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MatsuShinshii
Green Belt
Green Belt

Joined: 15 Aug 2016
Posts: 371
Location: Kentucky
Styles: Matsumura Shorin Ryu, Ryukyu Kenpo, Kobudo

PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2017 3:37 pm    Post subject: Perception Reply with quote

So last week I was talking with a few of my Yudansha students and they were asking me how training had changed since I started. I happened to mention the fact that we all wore a white belt until we reached Shodan.

One of my senior students (George) that teaches my beginner and intermediate Mudansha classes had heard this before from other instructors but could not wrap his mind around it and asked how did we know what level our students were at. This got me to thinking and I devised a plan. I contacted 12 of my Yudansha students and asked them to show up to the Mudansha class dressed in their white Gi's and wearing their white belts. I also had the intermediate and senior Mudansha students show up for this class.

We have two new students (less than a month of training) who had not met the Yudansha students yet nor any of the intermediate or senior Mudansha students.

I showed up to class wearing a white Gi and a white belt and carrying a tote filled with white belts. Before George and the two new students showed up I had all of the Mudansha students (Shechikyu through Gokyu) take off their Obi and put on the white belts. Note: Yudansha wear a black Gi top and white bottoms.

When George entered the Dojo I could see that he was puzzled but said nothing. I pulled him aside and said we would have a little experiment and friendly bet. I told him to pull the two new students out of line and have them site with him. I told him to have everyone perform Pinan Shodan (our first Kata) and then ask the students what grade they thought each group of students were. If they could pick out the different levels on performance alone then he had to fill in for my other senior student and teach the senior Mudansha classes for a month. If they could not I would teach his class for a month.

He had the senior Mudansha students (Sankyu to Ikkyu) perform first, then the beginner Mudansha students (Hachikyu to Rokkyu), then the 12 Yudansha students and finally the intermediate students (Gokyu to Yonkyu).

He then asked the two new students what grade they thought each group was and if he thought they were white belts or a higher grade.

They pretty much hit the nail on the head. Without visual indicators (Obi) to go by they had to pay attention to their performance only.

After class George came up to me and asked why I chose to change my Gi and wear a white belt. I asked him if the students guessed grade based on the belt or their ability. He said their ability.

I said that the belt does not make the man, the man makes the belt. What difference does it make what color you have around your waste when you know your ability and everyone around you knows your ability based on your performance.

Goes to show that no matter what belt you have tied around your waste your abilities will let others know what you know and what you don't, how skilled you are or how lacking in skill you are.

You can say anything and show me any certificate but until you get on the Dojo floor and prove it, it's just words and paper. Anyone can claim anything and any one can give grade without warrant. The proof as Sensei8 always says "is on the floor".

I thought it was a fun experiment and Steve (my other senior student) is loving the fact that he has a month of free time. He's taking an early vacation with his family and the best part is I don't have to cover for him.
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sensei8
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 12359
Location: Houston, TX and/or Van Nuys, CA
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2017 4:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ha Ha, you see, again, you and I are quite similar across the board because I, too, have done this very same thing once a year while visiting Shindokan dojo's in the months leading up the the Annual Testing Cycle held at the Hombu every June/July. Not many new students knew who the "new students" were, this was to our advantage. Kind of our version, I suppose, of a April Fools Day joke, but with a serious lesson attached.

This experiment reveals quite a lot across the board, imho. One can't, and one shouldn't ever judge a book by its cover, and in that, perception is always the reality of that person.

Years ago, the Hombu amended our By-Laws to change the identifiers of each rank. This was done to eliminate the "Look at me" type of stuff, as well as to eliminate the importance of any identifier, as well as put the emphasis away, as much as possible, from rank/belt because they mean nothing in the scope of the MA.



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MatsuShinshii
Green Belt
Green Belt

Joined: 15 Aug 2016
Posts: 371
Location: Kentucky
Styles: Matsumura Shorin Ryu, Ryukyu Kenpo, Kobudo

PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2017 5:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It was fun but I can not accept the honor of coming up with this. My Shinshii would often times enter the Dojo wearing his white belt, or what was left of it as it wasn't much more than a tattered old rag after 40+ years, and tell us all to remove our belts. He would tell us that he was a life long beginner and that he always returned to the basics because they were the foundation. He did this about once a month with his Mudansha classes and twice a month with his Yudansha classes because he always felt they would forget this and stop training their basics.

