Add KarateForums.com
KarateForums.com Awards 2023: VOTE Your Favorites!
Username:    Password:
Remember Me?    
   I Lost My Password!
Post new topic   Reply to topic    KarateForums.com Forum Index -> Karate
Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4  Next
 See a User Guidelines violation? Press on the post.
Author Message

Wastelander
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 18 Oct 2010
Posts: 2711
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Styles: Shorin-Ryu, Shuri-Ryu, Judo, KishimotoDi

PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2023 8:03 am    Post subject: On the Abolition of Yudansha Grades Reply with quote

We've had a couple discussions here in recent weeks about ranks, and I thought I would bring up a topic that might be worth some thought, which is the abolition of yudansha grades beyond Shodan. In other words, there would be a black belt rank, but no Nidan-Judan (2nd-10th degree) grades.

This is something that I have personally done with rank in my dojo, in addition to trimming down the number of kyu grades. There are a few different factors to my reasoning, here, and I'm sure not everyone feels the same. For one thing, my late Sensei required his students to know the full curriculum by Shodan, anyway, which is the requirement most organizations (including the one we were part of) have for Godan. The idea was that you would then simply spend your time as a yudansha exploring and evolving your karate, rather than memorizing new material. Of course, that makes it tougher to grade someone, because they don't have to demonstrate new material at a test, and instead simply need to show improvement in skill/understanding. The second major factor is that rank is almost always used as a political tool, and a way for people to feel superior to others. That isn't always the case, of course, but far more often than not, that is what I've observed. Third, the dan grades don't serve the purpose in karate that they were intended for in Judo or Go, where the system came from.

Requiring all of the curriculum for black belt does mean it takes longer to earn a black belt, but I don't see that as a huge issue, personally--people don't have any problem training for 8-12 years to reach black belt in BJJ or Judo, for example. I'm sure many people feel the dan grades are, or should be, merit based, but I honestly see them used more as a political tool for those who have already achieved a higher rank, because the more high ranks they have under them, the better they look. Additionally, there is a definite sense of hierarchy that stacks on top of organizational hierarchy when you have multiple dan grades, where the 3rd Dans feel superior to the 2nd Dans, and the 6th Dans feel superior to the 5th Dans, etc. The trouble is that the only difference between these grades is often the length of time someone has been training, rather than their skill or knowledge, but you end up with people making "corrections" that they really shouldn't be making, just because they have a higher number on their certificate than someone else.

The third factor is probably the most universal one, but it doesn't get talked about much. I think most people realize that belt ranks are going to be completely different between styles, organizations, and even individual schools. The thing is that this isn't really the case with competition-based arts, because their competitions provide a universal standard against which participants are judged. This fits well with the kyudansei, because it was brought into Judo from Go, where it was used to handicap and bracket opponents for competition, and Judo uses it that way, as well--albeit less formally. Karate, on the other hand, is made up of so many disparate systems, and without any universal competition format to judge participants by, that the dan grades really don't mean anything, at all, outside of your school. What, then, is the point, since they don't signify what they were intended to (ie, your level of skill/understanding in comparison to others who are graded with the same system).

Anyway, just some food for thought, and I'd love to hear what you all think!
_________________
Kishimoto-Di | 2014-Present | Sensei: Ulf Karlsson
Shorin-Ryu | 2010-Present: Nidan | 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
Arizona Practical Karate
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website

DarthPenguin
Brown Belt
Brown Belt

Joined: 03 Dec 2021
Posts: 723
Location: Glasgow, Scotland
Styles: Shotokan, Judo, BJJ

PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2023 8:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting thought - seems very similar to old school bjj actually. From what i have seen there used to only be three belts : white, blue and dark blue/navy to denote instructor (Royce changed to wearing one of these a few years ago - not sure if he still does).

The curriculum idea from your late sensei is also similar to bjj : in essence you should 'know everything' by black belt and the subsequent training is refining your own style and techniques with black belt degrees being for time served (in essence).

Personally i think it is quite a good idea but i can see it having some issues in the modern world with student retention "why hasn't my child got a new belt yet", "i'm better than X, why are we the same belt" etc. and it would require a decent amount of maturity from the practitioners for it to work.

