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MatsuShinshii
Blue Belt
Blue Belt

Joined: 15 Aug 2016
Posts: 272

Styles: Matsumura Shorin Ryu, Ryukyu Kenpo, Kobudo

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2017 6:34 pm    Post subject: Changes that effect traditions. Reply with quote

So I guess I'll get right to the issue first... our new president has put forth for a vote to allow instructors to start taking on children. I said allow but based on his language and demeanor I think this would become a requirement. I'll put it this way; It was more of a statement than a suggestion.

I know most here will say "whats the problem" and I understand the view point. I was training at the age of 10 in a different art and this sparked my life long passion for the arts. So in one respect I get where you would be coming from.

On the other hand my Shinshii always had a rule that no one under the age of 16 would be accepted to train. This over time began to make sense and I saw the benefits of this decision. And, well, it's our tradition.

Now to the main point - I sit on the board of instructors, there are 8 of us, and have a deciding vote. Since Shinshii retired the board has been pulling more and more away from the traditional aspects of the art and leaning towards more modern methods. This is for a few reasons but the biggest reason is the size of our organization. We are a little over 500 in total and our president and a good majority of our board members feel that it's Shinshii's traditions/rules that are the reason for this.

A few examples of more modern methods would be the incorporation of more than three colored belts for the Mudansha grades. Some felt that this would keep students interested and give them something to look forward too. They have also put more emphasis on self defense training. I don't mean that we do not teach self defense, we do in ever class, I mean creating a stand alone self defense class. Since we train and teach self defense in everything we do I do not see the purpose of this. I really did not care one way or the other when it came to adding belts. When I started we had white, brown and black. My Shinshii had white and black. They incorporated green when I was a Shodan and now they want to add yellow, orange, blue and purple. The concept of Shodan-Ho (I hope I spelled this correctly) was also brought up. Not sure what color this would be or if it would just be another step of brown. It is my understanding this is a purely Japanese concept which we are not a Japanese art so I was against this.

I am usually very stanch in my views and very much unyielding. However since I have joined KF I have read many other points of view that have me questioning my steadfastness.

The vote is pretty much a even split 50/50 at this point. About half of us want to maintain Shinshii's traditions and half want to modernize.

I feel that by moving more to the modern ideals of training today we will loose what makes our art what it is. On the other hand I understand the drawl of allowing children to join to increase numbers. A lot of students would bring their kids to class immediately if they could. My worry is how far it could go.

I know some of my views are not aligned with some on KF as I am very much old fashioned and very traditional in terms of my upbringing in the arts. I do not agree with the thought of child black belts and worry that this is the direction we would head in based on some of the things that have been brought up for a vote in the past.

So to give you my point of view and a little more insight:
I personally feel that once children are allowed to join we will then be contending with the fast food society of "my boy has been training long enough and should be tested, give him a new belt or I'll take him else where". I feel that our president is taking us down the road of mandatory numbers of students as he has suggested the possibility of discounts for schools that have "x" students.

This does not effect me as much as it will others in our association as I currently have more Mudansha training under me either directly or under one of my students than any other dojo. However if these requirements are enacted as a must rather than an option, I fear that this will cause an environment that caters to the whims of parents and students alike and pull the power away from the instructors to choose their students.

I have always chosen my students and have told those I deemed not worthy to find another teacher. I am too old to care about whether they enact this as there is little they can do to force me one way or the other. My school is not leased by the association nor am I getting discounts to help pay rent because I own my school. However the younger instructors are not in my position and this would effect them and they could be pressured to do whatever the association wants them to do or risk loosing their schools.

So what do you think? Please give me your opinion. I need to see other opinions besides my own and those that think like me and also besides those on the board that are pushing alternate agenda's. I think if I get other points of view it may help me to make this decision.

We vote at the end of the month and this could either be a great thing that builds our numbers or a really bad thing that turns us into just another McDojo with 5 year old's running around with a black colored belt around their waste's and thinking they are actually Yudansha. I would never subscribe to this way of thinking and would never grade someone under the age of 18 to Shodan! To be honest unless one had prior training in our art (which has happened since not all in our lineage line subscribe to Shinshii's traditions) this is an impossibility as this would mean they reached this level in two years. The quickest anyone has reached the grade of Shodan in our art was 4 years. Earned not given. So to be more accurate it would be more like 20 or 21 years of age.

This brings up another fear. We have always subscribed to the mantra "earned not given". If pressure is imposed to bolster numbers it would be possible that instructors, feeling the pressure to boost numbers, could potentially promote with out merit so that little Johnny shows his friends his shinny new belt to entice them to join as well.

I know, I'll old and very old fashioned. So you do not have to say it, I already know and it's already been said a million times before now.
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Tempest
Orange Belt
Orange Belt

Joined: 31 Aug 2006
Posts: 193
Location: Tulsa, OK
Styles: Judo, HEMA

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2017 7:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, I can see 2 sides to this.
On the one hand, children can be the heart of a small Dojo and, like it or not, they are the future. On the other hand, some things you just cannot due till you get your full size on you.

With a few exceptions, mostly my family, I will not teach weapons to children. That being said, I encourage them to take Judo and Jiujitsu.
I would make the complex argument that you do not have to "cater" to teach children, you simply have to moderate to accommodate what they can and cannot do.
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Wastelander
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 18 Oct 2010
Posts: 2124
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Styles: Shorin-Ryu, Shuri-Ryu, Judo, KishimotoDi

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2017 8:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It sounds, to me, that you're worried about the "slippery slope" problem. Not being on the board, I don't know how granular your organizations guidelines are, but I would think it would be possible to write the bylaws in such a way that the slippery slope was prevented, or at least diminished. For example, creating the guideline that instructors be allowed to accept students under 16, but that they cannot be forced or in any way coerced to do so, and making it mandatory would require unanimous approval by the board. Something to that effect. As I said, I don't know if that's something that could be done with your organization or not.

Personally, I don't see modernization as inherently bad, nor do I see much benefit in carrying on tradition for tradition's sake. There are certainly some problems with modern practices, though, and some benefits to traditions. I don't see a problem with allowing instructors to take students younger than 16, provided the rank guidelines stay the same. Adding some ranks before black belt also isn't that big of a deal, as long as it doesn't become a Crayola box of 16 colored belts. We use the Jun-Shodan (basically Shodan-Ho) rank for students who are excellent, and know all of the black belt material, but are 1-2 years too young to test for Shodan, and we've only done that 4 times. I also don't see any problem adding classes that focus solely on self-defense, because that's valuable and important material, and can keep students engaged in the rest of the system.

There is always going to be the possibility for abuse of any system, and because we teach, which is providing a service, customers have some level of impact on what we do. Even if we don't rely on teaching for our income, it's possible to simply not have any students if they aren't accommodated to same degree. That doesn't mean you have to bow to every bit of pressure, though, so as long as the organization supports the instructors' rights to teach and reject students, that should be fine.
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bushido_man96
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 26552
Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE

PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2017 5:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What age of children are they looking at allowing? Suggest a number you would feel more comfortable with, like perhaps 14 or 12, to try to prevent from having what in many schools can amount to an hour day-care after school.

You could also try to get them to cut the number of ranks they want to add. I do see the value in adding ranks; they help the student see goals and objectives. A question here is, would they be added and also be used to generate revenue? This would need to be discussed so that it doesn't become soley about the money.

Change can be a good thing, but it has to be for the right reasons. I would look further into these things.
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MatsuShinshii
Blue Belt
Blue Belt

Joined: 15 Aug 2016
Posts: 272

Styles: Matsumura Shorin Ryu, Ryukyu Kenpo, Kobudo

PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2017 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wastelander wrote:
It sounds, to me, that you're worried about the "slippery slope" problem. Not being on the board, I don't know how granular your organizations guidelines are, but I would think it would be possible to write the bylaws in such a way that the slippery slope was prevented, or at least diminished. For example, creating the guideline that instructors be allowed to accept students under 16, but that they cannot be forced or in any way coerced to do so, and making it mandatory would require unanimous approval by the board. Something to that effect. As I said, I don't know if that's something that could be done with your organization or not.

Personally, I don't see modernization as inherently bad, nor do I see much benefit in carrying on tradition for tradition's sake. There are certainly some problems with modern practices, though, and some benefits to traditions. I don't see a problem with allowing instructors to take students younger than 16, provided the rank guidelines stay the same. Adding some ranks before black belt also isn't that big of a deal, as long as it doesn't become a Crayola box of 16 colored belts. We use the Jun-Shodan (basically Shodan-Ho) rank for students who are excellent, and know all of the black belt material, but are 1-2 years too young to test for Shodan, and we've only done that 4 times. I also don't see any problem adding classes that focus solely on self-defense, because that's valuable and important material, and can keep students engaged in the rest of the system.

There is always going to be the possibility for abuse of any system, and because we teach, which is providing a service, customers have some level of impact on what we do. Even if we don't rely on teaching for our income, it's possible to simply not have any students if they aren't accommodated to same degree. That doesn't mean you have to bow to every bit of pressure, though, so as long as the organization supports the instructors' rights to teach and reject students, that should be fine.


That is exactly what I am worried about. The problem is there is a 50/50 stalemate between those that feel we need to be more modern and those that want to maintain what we feel is the core essence of our teachings.
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JR 137
KF Sempai
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Joined: 10 May 2015
Posts: 1290
Location: In the dojo
Styles: Seido Juku

PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2017 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think an overseeing organization shouldn't mandate who you teach, rather they should allow you to teach who you want to teach. I wouldn't see adding children to the student body as a bad thing at all, so long as dojos weren't mandated to teach children. It should be the CI's discretion, and the CI's discretion alone.

How much difference does adding kyu ranks make? If the curriculum isn't changed, then adding 100 belts won't change what a student is responsible for come shodan test.

Yes, these things (and others you've discussed) have the potential to become a disaster. But that's on the CI, not the organization. If said CI wants to turn his dojo into karate day care, it doesn't and shouldn't effect the standards that the honbu has for shodan. If a CI wants to turn his dojo into a cash grab through kyu testing fees, his customers will either stay or go.

I guess the best solution to keep checks and balances is to have dan testing be done at honbu. If that's not feasible, the done by a member of the board or branch chiefs. Compensation would have to be discussed, standardized and agreed upon, but it should definitely help with quality control.

Kyu testing is what it is. It doesn't matter if there are 20 kyu belts or one; what's important is if the student is worthy of wearing a black belt when the time comes. Leave kyu testing to the CIs. Having the higher ups test for dan level will give a system of checks and balances. The only curveball in that is if a kyu student transfers from dojo to another.

Just my opinions. I've never run a dojo, much less an organization, so take it as you will.
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JR 137
KF Sempai
KF Sempai

Joined: 10 May 2015
Posts: 1290
Location: In the dojo
Styles: Seido Juku

PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2017 6:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My previous organization had 3 brown belt levels. The first two were like previous belts in that there was new material to be learned and tested on. There was no new material with the 3rd level. The student was to train consistently and prepare for his/her shodan test. It was a period to fine tune things and to tie up loose ends. I liked it.

My current organization has two brown belt levels. Both have new material to be learned. But rather than staying at 1st kyu for 6 months like previous belts, 1st kyu is 1 year to be eligible for shodan. So in essence, they are the same.

Both organizations have somewhat of a shodan-ho system. When you're promoted to shodan, you are given a plain black belt. No kanji embroidery, no stripe. After 6 months of consistent training and the CI's recommendation, the student is given the fully embroidered black belt and certificate. If there's a time in grade requirement, it starts at the shodan test date, not at the receipt of the certificate. My certificate in my original organization was dated the day I passed, not the day I was presented with my embroidered belt. There were people who never got their embroidered belt nor certificate because they stopped training. They weren't happy about it, but they were made well aware before they tested. I'll find out when my shodan certificate will be dated when I get there
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Nidan Melbourne
KF Sempai
KF Sempai

Joined: 21 Aug 2013
Posts: 1943
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Styles: Goju-Ryu, BJJ, Balintawak Arnis

PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2017 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can understand why there are some who don't wish to have children training in the dojo. But on the same hand it limits the potential for those wanting to train at your dojo.