This was just a fun exercise but you're right, it did have a lesson attached to it. It shows that it's not the belt but the person we should see.

I have made this point to my Yudansha students many times in judging thier students. It is too easy to judge based on appearances rather than on substance.

I remember years ago when I was first starting in the arts as a child (different teacher and different art that placed emphasis on trophies) I went to a tournament and watched as a very non-skilled kid with a brown belt around his waste beat one kid after another. My friend (a green belt at the time, can't remember if that was Yonkyu or Sankyu) was terrified of this kid. I remember one of the instructors from another school over hearing us talking about this and told him to stop looking at his belt and start looking at his lack of skill. It worked. He won in short order. Perception is the down fall of us all as we are human and it is human to look and judge appearances.

I had a man walk in off the street years ago and request to join our school. I talked to him a bit and he told me that he was a Sandan. I asked for references and he said that they were lost but requested to join our Yudansha classes. I told him that this would not be an issue as long as he was willing to stick around until the current class was over. He said he had his gear so I showed him the locker room.

I was in my office finishing some paperwork and watching the ongoing class. I noticed that many of the students were not paying attention to the instructor but instead were watching this man stretch out. He had worn his belt.

After class had ended (last class of the night) I asked the instructor teaching the previous class to stay. I then told the man that I would be assessing his skills. He seemed very nervous at first but told me that he would like to show me his Kata. I agreed.

He had pretty good form and power but there was something off in the way he performed the Kata, almost beginner like in nature. His style was a sister art within our lineage so I thought maybe they just performed them differently. After he had finished showing me the Kata that he knew, not up to Sandan level but again could be different schools different rules, I told him that he would be going a few rounds with my student (some of you might know him as Devil Dog here on the forums).

He immediately protested stating that since he was a Sandan and my student was a Yondan, it was not fair. I smirked a little but told him that he would take it easy on him. The man all but ran around the floor trying to keep away from my student. When I told him that he would have to engage or I could not properly assess him, I could see the look of fear in his eyes. He stood on the line while I talked to my student. I told him to rush him to see what he would do. The man covered up and coward down almost in a ball.

Needless to say the man was not what he purported to be. I asked him after he changed and came out of the locker room who his teachers name was and where his old Dojo was located. He him-hauled around and said that I wouldn't know him and his school was closed years ago.

I told him that he would start as a Hachikyu grading. He did not know what this was. I said white belt and he walked out without so much as another word.

My students immediately thought this man was something special due to him wearing a black belt, so much so that they stopped watching their own instructor during class. The perception was due to the belt, not the man.
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JR 137
KF Sempai
KF Sempai

Joined: 10 May 2015
Posts: 1370
Location: In the dojo
Styles: Seido Juku

PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2017 12:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perception can also work against you, focusing too much on the here and now, and forgetting about the past/karateka's history...

We have a yondan at our dojo who's at least 60 years old. Closer to 65 than 60. He walks like Quasimodo. Picture Quasimodo doing kata, kihon, kumite, etc., and it's quite close. One couldn't help but possibly ask themselves how anyone would promote him to yondan.

By all accounts, this gentleman was quite good about 15 years ago. He wasn't Bruce Lee, but he was far closer to that than Quasimodo. 2 major car accidents and a few spinal surgeries have severely effected his movement. He was promoted to yondan a few years ago, which was after his physical impairments. So assuming he was at his peak at sandan, should he have remained at sandan? Should he have been re-evaluated and ranked according to his abilities? Those are rhetorical questions, not aimed at you guys. I'm pretty sure I know how both of you would answer.

I know you wouldn't think about demoting him. I'm quite sure you'd have promoted him to his current rank as well, due to him living the expectations of that rank. But if he were wearing a white belt and came from another system where you didn't know what rank does what kata, or better yet had him do kyu level kata, you wouldn't think he's a yondan. He usually looks he's at the stage where he just finished memorizing them and is now working on actually doing them.