It almost seems like the kind of thing that is more suited to established "lifelong" martial artists who enjoy learning and for whom rank is merely a barrier to be overcome to learn more. Seems like it would work well for a 'boutique; style - something small and close knit with high standards etc but not as well suited to a larger scale style
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message

Wastelander
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 18 Oct 2010
Posts: 2711
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Styles: Shorin-Ryu, Shuri-Ryu, Judo, KishimotoDi

PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2023 8:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

DarthPenguin wrote:
Interesting thought - seems very similar to old school bjj actually. From what i have seen there used to only be three belts : white, blue and dark blue/navy to denote instructor (Royce changed to wearing one of these a few years ago - not sure if he still does).

The curriculum idea from your late sensei is also similar to bjj : in essence you should 'know everything' by black belt and the subsequent training is refining your own style and techniques with black belt degrees being for time served (in essence).

Personally i think it is quite a good idea but i can see it having some issues in the modern world with student retention "why hasn't my child got a new belt yet", "i'm better than X, why are we the same belt" etc. and it would require a decent amount of maturity from the practitioners for it to work.

It almost seems like the kind of thing that is more suited to established "lifelong" martial artists who enjoy learning and for whom rank is merely a barrier to be overcome to learn more. Seems like it would work well for a 'boutique; style - something small and close knit with high standards etc but not as well suited to a larger scale style


With regard to instructors, I did go with a certification for those who want to teach, as opposed to different belts. Essentially, you can earn a black belt in my adult curriculum, and if you want to be an instructor, there is more material (such as the childrens' curriculum, and the KishimotoDi material I teach) that you would have to learn, and be tested on. Rather than a new obi, you would be awarded with a shidoin (instructor) certificate.

I'm sure the reduced number of belts and lack of dan grades probably would be a discouraging factor for some, so I agree that it probably wouldn't work well in a large-scale commercial school. With kids, I do have a separate belt system, entirely--also similar to BJJ and Judo--so there are more belts for children to work through. It helps to provide that tangible incentive. I just feel that adults shouldn't need as much of that as kids do, and I'd like to think that removing the additional dan grades would get rid of the "I should be a higher rank than so-and-so" factor simply because there ARE no higher ranks to be had.
_________________
Kishimoto-Di | 2014-Present | Sensei: Ulf Karlsson
Shorin-Ryu | 2010-Present: Nidan | 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
Arizona Practical Karate
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website

sensei8
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 16247
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2023 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Solid OP, Noah and I commend you for your forthright thinking. I totally agree with you across the board.

Ever since I earned Sandan, I always consider rank in general, especially those of the yudansha, nothing more than a nuisance in the Nth degree because proof is on the floor and not around the waist.

Lack of effectiveness and maturity should be the measuring stick, and again, especially whenever the yudansha ranks are concerned.

I've two Senior ranks that I earned over 5 decades from my Soke and Dai-Soke as well as a Hanshi. I'm as humble as apple pie with what I've earned, nor am I ashamed of them either. Nonetheless, I don't flaunt them around in any manner on or off the floor as though I'm better than anyone and what I say goes, so on and so forth...that's not me!!

I was part of the SKKA hierarchy for over 3 decades of which I held various positions from The Regents all the way up to Kaicho. However, my priority has always been in the support of the Student Body, and I fought for them against the other powers that be for the sake of the Student Body and not for the ego of the hierarchy.

What good is what I've earned as a yudansha ever since the SKKA was dissolved several years ago. After all, for the most, rank outside of the Governing Body and/or the dojo means nothing. Wearing a plain black belt proudly without all of the decorations as if my yudansha was a Christmas tree strongly appeals to my integrity.

Integrity must be more important than anything!!

I say earn Shodan and leave it at that. Unfortunately, that ideology, more than not, will get thrown out like the bath water because quite a lot of practitioners love power and rank means just that.

Using the excuse that Tradition dictates this and that is just that....a very bad excuse, and the lack of effectiveness as well as maturity becomes acceptable back then and even now...and will be still the rage of the page way after I've shed off my mortal coil.

Again, proof is on the floor...ALWAYS!!



_________________
**Proof is on the floor!!!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail

R5ky
Orange Belt
Orange Belt

Joined: 27 Jun 2022
Posts: 117


PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2023 12:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very interesting discussion; I actually like the idea of learning the entire curriculum to earn a BB. I've been a part of styles where certain techniques were only taught at higher Dan levels.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message

bushido_man96
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 30001
Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE, Police Krav Maga, SPEAR

PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2023 8:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a very interesting thought, indeed. First off, thanks for sharing this with us. I look forward to the discussions!

