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Rank or Ability?

Professor Rick Clark visited Hawaii and I had the opportunity to meet him and his family for lunch at a Chinese restaurant.

At one point we were discussing seminars and I raised the subject of whether most people would be more willing to pay to receive rank or to improve their ability in Karate. Rank or ability? Given the choice, what would most people select?

It sounds like such an easy question. Of course a person would choose ability. If it was possible to improve one's ability, any reasonable person would do so.

But if a promotion was available.... hmmmm.

I know that some people might be thinking -- you could get both. I know that is true but I am framing this question in the alternative -- rank or ability?

My own experience in Karate over the years is this: when you already have had enough of rank, you crave ability. This is especially true if you have had the misfortune of seeing rank without ability. Rank without ability is truly sad. Ability without rank is still ability. And in the final analysis, rank is not necessary for self-defense or self development.

Still, it helps to have rank if you are going to run a school or dojo. I realize this.

But it may surprise readers to hear that many people do think a lot about rank. And I imagine that if someone could go from say 7th degree to 8th degree, that person might be willing to spend quite a lot to receive it. At least some people might.

For me, ability comes first. That is why we do not emphasize rank in my dojo (in fact, I have a hard time getting the yudansha to wear any belt at all).

In a perfect world though, rank and ability would be directly related. Come to think about it, in a perfect world rank would not be necessary.


Charles C. Goodin