sensei.

Carry on.. :)

Sincerely,
 

stephen

Purple Belt
Joined
Aug 6, 2003
Messages
345
Reaction score
30
I believe that any instructor or institution who provides grades does so under the following premise, best summarized by Paul Dressel:

"A grade is an inadequate report of an inaccurate judgment by a biased and variable judge of the extent to which a student has achieved an undefined level of mastery of an unknown proportion of an indefinite material."


If I may add to Ben's excellent comment:

This may not apply to any of those in this current discussion, but it's a common thread I've seen run through the many, many discussions I've witnessed or heard on this topic. Usually, I might add, with people in the Bujinkan.

It seems many people crave the comfort of having some parental figure 'put them in their place'. I think the need for this is easily demonstrated, just look at the multitude of laws on the books that are simply intended to 'keep us from hurting ourselves' and tell us what is good/bad or right/wrong.

Martial Arts are no different; clearly they are made up of a subset of the same people and thus probably will have similar traits.

People crave being told where to go, what to do, who to train with. It's all so much easier that way!

I find that those who are so concerned about rank tend to exhibit two qualities:

1. They often talk about how under-ranked they are compared to others. And talk about it CONSTANTLY. You know the kind - "LOOK! Did you SEE how HUMBLE I AM!?" This is usually followed up with, "I was offered an 87th dan, but I turned it down for my 4th kyu, do you see how HUMBLE that makes me!" Whatever. You get one or the other, take the rank or shut up. You don't get to brag about both.

2. Then tend to be the most *ahem* 'cultish' people in the Bujinkan. "Everyone else doesn't get it, except for MY teacher, who turns down rank all the time and doesnt train with Soke because he ranks people incorrectly/has gone soft/doesn't train correctly."


I believe that Soke is trying to make it obvious. He doesnt allow people to even pretend that there is a "true" ranking system. He tells everyone that they're on their own and gives them proof. Because, honestly, as Ben's quote states, it really would be just 'pretend' otherwise.

What if there were a curriculum? What then? Then it would just be, "Well, my dojo is really hard-core - so I REALLY know omote-gyaku!" Whatever.

At least this way uses rank to teach a very powerful lesson, maybe one of the most important:

Think for yourself!

Use your own eyes!

If you screw up, it's YOUR fault!
 

bencole

Green Belt
Joined
Oct 22, 2004
Messages
114
Reaction score
3
What if there were a curriculum? What then? Then it would just be, "Well, my dojo is really hard-core - so I REALLY know omote-gyaku!" Whatever.

At least this way uses rank to teach a very powerful lesson, maybe one of the most important:

Think for yourself!

Use your own eyes!

If you screw up, it's YOUR fault!


Precisely! Thank you soooooooooooo much for posting this. Granted, we're still going to see someone pipe in with how "everyone wants to be compared" or "evaluations should be objective" and so on.

Please take time to re-read Stephen's comment. Chew on it. And then swallow it. Then digest it. Excrete it. And use it to grow some nice flowers! LOL! :) Cradle to grave that baby!

Tenguru said:
Never have I had a teacher get angry, and then tell me to "punch in" so they could unleash their martial fury.

Me, neither. I'd leave such a teacher in a second, as I would expect most would....

In Japan, the teacher is a care-giver. If you give of yourself, they will give of themselves. A knock on the head is a "love tap," where I come from, not some violent attack to get out some anger. (shake head)

Some teachers "love" certain students more than others, because those students need that love. :) In time, the student's edges become rounded. There is actually a phrase for this in Japanese: "maruku naru" (it means literally "to become round").

It's like when you get married. Initially, you voice opinions because you can voice opinions. Over time, you learn that a glance can accomplish the same thing. Moreover, over time, you discover that things about which you used to want to voice opinions simply do not elicit the same feelings anymore.

This is the same learning process, and does not entail any sort of "bullying because the teacher is mean." A good thump on the head because a student has completely ignored previous advice and still thinks that his way is better is deserved in my opinion.

Your mileage may vary.

-ben
 

Tenguru

Yellow Belt
Joined
Nov 24, 2006
Messages
42
Reaction score
1
...
In Japan, the teacher is a care-giver. If you give of yourself, they will give of themselves. A knock on the head is a "love tap," where I come from, not some violent attack to get out some anger. (shake head)

Some teachers "love" certain students more than others, because those students need that love. :) In time, the student's edges become rounded. There is actually a phrase for this in Japanese: "maruku naru" (it means literally "to become round").

It's like when you get married. Initially, you voice opinions because you can voice opinions. Over time, you learn that a glance can accomplish the same thing. Moreover, over time, you discover that things about which you used to want to voice opinions simply do not elicit the same feelings anymore.

This is the same learning process, and does not entail any sort of "bullying because the teacher is mean." A good thump on the head because a student has completely ignored previous advice and still thinks that his way is better is deserved in my opinion.

Your mileage may vary.
-ben

Thanks for the clarification. Your explanation seems reasonable (to me). I feel slightly relieved. :)

Regarding ranks, how many judans and jugodans are there?
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top