EDITORIAL

The WorldMAC Online Magazine has been created for the same reason as the World Martial Arts Council, and that is to offer a free and better alternative to that which already exists. Throughout the world martial arts magazines have decreased in number due to the costs of printing, publishing and distribution, which are also responsible for the increase in the cost of monthly editions.  The contents of these are predominantly advertisements and articles on a small minority of disciplines that are of little interest to the serious martial artist.  The study of any martial art is a journey in the pursuit of perfection, and although achievements are limitless in this endeavour, perfection is a destination that can never be reached regardless of knowledge, the source of which is experience that money cannot buy but is paid for in other ways that include time and effort.  Whilst the application of useful knowledge is considered powerful, real knowledge involves knowing the extent of ignorance as risk comes from not knowing.  It is the intention of the World Martial Arts Council and this online magazine to provide accurate information, well researched articles on a wide variety of disciplines, resurrect the martial arts, and regain the respect they once had without the need of advertisements.  In doing this the only limitation is the imagination where a cruel truth is better than a comfortable delusion.

CHINESE YEAR OF THE ROOSTER 2017

The rooster is the tenth animal in the twelve-year cycle of Chinese zodiac signs, and is almost the epitome of fidelity and punctuality.  The crowing of the rooster awakens people, and in Chinese culture it is believed to have the ability to exorcise evil spirits. Therefore, this is an appropriate time to introduce a martial arts magazine based on fact and truth. 

What is a Martial Art?

The martial arts are codified systems and traditions of combat practices, which are practiced for a number of reasons: as self-defence, military, and law enforcement applications, mental and spiritual development; as well as entertainment and the preservation of a nation's intangible cultural heritage. Although the term martial art has become associated with the fighting arts of eastern Asia, it originally referred to the combat systems of Europe as early as the 1550s. The term is said to have derived from Latin, and means "arts of Mars", the Roman god of war. Some authors have argued fighting arts or fighting systems would be more appropriate on the basis that many martial arts were never "martial" in the sense of being used or created by professional warriors.


The illustration above shows the fighting art of boxing was practiced during the Minoan eruption on the island of Thera, now named Santorini, during the mid-second millennium dated between 1642-1540 BCE.

Variation & Scope

Martial arts may be categorized along a variety of criteria, including:

  • Traditional or historical arts vs. contemporary styles of Folk wrestling and modern hybrid martial arts.
  • Techniques taught: Armed vs. unarmed, and within these groups by type of weapon (swordsmanship, stick fighting etc.) and by type of combat (grappling versus striking; stand-up fighting vs. ground fighting).
  • By application or intent: self-defence, combat sport, choreography, or demonstration of forms, physical fitness, meditation, etc.
  • Within Chinese tradition: “external” vs. “internal” styles.

By Technical Focus

Unarmed

Unarmed martial arts can be broadly grouped into focusing on strikes, those focusing on grappling, and those that cover both fields, often described as hybrid martial arts.

Strikes

  • Punching: Boxng, Wing Chun.
  • Kicking:Capoeira, Savate, Taekwondo.
  • Others using strikes: Karate, Muay Thai, Sanshou.

Grappling

  • Throwing:Hapkido, Judo, Sumo, Wrestling, Aikido.
  • Joint Lock/Choke Holds/Submission Holds:Jujutsu, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Sambo.
  • Pinning Techniques:Judo, Wrestling, Aikido.

Weapon Based

Those traditional martial arts which train armed combat often encompass a wide spectrum of weapons, including bladed and wooden weapons. Such traditions include escrima, silat, kalaripayat, kobudo, and historical European, especially those of the German Renaissance. Many Chinese martial arts also feature weapons as part of their curriculum.  Sometimes, training with one specific weapon is considered a style of martial arts in its own right, which is especially the case in Japanese martial arts with disciplines such as kenjutsu and kendo (sword), bojutsu (staff), and kyudo (archery). Similarly, modern Western martial arts and sports include modern fencing, stick-fighting systems like single stick, and modern competitive archery.

Application or Intent 

Combat Oriented

Combat Sport and Self-Defence.

Health Oriented

Many martial arts, especially those from Asia, also teach side disciplines which pertain to medicinal practices. This is particularly prevalent in traditional Asian martial arts which may teach bone-setting, herbalism, and other aspects of traditional medicine.

Spirituality Oriented

Some martial arts are also linked with religion and spirituality, and numerous systems are reputed to have been founded or practiced by monks. Throughout Asia, meditation may be incorporated as part of training, and in countries influenced by Hindu-Buddhist philosophy; the art itself may be used as an aid to attaining enlightenment.  Japanese styles, when concerning non-physical qualities of combat, are often strongly influenced by Mahayana Buddhist philosophy, and concepts like "empty mind" are recurrent. Aikido, for instance, can have a strong philosophical belief of the flow of energy and peace fostering, as idealized by its founder Morihei Ueshiba. Traditional Korean martial arts place emphasis on the development of the practitioner's spiritual and philosophical development, and a common theme in most Korean styles, such as taekwondo, is the value of "inner peace" in a practitioner, which is stressed to be only achieved through individual meditation and training. The Koreans believe the use of physical force is only justified in self-defence. Systema draws upon breathing and relaxation techniques, as well as elements of Russian Orthodox thought, to foster self-conscience and calmness, and to benefit the practitioner in different levels: the physical, the psychological and the spiritual. Some martial arts in various cultures can be performed in dance-like settings for various reasons, such as for evoking ferocity in preparation for battle in the form of a war dance or showing off skill in a more stylized manner. Many such martial arts incorporate music, especially strong percussive rhythms.

Historical Martial Arts

Above is detail of the wrestling fresco in tomb 15 at Beni Hasan, the Ancient Egyptian cemetery site in use during the Middle Kingdom period from the 21stto 17th centuries BCE.  The oldest works of art depicting scenes of battle are cave paintings from Spain dated between 10,000 and 6,000 BCE that show organized groups fighting with bows and arrows.

Chinese martial arts originated during the Xia Dynasty more than 4000 years ago. It is said the Yellow Emperor Huangdi (legendary date of ascension 2698 BCE) introduced the earliest fighting systems to China. The Yellow Emperor is described as a famous general who, before becoming China’s leader, wrote lengthy treatises on medicine, astrology and the martial arts. One of his main opponents was Chi You who was credited as the creator of jiao di, a forerunner to the modern art of Chinese wrestling.

