I came across your web site by accident and got to reading it and was "quite amused" by some of the things you had to write. Although I agree whole heartedly about "some" of the things you had to say about "certificate mills" as there are 100s out there who are quite fraudulent, most likely are not even black belts, live in a trailer etc. "I do not agree" that "all organizations" are money hungry paper mill organizations as you seem to imply!? To name a few: USA Karate Association, AIKIA /World Masters Association which is run by Jerry Beasley who he is a PHD who teaches Martial arts at Radford University in VA, he puts on Karate college every year. Joe Lewis, Bill Wallace, and Renzo Gracie are involved with and support that organization...say no more! These are organizations I belong to ..why.. well the founder of my style died, my teacher moved away and I no one to advance with. I was a well respected 3rd dan who was a top fighter around New England but earned higher grade in rank with the help of these organizations. And believe me it did not cost me to get rank..testing was free..and the first few times I failed and they worked with me to move forward. They also support my students and give them a good sense of credentials.
This is what I believe and here are also the facts: I believe that one should look for a teacher who received their Black belt from a Black belt teacher in person who received their Black belt in person from their teacher etc. I got my 1st/2nd/3rd dans from my teacher after 18 yrs of hard training and 10 years of regional competition. However, MOST and I mean 95% of most martial artists in this world got there 2nd- 10th dan grades though correspondence and video demonstrations..that is just a god damned fact of martial art real world life fact!!!
Most well respected Taekwondo instructors in the northeast and I know MANY got there 4th/5th and 6th dans from other organizations or from a board of people that were not even involved with Taekwondo! I am not saying there is not fraud out there..there is fraud everywhere in everything from used cars to selling toilet paper. Sure there are fraudulent martial artists that pick up credentials from paper mills..I knew at least one in my life and they did not last long...most of them kind usually do not stay in business very long and move onto something else. Its just your "hard line" comments about paper mill organizations and that people need to come from "pure lineage" in person as you sort of imply has just about devaluated 95% of all martial artists in the world including most in Taekwondo!! Hell, Bruce Lee was self proclaimed..Helio Gracie Self proclaimed and oh the creator of Taekwondo..yup self proclaimed! Unless a teacher comes from a Chinese KungFu Shaloin temple no body in this industry can "claim pure lineage" or that they got their ranks ESPECIALLY the higher ranks from people in their specific style organizations in person. Furthermore credentials are not all about paperwork..how does a person fare in tournaments, how they conduct themselves as a person and finally what does their students say about them..to me that is the biggest piece of credentials one can hold is what their students say. Anyway just food for thought:) In good spirit.
Note: This is a touchy subject to some people, so this conversation is lenthly.
Thank you for your comments. I never learn anything new from people who agree with me.
The Certificate Mills topic is about certificate mills. The point of the topic is to define certificate mills, explain how they work, and make people aware of them. The point of the topic is not to explain what a good organization is, or to list some of the good organizations, although I did list what distinguishes a legitimate rank issuing organization from a certificate mill. Organizations are covered in more detail in other topics. The topic states, “Some organizations exist only to issue rank certificates to those who send them money.” It does not say “all organizations.” Your estimate that 95% of the high ranks got their ranks from certificate mills is a much greater number than my “some” implies.
I am confused! In the topic, I stated that a legitimate rank issuing organization was one that issues rank to students who have been:
- Trained by a certified instructor of the organization.
- Tested in person by a certified instructor, or a group of certified instructors, of the organization.
- Recommended for rank by a certified instructor, or a group of instructors, of the organization as having met or exceeded the organizations requirements for the rank
You state that my stated requirement that legitimate ranks must come from "pure lineage" and in person has just about devaluated 95% of all martial artists. And yet you also state that you believe that one should look for a teacher who received his or her black belt from a black belt teacher in person who received there black belt in person from their teacher, etc. Instead of differing, are you not agreeing with my statement?
There are over 2500 pages of information in TKDTutor.com written over the last ten years. Even I do not remember all that I wrote years ago about a particular subject; however, my basic philosophy has not changed over the years so I can say with reasonable certainty that I did not write certain things. I have not written that all ranks rank must come down from some pure linage. What I have said is that orange trees bear sweet oranges and that lemon trees bears sour lemons. If an instructor is legitimate, any rank he or she awards to students is also legitimate. If an instructor is illegitimate, then all rank issued by him or her is illegitimate. If a person’s rank is from a legitimate linage, the rank is legitimate; if it is from an illegitimate linage, it is illegitimate.
Practically every martial art style began with one person’s ideas. That person developed followers and the art either flourished or it died. Whether it lived or died, was as much a result of its marketing was it a result of its effectiveness as a martial art. Bruce Lee had no controlling organization over JKD. Now there are differing masters who claim linage and to be teaching true JKD. The ITF had a single organization controlled by General Hi. Now that he is dead, there are at least three ITF organizations, each claiming to be the official organization. Most martial arts and martial art organizations are self-serving dynasties. As I have stated in TKDTutor.com, if you have a martial art instructor that satisfies all your needs, then you do not need anything else. Within that instructor’s martial art, school, or organization, you have rank that is accepted by other members and you receive certain privileges within the school or organization according to that rank. If you are happy with the situation, that is all you need! However, this does not mean that another instructor, school, or organization will recognize your rank or accept the philosophy, concepts, beliefs, etc. espoused by your martial art or instructor.
Credentials are testimonials to the validity of something, usually in the form of some written accreditation. In the martial arts, there are no legal requirements for any type of accreditation; therefore, anyone may claim to be anything they want to claim. A person’s marital art credentials may be anything: real, fraudulent, or imaginary. A black belt’s martial art background and linage, character, personality, integrity, education, personal philosophy, physical skills, competitive experience, teaching abilities, likability, etc. all add to or subtract from his or her creditability, but the person’s credentials are accreditations of these things from person’s or groups that are widely accepted as being legitimate sources for such accreditations. If ones instructor or organization meets all ones needs, that is all the credentials one requires. Just do not expect other to accept that accreditation.
Fighting is not string theory physics; it is very simple; it requires absolutely no training or education. Every person is born knowing how to fight; it is instinctive. A completely untrained person, who thinks he or she is fighting for his or her life, will take bites of flesh from the lips, ears, genitals, etc, claw off sheets of skin, jab eyes, yank out hair, break fingers, etc. and would probably defeat a trained fighter who was not fighting for his or her life, especially since most martial arts techniques do not train to face these types of attacks. No one has ever invented a new way of hand-to-hand fighting; people merely re-label and repackage age-old techniques. Fighting is instinctual; martial arts are merely attempts by people to codify and refine these instincts, make them more palatable to the masses, and permit humans to act on their fighting instincts in a relatively safe manner. We do not more “master” to “found” any more martial arts.
Martial arts are similar to companies. When as new company that offers a new product first opens, all its employees think the product is the greatest thing since sliced bread. As the company markets the product and develops base of customers, if it sells enough of the product, it may decide to go public and sell stock. A novice investor may think this is a great company and buy into its initial public offering. If the company prospers, the value of the investor’s stock will rise; however, if the company folds, the stock will be worthless. It is much the same with martial art instructors, schools, and organizations. If you buy into a new one with all your time, effort, and money, you may prosper if it survives, or you may lose everything if it folds, including the value of your rank. However, if you buy into a well-established company or martial art instructor, school, or organization, your chances of it still being around and relevant decades from now are greatly increased. People who follow some self-proclaimed master may prosper, but the odds are that it will turn out to be a waste of time, effort, and money.
There are good and bad martial arts, instructors, schools, and organizations. All long as people are aware of what constitutes a good or bad martial art, instructor, school, or organization, they may make informed choices as to which to associate themselves.
Thank you for some of your explanations back. I use to write columns for one of the Martial art completion organizations I use to compete in so I like dialog/debate and also like to set the record straight when I feel necessary. In writing to you the other night being late after a long day of work and training I might not have been "clear" on what I was trying to explain. I will recap in a more simple text:
What I was reading into your "certificate mill article" was that there are organizations out there that are a little less than credible, want your money, have no real background or credentials behind them etc. and people should be leery to get involved with these organizations...this "I whole heartedly agree with" and there should be something said about some of these organizations on the net! Maybe since you have a web sight you could expose some of these organizations (I would be glad to assist you). I do not claim to be an expert but I have studied "quite extensively" for the past several yrs the growing internet "shopping Mall" of organizations that have appeared online and feel I have done my part locally and regionally to inform people (Martial Art dojos/perspective students etc) about some of these organizations. I am as close to an expert if one exists as I feel the world is running rampant with black belt video exams, teachers who are less than qualified, and mixed martial art systems giving out colored ranks.
I have written columns about some of these subjects and at some point would like to put some stuff I have learned and researched online, maybe you would be interested in being that vehicle since you have already spoken some of the topics described...
However, where I disagree and want to give you some food for thought is you seem to imply that "legitimate credentials" of black belts/instructors got their dan grades "in person" from "an organization that they trained in.” Then you made a point about video exams being of less credibility.
