How the Japanese view of the black belt

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PhotonGuy

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I know a goodly amount about traditional Okinawan karate in general (and base my comment on this and my years of experience) and have a little familiarity with your style. But the kind of things you're talking about I think have less to do with style and more about the head instructor of the dojo. Why not ask your instructor how testing in Okinawa compares with the West?
Alright, I might ask my instructor that. My sensei in Shi-to Ryu did not require any breaking or running for the black belt test at his dojo. He did thoroughly test your karate as you point out in post #177, particularly your skill mostly by watching you perform kata. He was a Japanese sensei, he was born in Japan and grew up in Japan.
 

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Correction: it was a kids thing. It was adopted by some systems (mostly outside of Japan, as I understand it, but not entirely unknown in Japan) for use with adults, too.
What I meant was it's kids that go through the colours. Most teenagers are already a licenced beginner (Shodan) or more. I was told many years ago and tell people before gradings that the examination is to show what level you have attained. Not a marker of what you are trying for. I think this is a good attitude to adopt.
 

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Are you sure about that? Your username suggests your style is isshin ryu but do you know much about goju ryu? My sensei has been to Okinawa multiple times and has trained under Tetsuhiro Hokama, the current president of the goju ryu system.
I believe isshinryuronin is correct. The same difference in Goju-ryu between Okinawa and the West that he's pointing out also exists in Shorin-ryu.

You should be tested on the material being taught. Not on "how bad do you want it." The latter is the very definition of hazing.
 

Gyakuto

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I believe isshinryuronin is correct. The same difference in Goju-ryu between Okinawa and the West that he's pointing out also exists in Shorin-ryu.

You should be tested on the material being taught. Not on "how bad do you want it." The latter is the very definition of hazing.
It seems that some Western teachers impersonate their clich矇d idea of what they think a Japanese school/teacher is like: strutting around with chest puffed out, abrupt shouts of admonishment, rough treatment, glowers of disdain and generally treating their adult students like naughty children. This clich矇 is clearly bleeding over into grading examinations!

When Ive trained in Japan, Ive found the teachers and sempai to be much more pleasant than their equivalents in the West!
 
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PhotonGuy

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I believe isshinryuronin is correct. The same difference in Goju-ryu between Okinawa and the West that he's pointing out also exists in Shorin-ryu.

You should be tested on the material being taught. Not on "how bad do you want it." The latter is the very definition of hazing.
Hazing? I've heard stories of dojos where you had to be thrown in a trash dumpster to get a black belt. That's what I would call hazing. Getting a black belt at such dojos was more like fraternity hazing than being competent in your skill in the martial arts.

Breaking does require some skill and running requires endurance, so those are physical requirements that my sensei has if you're working on a black belt. Your skill in the techniques are also closely scrutinized. Before I did Goju Ryu I did Shi-to Ryu and as I said in an earlier post, the black belt test or any of the other tests did not require any breaking or running but your skill was strongly analyzed, particularly your katas. My Shi-to Ryu instructor was from Japan, my Goju Ryu instructor is from the USA.
 
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PhotonGuy

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I was told many years ago and tell people before gradings that the examination is to show what level you have attained. Not a marker of what you are trying for.
Well that's rather obvious. Examinations test where you are at the present time, at the time you're taking the examination, not where you will be or where you hope to be in the future.
 
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PhotonGuy

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When Ive trained in Japan, Ive found the teachers and sempai to be much more pleasant than their equivalents in the West!
How about teachers who are from Japan and move to the USA and set up dojos in the USA?
 

Gyakuto

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How about teachers who are from Japan and move to the USA and set up dojos in the USA?
Ive never trained in the USA, but the several Japanese teachers with whom Ive trained in the U.K., are/were all very normal. They were formal at first, but quick to make a joke and laugh.

But the origins of this pseudo-militaristic behaviour may have had their genesis in Japan. Koryu Bujutsu - Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan Edited by Diane Sloss (Publisher Koryu Books 1997) Budo for the masses Bujutsu for Individuals, Page 26, it says,

In the thirty year period leading up to World War II, Japans educational system was increasingly influenced by the Japanese military..

