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How Many Times?

During this political season, I have been watching the debates. Sometimes a candidate will use a certain word or phrase so many times that it becomes almost comical. On talk shows or news programs, these repeated words or phrases are strung together to make an amusing video clip.

What does this have to do with Karate? Sometimes when I meet a Karate instructor or student, he will try to mention his rank as often and in as many ways as possible. "Oh, I am a 5th dan." "When I tested for my 5th dan..." "I used to be a 4th dan, but now that I am a 5th dan..." "Any time now I will be testing for my 6th dan, since I have been a 5th dan for a whole year." "Knock, knock. Who's there? 5th dan." You get the idea.

The same goes for titles.

When I hear this, my eyes must glaze over. I am not interested in rank. And a single mention is more than enough. If we exchange business cards and the person's rank is stated on the card, it does not have to be said at all.

The more rank is stated the less authentic it seems.

If you have a certain rank, you should try your best to hone your skills so that you will not let down the trust your Sensei has shown you. Your rank is not really yours, or at least it is not only yours. It is a statement by your Sensei.

When I meet people, I am more interested in who they train and have trained with and for how many years. I also am keenly aware of their age. Even if a person is junior to me in rank or years of training, I will respect the fact that they are older than me.


Charles C. Goodin