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Wastelander
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 18 Oct 2010
Posts: 2745
Location: Salem, IL
Styles: Shorin-Ryu, Shuri-Ryu, Judo, KishimotoDi

PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2023 3:26 pm    Post subject: Karate Organizations Reply with quote

Haisai, everyone!

I'm curious to hear about your experiences with, and opinions on, karate organizations that you've been involved with, or looked into being involved with in the past.

There are probably thousands of organizations out there, from competition-based organizations like the USKA and WKF, to style-specific organizations like the JKA and JKF, to style-agnostic organizations like the World Combat Association. These organizations almost always cost money to be a part of, like to have varying degrees of control over your curriculum and training methods, and sometimes even dictate your business practices. Essentially, I'm curious to hear the pros and cons from different peoples' points of view.

From my own experiences, off the top of my head, I have this.

Pros:
    Rank/instructor certification and validation as quality control
    Training and educational opportunities
    Propagation of consistent competition rulesets


Cons:
    Political machinations and scheming
    High rank trading between friends
    Too controlling of curriculum or training methods
    Too expensive to be a member
    High testing/certification fees

_________________
Kishimoto-Di | 2014-Present | Sensei: Ulf Karlsson
Shorin-Ryu/Shinkoten Karate | 2010-Present: Yondan, Renshi | Sensei: Richard Poage (RIP), Jeff Allred (RIP)
Shuri-Ryu | 2006-2010: Sankyu | Sensei: Joey Johnston, Joe Walker (RIP)
Judo | 2007-2010: Gokyu | Sensei: Joe Walker (RIP), Ramon Rivera (RIP), Adrian Rivera
Illinois Practical Karate | International Neoclassical Karate Kobudo Society
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aurik
KF Sempai
KF Sempai

Joined: 08 Nov 2016
Posts: 549
Location: Denver, CO
Styles: Shuri-Ryu, Uechi-Ryu

PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2023 9:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good question, Noah, but I'm wondering if this might be better suited in the Instructors/School Owners forum, since most students at the kyu and lower Dan grades won't really have this kind of perspective. As I'm an apprentice instructor, I can express my perspective on this though.

Our dojo is a member of two organizations, Uechi-Ryu Kokusai Kyokai (headed by James Thompson), and Matayoshi Kobudo Shinbukai (headed by Seisho Itokazu, but that may have changed -- more on that later).

As a member of our Uechi-Ryu organization, I do pay an annual fee that covers membership in the organization. It's like $50 per year for kyu ranks, slightly higher for dan grades, so that isn't a onerous amount. Our organization does dictate the material for examinations, and to another degree it dictates how the material is supposed to be performed. In our style, different lineages have different "signatures", so if you're in one organization with one lineage, you may be asked to perform techniques slightly differently than another lineage.

One thing I feel I gain by training in an established organization is legitimacy. I can go to any other Uechi-Ryu school or seminar, and my rank and experience will immediately be accepted on face value. If I were to leave my current school and go to another school in the same organization, I'd be accepted no questions asked. If I were to go to a different organization within Uechi-Ryu, I may need to re-test for my current rank, learning how others do things and their little subtle differences, but that's about it.

Our CI teaches a core set of material (that is tested on), but then he sprinkles in a lot of additional material for "flavor". For example, there are a number of throws and takedowns in ouir katas, bunkai, and yakusoku kumite, so sometimes he'll focus on those. We also sometimes work on self-defense techniques from our kata. Or we'll work on the yakusoku kumite from other organizations. Or <insert other cool stuff here>. Also as part of an established organization, our CI has the sway to bring outside guest instructors to Colorado to run seminars and the like.