The foundation of modern Asian martial arts is likely a blend of early Chinese and Indian martial arts. During the Warring States period of Chinese history (480-221 BCE) extensive development in martial philosophy and strategy emerged, as described by Sun Tzu in The Art of War (c. 350 BCE). Legendary accounts link the origin of Shaolinquan to the spread of Buddhism from India during the early 5th century CE, with the figure of Bodhidharma moving to China. Written evidence of martial arts in Southern India dates back to the Sangam literature dated from the 2nd century BCE to the 2nd century CE. The combat techniques of the Sangam period were the earliest precursors to Kalaripayattu.

Above image shows Pankratiasts fighting under the eyes of a judge on Side B of a Panathenaic prize amphora, c. 500 BCE.

In Europe, the earliest sources of martial arts traditions date to Ancient Greece. Boxing, wrestling, and pankration were represented in the Ancient Olympic Games, and the Romans produced gladiatorial combat as a public spectacle. A number of historical combat manuals have survived from the European Middle Ages, and include such styles as sword and shield, two-handed sword fighting and other types of weapons besides unarmed combat. Amongst these are transcriptions of the (possibly apocryphal) Johannes Lichtenauer’s mnemonic poem on the long sword dating back to the late 14th century CE. Likewise, Asian martial arts became well-documented during the medieval period, Japanese martial arts beginning with the establishment of the samurai nobility in the 12th century, Chinese martial arts with Ming era treatises such as Ji Xiao Xin Shu, Indian martial arts in medieval texts such as the Agni Purana and the Malla Purana, and Korean martial arts from the Joseon era and texts such as Muyejebo (1598).

European swordsmanship always had a sportive component, but the duel was always a possibility until World War 1. Modern sport fencing began developing during the 19th century CE as the French and Italian military academies began codifying instruction. The Olympic Games led to standard international rules, with the Féderation Internationale d'Escrime founded in 1913. Modern boxing originated with Jack Broughton’s rules in the 18th century CE, and reached its present form with the Marquess of Queensberry Rules of 1867.

Folk Styles

Traditional combat sports and fighting styles exist all over the world, and are rooted in local culture and folklore. The most common of these are styles is folk wrestling, some of which have been practiced since antiquity, and are found in the most remote areas, and other examples include forms of stick fighting and boxing. While these arts are based on historical traditions of folklore, they are not "historical" in the sense they reconstruct or preserve a historical system from a specific era. They are rather contemporary regional sports that coexist with the modern forms of martial arts sports as they have developed since the 19th century CE, often including cross-fertilization between sports and folk styles; thus, the traditional Thai art of Muay Boran developed into the modern national sport of Muay Thai, which in turn came to be practiced worldwide and contributed significantly to modern hybrid styles like kickboxing and mixed martial arts. Single stick, an English martial art, can be seen often utilized in Morris Dancing, and many European dances share elements of martial arts with examples that include Ukrainian Hopak, Polish Zbójnicki (use of Ciupaga), the Czech dance Odzemek, and the Norwegian Halling.

Modern History

The mid to late 19th century CE marks the beginning of the history of martial arts as modern sports developed out of earlier traditional fighting systems. In Europe, this concerns the developments of boxing and fencing as sports. In Japan, the same period marks the formation of the modern forms of judo, jujutsu, karate, and kendo (among others) based on revivals of old schools from the Edo period martial arts, which had been suppressed during the Meiji Restoration that restored practical imperial rule in 1868 CE. Modern Muay Thai rules date to the 1920s, and in China, the modern history of martial arts began in the Nanjing decade (1930s) following the foundation of the Central Guoshu Institute in 1928 CE under the Kuomintang government.

Western interest in Asian martial arts arose towards the end of the 19th century CE, due to the increase in trade between the United States with China and Japan at a time when relatively few Westerners actually practiced the arts, considering this to be mere performance. Edward William Barton-Wright, a railway engineer who had studied jujutsu while working in Japan between 1894 and 1897, was the first man known to have taught Asian martial arts in Europe. He also founded an eclectic style named Bartitsu which combined jujutsu, judo, wrestling, boxing, savate, and stick fighting. Fencing and Greco-Roman wrestling were included in the 1896 Summer Olympics, FILA Wrestling World Championships and Boxing at the Summer Olympics were introduced in 1904, and the tradition of awarding championship belts in wrestling and boxing can be traced to the Lonsdale Belt introduced in 1909. The International Boxing Association was established in 1920, and the World Fencing Championships have been held since 1921.

As Western influence grew in Asia a greater number of military personnel spent time in China, Japan, and South Korea during World War II and the Korean War, and were exposed to local fighting styles. Jujutsu, judo and karate first became popular among the mainstream from the 1950s-60s. Due in part to Asian and Hollywood martial arts films, most modern American martial arts are either Asian-derived or Asian influenced. The term kickboxing was created by the Japanese boxing promoter Osamu Noguchi in the 1950s as a variant of Muay Thai and karate. American kickboxing was developed in the 1970s as a combination of boxing and karate, and taekwondo was developed in the context of the Korean War in the 1950s. The 1960s and 1970s witnessed an increased media interest in Chinese martial arts, influenced by martial artist Bruce Lee and Jeet Kune Do, the system he founded that had its roots in Wing Chun, western boxing, savate, and fencing, and Bruce Lee is credited as one of the first instructors to openly teach Chinese martial arts to Westerners. World Judo Championships have been held since 1956 and judo was introduced in 1964, and Karate World Championships were introduced in 1970.

Following the "kung fu wave" in Hong Kong action cinema in the 1970s, a number of mainstream films produced during the 1980s contributed significantly to the perception of martial arts in western popular culture. These included The Karate Kid (1984) and Bloodsport (1988). This era produced action stars with a martial arts background, such as Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris. Also during the 20th century, a number of martial arts were adapted for self-defence purposes for military hand-to-hand combat. World War 11 combatives, KAPAP (1930s), and Krav Maga (1950s) in Israel, Systema in Soviet-era Russia, and Sanshou in the People's Republic of China are examples of such systems. The United States military de-emphasized hand-to-hand combat training during the Cold War period, but revived it with the introduction of LINE in 1989.

During the 1990s Brazilian jiu-jitsu became popular and proved to be effective in mixed martial arts competitions such as the UFC and PRIDE, in 1993 the first Pancrase event was held, and the K-1 rules of kickboxing were introduced based on 1980s Seidokaikan karate. With the continual discovery of more medieval and Renaissance fighting manuals, the practice of Historical European Martial Arts and other Western Martial Arts are now growing in popularity across the United States and Europe. On 29 November 2011, UNESCO inscribed taekkyeon onto its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List.

Revival of Lost Martial Arts

Many martial arts which originated in Southern India were banned by the government of the British Raj; a few of them which barely survived are Kalaripayattu and Silambam. These and other martial arts survived by telling the British government it was a form of dance. Varma Kalai, a martial art concentrating on vital points, was almost obsolete but is now gradually being revived.

Testing & Competition

Testing or evaluation is important to martial artists of many disciplines who wish to determine their progression or own level of skill in specific contexts. Students often undergo periodic testing and grading by their own teacher in order to advance to a higher level of recognized achievement, such as a different belt colour or title. The type of testing used varies from system to system but may include forms or sparring, commonly used in martial art exhibitions and tournaments. Some competitions put practitioners of different disciplines against each other using a common set of rules, and these are referred to as mixed martial arts competitions. Rules for sparring vary between art and organization but can generally be divided into light contact, medium contact, and full contact variants, reflecting the amount of force that should be used on an opponent.

Light & Medium Contact

These types of sparring restrict the amount of force that may be used to hit an opponent, in the case of light sparring this is usually 'touch' contact, e.g. a punch should be 'pulled' as soon as or before contact is made. In medium contact (often referred to as semi contact), the punch would not be 'pulled' but not hit with full force. As the amount of force used is restricted, the aim of these types of sparring is not to knockout an opponent, and a point system is used in competitions. A referee acts to monitor for fouls and to control the match, while judges mark down scores, as in boxing. Particular targets may be prohibited, certain techniques may be forbidden (such as head butting or groin hits), and fighters may be required to wear protective equipment on their head, hands, chest, groin, shins or feet. Some grappling arts use a similar method of compliant training that is equivalent to light or medium contact. In some styles competitors score points based on landing a single technique or strike as judged by the referee, where upon the referee will briefly stop the match, award a point, and restart the match. Alternatively, sparring may continue with the point noted by the judges. Some critics of point sparring feel that this method of training teaches habits that result in lower combat effectiveness. Light contact sparring may be used exclusively for children or in other situations when heavy contact would be inappropriate, and medium contact sparring is often used as training for full contact.

Full Contact

Full contact sparring or competition, where strikes are not pulled but thrown with full force as the name implies, has a number of tactical differences from light and medium contact sparring. It is considered by some to be requisite in learning realistic unarmed combat. In full contact sparring the aim of a competitive match is either to knockout the opponent or to force the opponent to submit. Where scoring takes place it may be a subsidiary measure, only used if no clear winner has been established by other means. In some competitions there is no scoring, though most now use some form of judging as a backup. Due to these factors, full contact matches tend to be more aggressive in character, but the rules may still stipulate the use of protective equipment must be worn, or limit the techniques allowed. Nearly all mixed martial arts organizations use a form of full contact rules, as do professional boxing organizations, and kyokushin karate that requires advanced practitioners to engage in bare-knuckle, full contact sparring, allowing kicks, knees and punching, although punching to the head is disallowed. Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo matches do not allow striking, but are full contact in the sense that full force is applied in permitted grappling and submission techniques. Competitions held by the World Taekwondo Federation require the use of headgear and padded vest, but are full contact in the sense that full force is applied to strikes to the head and body, and a win by knockout is possible.

Martial Sport

Martial arts have crossed over into sports when forms of sparring become competitive, becoming a sport in its own right that is dissociated from the original combative origin, such as with western fencing. The Summer Olympic Games includes judo, taekwondo, western archery, boxing, javelin, wrestling and fencing as events, while Chinese wushu recently failed in its bid to be included, but is still actively performed in tournaments across the world. Practitioners in some arts such as kickboxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu often train for sport matches, whereas those in other arts such as aikido generally spurn such competitions. Some schools believe that competition breeds better and more efficient practitioners, and gives a sense of good sportsmanship, but others believe the rules under which competition takes place have diminished the combat effectiveness of martial arts or encourage a kind of practice which focuses on winning trophies rather than a focus on cultivating moral character.

The question of "Which is the best martial art?" has led to inter-style competitions fought with very few rules, allowing a variety of fighting styles to enter with few limitations. This was the origin of the first Ultimate Fighting Championship tournament in the USA inspired by the Brazilian Vale Tudo tradition, and along with other minimal rule competitions, most notably those from Japan such as Shooto and Pancrase, that have evolved into the combat sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Some martial artists compete in non-sparring competitions such as breaking or choreographed routines of techniques such as poomse and kata or modern variations of the martial arts which include dance-influenced competitions. Martial traditions have been influenced by governments to become more sport-like for political purposes; the central impetus for the attempt by the People's Republic of China in transforming Chinese martial arts into the committee-regulated sport of wushu was suppressing what they saw as the potentially subversive aspects of martial training, especially under the traditional system of family lineages.

Self-Defence, Military & Law Enforcement Applications

Some traditional martial concepts have seen new use within modern military training. Perhaps the most recent example of this is point shooting which relies on muscle memory to more effectively utilize a firearm in a variety of awkward situations; in much the same way as an iaidoka would master movements with a sword. Traditional hand-to-hand, knife, and spear techniques continue to see use in the composite systems developed for today's wars. Examples of this include European Unifight, the United States Army Combative system, the Israeli Army KAPAP and Krav Maga, and the United States Marine’s Martial Arts Programme. Unarmed knife defences were integrated into the United States Army training manuals in 1942, and continue to influence today's systems along with other traditional systems such as escrima and silat. The rifle-mounted bayonet, which has its origin in the spear, has seen use by the United States Army, the United States Marine Corps, and the British Army as recently as the Iraq War. Many martial arts are also seen and used in Law Enforcement hand-to-hand training, as in the use of aikido by the Riot Police in Tokyo. 

Martial Arts Industry

Martial arts since the 1970s have become a significant industry, a subset of the wider sport industry (including cinema and sports television). Hundreds of millions of people worldwide practice some form of martial art. Web Japan (sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs) claims there are 50 million karate practitioners worldwide, and the South Korean government in 2009 published an estimate that taekwondo is practiced by 70 million people in 190 countries. The wholesale value of martial arts related sporting equipment shipped in the United States was estimated at $314 million in 2007; participation in the same year was estimated at 6.9 million (ages 6 or older, 2% of the United States population). R. A. Court, CEO of Martial Arts Channel, stated the total revenue of the United States martial arts industry was $40 billion and the number of practitioners in the United States was 30 million in 2003. 

Equipment 

Martial arts equipment can include that used for conditioning, protection, and weapons. Specialized conditioning equipment can include boards for breaking, dummy partners such as the wooden dummy, and targets such as punch bags and the Japanese makiwara. Protective equipment for sparring and competition includes among other things boxing gloves and headgear.

