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
WARNING, CAVEAT AND NOTE
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
Even then the ranking might have simply meant one reached an entry level rank/level/grade, i.e. the entry level methods or techniques, then the middle levels and finally the upper levels. None of it then or now actually had any governing body to say these are the criteria, procedures and processes by which any one Sensei would award any recognition for proficiency in the system or style.
The governing of rank, grade or levels of proficiency are a modern system I believe came into existence simply as a means to control both the practitioner and the money the ranking, testing and award ceremonies would earn for the system or style.
It is apparent in the traditional/classical systems that the level of black belt of the first level, i.e. sho-dan, is nothing more than an indication that one has achieved a level of serious practice and moved up from a novice to a student. It did not and does not mean that anyone in any system or style is an "expert" or "master" of their respective system or style.
In a traditional view one who reaches sho-dan has simply reached a level where they understand the basic fundamental principles of the system or style. Having a sho-dan is laudatory, or high praise, but not a big deal at all. The praise is given because you stayed the distance but have a great distance to still go to become an expert in your system or style. To master it is a whole different journey all together. Sho-dan means simply that "you are starting to get it" and not much more - you have potential and the real test begins now.
Returning to my original hypothesis, the dan-kyu systems didn't exist until Judo in the early 1900's. Even the ancients didn't use this type of recognition but determined each individuals proficiency and level according to that person, the person providing instruction and the master of that system or style. Each and every one had different criteria to the system or style and further broke it into distinct individual properties as required for the uniqueness of each practitioner.
Sho-dan is the main demarcation point in the martial arts, the beginner point or beginner's black belt. Your true competitive levels are from sho-dan to san-dan and most grades or levels above that san-dan level are more in line with acknowledged teaching abilities and other more esoteric traits indicative of each individual.
As systems and styles were converted into a system for the schools the progressed into the need for larger groups in training with less or single Sensei which resulted in the need to "see" quickly the level and capacity of students. The kyu grades began their progression toward the many rainbow colors observed in today's martial arts circles.
The west took this system and gave it greater breadth of importance along the lines of methods to garner more income for the training facilities, i.e. grade tests and belts with accoutrements such as stripes, etc.
The school system processes further garnered the west additional means of milking students for more income, i.e. grade tests, grade criteria much like class syllabuses, etc. and specific periods of time for qualification to test and getting tested. This also provided the uninitiated a metaphor that they would understand and accept as to requirements and specific tasks to achieve grade, which is traditionally dependent more on an individual than school syllabus and test criteria. Each one meant another means of finding funds to run the facility.
Okinawa didn't have, as stated earlier, any dan-kyu system at all until it found through the implementation of martial arts into the school systems as required by Japan and as used by the Kodokan Judo governing body. It was applied there first and then adapted by the many dojo on the island in the early 1900's where Isshinryu founder Shimabuku Tatsuo Sensei started to use a modified version in the mid to late fifties when he began teaching the Marines stationed there.
How did the Okinawans then pass on their expertise. Well, if the story I was told is true they ran their training in their homes, in the yards, in places where people gathered, etc. They learned of the masters and systems by word of mouth and personal recommendations. They practiced wearing nothing but what appear to be short white underwear or pants; bare foot and bare chested due to the environmental conditions. They would train hard, the Sensei would observe and when you reached a level of proficiency they would then recommend other masters to train under.
In Shimabuku Tatsuo Sensei hard ground yard he used belts starting with white to black then later white to green to black and finally white to green to brown to black.
Finally, ranking or belt colors have come to mean in the west and more so in the east now more than they are meant to mean. The primary goal in training now is to achieve a belt color with its associated/dictated specifics in applications in lieu of simply training to gain proficiency and spirit in karate goshin-jutsu-do. What is in your heart is of more value than what color of cloth is around your waist.
My personal belief today is when you can let go of the belt and train then you have actually reached a level that matters.