View Full Version : Shodan is only a beginner

9th July 2000, 17:11
In Dojo Management there is a thread about the amount to pay for classes, it has changed tack slightly about what is and what makes a Shodan.
The last few threads have said that, it is the beginning of the journey, I do not disagree with any of these statements but I did get the impression that some, classed Shodan as not knowing anything past the basics and gave the impression of "looking down" on a mere Shodan. I would like to ask:
How would you view some one like me?
My situation is that I started Judo at the age of Eleven With the British Judo Council; I achieved Shodan the age of 20 some nine years later. Shortly after I was involved in an accident and badly smashed my lower jaw, upper jaw and right cheek bone. This put me out of any sport for some time.
It was not until my kids started Judo that I started again myself, some ten years after the accident.
As the new club was the British Judo association, I started again and when I attended a grading I graded in at 1st Kyu. I was now thirty-two. I achieved my 1st Dan with the British Judo Association in June 1997.
In order to obtain your Dan grade with the BJA you have to pass a theory test and also obtain 100 points in rated shiai wins. During the collection of these points I picked up various injuries including breaking the same three ribs on three different occasions. The last time I broke my ribs my doctor informed me they had not healed end on but were only attached by their corners and would break more easily, and that next time they could take a lung with them! This now meant that I could no longer take an active part in competition.
To achieve further grades I would need to accumulate 200 points for each further Dan grade and pass further tests. So this effectively means I am stuck at Shodan or 1st level.
I have since gone on to obtain my Theory Examiners Qualifications and have passed the various examinations for my BJA Coaching Certificate (which has to be revalidated yearly)
Is some one like me still at the beginning stage and to be looked down upon as "un-enlightened", because my grade will always remain at Shodan?

[Edited by Osoto2000 on 07-09-2000 at 12:21 PM]

9th July 2000, 23:06
Hi Ray.

Is there no provision for Kata Grading in the BJA? If not, it would seem that a letter writing campaign is indicated concerning the rights of the disabled in sport applying to Judo as well as other endeavors. I have graded Judoka (and Jujitsuka) with disabilities on kata performance, service to the dojo (teaching classes, giving kata demonstrations) and participation in Kata Tournaments and turned in the papers for up to nidan. One Instance of three was denied, and I promptly issued a black obi that I had previously worn (as with all my dan ranking promotions) and instead of a governing body certificate, I presented only the Dojo Certificate I always present to my Dan graded students. The promoted students are granted the rank of shodan on my authority after demonstrating proficiency in the arts and sciences of Judo and/or jujitsu (depending on the discipline tested for), and their demonstrated arts in testing are listed (e.g. The Gokyo no Waza,the Shimmeisho no Waza, the Nage no Kata, Ukemi, the Katame no Kata, the Kime no Kata etc.) along with any certifications they may have earned through seminars and other special or advanced training. I am Rokudan, and I feel confident that I can judge whether a person deserves a dan ranking. I feel that it is my duty to teach and promote good students. I have already severed ties with one national organization over this issue, and given the opportunity, I would do it again. My students deserve no less, and I certainly don't need any more promotions!

Just some food for thought. Sorry if I railed overmuch, but I am very concerned and protective when politics conflict with my students' intrests. That's my job.


Joseph Svinth
9th July 2000, 23:54
Hi Ray --

Keep in mind that being career-dead does have some advantages. Name one, you say? Well, I can do better than that; I'll name two! First, it means that you're free to speak your mind at association meetings. That's always great fun. And for another, it greatly improves the quality of the company you keep. For example, Dicky Bowen and Trevor Leggett both refuse to accept rank from the BJA. As a result Bowen has been a 4-dan and Leggett a 6-dan longer than you've been alive.

As for being a "mere" shodan, well, Moshe Feldenkrais was a "mere" Budokwai shodan, and that never stopped him from writing very good judo texts or being a useful member of society, either.

Be that as it may, check with the Kano Society in London. The organization provides no grades, but membership will put you in touch with some really nice people who are truly concerned about judo. The URL is http://www.kanosociety.org

10th July 2000, 08:09
Hi, Ray,
Sometimes people tend to get preachy (if that is a word) about what the kyu/dan system means. All too often, people tend to relax when they get their black belt. If you feel you are being treated this way because circumstance lead you away form judo, I am one who does not think you can lose rank, and I also do not use the point system in shiai as is custom. Like you say, not everyone is afforded the opportunity to advance, and as such, my only requirement is participation, but that is not set in stone. Also, participation of watching shiai, contributing in other ways, is more important. And it is not only british judo. They all have requirements I think are out of line so Joe makes a good point. Two in fact.

The discussion in "dojo" was just that. "How do you do things" and should there really be a test as such along with shiai results? Most who grade on that basis, know two or three waza which are used all the time. They may win, but it accounts for only that. Grading, in my opinion, has much more to do with contribution and courtesy, even to one's own detriment, eg, helping a student who needs it even when you are working to ready oneself for shiai. Shodan is the beginning, in only that this is expected of you. Nothing more.