I personally feel that "ALL black belts" to be "credible" should have trained with a "real school" (not from a video tape) and got their black belt "in person" from an instructor who got their black belt from a school they were in, in person, etc. I do believe in good lineage as far as one getting their black belt from teacher in person and so on etc. However where I disagree is that a lot of "higher dan ranks" and when I use 95% I am speaking "higher dan grades as a whole" (most would be in the higher grades 5th - 10th) where received through correspondence and sometime through video exam. I would say Most 5th/6th and even 7th dans and above in Taekwondo got there higher dan grades from correspondence or from a martial artist possibly from another style. For an example...a very dear good friend of mine a current 6th dan in Taekwondo, excellent teacher, great competitor, huge school 100 plus students, very well respected all around New England got his 1ST through 3rd dan grades in person from a higher ranking Taekwondo teacher(who knows where his original teacher got his dan grades from?). My friend since he lived several states from his original teacher received his 4th dan in Taekwondo from the president of the Vermont Martial Arts association who was an 8th degree black belt in Shoryn Rue Karate.
My friend in turn got that 5th dan crossed ranked by correspondence to one of the Taekwondo Associations I believe you mentioned in your recommended associations!?
I myself got my 1ST - 3rd dans in person, my teacher moved and the founder of my system an internationally recognized Asian certified system "USA Karate Jitsu" died. So what was I suppose to do to move up in rank and give my students good credentials beyond my own start a new style? I loved my system..after 18 yrs I was not going anywhere else.
So I "extensively" researched organizations and feel I personally belong to one of the best in the business (AIKIA/World Martial art Masters Association). What I am saying Ron is if you look and research around the country you will find that "higher dan grades" including many in Taekwondo where not given "in person" or necessarily from an organization in "direct teaching lineage.” You have implied this in your paper mill column as a means to look for credentials. This statement could actually offend many in Taekwondo who are well respected teachers! Unless a black belt came from a Chinese Sholin temple(as their credentials are as pure as spring water) the rest of us in the world have credentials that are in the "gray area". Why because somewhere in our lines someone got their credentials through correspondence or someone was self proclaimed in the past 80 yrs. Does that mean we are all invalid and only Chinese Kung Fu is the only valid system out there? Of course not but for those of us not in a Sholin temple other gauges should be used by students looking for a school to learn in. Some of these gauges but not all including should be the teachers integrity, possible tournament record, who gave them their black belt and if there initial black belt "Shodan" was "in person" and who their teacher was etc. Also what possible organizations one belongs to and finally what a teachers students say about them. This is what I feel are the true gauges of determining credentials outside a Sholin Temple!
I am going to send you an additional email about some organizations I have extensively researched (one in particular I belong to and why I do) I have graded these organizations accordingly from "A - F.” It looks like you are doing a great thing Ron with your TKD tutor.
I commend you on that. If you would like further input to help educate people around this country about organizations/credentials feel free to use some of things I spoke of in this email and or I would be more than happy to add more opinions/food for thought for your consideration
As I understand what you are saying, you think it is wrong that lower rank black belts got their rank through submitted videos, but you think it is okay for higher rank black belts to get their rank through submitted videos. This is similar to saying that undergraduate students must attend college classes to get their degrees but that graduate students do not have to attend classes for their masters or doctorate degrees. (By the way, there is no accredited university in the United States that awards a PhD in the martial arts.) It seems martial art “masters” have a constant need to feed their egos. It is not enough to be a 9th degree in their art, they also need high rank from other arts, they need to be “founder” or a soke, or they need to be called professor or doctor (a designation awarded to them by some unaccredited "martial art organization" which means nothing in real world). A person with a degree from an accredited university has the degree and all that it entails; a person with a degree from an unaccredited university has a worthless piece of paper.
Let us assume that a black belt is an expert at his or her chosen martial art (since that is still the public perception) and that a black belt who teaches for profit is a professional black belt. People consult experts and professionals for assistance in things at which they have little knowledge, and they expect the experts to be licensed, certified, accredited, etc. by a board of accredited experts. If you went to a financial advisor for investment advice, would you rather he or she have a classroom attended MBA from an accredited university or an online degree from some unaccredited university? Would you want the lawyer defending you against murder charges to have a mail order law degree? Would you want your heart surgeon to have performed surgery before a certifying board or just to have submitted a video? Would you want the “master” to which you have committed so much of your time and money to have tested by video, or in front of their students and peers by a group of certified judges?