Martial Arts Fraud

Asian martial arts experienced a surge of popularity in the west during the 1970s, and the rising demand resulted in numerous low quality or fraudulent schools. Instigated by fictional depictions in martial arts films, this led to the Ninja craze of the 1980s in the United States. There were also numerous advertisements for martial arts training programmes inserted into comic books circa the 1960s and 1970s, which were read primarily by adolescent boys. When the martial arts arrived in the United States in the seventies, lower kyu ranks were given coloured belts to indicate their progress. This proved to be commercially viable and this system was adopted in many martial arts schools (known as McDojos or Belt Factories) as a means to generate money, a practice now widespread across the world.

Source: Wikipedia 2017


 

The 10th Dan: Understanding Senior Rank

Menkyo Kaiden – The Early Inheritance Model

Some people may be surprised to learn the concept of 10th Dan (judan) is rather young, historically speaking. The martial arts go back thousands of years, but recording rank through ten Kyu grades and ten Dan grades was not developed until the post Meiji era. When feudal Japanese Samurai were facing each other on the battlefield, rank was handled differently because an individual’s surname determined their class. Peasant-born children remained peasants, Samurai-born children were immediately Samurai, training, equipment, and knowledge were distributed accordingly, and a first born son was expected to carry on a particular martial style. When the time was right a Menkyo Kaiden was passed from master to son, usually indicating a transmission of full understanding, sometimes accompanied with makimono (scrolls) of secret techniques or family lineage. On occasions when a son was unavailable, ill, or inferior to an outside warrior, the Menkyo would pass to that warrior instead. Sometimes more than one Menkyo was handed out or aggressive political manoeuvring occurred after a master’s death, resulting in the splintering of a style. Okinawans tended to be less formal with their inheritance process mainly because their arts were forced into hiding many times, and written documentation of rank, technique or instructor was not advisable. Nevertheless, documented inheritance did appear from time to time.

The Birth of the 10th Dan

Circa 1868 Japan was experiencing a nationwide transformation as it emerged from the tumultuous Tokugawa Period, branched out to the rest of the world, and attempted to assimilate technology and concepts that could help catapult it to the front of the global stage. Previously, Okinawa had been the property of the Satsuma clan but now Okinawa was an official prefecture under the emperor, a transition that caused significant turbulence in the lifestyle of Okinawans due to the abolition of their long held class system, but this was a time that opened the doors for more public appearances of karate. In 1922 Funakoshi Gichin travelled to Japan in order to demonstrate some of the benefits of karate training, and the Japanese government was interested due to karate’s potential for making tougher soldiers. While there Funakoshi struck up a friendship with Kano Jigoro, the famous martial artist that founded judo. During this time Funakoshi learned of Kano’s Kyu/Dan grading system that he appropriated from other Japanese endeavours. At first the Kano ranking concept was simple – white belts for mudansha and black belts for yudansha. However, after seeing early success, Kano expanded his system into ten Kyu and ten Dan levels. Impressed by its organizational potential, and looking to make karate more palatable to the Japanese, Funakoshi quickly integrated this concept into his own teaching.

The First 10th Dans

In 1933 karate was officially recognized as a modern martial art by the Butokukai (Japanese Governing Body), but there was a problem. The Japanese were not particularly clear on who karate belonged to, and whilst at this time judo and kendo were well established and organized, karate seemed like a vague mishmash. The Butokukai immediately requested clarification on karate styles, so it was the task of the seniors in Japan and Okinawa to actually provide this, and it was then names such as Shorin Ryu, Goju Ryu, Shotokan, Shito Ryu, and Chito Ryu appeared, and became official styles. It is important to note that when Kyu and Dan ranking began surfacing in Japan it did not immediately connect with the Okinawan mindset, and many seniors chose to avoid it. The Butokukai for its part, was unreliable in providing standardized ranking, and titles handed down, like renshi, kyoshi, and tasshi, were often based on political connections and broader national agendas, and therefore were given mostly to Japanese practitioners. Titles and ranks were not common on Okinawa until around 1956 when Chibana Chosin of the Okinawa Karate Federation (OKF) and Toyama Kanken of the All Japan Karatedo Federation (Okinawa Branch) developed their respective organizations. By 1960 an official ten Dan system was accepted throughout most of the island.

In What Ways Can a 10th Dan Be Transmitted?

The transmission of a 10th Dan is by no means simple, actually has less historical precedent than might be expected, and its innate ambiguity has led to frequent misunderstanding and misappropriation. It is important to understand the ways 10th dans have evolved in the modern world, and how this is undermined.

Direct Lineage Transition

Despite being the cleanest and most historically proper way to transmit grades, “direct lineage” is also the rarest. A direct lineage transition is when one headmaster names a single successor and all students realign under the next leader. In this way, there is only a single 10th Dan for a particular style. One of the longest successful examples of direct transition in karate is the Motobu family line of Motobu Udun Di. This style was kept in the family for generations, and managed to name a single successor in Uehara Seikichi even though he was not of the bloodline. However, diplomas of direct transmission are easily faked. Some individuals copy the style and writing of legitimate koryu arts and Photoshop their name into the paperwork. Others secure blank diplomas from their instructor’s school and fill out whatever grade they desire. These fake inheritances are getting more difficult to maintain as technology connects real practitioners all over the world. Where once it was difficult to prove what kanji actually meant on a certificate, or if an individual was really a student of a particular teacher, modern communication and Internet resources provide much easier access to verification.

Organizational Promotion

When a senior Sensei dies it may fall to an organization to do the promoting. This is often seen in large organizations with multiple contingents in different locations who lose a figurehead and need to nominate another leader. There have also been historic examples of organizations like the Butokukai whose primary responsibility was handling rank and monitoring style adherence. This method only functions successfully if each branch of the organization agrees to the same set of codes and standards. This method is also open to misuse. Imagine a 7th Dan forming an organization consisting of his students as well as two other schools. The other school instructors, a 5th Dan and a 4th Dan, agree to promote the new “organization head” to 10th Dan in order to better run their group. The 10th Dan can then promote the 5th and 4th dans at will.

Council Promotion

When a single organization does not make sense, sometimes councils are used. Councils generally consist of multiple senior practitioners of different styles who come together to ensure a general sense of high quality and character in practitioners. On a few different occasions councils were used in Okinawa, especially during the early days of rank promotion when little precedent existed for what rank actually meant. Soke Councils are among the biggest money makers in modern martial arts, as for a nominal fee, practitioners can send performance video tapes to a Soke Council that will review the tapes and send out rank. Most of the time skill level doesn’t matter, only payments. Coincidently, members of these Soke Councils frequently promote each other to lofty ranks in order to better sell their council business to outsiders. Becoming part of a Soke Council, or receiving rank from one, is usually an exercise in marketing rather than quality control.

