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Lining Up By Rank

In some dojo, the students line up according to rank. It is very important, in such dojo, for the students to know exactly where to stand. It is a matter of status.

To stand ahead of your senior would be a major offense.

In my dojo, we line up in no particular order. I give no kyu ranks at all. I give no colored belts. The first rank a student will obtain is shodan, and this can take many years, particularly for children since I impose a minimum age of 17 for shodan.

I believe that rigid adherance to formalities, rank, and lining up protocol reflects the pre-war militaristic way in which Karate was taught on mainland Japan. This was natural, given the military conflicts in which Japan was engaged and the urgency with which Karate was taught to college students bound for military service. However, this was not the case in Okinawa, where classes were much smaller and much less formal.

In my dojo, there are times when an adult will be taught by a child, even a yudansha taught by a non-black belt. I do not care about how this may look. I have found that a student who is upset about rigid formalities (such as being taught by a junior), should really quit Karate training. After all, I would not have the junior teach the senior unless the junior knew something worth teaching. In addition, in my dojo it is possible that a non-black belt will have trained for more years than a black belt.

The emphasis of Karate should first and foremost be on character. Next, it should be on proper fundamentals. Students should learn the proper courtesies and respect, but this should be motivated by a feeling of humility.

A student should feel grateful to his seniors and compassion for his juniors. Lining up in the right order is just a formality that does not ensure or necessarily reflect this.

If you've read this blog for a while, you will know that my class begins in a circle. There is no high spot or low spot. We are mutually appreciative of each other. We do not bow separately to the Sensei. We bow to each other. This is simply our way of doing this.


Charles C. Goodin