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GoshinAiki
5/07/2012 1:13pm,
Since the Bullies are the guys who seem to have the best grip on verifying rank, I thought I'd come to this forum for some thoughts on handling how I refer to my rank.

About 12 years ago, I received the only grading I've ever gone for (shodan in my primary art). I was prepared to test for nidan, the last technical rank, which would be equivalent to the yondan in his current ranking system (it changed shortly before I left).

Over the last 5 years I've been reworking the curriculum (another story, and seriously not as ego-based as it seems). In order to avoid confusion with either the original association's ranking OR that used by my former instructor (as I'm not planning to change the name of the art, just the way it is taught and tested), I've opted to use an entirely different ranking structure (4 ranks for students, including black belt, and 2 for instructors).

My question is simply this: there is no way for me to establish the validity of the rank I'd be using under this new curriculum. What seems more reasonable in this case:


Just go without rank, sort of placing myself outside the ranking structure (this one has a complication with what belt to use, but I could figure that out).
Use the Instructor rank until such time as I have trained someone to that level, then assume the Senior Instructor rank.
Just go ahead and assume the Senior Instructor rank, since I'll be (by default) the most senior instructor in my branch of the system.

None of these seems like a great answer, so I'm open to alternatives. I don't want to deceive anyone (hence, my hesitation to take on Senior Instructor until I've been teaching the new curriculum a few years), but I do want to be able to explain my rank clearly for prospective students. Obviously, my shodan certificate shows I made that rank, but is relevant neither to my new ranking structure, nor to that of my former instructor, so I really won't have anything that gives real credibility to my rank, other than my skill on the mats and as an instructor.


I guess the major part of what I'm looking for is some guidance from folks more experienced than me on how to present my own rank in a newly-formed ranking system.



And Omega, I've read enough of your posts to expect a beating. I waive all rights against trolling from you and any of the other senior folks on here. I promise to weep quietly if you hurt my feelings.

lionknight
5/07/2012 2:42pm,
Since the Bullies are the guys who seem to have the best grip on verifying rank, I thought I'd come to this forum for some thoughts on handling how I refer to my rank.

About 12 years ago, I received the only grading I've ever gone for (shodan in my primary art). I was prepared to test for nidan, the last technical rank, which would be equivalent to the yondan in his current ranking system (it changed shortly before I left).

Over the last 5 years I've been reworking the curriculum (another story, and seriously not as ego-based as it seems). In order to avoid confusion with either the original association's ranking OR that used by my former instructor (as I'm not planning to change the name of the art, just the way it is taught and tested), I've opted to use an entirely different ranking structure (4 ranks for students, including black belt, and 2 for instructors).

My question is simply this: there is no way for me to establish the validity of the rank I'd be using under this new curriculum. What seems more reasonable in this case:


Just go without rank, sort of placing myself outside the ranking structure (this one has a complication with what belt to use, but I could figure that out).
Use the Instructor rank until such time as I have trained someone to that level, then assume the Senior Instructor rank.
Just go ahead and assume the Senior Instructor rank, since I'll be (by default) the most senior instructor in my branch of the system.

None of these seems like a great answer, so I'm open to alternatives. I don't want to deceive anyone (hence, my hesitation to take on Senior Instructor until I've been teaching the new curriculum a few years), but I do want to be able to explain my rank clearly for prospective students. Obviously, my shodan certificate shows I made that rank, but is relevant neither to my new ranking structure, nor to that of my former instructor, so I really won't have anything that gives real credibility to my rank, other than my skill on the mats and as an instructor.


I guess the major part of what I'm looking for is some guidance from folks more experienced than me on how to present my own rank in a newly-formed ranking system.



And Omega, I've read enough of your posts to expect a beating. I waive all rights against trolling from you and any of the other senior folks on here. I promise to weep quietly if you hurt my feelings.

Do what you want and what makes you feel happy, just don't expect it to mean anything out side of your own system. Be honest about it and then no one really cares.

Tetsumusha
5/07/2012 2:54pm,
I think that as long as you're honest about it all and you are actually skilled/trained enough to teach, that's all that really matters. If you give yourself the Senior Instructor ranking there is no problem with that as long as you tell people the same thing you told us about why you have the Senior Instructor rank. It's your school--set up the ranking system however you want, use whatever belts/uniforms you want, teach the curriculum however you want, and just be honest about where it all comes from. If anybody REALLY wants to confirm your rank they can call your previous instructor.

GoshinAiki
5/07/2012 4:24pm,
I think that as long as you're honest about it all and you are actually skilled/trained enough to teach, that's all that really matters. If you give yourself the Senior Instructor ranking there is no problem with that as long as you tell people the same thing you told us about why you have the Senior Instructor rank. It's your school--set up the ranking system however you want, use whatever belts/uniforms you want, teach the curriculum however you want, and just be honest about where it all comes from. If anybody REALLY wants to confirm your rank they can call your previous instructor.

