Please take a look at Articles on self-defense/conflict/violence for introductions to the references found in the bibliography page.

Please take a look at my bibliography if you do not see a proper reference to a post.

Please take a look at my Notable Quotes

Hey, Attention on Deck!

Hey, NOTHING here is PERSONAL, get over it - Teach Me and I will Learn!

When you begin to feel like you are a tough guy, a warrior, a master of the martial arts or that you have lived a tough life, just take a moment and get some perspective with the following:

I've stopped knives that were coming to disembowel me

I've clawed for my gun while bullets ripped past me

I've dodged as someone tried to put an ax in my skull

I've fought screaming steel and left rubber on the road to avoid death

I've clawed broken glass out of my body after their opening attack failed

I've spit blood and body parts and broke strangle holds before gouging eyes

I've charged into fires, fought through blizzards and run from tornados

I've survived being hunted by gangs, killers and contract killers

The streets were my home, I hunted in the night and was hunted in turn

Please don't brag to me that you're a survivor because someone hit you. And don't tell me how 'tough' you are because of your training. As much as I've been through I know people who have survived much, much worse. - Marc MacYoung


The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books. Please make note that this article/post is my personal analysis of the subject and the information used was chosen or picked by me. It is not an analysis piece because it lacks complete and comprehensive research, it was not adequately and completely investigated and it is not balanced, i.e., it is my personal view without the views of others including subject experts, etc. Look at this as “Infotainment rather then expert research.” This is an opinion/editorial article/post meant to persuade the reader to think, decide and accept or reject my premise. It is an attempt to cause change or reinforce attitudes, beliefs and values as they apply to martial arts and/or self-defense. It is merely a commentary on the subject in the particular article presented.

Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.

“What you are reading right now is a blog. It’s written and posted by me, because I want to. I get no financial remuneration for writing it. I don’t have to meet anyone’s criteria in order to post it. Not only I don’t have an employer or publisher, but I’m not even constrained by having to please an audience. If people won’t like it, they won’t read it, but I won’t lose anything by it. Provided I don’t break any laws (libel, incitement to violence, etc.), I can post whatever I want. This means that I can write openly and honestly, however controversial my opinions may be. It also means that I could write total bullshit; there is no quality control. I could be biased. I could be insane. I could be trolling. … not all sources are equivalent, and all sources have their pros and cons. These needs to be taken into account when evaluating information, and all information should be evaluated. - God’s Bastard, Sourcing Sources (this applies to this and other blogs by me as well; if you follow the idea's, advice or information you are on your own, don't come crying to me, it is all on you do do the work to make sure it works for you!)

“You should prepare yourself to dedicate at least five or six years to your training and practice to understand the philosophy and physiokinetics of martial arts and karate so that you can understand the true spirit of everything and dedicate your mind, body and spirit to the discipline of the art.” - cejames (note: you are on your own, make sure you get expert hands-on guidance in all things martial and self-defense)

“All I say is by way of discourse, and nothing by way of advice. I should not speak so boldly if it were my due to be believed.” - Montaigne

Search This Blog


I practice Okinawan Isshinryu. The "dan ranking" system is not Okinawan by design or intent. It was adapted from the Japanese, specifically from Kano Sensei Judo origins. Any theories as to the ranking and dan system is Japanese, period.

I decided to write this post because I have come across so many different ideologies as to what a "sho-dan" really means. I can say with certainty that there is no one accepted definition of a sho-dan or first grade black belt. There seems to be as many defining explanations of a black belt as there are actual black belts out there - almost.

Depending on with who you speak the meaning varies greatly. Some feel a special affinity with their first black belt. So much so that they tend to allow it to  degrade in appearance to the point of ridiculous due to that attachment. I found that the one my Sensei gave to me was like that, for a while, but soon lost that luster and shine as I realized that he as well as many others placed no special significance on the belt when it was awarded. Sometimes it is a matter of luck, luck that you may be the first sho-dan he or she promotes at a time when he or she needs a new black belt.

Henry Sensei later told me he was a bit miffed when I handed over the new black belt I bought since the size was smaller than what he needed. I kind of chuckled and told him next time to let the person know what size to buy, etc. The significance I attached disappeared. I would have kept it for posterity purposes if I had not lost it in shipment when transferring around the country later.

I digress, sorry. Back to the subject. Much like many of my time, 1970's, I assumed that Sho-dan was more significant than it truly was. I tried to run a dojo shortly after leaving Okinawan as a fledgling Sho-dan. My only luck was I still looked to others for guidance in lieu of assuming I was the know all, end all Sensei - really, laughable today thinking of that time.

Sho-dan: First, the sho or the character for it " 初 " means "first," generally. As I utilize the Internet and my Kodansha dictionary I find that it can and does mean, "first, beginner, a first step, a beginner's course, elementary, rudiment, a novice [first, new, early, innocent, naive, artless, unsophisticated, inexperienced] and finally " 柔道 - Judo 初段 - first stage " being first stage or the first grade of the senior class for Kano Sensei's Judo.

The defining term for my perspective on Sho-dan is the words, "naive, artless, unsophisticated and inexperienced." Why? Because as been written in many articles one has barely achieved knowledge and a modicum of ability in the fundamentals of the particular system. A Sho-dan is naivety at its earliest stage; it is an artless form simply because a Shodan has not achieved anything greater than the mere physical, only a limited level has been achieved; the person lacks any true sophistication in the martial "arts" and they tend to lack any reality based experience which sometimes goes for an entire life time of practice and training - if your lucky.

Read that again, the paragraph above, for it speaks to many aspects of the grading system, i.e. belts and all the rainbow of colors. Black belt is truly the first door one enters on the journey and maturity, culture and morality tend to go a long way in awarding the sho-dan. To award black belt, sho-dan, at an early age than psychological ability is crucial. This means NOT award belts higher than 3rd brown to anyone before the age of at least 18 years; coupling that with a personalized assessment to maturity, etc.

This is not to diminish the accomplishment of attaining a sho-dan, black belt, for it is truly a milestone in anyone's efforts to achieve proficiency and enlightenment through a martial art such as Okinawan Karate-jutsu-do. A huge accomplishment yet also is a tempering of the mind. A reminder that there is a longer and more difficult road to follow. It is no wonder so many tend to end the trip at Sho-dan.

Many of the early American military assumed that false sense of mastery at the black belt. To some we applaud for realizing this and changing. Many not.

Ask yourself when you received your Sho-dan, "Did it feel like you achieved your bachelor's degree from University? Or, did it feel like you passed your entrance exams to University?"

Click to view larger version for clarity.

No comments: