View Full Version : Ranks, Titles & Other Bull!

Ron Goninan
3rd January 2001, 00:39
A Personal View:

Rank, titles …. Something everyone in the martial arts focuses upon at one time or another. But what exactly is rank and title worth? The answer in my humble opinion …….. stuff all!

As one who spent a reasonable amount of time of my personal involvement within the martial arts (I’ve been involved in the martial arts for 30+ years) looking to rank and titles, I can honestly say without any doubt or hesitation that I think the whole issue is nothing but bulls**t! {Ed.}

Firstly lets examine briefly just what is a rank in the context of the martial arts. It is a mark of the personal relationship that exists between the teacher and the individual student. It is based on the teacher’s knowledge of his/her teachings and or art and the skill and personal advancement made by that of the student within same. It has no relationship to those outside of that style, group, association or dojo (although many will seek to make it an issue).

Titles are equally the same: representative of the relationship developed between the individual teacher and student.

My personal view of ranks, well honestly, up until recently, I thought them to have value, depth and meaning. In many ways, I guess I still do. I am proud of the ranks I received while on Okinawa from my Sensei. Not because of the rank mind you, but because of what they represent … the relationship developed between two people! They are a wonderful cultural link and true works of art. My former teacher is a master calligrapher of the highest degree! But that’s where it ends.

I have touted these ranks in the past that is true. But the truth is I am a “nobody’ in terms of the martial arts and contrary to what others “out there” may think, say, write or spew forth, this is exactly what I am. If I am to be viewed as “good” (whatever that means!) at what I do or teach within the martial arts then this is up to others to decide after meeting me personally, spending time with me both on and off the dojo floor. The simple honest truth is If you are “good” people will know by the way you treat others in everyday life, not by the rank and belt you may or may not wear.

For those people who have sought me out and who are still following my teachings, I am nothing important nor do I claim to be. They know my worth as a person and within the martial arts and they understand the views I hold true to. If I am afforded any respect by my students it is because I have personally earned it via my actions and teachings and not by imposing ranks upon them as a means of boosting myself.

To me the martial arts are something I love doing. It is not how I make my living so I have very little commercial interest other than the continued up-keep of running the dojo. The martial arts and my involvement in same is a personal pursuit.

The same goes for titles. Do I have a “title?” Yes. Do I force this down my student’s throats? No! Just about all of my students call me by my first name in the dojo and I would not have it any other way. My students are my friends. Some in the martial arts would say this is offensive, others would say that its not correct etiquette and they may well be right but by whose views and standards?

Anyone “out there” in the big old wide world of martial arts are more than welcome to come to my home or dojo for a visit. Be it as a friendly visit or simply to satisfy their individual curiosity. I have no grudge to bear against anyone and I think that my wife and I make reasonable hosts. You can respect me. You can like me. You can hate me. Either way the decision will be yours. You can make your decisions as what rank you would like to "label me" after meeting, talking with and or training alongside of me. I’ll even shout for the beers (although I’m a Bourbon man myself!).

My rank? I have none. Why? Why not! It’s not important. What is important is what type of person I am and I think I’m doing okay in that area.

My ideas and way of teaching are to some unique, often going against the views of others within the martial arts world today. To others, they may seem “off the planet”. To a great many “martial artists” I know I’m seen as is seen as being a 'whacko lunatic' type of character. A rebel. Many dismiss my views as being bulldust!. But that’s okay, each holds true to his own views, nothing wrong with this as this is the way of the world and human nature.

Many have attempted to assassinate my character as a person involved within the martial arts. And I wish I had a dollar for every martial artist that has belittled my views and my teachings! I have had my name posted on numerous Internet boards, sometimes in a positive manner, often in a humorous way and yes even in a political manner, in turn revealing the politics and insecurities of others.

Some even admire me for what they view as being my commitment and enthusiasm to Budo (which is really just one of my loves in life). My message is simple:- It's not the style. It's not to be found in one's fame or lack of it. it's not about having thousands of students and schools all over the world. It's not about being a "big gun". It's not about having a certificate from Okinawa, Japan, China or downtown Cobar for that matter! It's about friendship and living your life as best as you can. It's about being strong enough in your heart and mind to take a stand for what you believe in, even when it goes against popular opinion, and to hold on to what you believe in, all in the face of adversity. It's about people, not the martial arts. It's to be found in making good people, better.

I’ll gladly let you share your art with me. Teach me what you wish to. I’ll be grateful for your time and patience. Perhaps even I may have something of value to offer you?

Let’s be bloody honest. In today’s martial arts world, ranks are dime a dozen. They are like opinions and bums …. everyone’s got one!

And it almost goes without saying that many ranks out there should be introduced to the respected bums as a means of toilet paper.

The “human” element of the martial arts is being lost. Very few schools view their teachings as human relationships. To many (not all) it can be business or politics. I’m not against the business of teaching the martial arts, not at all. I just think that people come first.

The old arts were not so much about style but about people. Diploma’s, certificates, scrolls, documents and titles mean bugger all without the human element.!

Diploma’s, ranks, certificates and titles don’t make people. People make people!

Who you learnt from, what you learnt, all these things matter little. What is important that you have learnt something good or bad and can make your own decisions as to what is right or wrong. No piece of paper or the words negative or positive of others can take away from this truth.

Ron Goninan

[Edited by Doug Daulton on 01-03-2001 at 01:15 PM]