As I mentioned before. We are also part of the Matayoshi Kobudo Shinbukai, or at least we were as of 2 weeks ago. This is where the politicking comes into play. Earlier this year we had a seminar with Itokazu sensei (head of the Matayoshi Kobudo Shinbukai), and one of the takeaways from that seminar was that our CI (who is a 5th degree in that organization) is still not able to promote students beyond shodan. So last week while he was in Okinawa, he was speaking to the heads of other Kobudo organizations (who he already has good relations with),

Now from my perspective, earning ranks up to (and including) 5th degree is pretty much all about time-in-grade, being active, and is your understanding of the material commensurate with the rank you're aspiring to. From what I've seen though, as you work towards 6th degree and above, politics become more and more ingrained in advancement.

Now there are other organizations that are much more codified, for example ATA. For ATA, all rank requirements are codified, and testing requirements for black belt ranks are very stringent. Individual instructors cannot promote students beyond second degree, and there are specific dates when students can test for advanced black belt degrees. (In point of fact, students must pass multiple "midterm examinations" before testing for their actual belt).
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Shuri-Ryu 1996-1997 - Gokyu
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Wastelander
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 18 Oct 2010
Posts: 2745
Location: Salem, IL
Styles: Shorin-Ryu, Shuri-Ryu, Judo, KishimotoDi

PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2023 7:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

aurik wrote:
Good question, Noah, but I'm wondering if this might be better suited in the Instructors/School Owners forum, since most students at the kyu and lower Dan grades won't really have this kind of perspective. As I'm an apprentice instructor, I can express my perspective on this though.

Our dojo is a member of two organizations, Uechi-Ryu Kokusai Kyokai (headed by James Thompson), and Matayoshi Kobudo Shinbukai (headed by Seisho Itokazu, but that may have changed -- more on that later).

As a member of our Uechi-Ryu organization, I do pay an annual fee that covers membership in the organization. It's like $50 per year for kyu ranks, slightly higher for dan grades, so that isn't a onerous amount. Our organization does dictate the material for examinations, and to another degree it dictates how the material is supposed to be performed. In our style, different lineages have different "signatures", so if you're in one organization with one lineage, you may be asked to perform techniques slightly differently than another lineage.

One thing I feel I gain by training in an established organization is legitimacy. I can go to any other Uechi-Ryu school or seminar, and my rank and experience will immediately be accepted on face value. If I were to leave my current school and go to another school in the same organization, I'd be accepted no questions asked. If I were to go to a different organization within Uechi-Ryu, I may need to re-test for my current rank, learning how others do things and their little subtle differences, but that's about it.

Our CI teaches a core set of material (that is tested on), but then he sprinkles in a lot of additional material for "flavor". For example, there are a number of throws and takedowns in ouir katas, bunkai, and yakusoku kumite, so sometimes he'll focus on those. We also sometimes work on self-defense techniques from our kata. Or we'll work on the yakusoku kumite from other organizations. Or <insert other cool stuff here>. Also as part of an established organization, our CI has the sway to bring outside guest instructors to Colorado to run seminars and the like.

As I mentioned before. We are also part of the Matayoshi Kobudo Shinbukai, or at least we were as of 2 weeks ago. This is where the politicking comes into play. Earlier this year we had a seminar with Itokazu sensei (head of the Matayoshi Kobudo Shinbukai), and one of the takeaways from that seminar was that our CI (who is a 5th degree in that organization) is still not able to promote students beyond shodan. So last week while he was in Okinawa, he was speaking to the heads of other Kobudo organizations (who he already has good relations with),

Now from my perspective, earning ranks up to (and including) 5th degree is pretty much all about time-in-grade, being active, and is your understanding of the material commensurate with the rank you're aspiring to. From what I've seen though, as you work towards 6th degree and above, politics become more and more ingrained in advancement.

Now there are other organizations that are much more codified, for example ATA. For ATA, all rank requirements are codified, and testing requirements for black belt ranks are very stringent. Individual instructors cannot promote students beyond second degree, and there are specific dates when students can test for advanced black belt degrees. (In point of fact, students must pass multiple "midterm examinations" before testing for their actual belt).


