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More Degrees Than A Thermometer

I was speaking to my friend yesterday about the tendency of some martial artists to join many organizations for the purpose of obtaining rank. For example, a person might join one organization and obtain a 4th dan, join another one and obtain a 5th dan based on his recent 4th dan in the first organization, etc. In this way, a person can advance very quickly.

Of course, legitimate organizations will carefully screen their members and verify their credentials and training history.

Anyway, my friend commented on this type of rank shopping martial artist by saying:

"That guy has more degrees than a thermometer!"
I was floored. What an accurate description.

I have seen advanced yudansha waiting for promotion like workers waiting for their Christmas bonuses before they quit their jobs. Sure enough, as soon as the yudansha were promoted they were off to other organizations.

There are many reasons to join martial arts organizations and many reasons to leave them. Rank is unfortunately a relevant factor to some martial artists.

Rank has no merit in and of itself. An attacker will not ask your rank before he punches you in the nose! In the "old" days, teachers were often challenged. Anyone who wanted to teach publicly had to be willing to take on all challengers. Students who could not handle themselves would not teach, or would quit soonafter they were challenged.

Today, it is much easier to hide behind rank and titles... and much easier to obtain rank and titles.

I am a member of an organization made up of senior karate instructors. New members in the organization cannot obtain rank for a minimum of two years and titles for a minimum of five years. This reflects the conservative attitude of the organization and its members. Such minimums help to prevent rank and title shopping.

As students, we should try to become our best. Rank and titles are incidental. They are not the goal. Skill is the goal. We should try not to look bad rather than trying to look good. We should try not to let your sensei down. Martial arts skill cannot be shown in material things such as certificates, business cards, and belts. The true reflection of our martial arts skill is in our daily lives.

Don't be like a thermometer.


Charles C. Goodin