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Bulltahr
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Joined: 08 Mar 2015
Posts: 343
Location: NEW ZEALAND
Styles: Shotokan, Seido Juku

PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 6:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Reminds me of another sport I used to participate in, it had a grading system of D thru to AA, then they added "Master" and the amount of guys that would look for easy or low turn out events to get up to Masters was incredible, they would never be competitive at that level in serious events, but it didn't seem to matter to them, they could call themselves "Master" and that was all the mattered.
Human beings are generally a weak species, and big titles stroke egos, facebook, instagram and all those other very successful vehicles that cater to the narcissistic human are the signs that show up this particular human weakness. People with a strong sense of honour, work ethic etc are unfortunately not in the majority.....................
Do we train for the knowledge and experience or for more shallow motivations????? I know of a place on the interwebby where genuine
students of MA can be found.
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Wastelander
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Joined: 18 Oct 2010
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Styles: Shorin-Ryu, Shuri-Ryu, Judo, KishimotoDi

PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 6:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm afraid we are going to have to accept the fact that ranks only have value in the context of the school they are given in, and every school is going to set different values for those ranks. I could decide that black belt is the first one you get after white, and grant it after 3 months, if I wanted. We can hate it all we like, but we are never going to stop someone from granting a Yondan rank to an 11 year old if they feel like it. This is one of those situations where we simply have to hold to our higher standard, and clearly explain/publicize the higher standard.
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Lupin1
KF Sempai
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Joined: 15 Dec 2009
Posts: 1440
Location: NH USA
Styles: Isshinryu

PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wastelander wrote:
I could decide that black belt is the first one you get after white, and grant it after 3 months, if I wanted.


Now there's an idea. I should start a dojo where black is the first belt and white is the highest, just to mix things up.
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Lupin1
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MatsuShinshii wrote:
So what becomes of the Shodan level? It becomes just another belt instead of what it use to represent


That's the thing, though. If you look back to Okinawa or Japan, it was basically "just another belt". Shodans were not revered or respected any more than anyone else. They were basically beginners themselves.

Speaking as an American, most karate was brought to our country by military men who served on Okinawa and Japan in the 50s-70s. Those men studied karate there for an average of 18 months. They then came back home with their black belts and their military beliefs of rank and respect and they started their schools with that mentality. Shodans were revered and put on a pedestal in the beginning because there weren't many of them and they were pretty much the highest ranking karateka in the country. The military-like training atmosphere where shodans were called "sir" or "ma'am" and treated with military-like deference was a product of most instructors being military men who took rank seriously.

In Japan or on Okinawa, people would think you were crazy to talk about Shodan as if it were some huge thing. It's basically a beginner rank over there.

I agree that most places in the US who are pushing little kids to high ranks are doing for money and not out of some true understanding of what a black belt is, but I think the level of gatekeeping that comes from it is slightly ridiculous.

All we can do is recognize that rank is completely subjective. It means different things to different schools. All you can do is judge someone's rank in the context of their school and recognize that they're not comparable.
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JR 137
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Joined: 10 May 2015
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 07, 2017 6:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MatsuShinshii wrote:
Lupin1 wrote:
Honestly, I think some of the problem is our (Western) idea that a black belt is a master.

As has been oft-repeated-- Shodan means first step. It's not meant to be a mastery rank. It means you've learned the very basics and have proven yourself to be a dedicated student.

I don't know much about Japan, but I know in Korea it's very common for kids to get their black belt after about a year of training. And that's fine. Because they view black belt differently. They also view a black belt on a child as different than a black belt on an adult-- without having to specify that it's a junior black belt. Just like we don't view a kid on his Little League's All Star Team as taking away from the accomplishments of the MLB's All Star Team, they don't view a child with a black belt as taking away from the accomplishments of an adult with a black belt.