I did consider posting it in the Instructors/School Owners forum, but decided against it because I, personally, had quite a bit of experience with the pros and cons of organization membership as a mudansha in Shuri-Ryu, Judo, and Shorin-Ryu. I did get to experience things differently as a yudansha and instructor, of course, but I hope to hear the perspectives of everyone, regardless of rank or position.

It sounds like you're pretty well situated with your karate organization! Is there anything you think they should do differently that would make things better? I think I can guess that the kobudo organization should be more supportive of its member instructors in allowing for promotions?
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Kishimoto-Di | 2014-Present | Sensei: Ulf Karlsson
Shorin-Ryu/Shinkoten Karate | 2010-Present: Yondan, Renshi | Sensei: Richard Poage (RIP), Jeff Allred (RIP)
Shuri-Ryu | 2006-2010: Sankyu | Sensei: Joey Johnston, Joe Walker (RIP)
Judo | 2007-2010: Gokyu | Sensei: Joe Walker (RIP), Ramon Rivera (RIP), Adrian Rivera
Illinois Practical Karate | International Neoclassical Karate Kobudo Society
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aurik
KF Sempai
KF Sempai

Joined: 08 Nov 2016
Posts: 549
Location: Denver, CO
Styles: Shuri-Ryu, Uechi-Ryu

PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2023 9:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wastelander wrote:

I did consider posting it in the Instructors/School Owners forum, but decided against it because I, personally, had quite a bit of experience with the pros and cons of organization membership as a mudansha in Shuri-Ryu, Judo, and Shorin-Ryu. I did get to experience things differently as a yudansha and instructor, of course, but I hope to hear the perspectives of everyone, regardless of rank or position.

It sounds like you're pretty well situated with your karate organization! Is there anything you think they should do differently that would make things better? I think I can guess that the kobudo organization should be more supportive of its member instructors in allowing for promotions?


Honestly, I think we are extremely fortunate to have the relationship with Master Thompson that we do. Our CI's dad has been training under Master Thompson for decades -- Master Thompson has signed off on all of his diplomas, either as "Head of Organization" or "Supervising Instructor" from 1st degree through 9th degree. My CI's youngest brother is currently an instructor at the hombu dojo. I think short of training directly at the hombu dojo, there isn't a much better relationship you can get.

Of course, my instructors make a point to maintain this good relationship by making regular trips to Michigan (where Master Thompson is from) and Okinawa (to train with the heads of other Uechi-Ryu and Matayoshi Kobudo organizations). So far this year, he's been to Okinawa twice, Michigan once, and he's attended seminars given by other organizations in Edmonton and Hawaii.

So yes, if actively maintaining good relationships with the head of the organization and other organizations counts as "politicking", then he is certainly pretty deep in it. However, I feel that we as his students definitely reap the rewards of those good relationships, since those relationships allow him to bring guest instructors to our dojo a couple of times a year. Also, each time he does one of his trips, he always comes back with new material to share with us.
_________________
My Journey (So Far)
Shuri-Ryu 1996-1997 - Gokyu
Judo 1996-1997 - Yonkyu
Uechi-Ryu 2018-Present - Nidan
ABS Bladesmith 2021-Present - Apprentice
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Wado Heretic
Green Belt
Green Belt

Joined: 23 May 2014
Posts: 497
Location: United Kingdom
Styles: Wado-Ryu , Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu (Kodokan), RyuKyu Kobojutsu

PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2023 7:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have only really belonged to one organisation and I am with it for a number of reasons, but the primary one is access to the Head Instructor. I have regular private lessons with him and attend courses at the Hombu regularly. He is my teacher as well as Head Instructor. Plus, very reasonable financially considering it is his self-employment. Although there is a curriculum, it is flexible, so I am studying a selection of kata specifically for me rather than just because it is part of a syllabus. Plus, as long as I incorporate core teachings everyone in the association studies, I am free to otherwise manage my own curriculum.