I personally feel like the board should NOT put a requirement on how many juniors you take on board. However you can have juniors classes and progress to more if numbers are sufficient.

You do not need to lower standards to cater for the parents of the children. If you set the minimum of 18 to grade to shodan, you can promote younger students to Junior Black Belt Status and if you wish you can grade them to junior dan grades (which can be seen as a 1/2 grade) and when they turn 18 they get graded to full shodan.
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MatsuShinshii
Blue Belt
Blue Belt

Joined: 15 Aug 2016
Posts: 272

Styles: Matsumura Shorin Ryu, Ryukyu Kenpo, Kobudo

PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2017 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bushido_man96 wrote:
What age of children are they looking at allowing? Suggest a number you would feel more comfortable with, like perhaps 14 or 12, to try to prevent from having what in many schools can amount to an hour day-care after school.

You could also try to get them to cut the number of ranks they want to add. I do see the value in adding ranks; they help the student see goals and objectives. A question here is, would they be added and also be used to generate revenue? This would need to be discussed so that it doesn't become soley about the money.

Change can be a good thing, but it has to be for the right reasons. I would look further into these things.


They are suggesting we open it up to students as young as 8. Yes the day care issue had occurred to me and a few others. This is definitely a concern.

I am not against the belts per say as long as we maintain the integrity of the grades. They added a grade when I was a Shodan and it didn't seem to change anything because the requirements to achieve said grade were not changed. I am not for adding grades for the sake of making students happy. I do not want the focus to be on the goal of achieving a grade rather than on striving to perfect oneself. The grade to me means absolutely nothing. It's the quality of training and the students ability, knowledge and skill level that means something. A black belt tied around the waist of a beginner doesn't make them a black belt.

To be honest I wish we would go back to just a white belt and a black belt. When you did not ask when you could test you were told. It takes the pressure of getting to a new grade off and you are able to just concentrate on the lessons that are being taught. It tends to make you concentrate on perfecting the lessons instead of racing to the next belt. Always keep a beginners mind and train the basics. I personally would rather have a quality Shechikyu that has spent 5 months perfecting what was taught instead of a 3 month Shechikyu that does just enough to get by because they want the next grade. We have grades but the student maintains their current belt. Example - Hachikyu to Rokkyu are white, Gokyu to Sankyu are green, Nikyu to Ikkyu are brown. As it is we see beginner students getting discouraged until they figure out that they will be awarded the next belt when the instructor feels they are ready to test and not before.
I fear that the push to award discounts based on an instructor having "x" belts/grades in their schools will make some want to pass to get the discounts and the integrity of the grade will be diminished and degraded to mean nothing.

I also do not want the instructors focus to be on how many (file in the blank) grades they have. This is not a competition and it is not a race. A student should be promoted when the student has shown they deserve said promotion. This is dictated by the students ability and knowledge not the need to have so many "x" belts.

Including a Yellow, Orange, Blue and Purple belt is not the issue as much as the draw to promote to encourage more students to join. Don't ask me where these colored belts fit in. They did not tell us and I didn't care enough to ask.

You hit the nail on the head... it's always about money. Right now no one pays for testing. Shinshii always felt that you paid for the instruction and there is no reason to charge someone for what they earned and have already paid for. Rank is not for sale but instruction is. Along with the extra belts, a rider goes along with the vote (not mandatory [right now] but a suggested way to bolster revenue) to charge for testing.

If you are a full time instructor (we have very few) I can see this being a draw to vote yes. However I feel the same way as my Shinshii in that I am charging the student for classes, a patch (per patch), for the student manual (one time fee), and for their new Obi (belt). I can't see charging a student for something they have already paid for and earned. After all I already know the student is ready for the test before I invite them. Why then charge them for something I know they have already earned.

I am sure I'll get kick back on this but this is how I personally feel and to this day I have never been charged for a grading and have never charged a student for a grading. It just goes against my grain.

I agree that change can be a good thing. I have actually changed my mind and point of view on a few things while ready posts here on KF. That is why I am bring this topic to all of you so that I can see other points of view to help me make a decision. As it sits right now no changes will happen because we are stalemated. However as I said some of the topics for vote are not per say an issue for me and I could swing either way.

