I just ran across something Gary Gablehouse posted some time ago, a quote by Miyagi Chojun, Sensei on Martial Arts Titles.
"I believe that when Dan ranks are awarded in karate, it will inevitably lead to trouble. The ranking system will lead to discrimination within Karate, and karateka will be judged by their rank and not their character. It will create inferior and superior strata within the Karate community, and lead to discrimination between people."
Which is even more interesting when you think about what Miyagi Chojun did to move the study of karate forward.
He studied and shared within the Okinawan martial arts community. He traveled to China to try and understand the Chinese Martial Arts, he was an innovator for his own style of karate training. He worked to gain recognition of the Okinawan Martial Arts in Japan, receiving recognition
From the Japanese Martial Establishment for his efforts and he observed first hand how the use of rank was working within Japan.
I recall reading how Funakoshi Ginchin remarked how many with rank were coming forward at martial events. Individuals he had never heard of. I think it was within such context that Miyagi’s opinions were framed.
On Okinawa, at that time, you were just an instructor, or a student or adept training. Rank was not unknown on Okinawa. Rank was a social function. Most or all of the karate-ka in the 1800’s were from noble families, it was something done with the structure of that society, Even when it was proposed for the schools I expect most of the students were from that stratus of society. Your family rank or status did not change because of your karate.
Then when the export began into Japan, the structure was applied to be more Japanese in nature. After all I was for the University system that the art was taught, and there the structure of rank made it seem more like what individuals knew.
The idea must have appealed to many Okinawa’s as Miyagi had requests to grant rank to students. However he declined to do this with karate.
When he died soon after the War, one of the first actions by his students was to ignore his suggestions and adopt rank.
Now the tradition was when you became the instructor, as there were no rules written, you had the authority to make your own decisions. So changing to having rank in karate was not incorrect, just different.
But is Miyagi’s suggestion was followed, how might the shape of karate be different today.
I just happened to run across this quote by the late Don Draeger in H.E. Davey’s book “Unlocking the Secrets of Aiki-jujutsu”. (which has a great deal to say about the Japanese martial arts.). Don Draeger was renowned as an authority on the martial arts of Japan.
As it happens it was sheer happenstance that I ran across that quote by Don Draeger. But I am not going to let chance stop me from using it.
The use of Kyu did IMO prove successful. It was a useful tool to develop beginners.
As for the rest, I recall Funakoshi started promoting people with one year training, back in the beginning of his time in Japan. Then things changed, I imaging to fit the then current Japanese University structure and then grew into what is today.
Setting that aside, the Okinawan must have been impressed at some level with what it showed.