The major con I have found with my brief time in a few larger organisations was a lack of access to the senior instructors. One could attend courses with them but I very quickly found they were repetitious. It was generally similar stuff every time. And it was generally expensive. They were also very strict on the curriculum, which I can understand from a quality control perspective, in that the larger the group the more you have to rely on tertiary means beyond direct instruction. However, the curriculums did not really address actual competencies in my view. They became about knowing the right set of Kata, combinations, and being able to perform various techniques.

I do think the scale of the organisation makes it more vulnerable to some of the pros and cons presented in the opening post. I have found that smaller organisations tend to be less vulnerable to politicking and often provide more quality control through direct coaching from the top instructor and seniors. However, the lack of scale often means a lack of broader opportunities, and some times heterodox competition formats, meaning it is can be difficult to expand one's horizons without moving organisation or holding multiple memberships. The benefit of large organisation in contrast is that scale of opportunities, but an immediate increase in politicking and disparity in quality between coaches and students.

Costs come down to individual greed in my experience. I have been in larger organisations where I felt there was good value for money, although, in the end I was disappointed with the course quality when senior instructors and the head instructor visited. But I have been in a smaller organisation where I felt the costs did not match the quality of services in the end.

The biggest pro for me as a Coach and Instructor is that it takes a lot of pressure off me from dealing with the business side of things. As long as I make sure I fill my forms out correctly, and make payments on time, I can just focus on teaching. But I rent the space out I teach from, and I have a 9-5 day job so coaching is purely a hobby. I only teach because I am the only one doing karate as I want to do karate in my immediate vicinity. In that sense, my view is skewed.
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sensei8
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 16497
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2023 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This subject is quite sensitive to me because of the spiraling downfall that occurred which eventually caused the SKKA, the Governing Body I was once the Kaicho and a member of for a tad over 5 decades, to close for good.

While the founders of the SKKA, our Soke and Dai-Soke, were the Kaicho (President) and Kancho (Vice-President) everything was a fine-tuned and well-oiled machine. When they both knew that their retirements were inevitable, they both made some significant organizational changes that would serve its Student Body as well as the SKKA the best after they both were gone.

Soon after they both had passed away, the SKKA elected me as the Kaicho and Greg Forsythe as its Kancho. The trimming of the fat, so to speak, was continued as Soke and Dai-Soke had meant it to be. For many years, Greg and I ran the SKKA like a Swiss clock.

Then tragedy came to the SKKA. A very mournful and dark cloud settled over the SKKA. One that I had never thought possible.

Emergency Elections had to take place. For now, I was to remain as the Kaicho. Still, EGO was the new driving force behind the SKKA. Whenever several key members of the Regents as well as Directors had eventually forced me out through affirmations, every tool available to oust me was so well played that according to the SKKA's Legal Team, my time had come to vacate not only my position as Kaicho but my membership with the SKKA was also dissolved permanently.

When that happened, the networked dojo's that are under the umbrella of the SKKA, slowly and one-by-one quit the SKKA. So many, that before long, the SKKA no longer had any network at all. Even worse, the Hombu's Student Body were seeking somewhere else to continue their Shindokan training.

The SKKA is no more!!

I wholeheartedly concur with Noah's listed Pro's and Con's above!! I will note the differences the SKKA of old had going for them, and this is not to say that the SKKA of old was better than what Noah has listed. The SKKA of old Pro's were what Noah listed.

The SKKA of old Con's turned into a Pro...

*Political machinations and scheming...Strictly forbidden!! Yes, The SKKA of old had its Higher Aarchy, however, it was ruled with an iron fist of checks and balances with serious repercussions across the board.

*High rank trading between friends...That was never ever allowed. That could get someone expelled for cause.

*Too controlling of curriculum or training methods...The SKKA allowed dojo's under the SKKA umbrella complete free reign. The SKKA never interfered with how a networked dojo was operated. Strictly forbidden!!

*Too expensive to be a member...Students' membership was a part of the tuition, which as long as I can remember, wasn't very high at all. I never paid more than $50 a month and as low as $25 a month.


*High testing/certification fees...Before they were dissolved, Kyu Testing Cycles were $50 and Dan Testing Cycles were $100.