A big part of respect is showing respect for where the person has been. Perception doesn't accurately show that. Sometimes, the floor doesn't fully show it either, unfortunately.

Edit: I may have sounded if I was being critical of the original intent of the thread. I completely agree with what's been posted this far. I was just giving another side of the perception viewpoint.
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sensei8
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 12359
Location: Houston, TX and/or Van Nuys, CA
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2017 3:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excuses!! That word is just as bad as Can't!! Neither of them are ever allowed on my floor. Either one is or one isn't, whatever the situation might be. Rank is lifted up to a level that becomes much more important than effectiveness in technique/knowledge/experience.

A beautiful star placed on top of the Christmas tree can steal the beautiful perception of that tree because the eye sees that, and that alone. Take that same star off said tree, then the focus returns to beautiful Christmas tree. Never put on that star, the focus never wanders.

I don't need the trappings of the belt to know what a student of the MA is, or what I perceive it to be in mere seconds, with minutes as the validity to my observation(s).

That practitioner who claims to be a Sandan should never feel intimidated to Kumite with a Yondan, or any Dan rank for that matter, and especially with the Dan ranking only 1 senior over the Sandan. Excuse...time for you to leave my dojo!! Excuses as well as Can't will get you a fast ticket out of my dojo because I've no inclination to consider, nor hear, any excuse, ESPECIALLY with you being a Sandan, who finds him in the inconceivable notion that allows him to offer me any excuse as to why you won't engage with a Yondan...RANK MEANS NOTHING!!

Blinders are abundant with MAist whenever nothing goes their way in the dojo. Rank/belts are a form of that blinder. "I can't Kumite him/her because they out rank me!! It's not fair!!"

It's not fair!? GET OFF MY FLOOR...NOW!! Fair?! What does fair have to do with anything in the MA?! Fair?! Please, fair has nothing to do with anything. Fair!?!?!? This is MY house...my dojo; I'm here to teach, not to be concerned with being fair!! Your job is to learn, and not trying to assume a position that you do not posses, now or never!! Fair?!! How dare you whine about fair, especially as a Sandan. Sandan's, of quality, have surrendered the word "fair" along, long, time ago!! Don't become a Sandan having the word "fair' pass over their lips.

Everything is fair in love and war!! This speaks to the MA wholeheartedly!!

Out rank you!!??!! Who outranks who?? I don't outrank anyone on the floor!! I only outrank someone on the floor whenever my authority requires it of me as the dojo's owner/operator...or, when it is regulated upon, as the Kaicho of the SKKA/Hombu where my authority is awarded to me per our By-Laws.

But on the floor?! I'm the same rank as the Jukyu that stands before me, even if I'm the CI!! I run the floor, not because of my rank, but because I say so; I carry the airs of authority within myself. My actions warrant my authority across the board because I'm complete in my totality as a MAist. I'm a student always, first and foremost!!

As I've said before, White belt is the most important belt ever because without it, no rank is attainable!!

Belts are akin to the saying that states that the forest gets in the way of the trees or vice versa. Everyone wants to be a black belt, but, fortunately, not everyone can be a black belt!!

Identifiers choke the very life out of the purpose of the floor, being that witness of everything, and most importantly, to teach EVERYONE, including the CI, and especially the CI!!

We students are to learn. Nothing should interfere with that process. Albeit, the belt/rank interferes with the learning process because it [belt/rank] becomes a focus, one way or another, and that focus steals and mars the learning process.

Belt/rank become the Super Star, like an famous movie star, and the MA student(s) want to be that movie star, or get its autograph, or just meet that movie star; star struck over a belt/rank is the introduction of a tainted MA journey.

You're a far better person than me, MatsuShinshii, because I would've dismissed him immediately, and then, showed him where the front door is. Actions speak louder than words, however, often times, words speak much louder than actions. I wouldn't have endured him at all!!





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MatsuShinshii
Green Belt
Green Belt

Joined: 15 Aug 2016
Posts: 371
Location: Kentucky
Styles: Matsumura Shorin Ryu, Ryukyu Kenpo, Kobudo

PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2017 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JR 137 wrote:
Perception can also work against you, focusing too much on the here and now, and forgetting about the past/karateka's history...

