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Zaine
Black Belt
Black Belt

Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 2090
Location: Dallas, TX
Styles: Matsumura-Seito, Shobayashi-Ryu, Shudokan, Long Fist, American Street Karate, Southern Mantis, HEMA

PostPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2022 1:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If it's any consolation, when my first teacher got his 5th dan, a master rank in Matsumura Seito, as well, he requested that we continue to call him "Steve." Like you, I am wary of people that rest on their titles as a way of forced respect. It sits poorly in my stomach. That said, title or no, I understand your overall concern. I often ask myself: What do I deserve. It's certainly the question that I asked myself when leaving the dojo. It's the question that I am still asking myself in relation to my own struggling about rank and it's importance. We say that rank doesn't matter, and it certainly doesn't in the grand scheme of things, but it does within the political structure of martial arts, and it has a big impact on the "here and now." It is important insofar as the higher your rank is, the more you are allowed to do within the structure of an organization.

At the end of the day, it's your decision. You get to decide how you are represented and you're allowed to take steps to achieve that representation. If a 5th dan is what you want right now, then I say go for it. You might find, along the way, that it was something different that you wanted and abandon the quest for a test. You might realize that the reason you wanted the 5th dan is deeper than you originally thought. You won't know until you take your first step on the path.
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bushido_man96
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 29649
Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE, Police Krav Maga, SPEAR

PostPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2022 11:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Those are great words, Zaine. Thank you. Contemplation continues.
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aurik
KF Sempai
KF Sempai

Joined: 08 Nov 2016
Posts: 330
Location: Denver, CO
Styles: Shuri-Ryu, Uechi-Ryu

PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2022 9:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

At our school, we will call anyone who is a certified instructor "Sensei", whether that individual is a 3rd dan, 8th dan, or above. We have had 9th and 10th degree grandmasters visit the school, and they have asked us to just call them "Sensei". If individual yrunning the class is not a certified instructor, we call them "Sempai" (senior student). It's very simple that way, and nobody really gets hung up on rank. Technically, if our CI is present, I'll refer to him as just "Sensei", and any other instructor I'll call <first name> Sensei, out of respect.

The exception to the rule is that we usually call our CI's father by his shogo title, Kyoshi. This is mainly to show respect, and also because if we are referring to "Kyoshi", we all know exactly who it is, since he is the only Kyoshi in the school.
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DarthPenguin
Green Belt
Green Belt

Joined: 03 Dec 2021
Posts: 384
Location: Glasgow, Scotland
Styles: Shotokan, Judo, BJJ

PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2022 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zaine wrote:
If it's any consolation, when my first teacher got his 5th dan, a master rank in Matsumura Seito, as well, he requested that we continue to call him "Steve." Like you, I am wary of people that rest on their titles as a way of forced respect. It sits poorly in my stomach. That said, title or no, I understand your overall concern. I often ask myself: What do I deserve. It's certainly the question that I asked myself when leaving the dojo. It's the question that I am still asking myself in relation to my own struggling about rank and it's importance. We say that rank doesn't matter, and it certainly doesn't in the grand scheme of things, but it does within the political structure of martial arts, and it has a big impact on the "here and now." It is important insofar as the higher your rank is, the more you are allowed to do within the structure of an organization.

At the end of the day, it's your decision. You get to decide how you are represented and you're allowed to take steps to achieve that representation. If a 5th dan is what you want right now, then I say go for it. You might find, along the way, that it was something different that you wanted and abandon the quest for a test. You might realize that the reason you wanted the 5th dan is deeper than you originally thought. You won't know until you take your first step on the path.


I have noticed that (from my personal experience) the more skilled the martial artist the less they seem to care about the 'trappings' of rank and they more endure them : simple example, when my old bjj school first got affiliated with Rickson Gracie (i think most people would accept he can be classed as a master!) he made a point of shaking everyones hands, was very friendly, went out of his way to help students : if he could tell they were being too shy to ask him a question he would gently work it out of them etc. I compare that to another 'Master" level instructor i had that once almost banned me for the crime of studying all day and then coming to class and having a small crease appear in my sleeve from my uni books! I lost a lot of respect for him straight away tbh.