Now, I'm not suggesting we hand out black belts to everyone after less than a year of training. I think the usual 3-5 years most places require is about right, but I honestly don't see a problem with child black belts as long as "black belt" is being treated the right way. I know there are places out there who give children black belts while telling them they're masters and are deadly weapons and just giving them false ideas about what their belt represents. That's not right. But I don't see a problem with giving kids black belts if what a black belt is is made very clear to everyone involved.


I respect your comments but must respectfully disagree with you.

I personally think the problem is the lack of requirements and respect for the grade. I know Shodan means first step and no one within my art or any other I have taken thinks that the grade means mastery.

However when I was coming up the grade of Shodan was highly respected and even though this does not happen anymore, some Shodan's actually had there own schools and were respected by their students.

The difference is back then, and depending on your art/teacher still today, a Shodan was not just another belt. It meant something and that something was that you could more than handle yourself. As a black belt (pick a grade) you are a direct reflection of the art, school and of your Shinshii/Sensei. I would not dream of promoting a student to Shodan knowing that they do not have the skill and knowledge to defend themselves. Back then it brought dishonor to the teacher and the school if some Joe off the streets was able to destroy one of your black belt students.

No I think the problem is western culture tries to justify promoting students to higher levels because they are afraid that the fast food mentality of kids today will cost them students and thus a pay check.

Don't get me wrong I like money too and I do not condemn those that make a living teaching but not due to a sacrifice of quality. Now days it's all about how fast can we get to the next belt and no one concerns themselves with whether they have really retained what was taught previously. I have said it on other discussions and will say it again, I miss the days when you had two belts because I think they produced better Karateka then because they were not concerned with the next belt. It was about how much knowledge you could obtain and perfecting what you had learned.

Can anyone tell me that the average child today, with there instant gratification, actually perfects anything? I highly doubt it. They do enough to get by and their instructors have been conditioned to accept this.

So what becomes of the Shodan level? It becomes just another belt instead of what it use to represent, something to be looked up to. If the grade of Shodan has been reduced then if you really think about it what does the grade of Sandan represent. If the standards are reduced at one level all subsequent levels are reduced. By this logic a Shodan back when I was coming up was the equivalent of a Sandan today. Does that make sense?

I get that everything changes but it's a slippery slope. When I was a kid you did not see children wearing black belts and if you did you took them off of them because you knew without question they did not earn it. Enter the McDojo's/ belts for money and now it is perfectly acceptable to give out belts without substance. As long as you have "x" months/years and you have paid "x" you get the next grade. Now we can accept an 11 year old wearing the grade of Yondan? We can accept students calling her Shinshii/Sensei? NO WAY!!!! Not in my Dojo. Not ever. It is all justified by a reduction of requirements or giving the grade because of something other than the requirements like, "he has made an effort and everyone deserves a trophy" type of mentality.

What ever happened to winners and losers? What happened to standards? Not every kid deserves a trophy and not every kid deserves to grade!!!! If you didn't win you lost. This was not a hard concept to understand when I was a kid. God forbid little Johnny gets upset because he didn't get a new belt. God forbid little Johnny has to be told that if you do not practice outside of the Dojo and pay attention when your in the Dojo, your not going to be able to test.

If you didn't earn it you don't get it. If that means that little Johnny leaves then he leaves. As an instructor my time and what I have to pass on is valuable. Give belts away for requirements that have been reduced from what I had to do to earn said grades? Nope not ever. Hold your students to the same standards as you were. That is the only way to keep your art and it's grades/belts from meaning nothing. It's called paper tigers. It's what Sensei8 always says, proof is on the mat/floor. If you can not fight at the level of your grade your certificate is worth less than the ink on it and the belt you wear is worth as much as it cost. Its reduced to just a piece of fabric just like Shodan has been reduced to just another rank. Lets just call it a continuation of the Mudansha grades and do away with Yudansha until you reach say the grade of Hachidan. While your at it just get rid of Kodansah grades because they mean nothing since the requirements for grades before them have been reduced.