The SKKA of new had no Pro, just one Con...EGO!!

The SKKA of new has soured me against any Governing Body and I've no interest whatsoever in joining and/or forming another one.



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Sailor Sindbad
Yellow Belt
Yellow Belt

Joined: 05 Dec 2019
Posts: 77

Styles: Kobayashi Shorin-ryu, Shotokan, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

PostPosted: Tue Nov 07, 2023 1:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

aurik wrote:
One thing I feel I gain by training in an established organization is legitimacy. I can go to any other Uechi-Ryu school or seminar, and my rank and experience will immediately be accepted on face value. If I were to leave my current school and go to another school in the same organization, I'd be accepted no questions asked. If I were to go to a different organization within Uechi-Ryu, I may need to re-test for my current rank, learning how others do things and their little subtle differences, but that's about it.


I'm currently 4th kyu, and that's how I look at it. And that's what I looked at when deciding on a dojo. Someone with more experience than myself may be able to look beyond that at other things, but that's where I keep it. To me, it shows quality control from echelons above the dojo AND the fact that what I achieve in one affiliated dojo will hold weight outside of it.
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Fat Cobra
Green Belt
Green Belt

Joined: 14 Jul 2018
Posts: 378
Location: Watertown, NY
Styles: Ryukyu Kempo

PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2023 11:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am currently in an excellent organization -- the United Ryukyu Kempo Alliance. It has great pros and very few cons. My concern, though, is what happens when Kaicho retires (or passes away). There is currently no succession plan, as far as I know and it does not seem like we are prepared for what happens after Kaicho is gone.
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sensei8
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 16497
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2023 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fat Cobra wrote:
I am currently in an excellent organization -- the United Ryukyu Kempo Alliance. It has great pros and very few cons. My concern, though, is what happens when Kaicho retires (or passes away). There is currently no succession plan, as far as I know and it does not seem like we are prepared for what happens after Kaicho is gone.

Any Governing Body needs to prepare for that inevitable, otherwise anarchy will set in certain areas of the Administration. Integrity doesn't only exist in ranks but in every aspect and corner of the Governing Body at all times. Like a will, certain things must be assured for the protection of the Governing Body as well as its Student Body.



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Revario
White Belt
White Belt

Joined: 27 Feb 2023
Posts: 10
Location: Ottawa Canada
Styles: Karate

PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2023 8:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am a weird one, I seem to only see the negative in organisation. Mainly the hierarchy and the unmovable curriculum. The lack of will to evoluate and adapt. The resistance to practicality and being stuck in the 50's with the 3Ks. The lack of acceptance towards functionality and cross training.

Which that is another subject all of it's own as Karate has all that one needs when studied properly. We are in an era where we are finding our techniques and movements being used in practicality in various different arts yet most Karate curriculum don't touch these applications or methodology.

The unwillingness to evoluate and see internet as a positive (one can choose how to use it) source of information and exposition to proper Karate.
The will to hide techniques and claim certain things are only for very initiated members yet those highly initiated members don't display greater or better fighting skills.

The lack of fact checking and dissemination of lies based on hierarchy and respect. One can claim wtv as long as it makes relative sense and they say it to adults who don't know any better or children. (All those samurai vs Karateka legends and Kobudo sources). And this is from a "reputable" organisation. Mainly because it has been long standing and mostly because when challenged they simply turn people away.


One positive is definitely quality control, but that can be done via testing/sparring anyways.

I may be too pragmatic in my approach, that is a thing, yet I fail to see the point in practicing in a way that is far from reality only to keep things the way they are and be afraid to lose face.


I am very alone in my area who wishes to practice Karate in this way, I am seriously thinking of moving out. My area is stale. To a point where one who is looking for what I am is better to look for a different art, like Muay Thai, MMA, Krav Maga or even some Kung Fu schools. BUT, as i said before, all of these things are in Karate. I simply wish to practice it with right minded people.
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