Back to the main topic of the thread, sounds like you have made a brave (and from the information presented correct) decision Zaine. I would also second the idea of some remote link up with more infrequent face to face training. Most of the more senior martial artists i have met have had to do this at some point as the people they could learn from were such a small group. Indeed, when i first got into bjj there must have been only 1-2 BB in all of Scotland so most of the senior guys had to do the same and it hasn't hurt them longer term. Your Shodan should equip you with enough skill to be able to remotely work on what your longer distance instructor has suggested and you could always use the online options when needed too.

Another consideration for me would be the intent behind your new school. Is it a means to give back to your art and develop yourself or is it an intended new career / business venture? IF the former then the higher ranking doesn't really matter, if the latter then unfortunately it may do. For a business i would assume that student numbers are important and a lot of people may just look for whichever instructor nearby has the highest dan, without reading more into it
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DarthPenguin
Green Belt
Green Belt

Joined: 03 Dec 2021
Posts: 384
Location: Glasgow, Scotland
Styles: Shotokan, Judo, BJJ

PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2022 11:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

bushido_man96 wrote:
Quote:
If I can be honest with you, Brian, I'm surprised on all of this talk about rank this and that from you because you've never expressed any concerns when rank is considered. It's the knowledge and experience that you've always strived after.


I know, Bob. It strikes me this way, too. I don't know why, but I feel that if the new owner/instructor gets higher ranked than me...I don't know. All the ceremonious bowing to one with a "higher rank," but lacking so much in experience, turns my stomach a bit. He is currently a 4th dan, same "rank" as I am. Like I mention, it's a weird spot I find myself in, and I don't like it.

My other major concern is the sheer cost of the next test, which is ridiculous. In order to stave some of the cost, I had the previous CI start an escrow account for me, basically adding $5 or $10 (I don't remember which) extra out of my monthly dues to put towards the next testing. With that in mind, I should probably go ahead and follow through with it.

Like I said, it is a weird position for me, and I'm not necessarily proud of the way I'm approaching it. I've got to get my mind right and test for me, and not anyone else.


I would generally agree that chasing rank for ranks sake is unnecessary but i would also wonder what would be the impact on you if you do/don't go for a promotion.

If you don't go for it and the CI does, will this affect your training (other than having to acknowledge their higher status) or not? If it would on a personal level make you uncomfortable and feel the need to leave the school then you should also factor this into the decision.

Looking at it from a totally different perspective, that of the other students at the school, who is the better teacher out of yourself and the CI? Would the other students actually gain more from your being the senior (or at least equal) grade? If you already have the money saved up for the exam then that could be a totally valid reason to go for it tbh - to benefit the school itself
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bushido_man96
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 29649
Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE, Police Krav Maga, SPEAR

PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2022 1:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's a little bit to unpack there, DarthPenguin, so I'll address them.

1. As for the impact on me and my training, probably not too much. I'm at the point in my journey where I feel I learn more from exploring different things myself, researching and experimenting, than I do from an instructor trying to teach me a new form or set of one-steps.

2. I wouldn't feel the need to leave the school, for sure. Truth is, the student population has dropped so much in the last few years, there aren't many students to teach...not adult students, anyway. What would bother me the most, and this is superficial I admit, is that the higher ranked CI would not be a better instructor than me.

3. I feel I am the better teacher. Maybe that's bragging, but it's how I feel about it. The current CI probably has 1/3 of the training experience I have. I don't think he's a bad instructor at all. He does things differently than I do, and that's always expected. I just don't feel he's a better instructor than I am.

Another concern that I've heard brought up in the past is that the GM may not promote to 5th dan if the tester isn't running a school. If that would end up being the case, then the whole situation would take care of itself.
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DarthPenguin
Green Belt
Green Belt

Joined: 03 Dec 2021
Posts: 384
Location: Glasgow, Scotland
Styles: Shotokan, Judo, BJJ

PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2022 4:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

bushido_man96 wrote:
There's a little bit to unpack there, DarthPenguin, so I'll address them.