Call me old fashioned for my ways and methods but I can guarantee that none of my Shodan's are going to be taken to town by some street thug. I doubt this girls Shinshii/Sensei can say that about theirs.

I will never say anyone has mastered anything because I personally do not think the art can be mastered. Mastery to me means you have nothing left to learn.
Having said that I would instead say that in order to achieve the grade of Shodan my students have to be "highly proficient" in the grades below them (Mudansha grades) and have proved that they have leaned and become "highly" skilled in the requirements of the Mudansha grades and more importantly have been able to translate that into the ability to fight and hold there own.

I think somewhere down the line and through the years most have forgotten that the Mudansha grades were the basic's or the foundation. You can not in my mind start you journey (Shodan to Kudan/Judan) unless you have a foundation to walk your path. How can you claim to be a Yudansha if you haven't first concurred Mudansha first. And within this same statement, what does Shodan or any of the Yudansha grade mean if an 11 year old can achieve what most of us took many more years to achieve? Did you really EARN it or where you given it?

I think that is the real problem. Given versus eared. Or should I say bought versus earned. It used to be you could not buy respect or a grade/belt, you had to earn them. So how do you respect someone that has been given something today? How do you call someone that you can wipe the floor with teacher?

Can anyone tell me that an 11 year old can teach a class of adults and go one on one in a Kumite match with them and win their respect? Respect her grade?

Again this may be because I'm old school but I can tell you right now if I walked into a school and saw a child at the head of the class I would walk out and write that art off completely. Not the teacher, the art itself.

Somehow instructors have forgotten this ideal that they are responsible for preserving the name of their art by passing down what was taught to them and that their responsibility is to assuring that only worthy students are promoted and that every student is a reflection of them and of the art itself. If little Johnny, wearing his new shiny black belt is beaten to a pulp by a younger kid with no training why would anyone want to go to his teacher for instruction? I wouldn't.

I'm sure I will get a little heat for my views and some of the "DO" guys will tell me that it's about more than being able to fight but to them I say, It's really not. Why did you really join a Dojo? Why did you start training?

If you can't hold your own why would someone take lessons from you to learn how to defend themselves? Discipline, respect, and learning to be a humble and good person is important but if we are all honest we did not start training for these reasons. They were learned along the way but the real reason 99% of students join a Dojo is to learn how to defend themselves effectively. If not, why not just join a church group or play sports?

How can anyone justify giving an 11 year old boy or girl the grade of Yondan and sleep at night is beyond me.


A couple things in your post...

When a lot of adults start training for the first time, they're looking for an alternative to Gold's Gym. They're looking for socialization. They're looking for a hobby, and getting exercise and health benefits kill two birds with one stone. No all, by any means, but more and more each day. A lot of adults have the mentality that they don't need to fight anymore as they get older, they already know how to, etc. It's not about fighting for many of them, it's about the other things.

Many parents view MA as a physical activity for their kids, as an alternative to team sports or a supplement. They need to get their excess energy out, and they won't make the (insert sport here) team. In MA, everyone makes the team, everyone gets equal playing time. This also goes hand in hand with parents wanting discipline and respect, yet would rather have someone else teach it than them.

Being MA and fighting is a side effect/added bonus. They're not all there for that. That's a big reason why the McDojos exist. That's a big reason why it's easy for them to justify giving kids yudansha ranks and titles. If it wasn't about fighting, what's the big deal with rank/titles?

Sad, but often true.
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Tempest
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Styles: Judo, HEMA

PostPosted: Fri Apr 07, 2017 7:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A great deal of it boils down to this question. What does it mean to be a black belt?

In Judo, there are only 3 ranks that are really important AFTER white belt.

1. Shodan, this is for your self. This is a rank of PERSONAL achievement.

2. Sandan, this is for your students. You can now promote your own students to Shodan without the need to convene a promotion board. You can also sit on promotion boards.