Much of the institutionalise budo training took on a military flavour, including military-type distinctions in rank and position. This was accompanied by much of the etiquette and posturing used by the military - standing in lines at attention, hands held rigidly at the pant-seam line, seniors barking orders at juniors, juniors barking Oss in response to seniors; large groups of students practising standardised patterns in synchrony. Not only did this have little to do with traditional Japanese training, it had less to do with training the individual for combat


It goes on at interesting length. It should be remembered that the Japanese military borrowed their ideas from the West.

I highly recommend this series of three books.
 

Hot Lunch

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Hazing? I've heard stories of dojos where you had to be thrown in a trash dumpster to get a black belt. That's what I would call hazing. Getting a black belt at such dojos was more like fraternity hazing than being competent in your skill in the martial arts.

Breaking does require some skill and running requires endurance, so those are physical requirements that my sensei has if you're working on a black belt.
At my last dojo, all tests for 6th kyu and above begin with an hour of calisthenics that are the exact same thing as a military drill instructor smoking the platoon. The test is 8 hours long (and you're active the entire 8 hours. For example, you're going to keep doing the kata for your rank over and over, while higher ranking students are being evaluated on their kata, etc) and on top of that, it's a 5 mile run... not including the sprints. There's knuckle push-ups on concrete and asphalt, and there's always more and more pushups that you'll have to do throughout the test for everything they gig you on (and they WILL gig you on stuff).

On top of all those calisthenics, the Shodan test is 500 pushups, 500 situps, and 1000 kicks. For the Nidan and above tests, the 500/500/1000 is removed, but replaced with something even worse: every time a student of a lower rank than yourself gets gigged and has to do pushups, you have to get down and do the pushups with them.

According to the research and various people I've talked to, the man responsible for this happening in Shorin-ryu is Frank Hargrove. Shugoro Nazakato - who was the head of Shorinkan in Okinawa until his passing in 2016 - was apparently against this, but it appears he wasn't able to stop it for one reason or another, because it's still happening in Shorinkan and other organizations that split from it, but have Frank Hargrove in their lineage.

That's hazing. And an American is responsible for it. Not an Okinawan.
 
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Gyakuto

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At my last dojo, all tests for 6th kyu and above begin with an hour of calisthenics that are the exact same thing as a military drill instructor smoking the platoon. The test is 8 hours long (and you're active the entire 8 hours. For example, you're going to keep doing the kata for your rank over and over, while higher ranking students are being evaluated on their kata, etc) and on top of that, it's a 5 mile run... not including the sprints. There's knuckle push-ups on concrete and asphalt, and there's always more and more pushups that you'll have to do throughout the test for everything they gig you on (and they WILL gig you on stuff).

On top of all those calisthenics, the Shodan test is 500 pushups, 500 situps, and 1000 kicks. For the Nidan and above tests, the 500/500/1000 is removed, but replaced with something even worse: every time a student of a lower rank than yourself gets gigged and has to do pushups, you have to get down and do the pushups with them.

According to the research and various people I've talked to, the man responsible for this happening in Shorin-ryu is Frank Hargrove. Shugoro Nazakato - who was the head of Shorinkan in Okinawa until his passing in 2016 - was apparently against this, but it appears he wasn't able to stop it for one reason or another, because it's still happening in Shorinkan and other organizations that split from it, but have Frank Hargrove in their lineage.

That's hazing. And an American is responsible for it. Not an Okinawan.
Are you serious? Most of the American black belts I see on Youtube look as though theyd require assistance tying their shoe laces let alone the physical demands youve highlighted!
 

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Are you serious? Most of the American black belts I see on Youtube look as though theyd require assistance tying their shoe laces let alone the physical demands youve highlighted!
That's why I'm no longer with that dojo. In my metro area, there's very few places to run to, as most of the karate dojos here are Shorinkan or offshoots thereof. As a matter of fact, I drive past four of them to get to the Shotokan dojo where I currently train. And if I drive less than 3 miles past that, there's another one.
 