1. As for the impact on me and my training, probably not too much. I'm at the point in my journey where I feel I learn more from exploring different things myself, researching and experimenting, than I do from an instructor trying to teach me a new form or set of one-steps.

2. I wouldn't feel the need to leave the school, for sure. Truth is, the student population has dropped so much in the last few years, there aren't many students to teach...not adult students, anyway. What would bother me the most, and this is superficial I admit, is that the higher ranked CI would not be a better instructor than me.

3. I feel I am the better teacher. Maybe that's bragging, but it's how I feel about it. The current CI probably has 1/3 of the training experience I have. I don't think he's a bad instructor at all. He does things differently than I do, and that's always expected. I just don't feel he's a better instructor than I am.

Another concern that I've heard brought up in the past is that the GM may not promote to 5th dan if the tester isn't running a school. If that would end up being the case, then the whole situation would take care of itself.


The GM point may make everything else moot so that might be worth exploring first as no sense wasting mental energy on something that couldn't come to pass regardless.

The other points are tough ones. Most people would agree that ego has no place in the martial arts, but in the real world, with real people, it can raise it's head sometimes and it can make a difference. In styles where you need to reach a certain level to 'unlock' competition levels etc and then rank becomes irrelevant (eg Judo where once you are at black belt level it doesn't matter what dan you are for competition, same with bjj) it's common to have more skilled people at a lower rank and no one really cares. In other styles there is always a perception of the more skilled person being the senior rank (whether true or not) and i always find it looks a little odd when you see more junior people at a lower rank without an obvious reason like age - though you are a 4th dan so no one can really think of that as junior!

From the way you have phrased the messages it does seem that not grading may affect your mindset a little going forwards, and as a result have an impact on your training. You have obviously dedicated years to your style so that would be a shame.

Am sure you will make the right decision for you though
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sensei8
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 15977
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2022 10:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Another concern that I've heard brought up in the past is that the GM may not promote to 5th dan if the tester isn't running a school. If that would end up being the case, then the whole situation would take care of itself.

If this is an on-going practice, then the GM is speaking more towards profit than promoting knowledge, and without knowledge there's no positive experience. That alone would be a deciding factor for me to search for better pasture.

Not all black belts can teach. Rank doesn't guarantee any teaching capabilities whatsoever. If you know you're a better teacher, than that too, is a deciding factor for wanting to leave. No matter what, your perception of his teaching capabilities must be taken seriously because if you remain under that cloud, the situation will just become much worse than it already is.

Having a high ranked CI doesn't guarantee success for any school of the MA. Current economics riding on the back of a pandemic surely has made it unbearable for any business. After all, learning the MA is more of a want than a need. Having a place to live, food, and basic staples is far more important than paying for MA tuition. Saddle with all of that is magnified when one lives in a small town.

If there's conflict within the dojang, this small town will know about it, and will decide to not darken the door no matter what high ranking CI and all of the bells and whistles that school might have.



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bushido_man96
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 29649
Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE, Police Krav Maga, SPEAR

PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2022 10:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think I'll be leaving the school for any reason. If anything, it still provides me a place to train, even if I solo train. There aren't many options here for me to train at. There is a fellow around here that does some ground/submission stuff out of his fitness center, but I'm reluctant to seek any training out there, just from what I know of the place. There is a Karate dojo I'm not really interested in, and also and Aikido dojo.

I have trained at the Aikido dojo before, and I like the instructor. I don't necessarily see eye-to-eye with all the training philosophies, but I can train around those issues. If I were to pick another school, that would be the one I'd look to.

I guess the major thing I wouldn't look forward to is a newly minted 5th dan starting to pull rank on me. That would rub me the wrong way, indeed.
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sensei8
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 15977
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2022 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great to hear that you've made a decision as to your current school is concerned even though some issues still rub you the wrong way in a darn if you do and darn if you don't.

As far as the newly minted 5th Dan, should it ever become a reality, is the perfect time to practice tolerance...and mumble under your breath to yourself...quite a lot.

Train hard, train well!!




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