3. Rokudan, This is for the organization, which by this time you are a big part of. At this rank you can promote your own students to Sandan and thus can help decide who is on the promotion board.

All of the other ranks are essentially a measuring stick to gauge your progress on this journey to these steps.
Rokudan is the highest rank you can test for in Judo, so ranks above that are honorary grants, not really representations of ability at that point.

Now, I cannot tell you what it means to be a Rokudan, because I am not there yet, but I CAN tell you what it means to be a Shodan in Judo.
A Shodan should be able to demonstrate the curriculum through Shodan with a high degree of competence. They should have earned through competition or service sufficient points to qualify for that rank. They must complete the exam, perform the Nage no Kata, and be a certified local referee. They should also be competent to teach the curriculum through Nikyu. All of this is in addition to having previously completed the requirements for each rank leading to Shodan. The idea of skipping a rank would be laughed out the door at my Sensei's school.

Furthermore, there is a hard and fast age requirement for each of the ranks. Shodan is 17, unless you have earned a medal at the nationals, then you may, with instructor approval, test at 16. Nidan is at least a year to 2 years beyond that. And the numbers just get larger from there.

An 11 year old can call themselves anything they want, when I was 11 I wanted to be a dragon, that didn't make me one. Parents frequently play in to these fantasies, and obviously will pay other people to do so as well. The skill and time commitment required to achieve something like Yondan is way beyond anything an 11 year old could hope to achieve. And really, the only way I can see that not being obvious is if the martial art she is doing never involves her coming in to contact with another person, and whenever it does I am sure there are people right there to make excuses for anything that goes wrong to patch her self-esteem.
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DWx
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 07, 2017 11:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a difficult topic every time it is brought up because everyone has a sort of emotional attachment to the blackbelt and a unique understanding of what the term means to them.

That said, I agree with Devin in that often in the West we attach this revered, almost mythical, meaning to black belt when in reality for the rest of the world it is just another belt.

Lupin1 wrote:
Honestly, I think some of the problem is our (Western) idea that a black belt is a master.

As has been oft-repeated-- Shodan means first step. It's not meant to be a mastery rank. It means you've learned the very basics and have proven yourself to be a dedicated student.

I don't know much about Japan, but I know in Korea it's very common for kids to get their black belt after about a year of training. And that's fine. Because they view black belt differently. They also view a black belt on a child as different than a black belt on an adult-- without having to specify that it's a junior black belt. Just like we don't view a kid on his Little League's All Star Team as taking away from the accomplishments of the MLB's All Star Team, they don't view a child with a black belt as taking away from the accomplishments of an adult with a black belt.

Now, I'm not suggesting we hand out black belts to everyone after less than a year of training. I think the usual 3-5 years most places require is about right, but I honestly don't see a problem with child black belts as long as "black belt" is being treated the right way. I know there are places out there who give children black belts while telling them they're masters and are deadly weapons and just giving them false ideas about what their belt represents. That's not right. But I don't see a problem with giving kids black belts if what a black belt is is made very clear to everyone involved.


Honestly the longer I've been in the martial arts the more I tend to ignore what rank people say they are. Unless you are part of the style or even school which awarded the belt, it's all meaningless and you can't gauge their "real" rank without seeing them in action. "Proof is on the floor" as sensei8 would say and at the end of the day I don't care if you want to call yourself a Super-Grandmaster.
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MatsuShinshii
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Styles: Matsumura Shorin Ryu, Ryukyu Kenpo, Kobudo

PostPosted: Fri Apr 07, 2017 3:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tempest wrote:
A great deal of it boils down to this question. What does it mean to be a black belt?

In Judo, there are only 3 ranks that are really important AFTER white belt.

1. Shodan, this is for your self. This is a rank of PERSONAL achievement.

2. Sandan, this is for your students. You can now promote your own students to Shodan without the need to convene a promotion board. You can also sit on promotion boards.