New Hybrid Style Creation

Throughout martial arts history new styles have come and gone. Some have been named or formed out of sheer necessity, like goju ryu of Okinawan karate. Others have been formed out of political need, or to escape a bad leader, and in rare cases due to sheer uncontainable brilliance from the founder. When a new style is formed the creators have the option of labelling themselves 9th or 10th Dan of that style. Some new styles withstand scrutiny and grow in popularity, becoming an accepted part of martial culture, and others fade into disuse. Unfortunately, there is nothing stopping any person from creating a style no matter how insubstantial their skill level. Some individuals create new styles purely for the marketing potential of it, while others do it because they were unable to secure high quality traditional training in any one style. The most frequent way to create a new style is to hybridize existing styles, such as taking karate techniques and mixing them with other martial arts.

What Does This All Mean?

If one thing can be said for certain, it is that a 10th Dan might have different significance in one style than it does in another. There may be one 10th Dan for an entire system worldwide, or there may be multiple. In fact, there may be many, some who have acquired the rank legitimately and others who have not. Becoming a 10th Dan is a complex, philosophical endeavour, because the promoted individual must exhibit exceptional character and dedication to the art, understanding it with extreme depth. They must also be responsible enough to carry the art forward and develop future students in order to continue the tradition. In the modern world rank is often bartered for, bought, or stolen, and is an obsession born of envy and desire. When high rank happens organically, through traditional channels, it can serve to celebrate careers and bring good artists closer together.

Source: Ikigai Article 2017

 WMAC Grade Criteria

The World Martial Arts Council stipulates there should be no more than nine lower or kyu grades. Each of the first four of these require three months continuous training, the next three each require four months continuous training, and the final two each require six months continuous training, a total of thirty-six months continuous training to complete all lower grade requirements regardless of the belt colour. To gain a black belt or sash a further twelve months of continuous training is required, bringing the total of continuous training from beginner to black belt to an absolute minimum of forty-eight months regardless of age. 

Junior Grades (Under 18 years)

Students under 18 years of age that complete all nine lower grades and then obtain a junior black belt or sash after four years of continuous training cannot progress further until reaching the age of 18 years, before the junior black belt (shodan ho) or sash can be transferred to the rank of shodan or the first adult black belt or sash, and then only providing this has been held for a minimum period of twelve months. If a junior reaches the age of 18 years before completing all junior grades the then grade can be transferred to the same adult level, but the same time criteria still applies before an adult black belt (shodan) or sash can be awarded. The World Martial Arts Council does not recognize, or award, any junior dan or degree grades under any circumstances as these apply only to adults over the age of 18 years. 

Adult Grades (Over 18 years)

The continuous training time restrictions above also apply to adults. Progression through the dan or degree grades requires the following times of continuous training:

Adult Black Belt 1st dan or Black Sash 1st degree must be held for a minimum period of two years before a 2nd dan or degree can be awarded.

Adult Black Belt 2nd dan or Black Sash 2nd degree must be held for a minimum period of three years before a 3rd dan or degree can be awarded.

Adult Black Belt 3rd dan or Black Sash 3rd degree must be held for a minimum period of four years before a 4th dan or degree can be awarded.

Adult Black Belt 4th dan or Black Sash 4th degree must be held for a minimum period of five years before a 5th dan or degree can be awarded. 

Adult Black Belt 5th dan or Black Sash 5th degree must be held for a minimum period of six years before a 6th dan or degree can be awarded.

Adult Black Belt 6th dan or Black Sash 6th degree must be held for a minimum period of seven years before a 7th dan or degree can be awarded.

Adult Black Belt 7th dan or Black Sash 7th degree must be held for a minimum period of eight years before an 8th dan or degree can be awarded.

Adult Black Belt 8th dan or Black Sash 8th degree must be held for a minimum period of nine years before a 9th dan or degree can be awarded.

Adult Black Belt 9th dan or Black Sash 9th degree must be held for a minimum period of ten years before a 10th dan or degree can be awarded.

In cases where an adult has held a grade for longer than the above time requirements and not graded due to no fault of their own, the WMAC Technical Board can award a higher grade when the same time requirements apply. As an example this means if a 6th Dan or 6th Degree has been held for a period of 15 years, an 8th dan or degree may be awarded at the absolute discretion of the Technical Board. Whilst there can be many Master dan or degree grades in any organization, there can only be one person with the highest title in any one system, and only then providing the 10th dan or degree has been achieved. From the age of 18 years, and providing a 1st dan or degree has been obtained at this age, an individual must be at least 72 years of age to be awarded a WMAC recognized 10th dan or degree.

Proficiency tests are not required after 4th dan as the promotion is based on years of experience and contributions to the advancement of martial arts.  The award of rank is in recognition of direct or indirect service and support of the development of the martial arts.  To qualify, individuals must also have the respect of the community by virtue of good character.  The full range of dan grades is available, the first four of which recognize those who have supported or contributed indirectly to the development of the martial arts at local community levels (1st dan), who have given direct support locally (2nd dan), who have given indirect support at national level (3rd dan), and direct support at national level (4th dan).

 

The higher ranks are reserved for local and national dignitaries, leaders and sovereigns, and  for international leaders and internationally respected figures.  Rank can also be bestowed on individuals who have applied themselves diligently and have achieved a high level of spiritual development, but who have a physical limitation or handicap, especially those who have contributed to the advancement of the martial arts through research.

*In all cases a full record of all awards from complete novice must be produced with a licence or copies of all certificates before the World Martial Arts Council awards any grade, unless examined by the WMAC Technical Board. 

Source: WorldMAC International  

Awarded Titles

Titles awarded by the World Martial Arts Council are not automatic with rank, and are bestowed separately.  Whilst each title is restricted to certain Dan Grade levels, these are not necessarily granted at these levels and sometimes never, and apply only to Japanese martial arts.

Renshi

This title is awarded at 5th or 6th dan with a minimum age of 35 years that have held 5th dan rank for at least two years.  Literally, this is a “polished expert” usually an assistant to a higher-ranked kyoshi.  A renshi is in spiritual and organizational charge of one section of a system.  The rank of 5th dan is considered equivalent to a Master’s Degree.

Shihan

Shihans are “teachers of teachers” responsible for the structure and standards of instructors under their authority; must hold the rank of 6th dan or above, and preside over their own style, or at least over a group of schools each under an instructor.  The title of shihan allows the privilege of wearing the red and white sectioned belt, and is considered equivalent to a Ph.D or Professorship.

Kyoshi

This title is awarded at 7th or 8th dan with a minimum age of 40 years that have held the title of renshi for at least ten years.  Literally, this is an “expert instructor” equivalent to an assistant professor.

