Monday, May 22, 2017

Thoughts on Miyagi and Rank

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.



Victor Smith said...

Just to be completely transparent, Rank does mean a great deal to me.

To me it represents the responsibility my instructors have placed on me to try and continue their work.

Om the other hand Rank is the least important thing about me.

Arnold Rosenstock said...

At the end the motion picture "The Last Remake of Beau Geste", there's a line in the script about being awarded medals. With great respect to you and your accomplishments I will not put that down in writing. But there's a grain of truth in that line which speaks to the fact that those who win recognition, are not always deserving of it. Just say'in,

Ken Akiyama said...

Rank and knowledge are not mutually exclusive. With that said, I have several times had to choose to follow the way of rank, or walk the path toward truth.

"I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference." -R. Frost

Danny Goding said...

Rank follows the Man