3. Rokudan, This is for the organization, which by this time you are a big part of. At this rank you can promote your own students to Sandan and thus can help decide who is on the promotion board.

All of the other ranks are essentially a measuring stick to gauge your progress on this journey to these steps.
Rokudan is the highest rank you can test for in Judo, so ranks above that are honorary grants, not really representations of ability at that point.

Now, I cannot tell you what it means to be a Rokudan, because I am not there yet, but I CAN tell you what it means to be a Shodan in Judo.
A Shodan should be able to demonstrate the curriculum through Shodan with a high degree of competence. They should have earned through competition or service sufficient points to qualify for that rank. They must complete the exam, perform the Nage no Kata, and be a certified local referee. They should also be competent to teach the curriculum through Nikyu. All of this is in addition to having previously completed the requirements for each rank leading to Shodan. The idea of skipping a rank would be laughed out the door at my Sensei's school.

Furthermore, there is a hard and fast age requirement for each of the ranks. Shodan is 17, unless you have earned a medal at the nationals, then you may, with instructor approval, test at 16. Nidan is at least a year to 2 years beyond that. And the numbers just get larger from there.

An 11 year old can call themselves anything they want, when I was 11 I wanted to be a dragon, that didn't make me one. Parents frequently play in to these fantasies, and obviously will pay other people to do so as well. The skill and time commitment required to achieve something like Yondan is way beyond anything an 11 year old could hope to achieve. And really, the only way I can see that not being obvious is if the martial art she is doing never involves her coming in to contact with another person, and whenever it does I am sure there are people right there to make excuses for anything that goes wrong to patch her self-esteem.


This is somewhat similar to how we are set up. The hardest two tests that a student grades for is the Shodan and Sandan grading. The Shodan is long and hard to prove that you have achieved and surpassed the Mudansha level and to be certain that they are deserving of the grade. Unlike Mudansha grades it does not matter if the instructor knows that they have already passed. It's not as simple as that. You have to test at the Hombu and prove that you are deserving of the grade. Sandan is difficult because you are not only proving that you deserve the grade but that you are a competent instructor. We do not allow our students to teach until this grade and they are actually testing to achieve the title of Shinshii. Past that it is normal grading, albeit not easy, but normal all the same up to Nanadan which is the last grade you test for. Like you Hachidan and Kudan are given for years of service to the art and contributions to the art but you no longer test.

I took Judo years ago and understand what you are saying concerning grades and the importance there of.
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MatsuShinshii
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 07, 2017 4:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lupin1 wrote:
MatsuShinshii wrote:
So what becomes of the Shodan level? It becomes just another belt instead of what it use to represent


That's the thing, though. If you look back to Okinawa or Japan, it was basically "just another belt". Shodans were not revered or respected any more than anyone else. They were basically beginners themselves.

Speaking as an American, most karate was brought to our country by military men who served on Okinawa and Japan in the 50s-70s. Those men studied karate there for an average of 18 months. They then came back home with their black belts and their military beliefs of rank and respect and they started their schools with that mentality. Shodans were revered and put on a pedestal in the beginning because there weren't many of them and they were pretty much the highest ranking karateka in the country. The military-like training atmosphere where shodans were called "sir" or "ma'am" and treated with military-like deference was a product of most instructors being military men who took rank seriously.

In Japan or on Okinawa, people would think you were crazy to talk about Shodan as if it were some huge thing. It's basically a beginner rank over there.

I agree that most places in the US who are pushing little kids to high ranks are doing for money and not out of some true understanding of what a black belt is, but I think the level of gatekeeping that comes from it is slightly ridiculous.

All we can do is recognize that rank is completely subjective. It means different things to different schools. All you can do is judge someone's rank in the context of their school and recognize that they're not comparable.


I spent a year and a half in Okinawa training and have visited for a few weeks many times over the years so I am very familiar with the laid back atmosphere.