Hanshi

This title is awarded at 9th or 10th dan with a minimum age of 55 years that have held the title of kyoshi for at least fifteen years.  Literally, this is an “exemplary teacher” usually the master of a system or style.  The title indicates spiritual and organizational responsibility for an entire discipline, and is the highest position attainable in Japanese martial arts.

Other Titles   

These are commonly used titles that are not awarded or bestowed.

Mudansha

This is a student of coloured belt rank below below black or dan grade.

Yudansha

The holder of a black belt dan grade at any level.

Sempai

A senior student, usually brown or 1st dan black belt, that assists instructors or takes a class in their absence.

Sensei

There is only one sensei in each school who is the highest-ranked instructor.

Tashi

This is a term rarely used that translates as “expert” and is sometimes used when addressing a 3rd or 4th dan.

Sosei

This is another rarely used term for “the great and unique leader of a major group.”

O’ Sensei

This is a “great teacher” usually reserved for the founder of a system, or someone who has achieved great standing internationally.  It is a title used only for rare individuals, and carries connotations of reverence and affection from the students.

Kaicho

This term refers to the President of a major recognized national or international association.

Kancho

This term refers to the highest ranked instructor of a worldwide system.

Soke

This term originated in Buddhist temples and refers to the “master of a family household” (in the sense that a martial arts teacher and the students constitute a family).

Osho

This term translates as “peaceful worshipper” and also refers to a “chief priest” in charge of martial arts training at a Buddhist temple.

Taiso

This term translates as “great master.”

Soshi

This term translates as “head teacher.”

Doshu

This term translates as “master of the way.”

Soshu

This term translates as “master of the art.”

Kaiso

This term translates as “opening ancestor” and is sometimes used for the founder of a style.

 Meijin

This term translates as “wise man,” and is a rarely used title for only the oldest, most dedicated and most skilled of instructors in a system.  The title implies a sense of genius in the martial arts, and may also imply attainment of a high spiritual level.

Master

This English language title is typically associated with 5th dan but requires a Master’s Teaching Certificate within the World Martial Arts Council to be considered official and recognized.

Grandmaster

This was once the highest position attainable in Japanese martial arts but unfortunately this term is now used by people that invent their own systems and fraudsters.  It is now usually a self-awarded title considered by the World Martial Arts Council to be worthless.  

  Roll of Honour

There are many associations offering outstanding martial artists induction into a diversity of organizations with the Hall of Fame title.  Each of these are similar in that they offer recognition to people for outstanding achievements in their chosen martial arts, or for services deemed to have contributed in some way to their growth or promotion.  Unfortunately, many deserving students and instructors are never nominated for these accolades due to favouritism or political reasons, and in the event of a nomination the costs involved to attend an award ceremony prevent many from doing so. 

Numerous athletes and sports people have received the highest of national awards for participating in Olympic events, yet many martial artists that have achieved far more over many years of dedication, continue to be ignored.  The World Martial Arts Council aims to ensure martial artists at every level throughout the world are recognized for their efforts; their achievements are publicised on a global level; they are honoured in a way they rightly deserve; and that the current domination by political sporting bodies is challenged. 

In almost all cases, martial artists themselves are to blame owing to the vast number of people now claiming titles such as Grandmaster and Master.  In addition, titles such as World, International, or National Champions awarded for participation in what are basically regional events involving only local groups, have also been responsible.  In order to change the present situation it is essential there is a global awarding body for all martial arts that does not discriminate or interfere in any way, but has the final decision on all nominations for what should be a fully recognized accolade, and requires nothing other than fully documented evidence of achievement or service.  Any award that can be bought or is available to anyone without a thorough investigation into what is being claimed can have no accreditation, value, or public recognition.  Every person knows someone that deserves such an award, and this is an opportunity to nominate them for inclusion on the Roll of Honour. 

*Full details of nominee, contact details, achievements or services should be sent to wmac@worldmac.org.

The Science Behind the Benefits of Martial Arts Training

Most martial artists are familiar with Eastern philosophical descriptions of the benefits of martial arts training. Just as Western medicine has begun research into understanding the possible benefits of Eastern medicine, Western research psychology has begun to investigate the possible benefits of Eastern approaches to psychological health due to the tendency to focus on preventative mental health as opposed to waiting until problems become visible and more entrenched. In traditional Japanese culture, this would often take the form of parents recruiting an adult role model who would lead their child on a path of learning involving a traditional art. Martial art training aims to result in several benefits to trainees, such as their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Through systematic practice in the martial arts a person's physical fitness may be boosted (strength, stamina, flexibility, movement and coordination) as the whole body is exercised and the entire muscular system is activated. Beyond contributing to physical fitness, training in the martial arts also has benefits for mental health, contributing to self-esteem, self-control, emotional and spiritual well-being. The martial arts also have the nature of an art, since there is emotional communication and complete emotional expression. For these reasons, a number of martial arts schools have focused purely on therapeutic aspects, de-emphasizing the historical aspect of self-defence or combat completely.

Seeking to understand the benefits of the martial arts, Western research in disciplines including education, psychology, and sports psychology have begun to explore how the martial arts can affect mental wellness. Alan James and Richard Jones (1982) were among the first researchers to describe the benefits of karate-do as a means of cultural development. In their research they describe how through karate-do’s systematic form of training, individuals go through a process of acquiring a new social identity and consequently begin to absorb the dojo’s belief system which includes character development through physical and mental processes. An important accomplishment of many students comes from pushing the body through a sequence of strenuous physical exercises. By pushing the body to the limits and beyond, the student becomes aware of an inner strength, and gains the confidence in being able to perform exercises previously regarded as impossible. Increased fitness and suppleness, an awareness of what has been achieved on the physical plane, penetrates the psychological make-up of the student and contributes to the emergence of a new, confident, self-image.

In this case, the process of pushing the body in order to develop physical awareness will improve psychological awareness. As a result of this new self-image a state of preparedness emerges, which is expressed in the normative expectation that once students enter the dojo they become and remain, fully alert and prepared, which involves concentration on one’s own efforts and ignoring everything else. In time, longer and more intense periods of concentration occur, thereby enhancing self-confidence and diminishing self-consciousness. In Japan, martial art training is considered to be philosophical education. This training unfolds as a process that emerges from the relationship between the student and instructor, and progresses in a predictable way. Reflective of the Zen method of training, the emphasis is on a non-verbalized, intuitive approach, rather than intellection. It is the total involvement of one’s physical and mental powers to unceasingly struggle for a solution to a problem that can be conceptualized as the attempt for perfection, while the struggle could be conceptualized as a progressively increasing set of goals. It is considered four stages are involved as follows:

Gyo or Introductory Stage

This represents the initial level of training, where the Budoka, is introduced to his chosen martial art, its customs and etiquette, his teachers, as well as his training hall (dojo). The trainee learns that techniques must be practiced assiduously, and at this level training is a process of trial and error.