At first glance, I wasn't so sure, but the way you went on to explain it, I feel like you've hit on some very good points.

The one that jumped out to me the most was this:

Quote:
The idea was that you would then simply spend your time as a yudansha exploring and evolving your karate, rather than memorizing new material. Of course, that makes it tougher to grade someone, because they don't have to demonstrate new material at a test, and instead simply need to show improvement in skill/understanding.


A caveat real quick: I usually tend to read threads from top to bottom, seeing what other posters have said so far. I did not do that with this thread, because I didn't want to influence my answer in any way. I'll catch up on the replies after this post.

So, when I read that section of your post, it really resonated with me. That's exactly the frustration I have with my school/organization at this point in time. For example, the GM added this series of three-step sparring; 18 of them if I recall, and the first 6 are required at the dan testings now. To me, this is frivolously adding worthless curriculum to give black belts some more busy work to do; more to memorize for testing. Compound that with the exorbitant testing fees (it would cost me more than a good car payment to test for 5th dan), it makes the thought of testing frustrating. Then you mentioned the politics; I wonder how others in the organization, especially ones that I've taught in the past who have now tested up to or past my current rank, look at me. I honestly don't care, but what does bother me is the expectation of "respecting the rank" when I don't honestly think they have more to offer than I do.

At any rate, that a lot of me and my issues, but like I mentioned, your comment really resonated with me in that sense. I'm tired of busting my but to learn some new three-steps that I don't think are useful or beneficial training. The thought of exploring deeper into the style, and even learning from other stylists, really appeals to me.

I like your idea, but it would definitely be a hard one to pull off. It will probably be relegated to a few stylists here and there that decide to go with this approach. There's a lot of merit in it; when practitioners start seeing each other more and more as peers as opposed to wondering where they fall into the hierarchy, then so many new things become possible. Like Bob always says, "Proof is on the floor!"
_________________
www.haysgym.com
http://www.sunyis.com/
www.aikidoofnorthwestkansas.com
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail

bushido_man96
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 30001
Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE, Police Krav Maga, SPEAR

PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2023 9:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

R5ky wrote:
Very interesting discussion; I actually like the idea of learning the entire curriculum to earn a BB. I've been a part of styles where certain techniques were only taught at higher Dan levels.


I agree. The current CI at our school is interested in expanding our self-defense knowledge. However, ho sin sul (self-defense) is reserved for the black belt classes. How is that helpful or right? We had also talked about introducing some grappling drills, just to get some exposure to it, and to give our students some idea of how to deal with it. However, he had an issue with teaching it especially to some of the younger kids right away. Too advanced. I told him there are a BJJ white belts out there. Didn't seem to help much.

Another issue I have is that the school is always worried about the next testing. I just don't care for that approach. The instructors always end up "teaching to the test," and therefore the classes are structured for learning testing material. So no exploration gets done.
_________________
www.haysgym.com
http://www.sunyis.com/
www.aikidoofnorthwestkansas.com
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail

Zaine
Black Belt
Black Belt

Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 2243
Location: Dallas, TX
Styles: Matsumura-Seito, Shobayashi-Ryu, Shudokan, Long Fist, American Street Karate, Southern Mantis, HEMA

PostPosted: Thu Mar 23, 2023 8:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

bushido_man96 wrote:
However, ho sin sul (self-defense) is reserved for the black belt classes. How is that helpful or right?


I agree with your indignation, here. For me, I always learned that kata without bunkai, the practical applications of these movements that we spend so much time learning, is just dancing. Karate is about self-defense, and saving those applications seems like a situation in which students are being held back from the core idea of karate.

Quote:
Another issue I have is that the school is always worried about the next testing. I just don't care for that approach. The instructors always end up "teaching to the test," and therefore the classes are structured for learning testing material. So no exploration gets done.


I can see how this is frustrating, as well. It would frustrate me greatly. That exploration of concept should be baked within the core of the testing structure. It helps students understand what is going on, and gives them a better grounding on what it is that they are doing. The benefit of that is not only a deeper interest in the techniques that one is doing, but it also does the job of test preparation for you, without worrying about having classes gear specifically toward that. It's a problem that my last dojo had, as well, where most classes were geared towards what someone needed to test next. My favorite classes there were those that taught me the techniques and concepts of the things that I was already learning. Students will be ready when they are ready, and classes geared towards a testing cycle are only going to give students shallow knowledge of the source material.
_________________
Martial arts training is 30% classroom training, 70% solo training.

https://www.instagram.com/nordic_karate/
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website

Wastelander
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 18 Oct 2010
Posts: 2711
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Styles: Shorin-Ryu, Shuri-Ryu, Judo, KishimotoDi

PostPosted: Thu Mar 23, 2023 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sensei8 wrote:
Solid OP, Noah and I commend you for your forthright thinking. I totally agree with you across the board.