I also understand the Military/black belt connection as my first Sensei and my Shinshii were both military and were stationed in Okinawa.

My point is the degradation of the art and my absolute frustration with it.

It's not just about Shodan or any Yudansha/Kodansha grade. It's about what some have turned the art into and how meaningless it has become due to their efforts.

When I was a young man you knew that if someone wore a black belt (pick a grade) they earned it and was not someone you really wanted to mess with. Today we see children with grades it took me more than their life time to achieve, you see phonies with titles that literally take a life time to achieve, you get graded not on merit but on monetary value. Worse you see grown men that should know better but have no integrity and wear a grade they never earned.

Our art no longer represents what it used to and has been reduced to an after school kinder care program where you get a grade if you just show up, serve the prescribed time and pay your money. You can be promoted because you won a tournament (not Judo, there is a definite difference) or you got good grades or worse because you took something else that can be remotely tied to the art like Yoga and the teacher gives you credit and rank. What?????? I kid you not that I know a teacher that does this for these reasons. Not because you learned the curriculum and have proven that you have become very proficient but because you won a patty cakes contest or took a yoga class. Come on!!!!

I guess my real problem is there is no honor in the art anymore. Kata are changed to mystify judges and has absolutely no value within the realm of actual combat, Kumite has been turned into a game of patty cakes which again has no value for real combat and the meaning of achievement has been changed to winning trophies, showing up, paying enough money and how fast you can be given the next grade. There is no personal achievement earned through blood, sweat and tears anymore. Heck in some arts you are told not to make contact at all for fear that someone might get a boo boo. It's a joke!

I get that westerners are different than Okinawan's and I know that all too well. However I can also tell you that the standards are also different. If you walk into a Dojo on Okinawa, or at least the few I've trained at wearing a black belt and can not hold your own against there equivalent you will get shown the door.

The main difference is they live it were as most westerners just do it as a hobby. So yes they do see it as another belt but their mindset and the way they look at things revolves around the fact that they do this as a way of life and it becomes second nature and, no, it's not as big of a deal.

Having said that we are not Okinawan and we have our teachers and our teacher's teachers standards to up hold.

I guess it boils down to, anything worth doing is worth doing right. To me the path that the arts are heading is not right.

I can conceive that it does not effect me nor my art because you will not find such lunacy happening, in fact I just quit my old organization for similar circumstances. However it does effect us and others that do take this art seriously because unfortunately most westerners do not make the leap to realize that Karate is a broad blanket that encompasses many arts. They do not think that my art or say Shotokan isn't the same as the art they are disappointed in. They just associate it with Karate in general.

So some of you are right that we should live and let live and I agree that there is nothing I myself or any one individual can do about it so why worry about it? I also understand that a CI can do as he pleases within his Dojo and if they wanted to they could give out black belts right after Hachikyu. However if you think what others (McDojo's) do does not effect the integrity of your art, think again.

I brought this up as a specific topic concerning this 11 yr old and pretty much knew where this would lead and I also know how passionate I am and bull headed I am on the subject as a whole. I sure did not mean this to get this deep or philosophical in nature. It was merely meant to address this scenario. However the acceptance of this girls grade or of the decisions of her instructor are very disheartening to say the least.

I know I am old fashioned and a stickler for tradition and I am very proud of that because I am my Shinshii's deshi. However I really thought this would be a no brainier and a light-hearted discussion and maybe even a few laughs. But this is not the direction it went or what I expected.
An 11 yr old with the grade of Yondan! Let that soak in. How long did it take you to achieve this grade or better yet if you have not achieved this grade how long have you been training and what grade are you.

Really, this make any sense at all?
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MatsuShinshii
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Styles: Matsumura Shorin Ryu, Ryukyu Kenpo, Kobudo

PostPosted: Fri Apr 07, 2017 4:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wait, just to be sure I'm not being fooled, is this a continuation of Patrick's April fools joke?
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