Shugyo Stage

At this level the student attempts to reproduce the actions of the master teacher who presents the student with physical kata, which force the student to solve the various conceptual problems associated with this particular art.

Jutsu Stage

At this level the student has acquired a mastery of basic skills but still senses incompleteness in the techniques. Movements once requiring conscious thought processes are now fully internalized and executed automatically.

Do Stage

At this level training becomes an artless art where the expert, who has transcended the outer forms, is both master of himself and the art.

Intention

The intention of progression through these four stages is to learn to focus the conscious mind on something other than everyday concerns, which usually receive its exclusive attention. Moreover, the students attempt to maintain their focus for longer and longer periods of time, undistracted by intruding thoughts or sensations. The physical learning through the nonverbal exercises of the martial arts can improve mental health. It fosters recognition of the integration of mind and body, teaches practitioners to relax, to focus, to communicate, to persevere, and to be self-aware and self-accepting, while striving for improvement. In addition, it emphasizes minimizing fear and anger in order to maximize focus and concentration, and therefore, training in the martial arts is considered a more effective psychotherapy.

Source: Ikigai Article 2017

Improved Attention Through “Flow”

In researching elite-level athletes and entrepreneurs, it has been discovered individuals are highly adept at seeking out and creating ‘do’ experiences in their lives. This process has been named “flow” based on the subjective report of feeling “in the flow” described by many athletes. It is a phenomenon that occurs with many elite individuals whether through rock climbing or running a company. When engaged in the activity in which they had achieved an elite status, these individuals described the following psychological processes:

“A sense that one’s skills are adequate to cope with the challenges at hand, in a goal directed, rule bound action system that provides clear cues as to how well one is performing. Concentration is so intense that there is no attention left over. Self-consciousness disappears, and the sense of time becomes distorted. People are willing to do (a flow activity) for its own sake.”

This definition describes how flow is essentially the experience of a participant in a specific type of activity that provides rules, structure that can facilitate growth, and is action oriented. The psychological effect of an activity such as this can be quite profound for the participant and can include the psychological processes described below:

Challenge-Skill Balance

This is characterized by the perception of a balance between situational challenges and individual skills.

Unambiguous Feedback

This can be described as clear, immediate feedback regarding the activity.

Action-Awareness Merging

This is characterized by the participant’s deep involvement in the activity so that it becomes spontaneous or automatic.

Total Concentration

Total concentration in the activity is one aspect of the flow experience, which leaves no room in the mind for irrelevant information.

Sense of Exercising Control

This can be experienced in the flow process, without consciously thinking about exerting control over the self. The action of the activity dominates consciousness and the sense of the independent self can be lost. The participant may have a perception that time feels either slower or faster, or time may feel absent from consciousness as objective time is superceded by the rhythms dictated by the activity. These flow states appear to be quite similar to the state that is described as Mushin (no-mind) in Zen Buddhist philosophy. When an individual is involved in a do-zen activity it has been described as feeling like one is moving automatically without will (flow state of action-awareness merging), with single-pointed concentration (flow state of total concentration), feeling totally in control of oneself and indeed one’s opponent (flow state of sense of exercising control), and feeling as if no time had passed (flow state of time feeling slower or faster). It is through developing these heightened awareness’s that karate-do students may develop increased concentration and develop a sense of calmness, relaxation, and freedom from agitation. And it has even been postulated that juvenile delinquency may be a result of a lack of flow or do-zen experiences:
“Much of what has been labeled juvenile delinquency - car theft, vandalism, rowdy behavior in general - is motivated by the need to have flow experiences not available in ordinary life. As long as a significant segment of society has few opportunities to encounter meaningful challenges, and few chances to develop the skills necessary to benefit from them, we must expect that violence and crime will attract those who cannot find their way to a more complex auto telic (self-directed flow) experience.”

This is, of course, a process of development that involves a lifetime of training and involves many experiences, but is an attempt nonetheless to explore how traditional martial arts training aids in character development. This highlights if actions are continuously repeated in slow progression toward mastery until actions and thinking become spontaneous, major benefits occur. In Zen philosophy, spontaneous action is the natural state that allows the mentally unencumbered individual to act in a continuously tranquil, yet powerful manner. This is the ultimate desired outcome and has natural ramifications for positive mental health.

Source: Ikigai Article 2017

Stretching Exercises

Martial Arts As A Science

 The Spirit of Ki-ai

Ki-ai is described as a "spirit shout" used in hard martial arts during moments of impact, and is frequently used in kata as well as sparring, basics, and kumite.

What is Ki-ai?

Ki-ai is not necessarily a spirit shout. When broken down, the term "ki" refers to the internal spirit or inherent energy of a person. The term "ai" can indicate harmonizing or focusing, depending on the context. Ki-ai and ai-ki are two concepts closely related and blended, not unlike a balanced yin and yang. Aiki (as in aikido) is the practice of harmonizing with an opponent's force and redirecting it, whilst ki-ai is an expression of personal force directed into an opponent, and disrupting their rhythm. One of the most explicit ways to disrupt an opponent is by overloading their senses with a surprise burst of stimuli, and in order to generate that kind of overload, the body's destructive energies can be brought together in an instantaneous moment of exertion. The eyes, ears, emotions, and pain receptors of the opponent can be aggressively overwhelmed, and an intense shout, the most noticeable aspect of ki-ai, is an integral part of that process.

How To Execute a Ki-ai

When listening to ki-ai, it is important to note not all are created equal. Any human can scream in anger, but not everyone can use ki-ai. A good ki-ai is like an auditory gunshot, fueled by intent, and the length is brief but delivered quickly and intensely. The emotional fuel is not anger, fury, frustration, or rage; instead, it is a focused intent to maim or kill, and the other emotions may swirl momentarily as byproducts of the intensity. As with most things in the martial arts, there is no shortcut to a good ki-ai and the following are essential:

1. Create a solid posture, tilt the pelvis slightly forward while keeping the spine aligned, and allow the body to relax and sink into the hara (the lower abdomen).

2. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, and breathe from the bottom of the lungs until the stomach moves in and out as opposed to the upper chest.

3. Push the air out of the bottom of the lungs vigorously. To do this, rely on the abdominal contraction that slightly tilts the pelvis forward.