Ever since I earned Sandan, I always consider rank in general, especially those of the yudansha, nothing more than a nuisance in the Nth degree because proof is on the floor and not around the waist.

Lack of effectiveness and maturity should be the measuring stick, and again, especially whenever the yudansha ranks are concerned.

I've two Senior ranks that I earned over 5 decades from my Soke and Dai-Soke as well as a Hanshi. I'm as humble as apple pie with what I've earned, nor am I ashamed of them either. Nonetheless, I don't flaunt them around in any manner on or off the floor as though I'm better than anyone and what I say goes, so on and so forth...that's not me!!

I was part of the SKKA hierarchy for over 3 decades of which I held various positions from The Regents all the way up to Kaicho. However, my priority has always been in the support of the Student Body, and I fought for them against the other powers that be for the sake of the Student Body and not for the ego of the hierarchy.

What good is what I've earned as a yudansha ever since the SKKA was dissolved several years ago. After all, for the most, rank outside of the Governing Body and/or the dojo means nothing. Wearing a plain black belt proudly without all of the decorations as if my yudansha was a Christmas tree strongly appeals to my integrity.

Integrity must be more important than anything!!

I say earn Shodan and leave it at that. Unfortunately, that ideology, more than not, will get thrown out like the bath water because quite a lot of practitioners love power and rank means just that.

Using the excuse that Tradition dictates this and that is just that....a very bad excuse, and the lack of effectiveness as well as maturity becomes acceptable back then and even now...and will be still the rage of the page way after I've shed off my mortal coil.

Again, proof is on the floor...ALWAYS!!



Thanks, Bob! I was curious as to your opinion on this, since you've gone through the ranks and organizational hierarchy to a very high level.

bushido_man96 wrote:
This is a very interesting thought, indeed. First off, thanks for sharing this with us. I look forward to the discussions!

At first glance, I wasn't so sure, but the way you went on to explain it, I feel like you've hit on some very good points.

The one that jumped out to me the most was this:

Quote:
The idea was that you would then simply spend your time as a yudansha exploring and evolving your karate, rather than memorizing new material. Of course, that makes it tougher to grade someone, because they don't have to demonstrate new material at a test, and instead simply need to show improvement in skill/understanding.


A caveat real quick: I usually tend to read threads from top to bottom, seeing what other posters have said so far. I did not do that with this thread, because I didn't want to influence my answer in any way. I'll catch up on the replies after this post.

So, when I read that section of your post, it really resonated with me. That's exactly the frustration I have with my school/organization at this point in time. For example, the GM added this series of three-step sparring; 18 of them if I recall, and the first 6 are required at the dan testings now. To me, this is frivolously adding worthless curriculum to give black belts some more busy work to do; more to memorize for testing. Compound that with the exorbitant testing fees (it would cost me more than a good car payment to test for 5th dan), it makes the thought of testing frustrating. Then you mentioned the politics; I wonder how others in the organization, especially ones that I've taught in the past who have now tested up to or past my current rank, look at me. I honestly don't care, but what does bother me is the expectation of "respecting the rank" when I don't honestly think they have more to offer than I do.

At any rate, that a lot of me and my issues, but like I mentioned, your comment really resonated with me in that sense. I'm tired of busting my but to learn some new three-steps that I don't think are useful or beneficial training. The thought of exploring deeper into the style, and even learning from other stylists, really appeals to me.

I like your idea, but it would definitely be a hard one to pull off. It will probably be relegated to a few stylists here and there that decide to go with this approach. There's a lot of merit in it; when practitioners start seeing each other more and more as peers as opposed to wondering where they fall into the hierarchy, then so many new things become possible. Like Bob always says, "Proof is on the floor!"


