Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Golden Oldie: Want to Start Your Own System?

Years ago, I was a regular on the Budoseek BBS.  Good people, good knowledge, but when I was in Iraq I found I didn't have time for on-line forums, and when I got home I found I didn't miss them.  Signal-to-noise ratio and time investment...

I wrote this there years ago:

I've already made my feelings pretty clear about people awarding themselves incredible rank and starting their own style. In general I consider it an ego trip- someone who can't be the big fish creating his own puddle. I was challenged recently to describe what would convince me that a self-awarded rank was legitimate. Here are my initial thoughts.

1) If your style has any tournament component you should have been and/or trained at least one national champion. More, if the tournament circle is small.

2) If it is called a combat style, it must be tested, and that is hard. Perhaps 100+ uses of unnassisted, weaponless uses of force as either a cop, corrections officer or bouncer. Alternatively, a history of cops, etc who have previous experience with martial arts seeking you out and staying with you for more than one year. Many people hold seminars for LEO's then claim that they teach DT's while the officers that attended the class under orders feel nothing but contempt.

3)Designate and document all the skills your students must master from the lowest rank to the highest. If any of the high ranks are honorary, award yourself the highest real rank. If your style is worthwhile, as students mature and take over the ryu they will vote you the honorary rank, just like Kano.

4)Figure out how long it would take for a good student to achieve the rank you award yourself and be sure you have studied at least twice that long. If it would take a student longer to get to where you are than it took you, the style stunts students, it does not teach them.

5)Obviously, the art must have significant, preferably profound differences from all other arts you have studied.

6)If you are breaking off from another organization you must maintain loyalty to those that taught you- you owe them much. If that is impossible your maturity level may be too low for instructor status, much less master. At the very least maintain dignity.

7)If you are breaking away you must be better at both the art and teaching than anyone else in the old organization, especially if the technical differences are minor.

8)Please, if you choose to use a foreign language to describe or rank your art at least make the effort to use a real word and translate it correctly. Then live up to the terms you use. For instance, if you choose to call yourself an ancestral style at least have one parent to child transmission of leadership in your history.

It's been years, but I think the sentiment holds up.


nry said...

I think this can also be used as a fair tool to assess existing styles...

Maija said...

There is an alternative.
You look back at Filipino styles from before they became more formalized and it was common practice for individuals to 'own' their style. Once someone started teaching they basically said 'This is what I do' and never called it what their teacher had called it. The name might be similar, but the idea was that you took responsibility for what you taught so attached your own name to it.
Who you decided to teach was purely up to the individual teacher though often within extended family or by personal recommendation.
There were no ranks, given or taken.
Meastro was a title conferred by others only once you had been deemed worthy in your community.
The only test was competence, and back then this was usually for real, in challenge matches or used for self protection.

This has changed somewhat .... sadly.

gibson99 said...

I like the sentiment, but trying to honor all that can stifle innovation and allow a lot of bullshit to perpetuate.

There are solid arts taught in terrible organizations, and I can't begrudge a competent instructor who breaks away just to get away from an org's politics or business practices.