I recently attended my cousin’s Shito-ryu black belt testing. He was the only one testing; they only test one at a time. The whole school was there even though he was the only one testing. He had to perform all the forms required by each rank up to his rank, all the weapon forms required by each rank up to his rank, sanchin kata with the instructor using kicks and punches against his body to test his resolve, all the breaks required by each rank up to his rank, and he had to medium-contact spar all color belt ranks and all black belt ranks, including the instructor and a huge 8th degree. He was on the floor for three hours with only water and restroom breaks. When he finished, he looked as if he had been dragged through a briar patch by a mule: scratched, bleeding, dislocated nose, torn ear, red marks, blue welts, and exhausted. He earned his black belt, he knew it, and everyone there knew it. There is no substitute for in-person testing.
In-person, judges can see a testee’s, appearance, mannerisms, body structure, etc., and how they react to stress, failure, pain, etc. They can feel the strength of the testee’s handshake and test his or her muscle tone. They can smell the cleanliness of the testee and his or her uniform. They can hear the testee’s breathing, the depth of the kiais, the moans and groans, etc. In a video, judges only see what the testee gives them to see. Would you want to give your permission to a man to marry your daughter based upon a video of him, or from meeting him in-person.
Reader Point: All a good point and I whole-heartedly agree. A credible black belt and teacher should have gotten their initial dan rank from a teacher in person from years of hard work...ABSOLUTELY!!! It took me 11 yrs of hard work 5 days a week to get my 1ST degree black belt. I get offended when I see others get theirs in 3-4!
TKDTutor response: In-person, the testee must be the actual person. The person performing in a video may be a friend of the actual testee.
Reader Point: It is highly unlikely that a martial artist testing through correspondence would ask another possibly higher ranking Martial Artist to test for them...what would that say about the other better Martial Artist? This may happen but I would think this scenario would be quite rare. Most respectable organizations as AIKIA have safe guards to such possibilities as in "proof of your driver’s license" with a picture and if it does not look like the guy on the video there would be an issue!
TKDTutor response: In-person, the testee must test at the allotted time, whether he or she feels like testing or not. Many times, they have traveled many miles with little sleep before a testing or may be injured, sick, or recovering. They have to have the resolve to perform at their best no matter their circumstances. Video testees can pick the time to perform the requirements to insure it is the opportune time for them to perform at their best.
An in-person testing is an event that must be experienced by all. There is no substitute for “live” participation and viewing. This why people pay so much money to see bits and pieces of sporting events in-person when they could see the entire event for free on television, with close-ups and continuous replays of all the action.
Reader Point: Who made the rule that higher dan ranks have to test...it is most recognized in the industry that above 3rd dan, ranks are given for "time in grade”, years of teaching, knowledge, not physical ability!! This is why MOST get their higher dan grades though correspondence where as video being "one form" of the determination factor but not the only one. What about the 8th degree that is too old and feeble, maybe handicap to test....but he possesses great knowledge, has led a lifetime of teaching, was a great competitor in his day..should he be required to go through a test to get recognized? Do you really think most of the Grand Masters out there got here higher degrees from a hard-core physical test? Of course not!
TKDTutor response: In-person testees get one attempt at a form; either it is good enough, or it fails. If breaks require additional attempts, they are witnessed by judges. Video testees can make numerous takes and select the best ones to submit.
In-person sparring is against opponents chosen by judges and whose abilities are known to the judges. Video sparring opponents can be anybody.
If a person does not have easy access to the required training or to testing locations or does not have the money to pay for a testing or to travel to a testing, that is too bad—life is not fair. However, that does not mean that the standards should be lowered to accommodate them. As you said, black belts are a dime a dozen nowadays. That is why I said that rank is only good within the school or organization that issued it. It is similar to military rank. While a captain in the navy is an O-6 with great authority and respect, a captain in the army is a mere O-3. When dealing with a navy captain, army personal show proper respect, but otherwise, the navy captain has little authority in the army, the lower ranked army captain has more authority. A navy captain would not be able to change services and become a colonel in the army; nor would he be awarded an honorary rank. To change services, he would have to start near the bottom and work his way up though the army ranks.
If any video tested black belts are offended by my opinion that martial art rank must be tested for in-person, in front of certified judges, then those black belts must have their own misgivings about the validity of their black belts; otherwise, my lowly opinion would not matter to them.
Reader Point: In your own style that got their higher dan grades in TKD, they might feel you are trying to validate yourself by cutting them down?
TKDTutor response: I am offended that they were awarded something so easily that took others so long to achieve the hard way. When the standard for achieving a rank is lowered, the prestige of the belt is also lowered.