I definitely think that the additional dan ranks encourage padding the curriculum. In my former organization, there was a set of 7 yakusoku kumite drills (same concept as your three-steps, but the number of movements varies) that we had to know, but after the founder of the organization passed away, his son introduced 7 more. And then 7 more. And then 7 more. These drills mostly ended with solid kata applications, but the rest was your typical long range, childrens' karate basics that don't (IMO) provide any real value besides some kote kitae. It felt like just another way to keep black belts memorizing material to earn ranks.

bushido_man96 wrote:
R5ky wrote:
Very interesting discussion; I actually like the idea of learning the entire curriculum to earn a BB. I've been a part of styles where certain techniques were only taught at higher Dan levels.


I agree. The current CI at our school is interested in expanding our self-defense knowledge. However, ho sin sul (self-defense) is reserved for the black belt classes. How is that helpful or right? We had also talked about introducing some grappling drills, just to get some exposure to it, and to give our students some idea of how to deal with it. However, he had an issue with teaching it especially to some of the younger kids right away. Too advanced. I told him there are a BJJ white belts out there. Didn't seem to help much.

Another issue I have is that the school is always worried about the next testing. I just don't care for that approach. The instructors always end up "teaching to the test," and therefore the classes are structured for learning testing material. So no exploration gets done.


Self-defense should not be gatekept in that manner, IMO, and neither should fundamental grappling. You don't need to teach your yellow belts how to put a gogoplata on somebody trying to stab you, lol. For what it's worth, I had some disagreements with the other instructors at my late Sensei's dojo after he passed away, because he incorporated grappling material into his karate classes, but I was the only instructor doing that after his passing. I pushed to have grappling drills included as grading requirements to try and encourage the other instructors to include it, despite wanting to trim the grading requirements down. It's tough when you have organizational requirements that don't represent an efficient practical curriculum.
_________________
Kishimoto-Di | 2014-Present | Sensei: Ulf Karlsson
Shorin-Ryu | 2010-Present: Nidan | 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
Arizona Practical Karate
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website

Zaine
Black Belt
Black Belt

Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 2243
Location: Dallas, TX
Styles: Matsumura-Seito, Shobayashi-Ryu, Shudokan, Long Fist, American Street Karate, Southern Mantis, HEMA

PostPosted: Thu Mar 23, 2023 8:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wastelander wrote:
With regard to instructors, I did go with a certification for those who want to teach, as opposed to different belts. Essentially, you can earn a black belt in my adult curriculum, and if you want to be an instructor, there is more material (such as the childrens' curriculum, and the KishimotoDi material I teach) that you would have to learn, and be tested on. Rather than a new obi, you would be awarded with a shidoin (instructor) certificate.

I'm sure the reduced number of belts and lack of dan grades probably would be a discouraging factor for some, so I agree that it probably wouldn't work well in a large-scale commercial school. With kids, I do have a separate belt system, entirely--also similar to BJJ and Judo--so there are more belts for children to work through. It helps to provide that tangible incentive. I just feel that adults shouldn't need as much of that as kids do, and I'd like to think that removing the additional dan grades would get rid of the "I should be a higher rank than so-and-so" factor simply because there ARE no higher ranks to be had.


I think it's pertinent to mention that adults like shiny things as much as kids do. The thing that adults have that kids don't is the ability to temper expectations and be swayed by cooler heads. I think the question, in this case, should be "What kind of attitude do we want adult black belts to engender?"

I have spent the last 14 years as a Shodan and have been happy with that. It wasn't until I opened my own school that I began to desire a higher rank, for the sake of my students. I've spent that 14 years, off and on, enriching my own journey as a martial artist. Branching out and learning different philosophies and techniques has been a joy, and I don't feel weird telling people that I am still a Shodan after all this time. Rank doesn't matter to me, my experience does. I feel like it's a place that a lot of people reach at one point or another. Rank is not who we are, experience is. Rank, in a perfect world, exists only as a visual marker of that experience. However, as you pointed out, it often exists as a political tool. It serves only to show a hierarchy of power in too many organizations. Do they have the right experiences? Do they have the right temperament? These questions are thrown to the wayside when rank is a purely political thing.

I agree with, all things said. The abolition of yudansha would be what is best for karate, I think, in general.
_________________
Martial arts training is 30% classroom training, 70% solo training.

https://www.instagram.com/nordic_karate/
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    KarateForums.com Forum Index -> Karate All times are GMT - 6 Hours
Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4  Next
Page 1 of 4
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum


< Advertising - Contact - Disclosure Policy - DMCA - Staff - User Guidelines >