Well, that's sort of the issue. All he'd be able to confirm is a shodan (unless he decided to "translate" it to what it would be under his current system - probably sandan). I know my rank would be meaningless outside my own branch of the art, but I'm pretty much okay with that. The art, itself, is pretty small, so I've spent most of my MA life being used to the fact that my rank meant nothing outside that small community.

(As a side note, I've considered re-joining the original governing body, where my rank would be a solid shodan and I could easily test up to nidan, so my students' ranks would be recognized by that association. But then I'd have to issue them ranks within that organization's curriculum, which I am reluctant to do.)

Tetsumusha
5/07/2012 4:32pm,
Well, that's sort of the issue. All he'd be able to confirm is a shodan (unless he decided to "translate" it to what it would be under his current system - probably sandan). I know my rank would be meaningless outside my own branch of the art, but I'm pretty much okay with that. The art, itself, is pretty small, so I've spent most of my MA life being used to the fact that my rank meant nothing outside that small community.

(As a side note, I've considered re-joining the original governing body, where my rank would be a solid shodan and I could easily test up to nidan, so my students' ranks would be recognized by that association. But then I'd have to issue them ranks within that organization's curriculum, which I am reluctant to do.)

As I said--it's your school, so you should do what you want to do, and you don't necessarily need to be beholden to an organization if you don't agree with their curriculum. If people call your old instructor and he says that he graded you to black belt in 2000, even if he doesn't explain any further, that should be sufficient to confirm that you were trained to a sufficient level to teach, and the implication of a further 12 years of training is that you would be significantly more skilled and knowledgeable than you were when he graded you. If people want clarification on what you have been doing between your black belt test and now, all you have to do is tell them and that should explain why you were not given a higher rank by the governing body of the organization you used to belong to. That seems to be the root of your issue--you seem to be concerned that because you never tested for a rank higher than shodan that people will think you are not qualified to formulate your own curriculum. If it bothers you that much, see if you can get a few people that outrank you to give you an informal exam and even if they don't give you a certificate they can act as references to support your level of skill to others.

GoshinAiki
5/07/2012 4:45pm,
Do what you want and what makes you feel happy, just don't expect it to mean anything out side of your own system. Be honest about it and then no one really cares.

Well, the reason I specifically asked this question on this forum, is that folks here actually DO care. Understand, it's not that I'm concerned someone would "expose" me - I make no secrets of any of this. However, I'm hoping some of the skeptical minds here will help me find a way to do this that doesn't look shadowy (to them or prospective students). I've seen instructors simply take on ranks they didn't possess nor realistically have any right to. I know my skills (both technical and teaching) are solid, so I know my rank would be appropriate, even if I took on the Senior Instructor rank, but I don't want to end up in a mess later having to do some 'splaining to clear things up, when starting out properly would have avoided confusion.

I'm actually hoping some of the folks on the MABS section will see these posts and give me their advice, since they're the ones who most likely have had to figure out where they draw the line between "fraudulent rank" and "rank in a new system".

I could avoid all of this by using a title like "Soke", but there are two issues with that:
1. It feels all ego-y to me. :)
2. I'd need to find a new name for my branch of the style to avoid the appearance that I'm trying to take ownership of the entire art. Making up a new name is just a mess I'd rather not get into (and also feels all ego-y).

Permalost
5/07/2012 4:55pm,
Can you be a little more concrete about your original art and what you've modified as your own style?

CrackFox
5/07/2012 5:07pm,
Ask yourself why you need the different ranks. If the answer is just because then that's not really a good enough answer in my books.

Do you have a need to distinguish between the abilities of a load of your students who don't know each other? That would be a good reason. Rank should be a tool, not a goal. Aside from the ego thing, it's a load of bureaucracy that you don't need.

Just keep it simple - make yourself the lowest rank that will put you above everyone else in your system. If/when you expand to the stage where you genuinely need it, pop yourself up one rank and open the lower ranks for your students.

slamdunc
5/07/2012 5:29pm,
Rank should be a tool, not a goal. Aside from the ego thing, it's a load of bureaucracy that you don't need.
I've heard this said before and couldn't agree more. Since martial arts is plagued with egos, politics and bureaucracy, some things are unavoidable.
My instructor is a sixth dan and has been such since 1985. A guy that I trained with under this same instructor earned his third dan legitimately. Since that time, he has convened panels of (his own) students, and they have promoted him to a seventh dan. IMHO, this reeks of cross-ranking and quid pro quo internal politics.
I guess it is nice to have a piece of paper to hang on one's wall and a bunch of stripes on the tip of one's belt if someone has truly earned it. What I find to be the case now is that what really matters when you are on the mat with someone, or even more importantly, when you are forced to use yous skills in the real world.