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That's why I'm no longer with that dojo. In my metro area, there's very few places to run to, as most of the karate dojos here are Shorinkan or offshoots thereof. As a matter of fact, I drive past four of them to get to the Shotokan dojo where I currently train. And if I drive less than 3 miles past that, there's another one.
Astonishing!
 
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PhotonGuy

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Are you serious? Most of the American black belts I see on Youtube look as though theyd require assistance tying their shoe laces let alone the physical demands youve highlighted!
Anybody can buy a black belt and wear it on YouTube and claim to be legit, that doesn't mean they are.
 

Gerry Seymour

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It seems that some Western teachers impersonate their clich矇d idea of what they think a Japanese school/teacher is like: strutting around with chest puffed out, abrupt shouts of admonishment, rough treatment, glowers of disdain and generally treating their adult students like naughty children. This clich矇 is clearly bleeding over into grading examinations!

When Ive trained in Japan, Ive found the teachers and sempai to be much more pleasant than their equivalents in the West!
I dont know that this behavior is necessarily an impersonation of what they think a Japanese instructor is. Remember that many arts made inroads in the US via military men who had been stationed in Japan. When they started teaching, they were usually in their 20s (so still young) and had learned what they knew of leadership in the military. I suspect many of them were impersonating their drill sergeants - who they learned teaching from.
 
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PhotonGuy

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I dont know that this behavior is necessarily an impersonation of what they think a Japanese instructor is. Remember that many arts made inroads in the US via military men who had been stationed in Japan. When they started teaching, they were usually in their 20s (so still young) and had learned what they knew of leadership in the military. I suspect many of them were impersonating their drill sergeants - who they learned teaching from.
Much of the martial arts we have today in the US is from immigration, instructors from Japan and from other countries in the Orient who move to the US and open up dojos in the US.
 

isshinryuronin

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Much of the martial arts we have today in the US is from immigration, instructors from Japan and from other countries in the Orient who move to the US and open up dojos in the US.
There were a few Japanese karate sensei such as Yamashita, Yamazaki and Demura who began teaching in the 1960's and 70's and a bunch of sponsored Korean TKD guys, but still, this number is much smaller than the number of schools run by ex-military and their students as well as Parker kenpo that grew exponentially during this time and into the 80's.
 

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Much of the martial arts we have today in the US is from immigration, instructors from Japan and from other countries in the Orient who move to the US and open up dojos in the US.
That may be completely true for Chinese, Filipino, and - to some extent - Korean martial arts, but it's a half-truth at best for Japanese and Okinawan arts.

The whole truth in the case of the latter is this: Japanese instructors (who were expats, not immigrants) were sent by JKA and other Japanese organizations around the world to expand the art by growing cadres of qualified instructors who were native to those countries. Okinawan styles got to the US by military personnel who were stationed there.
 

Gyakuto

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Anybody can buy a black belt and wear it on YouTube and claim to be legit, that doesn't mean they are.
An (admittedly) smaller set of people can do 500 press ups, perform 500 sit ups and run 10 miles etc. That doesnt mean theyre good at Karate.
 

Gyakuto

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I dont know that this behavior is necessarily an impersonation of what they think a Japanese instructor is. Remember that many arts made inroads in the US via military men who had been stationed in Japan. When they started teaching, they were usually in their 20s (so still young) and had learned what they knew of leadership in the military. I suspect many of them were impersonating their drill sergeants - who they learned teaching from.
I wonder if thats why things tend to be different in the U.K.? We were late comers to the Eastern martial arts and many sought out teacher after watching Enter the Dragon! Thus they were civilian enthusiast and the way they acted in the dojo was a reflection of how they were taught. Of course there were hard ar*ses (anyone remember Danny Connor?) but my experience is of a less intimidating atmosphere in the dojo.
 
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