We have a yondan at our dojo who's at least 60 years old. Closer to 65 than 60. He walks like Quasimodo. Picture Quasimodo doing kata, kihon, kumite, etc., and it's quite close. One couldn't help but possibly ask themselves how anyone would promote him to yondan.

By all accounts, this gentleman was quite good about 15 years ago. He wasn't Bruce Lee, but he was far closer to that than Quasimodo. 2 major car accidents and a few spinal surgeries have severely effected his movement. He was promoted to yondan a few years ago, which was after his physical impairments. So assuming he was at his peak at sandan, should he have remained at sandan? Should he have been re-evaluated and ranked according to his abilities? Those are rhetorical questions, not aimed at you guys. I'm pretty sure I know how both of you would answer.

I know you wouldn't think about demoting him. I'm quite sure you'd have promoted him to his current rank as well, due to him living the expectations of that rank. But if he were wearing a white belt and came from another system where you didn't know what rank does what kata, or better yet had him do kyu level kata, you wouldn't think he's a yondan. He usually looks he's at the stage where he just finished memorizing them and is now working on actually doing them.

A big part of respect is showing respect for where the person has been. Perception doesn't accurately show that. Sometimes, the floor doesn't fully show it either, unfortunately.

Edit: I may have sounded if I was being critical of the original intent of the thread. I completely agree with what's been posted this far. I was just giving another side of the perception viewpoint.


Excellent points.

First I will address the rank. Yes I would most certainly promote him even with his ailments. Not because he is in splendid shape and can execute the techniques and applications better than most but because he was already on the verge of being promoted or your instructor would not have given the grade. There is also a lot to be said for knowledge.

I can tell within five minute of talking to someone about the arts if they know anything or are talking out of the back side of their face. I am sure this is the same with all of you here.

I was injured about five years ago while testing my second most senior student. He was going through the motions and I yelled at him and told him to act like he was on the street and this was for real. We were going through applications. I did the dumbest thing I have ever done and planted one of my feet, pow there went my knee and a reconstructive surgery later and I'm still not 80% of what I was five years ago. I can still hold my own but if tested I may not be placed in my current grade based on technique alone. However once I talk to someone they would know my grade based on knowledge.

Which brings me to your second statement about this man coming into our dojo and being assessed. To clarify the man I was assessing was within our lineage line but not the same exact art. If he were not I would have started him at Hachikyu irregardless of skill and knowledge because he would have been a beginner in my art.

To answer your question about your Yondan, it would depend on a few things; 1. his knowledge of the art. 2. if he could prove that he held that grade (certifications, documents, references).

The problem I had with the man that asked to join as his current grade (big indicator right off the bat as I would never ask this of a new instructor and no one I know would) was he did not exhibit the skills of the grade, did not exhibit the knowledge of the grade and could not produce any proof that anyone whatsoever awarded him the grade. I have no issue in producing credentials if I needed to start with a new instructor in the same art or sister art if I were to, say, move to a new state.

Most Yudansha understand this and would have no issue with it and would understand as your Yondan or anyone within your ranks would.

I agree perception could go both ways but to me what you know and what you show tells me everything I need to know whether you show up with a white belt around your waste or a black belt.

Cloth and paper can be faked. Skill and knowledge can't. You either have it or you do not.

In the Yondan's case his tell would be the knowledge that he contains. A simple explanation of his accidents would reveal why the body does not match the mind.

My Shinshii retired at the age of 85 and could no longer stand toe to toe with his senior students on the floor in full contact. His mind and the knowledge contained within was the treasure that gave no doubts of his grade.

Yes there is more than perception but lets be honest... in today's high tech world were you can produce a passable grade certificate and buy a belt off of google, actually talking with and assessing is a must.

Heck you can even start a website and claim to be a Judan of twelve different arts. Don't believe me just do a search for Soke. There are an absolute ton of self proclaimed Soke of arts you have never heard of before.