Reader Point: I agree I am offended also when others "learn via video" and test while the rest of us worked hard to achieve our rank, however for those of us who worked very hard since a rank was initially given in person (with me: I worked very hard as in fighting competitively for 9 yrs(regionally/nationally), taught for seven yrs, had my arm broken once and nose broken 8 times in tournaments and was a Third dan/teacher/competitor for 7 yrs "since I got my 3rd dan in person". Getting a higher rank through correspondence was more than deserved and that took another 2 yrs to get after 5 yrs of trying! There are many others who have that same story and or got there higher ranks based upon the industry standard of "TIME in GRADE"!
TKDTutor response: A black belt is no longer a lofty, highly respected, and difficult to achieve rank that was awarded to a person with a warrior spirit who had the capability and willingness to perform as a warrior if required; it is now just another rank awarded for attendance, school loyalty, and a fee. At one time, if a person was attacked, they wished a black belt was near because they knew the black belt was a warrior and would defend them. Now a black belt may be a child or other person who does not have the mental, emotional, or physical ability or the will to perform as a warrior. At best, you could only hope the black belt would call 911.
I am busy all day every day programming martial art software, maintaining TKDTutor.com, training in TKD, teaching TKD, and answering emails, so I have to allot my time between it all. A few years ago, I wrote about problems with specific organizations, but people are loyal to their instructors and organizations and do not let logic, reason, and facts get in the way of their beliefs. As a result, I spent too much time answering their irate emails. Therefore, I stopped criticizing specific organizations and kept my writings generic, letting the readers make their own decisions.
If you want to publish your research and ideas on the web, it is easy. There are numerous online places that let you set up a free web site. You can also set up a free blog on Blogger.com and publish your thoughts there.
I can see why you answered a lot of irate emails...laughs...overall I like a lot of what you write about organizations etc. I agree with the general context. We just disagree on a few points...hope you enjoyed the food for thought.
I respect your opinion but your point about martial artists "testing in person" vs. "correspondence" being "less credible" applies to a good portion of the industry out there "especially the higher dan grades" including a lot of well respected TKD teachers and Masters throughout the world and you could be offending them by saying such. Not everyone has the opportunity in life being too tough or whatever to get their higher dan grades in person..does that mean they are less credible
On the subject of offending, the United States Tennis Association has many rules but the one they post on their tennis courts, at least around here, is “You shall not say or do anything that may offend anyone in any way” (my underlines). My response is, “Your sign offends me; therefore, in abeyance of you own rules, you should remove the sign.”
Life is tough! The Seals do not lower their standards to accept people who, due to fault of their own, are not able to meet their high standards. As a result, Seals are some of the most respected warriors in the world. When you lower rank testing standards, you get what we have today—people who wear black belts, not people who are black belts. Professional sports teams do not hire lesser qualified players or keep them around after they have past their prime because they have had a tough life.
Once a martial artist cannot perform at the level required for promotion, they should not get promoted. This does not mean they should lose their current rank or that that should drop out of the martial arts; it just means that they will have to stay at their current rank. As stated in the Peter Principle, they have reached the highest level of their competence, or incompetence as the case may be.
II take it that you support every high rank that broke away from their original schools/organizations, changed the a little something in the way they did techniques, and then founded it as a ‘new” martial art. In TKDTutor.com, I write about the marital art I founded, called ROCK. It has as much validity as many of the martial arts around today. I have specialized in Taekwondo in my martial arts training since, to be good at anything; you must concentrate your efforts upon it. Tiger Woods does not claim to be an expert at other sports, he is content being the best at golf. If he tried to excel at other sports, his golf skills would suffer. However, if you read TKDTutor.com, you will see I criticize the BS I find in TKD as much as I do the BS put out by other martial arts. General Hi did a lot to make TKD the most popular martial art in the western world, but even he had some dumb ideas in his later years, such as the “sine wave” movement.
You are right; I am a hard-liner. I believe you must have standards and that the best are those who those who exceed the standards. If you cannot meet the standards, then it is time move on to something else. I was once at a Captain’s Mast on a ship when a young sailor who was charged with incompetence told the captain that he did not mean to mess up, he loved the navy and was trying his best. The captain said, “I know you are son. We all know you are. It just that your best is not good enough for the navy.”
I believe in the “martial” part of the martial arts; that martial artists are trained warriors. What we have today are people who play the martial arts. As I have said in TKDTutor.com, making the martial arts into sports that can be played by the masses is fine; just change name so it is not confused with the real thing and tell the students that they are playing a sport that has little resemblance to real fighting. As I said Taekwondo America is more sport oriented and I am member of TA. However, when I teach, I am constantly pointing out what will score and what will stop and that the two should never be confused.