I have a blind student, and although there are shiai for the blind, this does not "count" in anyway toward the point totals as they are not "official" tournaments. I also know a shodan who is in his eighties so the point totals do not mean much to me. "OK, you know how to fight in shiai. What else do you know?"

Anyway, as I said, it does sound that way, but believe me there are probably many who are still kyu ranked who do not think they will be accepted because of discussions as that one in dojo management. BTW: We do have something in common. I started at twelve and it took me just as long to advance to shodan. There are things more important which are much harder to pull off than there is in shiai. I apologize for you feeling that way as I have been part of theose discussions in "dojo management." On the other hand, that is basically a teachers forum, and you can expect higher ranked people posting in there, but students are always welcome. They are proof of a teacher's ability. Dick Bowen is up there in years, and if he is refusing ranking from the BJA, I would listen to what he has to say.

13th July 2000, 21:34
Forgive me if I came across bitter, it was not my intention. I did however feel the need to vent my spleen. As I believe I have just as valid an understanding of Judo as someone who has "graded" higher than myself. With the time an effort I put into training myself and my students, I feel I have earned the right to be taken seriuosly.
Thanks for listening anyway.

Joseph Svinth
13th July 2000, 23:17
Remember, the only advantage a BJA 10-dan has over a BJA 4-dan (or 1-dan for that matter) is that the 10-dan is fatter. The belt doesn't improve your judo a whit, and by all accounts, doesn't do much for your humility and personality, either. You are what you are, and as long as you can live with that, what everyone else thinks is irrelevant. After all, everyone thought Richard Corey had it made, according to the author of "Spoon River Anthology," until the night Richard Corey went home and put a bullet through his head.

Meanwhile, if your interest is mostly self-improvement, then John Cornish would be worth your looking up, as he was kata demonstrator in Japan with Donn Draeger during the early 1960s and a British national kata coach for years after that. So if all you can do is kata, then you might as well do it till you bleed. On the other hand, if your true goal is to be taken seriously, then do some research at the British Library and with the veterans of the Budokwai, Judokai, and LJS, and then, come next BJA general meeting, stand up and say in a booming voice: "Charley, how about accounting for the money spent by the Olympic Committee, to include the bribes given to the IOC leadership?" If you've got your documents already Xeroxed for distribution and remembered to invite the Press, I bet you'll be taken very seriously indeed.

Gil Gillespie
14th July 2000, 03:26
Ed Burgess, my hat's off to you. I'm not a judoka but your values and priorities validate my aikido sensei's maxim that "there is a common thread of sanity that unites all the martial arts." I hope your students are aware of how fortunate they are.

Thanks for leading the way on the high road.


14th July 2000, 08:24
Hi again, Ray,
Just a note on how much rank really means. My first teacher was shodan (in those days, nidan or sandan was considered equal to having a mastery of judo) and he taught me more in those early years than my second, and last teacher who was godan when I went to him. He was Japanese and received most of his training in Japan. In all the years with him, I have never seen him do a single technique, and I didn't ask why. He produced, though, and his day job was a hard one. Mr. Hill, my first teacher was trained while in the airforce and he taught me things I, to date, have not seen since. Possibly it was some hand to hand instructing, I don't know, but he was a good, easy going teacher and I did well in shiai under his guidance. But he also had to raise a family and he didn't have time to completely do both well. He chose the family over higher rank in judo.

How one ranks lower than he was before he must stop for a while is beyond me, but rest assured that there is another way. I've had novice students who have gone on to beat higher ranking judoka in shiai, even to beating dan ranked judoka. Someone said something that has stuck with me:"Rank is nothing. Waza [kata] is everything!" I still believe that.

Good luck!

14th July 2000, 12:44
Good morning, Gil!

Thank you for your kind words. But with my Sensei's (Ben Patterson) memory pulling from above and my students' love and enthusiasm pushing from below, the high road is the only "Do" that lets me sleep nights. I'm ten years into a Parkinson's diagnosis, so I'm damned touchy about disabled students getting an even break. Since I retired from Taihei Yukikan (my Dojo) three years ago, I still crawl into my gi every Saturday, and give or attend classes or clinics or gradings in California and Nevada. My favorite certificate is not the one with "Rokudan" on it; it is the one which makes me "Godfather Sensei for Life" of a small school in Carson City. All the students (juniors and seniors) signed it.

Thanks again for the Boost, Gil.

[Edited by efb8th on 07-14-2000 at 05:50 AM]

14th July 2000, 22:30
Thank you all for the various responses, the point I was trying to make was; just because I do not want to take any further risk of injury and have chosen to stay at the rank of shodan, this does not mean that I cannot continue to better my Judo. My knowledge and skill have continued to grow, as, has my ability to pass on that knowledge to my students. I am still able to join in a spirited and vigorous Randori session, even with higher ranking Judoka, it's just that I (and my wife) do not want to risk perminant injury, That could possible hinder my abilty to make a living. It's just a shame that some people make assumptions as to your abilty and knowledge from a lable. I supose that can be aplied to many situations in life though?
At the end of the day I think I was perhaps being a little over-sensative about some of the implied "superior" status.