4. Create a vocalization using mostly the back of the throat. A proper ki-ai will inevitably come out as some sort of vowel sound, but you can guide how it sounds according to what feels natural. It's important to note you need not hit a hard "k" at the beginning of a ki-ai, as you are not actually saying "ki-ai" during the shout.

5. Be loud. You need not scream your head off, but there is a barrier of timidity that needs to be broken through, as polite and mannerly ki-ai does not get the job done.

6. The ki-ai is not a sustained scream, but more of an impact tool in its own right. The hara fires the kiai up and out while the mouth directs it at the target.

More Than Just Screaming

The shout itself is only one aspect of ki-ai, in order to use it to the fullest extent you have to involve your entire being, including the eyes, posture, and spirit.

How Much Shouting is Too Much?

Ki-ai manifests in subtly different ways, especially during kata performance. The focus and disruptive capabilities of ki-ai may be present throughout an entire kata, or it may fade in and out depending on what the performer is visualizing. In order to explore the question of ki-ai frequency from all angles, here are some reasons why extended ki-ai might be useful:

1. Repeated screaming could put a person into "agressive mode", overwhelming all comers.

2. Making noise during a self defence altercation could draw attention and elicit assistance.

3. Excessive ki-ai could make opponents fearful that the victim is crazy, abandon their attack, and run away.

4. If every strike in karate is meant to be done as a "killing blow" then every strike would deserve a ki-ai.

The matter of drawing attention to oneself is certainly true. Screaming and struggling is a very legitimate self-defence tactic, especially in crowded areas. On the other hand, it may actually inspire the attacker to do damage more quickly in order to silence the victim. It is true that ramping up adrenaline can increase strength and pain tolerance, but it also drastically reduces cognition and small motor skills, and furthermore during a conflict, the attacker experiences a similar adrenaline rush. Too much shouting without any sort of control will not only eliminate fine motor techniques but could also overwhelm gross motor techniques ingrained in muscle memory. The other problem with a scream induced frenzy is the amount of time available before exhaustion, and sometimes individuals get a false sense of security from the dojo. Being able to spar for 45 minutes does not mean a person can last 45 minutes in a street encounter, and even Police Officers experience extreme fatigue in a matter of seconds or minutes when faced with the real struggle of violence. Imagine what could happen if precious energy was wasted on excessive shouting.

The concept of "killing blows" in karate is a popular one. The phrase "Ikken Hisatsu" -  "One Punch - One Kill" is frequently used and suggests full force should be put behind every technique with total commitment. This concept is rooted in Japanese Kenjutsu and the idea of "Ichigo Ichie" - "One time - One Meeting.” The Samurai were extremely refined swordsmen and the katana was a weapon of immediate effectiveness, and the slightest hesitation or uncertainty in a duel resulted in certain destruction. The fist of the hard style karateka is designed to be deadly in the same manner. However, when matching the Ikken Hisatsu mindset with the realities of physical combat, it is important to rely on the subtleties of ki-ai usage instead of raw vocalization. Intensity of purpose can be transmitted via facial expression, hard breath, a glare of the eyes, and spirit pressure.

Ultimately, too much shouting goes against practicality for real combat. Consider the element of surprise. The ki-ai should form a sharp blast against the opponent's senses especially when combined with striking, and never giving the opponent a chance to recover. In the matter of multiple opponents, a blasting ki-ai used sparsely is just as valuable. A sudden auditory impulse might stop all surrounding aggressors, and ki-ai may work multiple times in a conflict, but if overused it will simply become just a noise.

How Many Kiai in Kata?

Most instructors will indicate a few pre-designed spots where they believe ki-ai belong, and these spots are most often strikes that feel conclusive. As such, many kata feature between one and five kiai.

Part of the Bigger Puzzle

This article has focused on ki-ai to the exclusion of other concepts, and it almost feels as if ki-ai is the only tool available for spirit transmission, but the truth is quite the opposite. Other concepts such as kime, zanshin, mushin, and kokoro add to the collective expression of the classical artist during life protection, and many deeper concepts overlap at times, but are also distinct avenues worthy of study. Stories claiming the use of ki-ai can knock people out without touching them or the idea of using vocal sounds or visual colours to create knockouts, are unproven. 

Source: Ikigai Article 2017

How to be a Good Martial Arts Teacher?

What a Good Teacher is Not

A Coach

• A coach is responsible for the physical performance and readiness of his athletes.

• Some modern instructors do fit that description, especially in the realm of MMA athletes and tournament competitors.

• The subject matter of a classical sensei is far more pressing. These are concerned with their students taking other human life in their hands. They have to impart the mental and character skill set to recognize the repercussions of damaging a life, not just on the targeted person, but on their family, on the student, on the student’s family, and in a broader sense, deciding what kind of societal impact the decision process will have (Will an individual go on to hurt others?).

• There are also inherent right and wrong matters that a sensei must address. Whenever martial artists are seen doing something disgraceful, their sensei should have helped them in controlling their abilities. In previous times, every action of a student reflected upon the sensei significantly, so there was a deeper connection than mere coaching.

A Life Guru

• Being a sensei does not grant someone automatic license to give advice on all life matters.

• Most sensei are not professionally trained psychologists, therapists, or financial experts, and are not qualified to give relationship, or financial advice.

• In classical times, the sensei or sifu was a much more integrated part of village life. Their training often made them not just the most deadly individual, but also the best trained in medicine, herbs, physiology, and more general education like literacy, and government policy. These were highly integrated into a town’s ecosystem, and sometimes farmers would ask advice about when to plant crops, and parents would seek help for naming their children.

• This is no longer the case for modern sensei. In our connected society there are real professionals that do all these things and modern sensei are not trained to be counselors.

A Good Teacher

• Finds the proper balance between coach and guru.

• Will focus on passing on the curriculum as it was handed down to them, preserving it as best as possible for the students to explore. They will resist the ego stroke of flavoring everything with their own ideas.

• Will understand how to minimize the politics of rank and ego.

• Will find the balance between physical technique, mental tuning, and character development. Too much of one will sacrifice the others.

• Will understand when to guide students strictly and when to allow them space to explore on their own.

• Will do their best to help their students surpass them, giving them tools when they are ready and without ego-based restrictions.

• Will recognize the difference between a student who is ready for higher learning, and one who has yet to develop the right character.

To learn how to become a good teacher, it is necessary to pinpoint those unique aspects of other instructors and absorb them. It is essential to find ways to embody the things a teacher should be and avoid the things a teacher should not be. That is why lower rank students can help teach. They can assist higher ranks or even take classes on occasion. But it takes many years of analyzing their instructors and understanding what makes them special in order to integrate that into themselves, and able to use it to benefit students.

Source: Ikigai Article 2017

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