In TKDTutor.com I point out illogic, faulty reasoning, misrepresentations, half-truths, and outright lies that are found in the martial arts so students are not fooled by the BS and can make informed decisions.
What about their tournament record..what about how others view them...what about what their students say about them? I also wanted to point out the difference to what I was trying to say about the world of "video".
Should one get their black belt from a "video training course AND followed by a video test"?
Well people can do what they want but I personally feel if one did just that and turned around and teaches they would not be a credible teacher on "ANY" dan level! As far as getting recognized in a higher degree dan grade via video this is different...one is simply being recognized for what they have already accomplished for their time "in person" with others they have trained with for many years, their tournament record, teaching record as well as their ability etc. Whether you want to agree with me or not that is fine but most higher dan grades in the Martial Arts got there higher ranks though correspondence either from but not limited to a video exam, time in grade, a thesis, extensive correspondence, etc.. I have competed and traveled around this country quite extensively, have been doing martial arts for 30 plus years, have been writing columns for 12 years in regional tournament magazines. I have met and befriended a lot of people, especially a lot in TKD. People who get there 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th and 10th dans out there very rarely get them in person.
I want to say the big reason behind this is when people get there 2nd or 3rd dans they like to go "independent" from their original teacher...being independent and not "subordinate" to a Master in an organization are the waves and democracy of the future...we can accept this or become a part of the minority which won't be well respected by the rest!?
I also find that people in this industry who "criticize too much" the issue about credentials ( notice I only criticize the black belt home study courses and rank testing), these people are simply trying to give validity to their own rank for one reason or another.
I don't think this applies to you, you seem like you have a good thing going down south however you still seem to have a hard lined stance and I am not sure if its based upon ignorance in the industry, maybe you haven't traveled around the country and met 1000s of Martial Artist including many in your own style? I am very confident about my rank and what I have accomplished; I am well respected in my part of the country and know my ranks are well respected in many other parts of the world including Asian countries. I am not offended by your opinions I just find them amusing. However, others especially in your Art of TKD might get offended by some of the things you say.
As far as PhDs are concerned Martial Artist who claim to have PhDs specifically in Martial Arts I agree have over inflated egos, however as some in the case of Master Jerry Beasley of AIKIA/World Martial art Masters he has a PHD "in teaching" and is accredited at Radford University(an American accredited University) where he teaches Martial Arts history etc. as a class course.
He does have a PHD but not in Martial arts. Master Unin of the IBMA, same thing..he is a PHD "teacher". There are a few Great Masters who have PhDs its usually in teaching not in a specific subject.
A friend of mine from another local school came over to my dojo to spar tonight with a couple of his students getting ready to compete. He is a 5th dan in TangSoDo..got all his 1St - 4TH dan grades but his 5th in person. I told him about some of this correspondence. This is what he said and he put it quite well. Ranks usually above 3rd dan are considered "honorary ranks" most are not given as a "result of a test" but based on "time in grade" or "personal accomplishments" in the Martial Arts. Take the older frail 8th or 9th dan who cannot perform a test. Some of us who beat ourselves up in our 20s cannot do it either...hell I should be in a wheel chair...laughs (Basically higher dan grades are a stripe on the black belt or honorary marks of ones "time in that grade") And the initial black belt to be respectable should be earned the old fashioned way from many years of hard training in a school (not from a video correspondence course). However above an initial black belt higher ranks are based upon "time in grade", as in training, competing and teaching. And because A LOT of higher dan grades leave their nest as in move away from their home organization, a lot get their higher dan grades through correspondence with a possible video exam as only "part of the equation" of the evaluation to respectable organizations.
It is most acceptable today in the industry as my friend put it to get your higher an grades through correspondence because people move and want their independence. In the growing industry of "Mixed Martial Arts" people do not want to stay in traditional organizations...kids today want the UFC not the old school of being "sub ordinate" to a Master until you are released at 60 yrs old and are a 9th dan or the Master dies.
Maybe in your state people like to stay put under someone else’s umbrella and someone else’s pocketbook I do not know but in the old USA people move around, people want their independence, want to train in other styles, share knowledge, teach and gain their own credentials.
I am a very strong advocate for hard work..I have done 31 yrs of it..I hate these McDojo schools out there that give rank especially some of these TKD schools around the country that give out black belts after 4 yrs of training two nights a week. That is not a black belt that is a joke!