GoshinAiki
5/07/2012 5:44pm,
The art is Nihon Goshin Aikido (a direct derivative of Daito Ryu). My changes are almost entirely about how it is taught -- how the curriculum is defined (this is very specific in the version taught within the NGAA). In this change, I've altered some techniques to better incorporate the "aiki" principles (as opposed to the jujutsu versions).

See, I don't even really consider my changes as establishing a different "style" - it's just a different approach to the art. I dunno...maybe I'm just being too picky on that point, though.

CrackFox
5/07/2012 5:46pm,
How many people are under you?

GoshinAiki
5/07/2012 5:49pm,
I've heard this said before and couldn't agree more. Since martial arts is plagued with egos, politics and bureaucracy, some things are unavoidable.
My instructor is a sixth dan and has been such since 1985. A guy that I trained with under this same instructor earned his third dan legitimately. Since that time, he has convened panels of (his own) students, and they have promoted him to a seventh dan. IMHO, this reeks of cross-ranking and quid pro quo internal politics.
I guess it is nice to have a piece of paper to hang on one's wall and a bunch of stripes on the tip of one's belt if someone has truly earned it. What I find to be the case now is that what really matters when you are on the mat with someone, or even more importantly, when you are forced to use yous skills in the real world.

I agree, entirely. That's why I am so conflicted about this. I know that, for many serious students, the ability to get to "black belt" is important for a time, so I need to make room for them to do so (hence, I can't just stay forever at shodan). I specifically reduced the number of ranks (both student and instructor) to eliminate some of the bureaucracy, while retaining the benefit to new students (they can easily group others into "like me", "some experience", "been here a while", and "fully competent and instructors").

I almost feel like maybe I'm trying too hard to keep my ego out of this - is that even possible? If I could figure a way that would suit students well, I'd be just as happy to go "rankless", but I don't know how I'd explain that when folks asked about the ranks in the mainline versions of the art (those still following the NGAA curriculum).

SteveM
5/07/2012 5:51pm,
I dunno. Having had to deal with this sort of thing twice before as a student, I'd say go ahead and just rejoin the original governing body for their sakes (unless you think that would be detrimental). Just stick the original governing body until such time as you have enough students/blackbelts under you that the "Senior Instructor" rank is de facto instead of assumed. If your stuff is that great they will happily go with you to your new organization, and you won't be deciding for them.

GoshinAiki
5/07/2012 6:14pm,
Just keep it simple - make yourself the lowest rank that will put you above everyone else in your system. If/when you expand to the stage where you genuinely need it, pop yourself up one rank and open the lower ranks for your students.

This was my initial thought. However, I can't help wondering what I'd have thought of an instructor who promoted himself up. But I do keep coming back to something of this nature.

As for the reason for the ranks, I think it helps new students, and most folks (not those who train the most, but most students out there) perform better with some intermediate goals to reach. I've reduced the number dramatically because I just didn't like the constant focus on "the next belt." So, I guess I essentially agree with your comment about bureaucracy, but want to have the ranks in place to allow for expansion. It is not my intent for my branch of the art to die when I do (hopefully very many years from now), so I want to set up some structure from the start.

GoshinAiki
5/07/2012 6:20pm,
I dunno. Having had to deal with this sort of thing twice before as a student, I'd say go ahead and just rejoin the original governing body for their sakes (unless you think that would be detrimental). Just stick the original governing body until such time as you have enough students/blackbelts under you that the "Senior Instructor" rank is de facto instead of assumed. If your stuff is that great they will happily go with you to your new organization, and you won't be deciding for them.

That seems an easy answer, but to do that I have to use their curriculum, which I consider flawed. I don't want to malign the folks who did a lot of hard work and put in a lot of years growing the art, but I dislike the habits students develop under that curriculum, and I believe it actually delays their progress. I'm toying with the idea of offering to teach students the testing curriculum of the NGAA so they would be able to easily reach an appropriate rank if they changed schools. I taught that curriculum for years, so I'd have no trouble training students to pass the relevant tests.

It's interesting that the responses I'm getting seem to follow my own (conflicting) paths of reasoning. I have votes for pretty much all of the options I've considered.

GoshinAiki
5/07/2012 6:26pm,
How many people are under you?

At present, just one. I haven't started the program under the new curriculum yet, and have been just offering some private lessons and cross-training lately to pass the time and keep my development moving. I want to have this settled before I start the new program.

I could probably just start without defining any of this, but I'm accustomed (yes, just my own old habits) to introducing the structure to the student as they join, so the goal/event-oriented ones know where they're headed (which best motivates them to make progress in their learning). I've had some obstacles (mostly business/financial) that delayed this program, so I've had plenty of time to ponder these issues. I find them running circular patterns in my own head, so thought I'd do better getting some feedback from others.

In the end, this is the least important part of the change, and the one that has been most annoying to me, personally.