In asking my students, depending on the topic being put to a vote, some are strongly against, some are for. It's a stalemate for the most part with them as well so I falls to me to make a decision and I want to make a good decision that isn't skewed on what my president says are out of date view points. Well if I'm honest he says my views are like a rotary phone in today's age of smart phones. A little insulting but I get where he is coming from. However I feel that his views are more in line with what I would call a McDojo than with Shinshii's view which are very traditional. So I guess I can see both sides but I tend to fall on the side of tradition and Shinshii's views rather than the modern views of our president. In knowing this I figure I would step outside of my traditional views and get other view points.

What can I say I'm old, but I'm at least trying to see good in modern methods and view points. I guess than means an old dog can learn new tricks.
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MatsuShinshii
Blue Belt
Blue Belt

Joined: 15 Aug 2016
Posts: 272

Styles: Matsumura Shorin Ryu, Ryukyu Kenpo, Kobudo

PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2017 7:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JR 137 wrote:
I think an overseeing organization shouldn't mandate who you teach, rather they should allow you to teach who you want to teach. I wouldn't see adding children to the student body as a bad thing at all, so long as dojos weren't mandated to teach children. It should be the CI's discretion, and the CI's discretion alone.


Agreed 100%. I have no problem with other instructors wanting to teach children. The issue is right now it is worded as a suggestion but the body language and tone lead me to believe this will not necessarily be the case down the road.

JR 137 wrote:
How much difference does adding kyu ranks make? If the curriculum isn't changed, then adding 100 belts won't change what a student is responsible for come shodan test.


None in a perfect world. The problem is the president has suggested a discount for instructors that have "x" of (fill in the grade). This in my mind leads to a scary place where instructors feel pressured to advance students to get discounts.

JR 137 wrote:
Yes, these things (and others you've discussed) have the potential to become a disaster. But that's on the CI, not the organization. If said CI wants to turn his dojo into karate day care, it doesn't and shouldn't effect the standards that the honbu has for shodan. If a CI wants to turn his dojo into a cash grab through kyu testing fees, his customers will either stay or go.


Well that is one of the items for vote that I did not bother to include in my original post. The CI's are not necessarily what bothers me on this subject. It's more so the views and agenda of the president and a few other members of the board. One of the items for vote is the decrease in the time it takes to achieve Shodan. Right now the so called time in grade is 5 to 7 years. This really means nothing as it it solely up to the student as to how fast or slow it takes to be ready for this grade and it is at the instructors discretion whether they are ready. It has been suggested that this verbiage be removed from the student manual and replaced with a more "today" friendly time frame. This is to make the suggestion that it is possible to achieve said grade in less time, or so they are telling us. My personal opinion is by changing the verbiage this enables them to reduce the requirements so that like other schools, Shodan becomes just another rank.

JR 137 wrote:
I guess the best solution to keep checks and balances is to have dan testing be done at honbu. If that's not feasible, the done by a member of the board or branch chiefs. Compensation would have to be discussed, standardized and agreed upon, but it should definitely help with quality control.


The way Shinshii set our structure up was that all Yudansha were tested at the Hombu with the students instructor sitting with Shinshii during the test. If the student was not ready this enabled Shinshii to question the instructor why a student was ever suggested in the first place. This kept instructors in check and maintained the quality and requirements for each grade. All Mudansha grades where directly held by the students instructor.

The way it is structured now is all Yudansha up to Godan test before myself or the vice president and the students instructor. All Rokudan and above must travel to the Hombu to test before the president, VP and myself. The student instructor may attend but does not sit on the testing board.

All Yudansha grading require three signatures.

The requirements are what is in question right now and some are suggesting that they be reduced so that the ranks can be bolstered to make it seem more enticing to new students. Don't ask me how this makes any sense.

JR 137 wrote:
Just my opinions. I've never run a dojo, much less an organization, so take it as you will.


Believe me when I say you are lucky. Politics galore. If I did not see a concerted effort to change Shinshii's legacy I would step down in a heart beat. Too much time and too much arguing about petty things IMHO.
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