I have been training in Martial Arts since I was 15 yrs old..I trained in a school that was close to the "true warrior spirit" as any.....we fought "no holds barred" bare knuckle most of the time. It took me 11 yrs to get my black belt...probably why at 25 I was state champion brown belt!? I am 46 now. That’s a total of 31 yrs. What gets me is there are Grandmasters out there in TKD who have less time. These are higher ranked black belts in TKD out there that have half the time and training/experience and broken bones I have had. And there is a long list of higher ranked black belts out there that I use to beat on a consistent basis at full contact open Martial Art tournaments and they may have gotten their higher rank "in person"
Some think especially "traditional TKD Masters" feel that "competition" is the ultimate grounds for proving rank!? And if that is the case I ask who is more valid of a black belt..them for taking their highest dan grade test "in person" or me a 2nd dan at one time beating most of them? My final point and the point of my TSD friend is there are MANY forms of gauging person’s higher black belt rank..."in person" is NOT the ultimate gauge...final point made!
Let me see if I understand your position correctly. You seem to think my opinion that all rank should be awarded upon successful testing in-person before a group of certified examiners is ignorant in that I do not have a understanding of today’s martial art industry. Yet, you apparently disagree with today’s industry standard of regularly promoting students to keep them in the school and bringing in the money that keeps the school open. You seem to think I am arrogant for thinking that all ranks should test, and yet you frown upon higher ranks of other arts, TKD in particular, who were promoted faster than you were promoted and who, in your opinion, are lesser skilled. It seems to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
I am currently in the Taekwondo America organization. I have expressed many criticisms about their rank testing and rank requirements, mainly about their being too lax, but then I have the same criticisms of many other martial art organizations. However, one thing I can say about TA is that, to achieve 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th degrees and any of the sub ranks within the degrees, the persons must test in-person before a board of examines at a national testing and must satisfactorily perform all the requirements. If you are unable to perform all the requirements, such as not breaking all the required number of boards with the required techniques, even if it is because of some medical or physical problem, then too bad, you do not get promoted. Degrees 7, 8, and 9 are awarded by a board without testing, but the person is well known by the board members because he or she actively participates in the organization and all its events, and, as you say, is promoted because of their years of work within the art and the organization. Many other organizations have as strict, if not stricter, requirements. Recently, in Raleigh, NC, a 7th degree TKD master (different organization) tested all day for his 8th degree. Many of my TKDTutor.com readers, some of them high rank school owners, from around the world also believe that all ranks should test in-person, and, rather than being offended or amused by my belief in such, they have expressed their appreciation to me for making people aware of it. Apparently, awarding 4th degree and above rank by correspondence is not the industry standard.
If you post your “grading” of organizations on the Internet, after waiting for a few months for search engines to pick up the posts, you will get email from irate people in the “industry” who do not agree with your grades, your method of grading, or your thinking you are in some way qualified to grade their organization, or any other any organization. One of the problems with the martial arts in general is that, unlike other professions, such as doctors (AMA) and lawyers (ABA), there is no “industry-wide standard” for anything, and probably never will be. Since there is no standard, there is no way to compare organizations to a standard. All one can do is point out how organizations differ and give his or her opinion as to whether the differences are good or bad for martial artists in general.
Oh the debate continues...laughs...You say: that I seem to think you are arrogant for thinking that all ranks should test, and yet I frown upon higher ranks of other arts, TKD in particular, who were promoted faster than you were promoted and who, in your opinion, are lesser skilled. It seems to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
I don't think you are arrogant but perhaps narrow minded and are not looking at the industry as a whole or have not traveled and met many Martial Artists around this world to see the reality out there perhaps!?
Am I painting the kettle Black...simply pointing out that unless we come from a Shaolin Temple lineage all of the ranks including mine are "in the gray area" and should be determined upon a number of factors since there is "no standard" in the industry. Whether we got them through correspondence as an "honor" for "many years of hard work" or from a test after a few yrs of hard work...which is more credible?
So here is the other question: Is the 4th dan who has "20 yrs of hard" work who defeated many 4th, 5th, and 6th degree certified ITF /TKD black belts in well respected NASCA/KRANE and IPPONE tournaments (who got his 4th dan through correspondence) have more of a valid rank because he beat them and has more experience or are their ranks more valid with less time, less experience and got their asses whipped? My answer is neither.
Rank in the industry today because we are all in the gray area is based upon a "number of factors" and "testing in person" is only "one possible gauge" although not the "ultimate gauge". And people who try to use that as the ultimate gauge are simply trying to validate their own rank because they have lacked most likely in one of the other areas that are used to make a gauge of a person’s validity.