No for me, prove it. If not get off my floor and out of my Dojo. Be someone else's problem.
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The person who succeeds is not the one who holds back, fearing failure, nor the one who never fails-but the one who moves on in spite of failure.
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MatsuShinshii
Green Belt
Green Belt

Joined: 15 Aug 2016
Posts: 371
Location: Kentucky
Styles: Matsumura Shorin Ryu, Ryukyu Kenpo, Kobudo

PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2017 4:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sensei8 wrote:
Excuses!! That word is just as bad as Can't!! Neither of them are ever allowed on my floor. Either one is or one isn't, whatever the situation might be. Rank is lifted up to a level that becomes much more important than effectiveness in technique/knowledge/experience.


You know what they are like and they all stink.

sensei8 wrote:
A beautiful star placed on top of the Christmas tree can steal the beautiful perception of that tree because the eye sees that, and that alone. Take that same star off said tree, then the focus returns to beautiful Christmas tree. Never put on that star, the focus never wanders.


Love the analogy.

sensei8 wrote:
But on the floor?! I'm the same rank as the Jukyu that stands before me, even if I'm the CI!! I run the floor, not because of my rank, but because I say so; I carry the airs of authority within myself. My actions warrant my authority across the board because I'm complete in my totality as a MAist. I'm a student always, first and foremost!!


Agree 100%. I train with all of my students no matter grade. I teach them but they also teach me. In this we are equal. The only thing that separates us is time and knowledge.

sensei8 wrote:
As I've said before, White belt is the most important belt ever because without it, no rank is attainable!!


Agreed 100%.

sensei8 wrote:
Belts are akin to the saying that states that the forest gets in the way of the trees or vice versa. Everyone wants to be a black belt, but, fortunately, not everyone can be a black belt!!


You are right. Just because you show up for every class and put in your 2 hours of training does not grant you anything. If you are not ready or should I say worthy of the grade, I don't care how much time or money you invest, you do not get promoted.

sensei8 wrote:
Identifiers choke the very life out of the purpose of the floor, being that witness of everything, and most importantly, to teach EVERYONE, including the CI, and especially the CI!!

We students are to learn. Nothing should interfere with that process. Albeit, the belt/rank interferes with the learning process because it [belt/rank] becomes a focus, one way or another, and that focus steals and mars the learning process.

Belt/rank become the Super Star, like an famous movie star, and the MA student(s) want to be that movie star, or get its autograph, or just meet that movie star; star struck over a belt/rank is the introduction of a tainted MA journey.


I could not agree more. I have said this since I was a young man, it was easier having one color belt until Shodan. You loose focus of the next grade and concentrate on your improvement. I have threatened many times to remove all Obi's except for the white until they reach Shodan. All I hear is why it would be a bad idea but the reasons are due to vanity and ego not based on improvement of the training.

Wow you got me fired up enough that I just might come through with those threats. Maybe I'll try it out for a few months and see if I see improvement or decline. I already know the answer. Mabye I shouldn't be saying this as my students might high jack my computer or send a nasty virus to shut it down. ROFL

sensei8 wrote:
You're a far better person than me, MatsuShinshii, because I would've dismissed him immediately, and then, showed him where the front door is. Actions speak louder than words, however, often times, words speak much louder than actions. I wouldn't have endured him at all!!


Not at all Sensei8. I have just learned through the years that if you allow someone to prove what they say, they are either confident which in itself speaks volumes, or they will give away their lies.

The old saying goes that if you give someone enough rope they will hang themselves. I have found that the ones that talk really big know little and the ones that humble and down play their abilities know much. The bully talks big until you stand up to them and their curtain drops and you see them for what they truly are, weak and frightened. In this case the bully is the lie they have told.

If you are truly what you say you are, you have no issue with proving it. You also do not have an issue training with a more advanced grade because you benefit and even if you loose, any instructor worth their salt would not expect you to be able to tear apart a higher grade. It's about showing that you are what you are. Knowledge of oneself and your capabilities is tantamount to not knowing fear when asked to prove it.

Funny thing is if my student was not able to stick around he would have been training with me. I wonder what he would have said then? But as you said I am just a student of the art when I'm on the floor and I will train with anyone no matter of grade, title, gender, etc. etc.

My Shinshii always said he would always be a student of the art and never a master because there is always something to learn and to master would take more than a life time. If the man I admire and look up to has this mentality, I could do no less as I am not half the instructor he is.
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