As far as the industry as a whole....I disagree..maybe in TKD "tests in person" for the higher dans is looked upon as legitimacy(although I know many TKD teachers who got their higher ranks from people from other styles and through correspondence). Most grand masters out there today especially from other styles than TKD got there higher ranks though correspondence....sorry that is a fact. Here is another fact... Ed Parker the Father of American Kenpo Karate, ...he never tested his students. His ranks were given based upon "time in grade". Does that mean all of us Karate people who descended from him are invalid?
The founders of TKD were self proclaimed..they promoted themselves. Does that make all the TKD people invalid? TKD is also an art far from traditional although draws traditional roots but it is an art less than 6o yrs old. The headmaster of the WTF was caught for embezzling 6 million dollars. TKD most likely will no longer be in the Olympics as Karate and Judo and possibly Mixed Martial Arts will take over. TKD also breeds the most fraudulent and less qualified instructors out there...some of them are MCDojo schools as we call them. Does that mean TKD is "not a valid" art because of the scandal, corruption and the fact they will most likely loose "Olympic status"?
Of course not. MY POINT IS Just about every art/style and how someone got their rank can be picked apart. For us Martial Artists out there that do not come from a Shaolin Temple (you and me included) and have "lineage as pure as winter white snow" our Styles, organizations, how we got our higher dan grades, can all be "scrutinized" because we all exist in the gray area. Being in this area the validity of our ranks and styles are based on many factors and not limited to "testing in person" as being the "ultimate gauge.”
As far as organizations are concerned the "ITF" I noticed has a validation of rank page....hmmm...interesting!? Since they do not ask for a passport or drivers license as AIKIA/World Martial art Master Association(who have a lot of former WTF instructors affiliated with).I wonder how easy it is to make up credentials and get ITF certified? I notice they take "Visa"...don't think we need to say any more!?
It’s been fun debating with you Ron..all in good spirit:) Some of the stuff you have written especially about organizations I really like..although we may not agree on specifics. I would certainly like permission to print variations of some of the things you have written to inform future students on areas we can agree upon. Is your material "copy righted" or can anyone print it and distribute it?
As with any other subjective subject, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I come from a traditional background, one that thinks. “If it isn't broke, don’t fix it.” I and my ilk think that in-person testing is important, it worked for centuries and it still works. Others, including you, do not agree. However, I still do not think correspondence promotions have made things any better than the way they used to be when testing was all done before the master or panel of masters.
I do not necessarily follow the crowd. Just because there are a lot of people are doing something does not make what they are doing the best way to do something. A lot of doctors, lawyers, and educators thought Jim Jones was the savior of humankind, now they are all dead
Since most everything about martial art styles, their methods, and their ranks structures and testing procedures are subjective; there is no clear way to determine the validity of any of it. As I said before, if people are happy with the way their organizations are doing things; that is fine for them. But that does not mean it is fine for others. Just as you have your opinion of what makes a good organization, I have mine. I consider my job in TKDTutor.com to inform people of the options; they can then decide for themselves.
I try to evaluate everything using logic, reason, verifiable facts, and a cost-benefit analysis, not emotions. (My hero was Mr. Spock, the half-human half-Vulcan, not the baby doctor.) However, not everything may be viewed this way; some things are purely opinion, which is influenced by everything that a person has experienced during his or her life; and, since everyone has different life experiences, there are as many opinions as there are people. Facts are cold and hard, opinions can be hot and emotional.
Since there is no widely recognized standard for what constitutes legitimate rank, legitimately of rank is in the eyes of the holder of the rank. I have my opinion on the matter; you have yours. Apparently, we both desire the same thing, a uniform rank system, at least within the same martial art, so that potential students may evaluate and compare martial arts and martial art instructors and not get ripped off by frauds; however, this will never happen.
If you read through some of the topics in TKDTutor.com, you will find I expose all the dark secrets of Taekwondo, such as its recent beginnings, it being a version of Japanese Shotokan karate and not some ancient Korean art, the corruption in the WTF, the North Korean leanings of General Hi, TKD’s evolution from a fighting art into a sport, etc.; things from which Taekwondo practitioners of any organization may find something at which to get angry. I am an equal opportunity criticizer. I also express my opinion of such things as awarding black belts to children, having adults being subordinate to children of higher rank, the effectiveness of vertical punches, and the sanctification of Bruce Lee. Some agree with my opinions, some do not; and, on occasion, I have altered or changed my opinion based upon facts or a convincing argument, but not upon a consensus of opinion.
Feel free to use information from TKDTutor.com or from our discussion if you think it is useful. Our discussion has been enjoyable. If you run across something else in TKDTutor.com with which you do not agree, let me know.