View Full Version : Full cup or empty?

Ginzu Girl
20th December 2001, 22:08
Hi Everyone,
I recently learned while chatting with an acquaintance who's studying MA that some MA teachers/schools will not accept a student with previous MA teachings.

I was so surprised that I asked if this meant carrying over your rank or status from another school/style. The answer was "no", it's about having ANY experience in MA. I asked if this was just their school or style and the answer was "no" it's a common policy of various schools and styles throughout the area.

Is this really a common practice? And why would a teacher/school do this? Is there some sort of traditional loyalty involved? Honestly, I'm not trying to bait anyone--which is why I'm avoiding naming specific schools/styles/regions.

Obviously if someone is being disruptive or disrespectful by repeatedly referring to their old school or teacher, I say, "Hit the road, Jack (or Jill)." But wouldn't you at least let them try before giving them the boot? Or is it really a teaching/dojo problem getting students to empty their cups?


20th December 2001, 22:29
Hi Anita.

I don't think it is that common. Most schools that I have come across asked you to simply start right at the beginning and do the full course.
Which I think is fair and good as different styles enphasize different basics.

Granted people with previous experience tend to progress faster.

Could also be that some Instructors decided they were tired of People coming and wanting a higher starting rank due to their previous experience.

20th December 2001, 22:30
Hello Anita,
I personally have never heard of this type of exclusions. Experience has taught me that it is always better to welcome someone with different knowledge as then we all benefit from the experience.

It would be the height of arrogance to believe that no other style is as good as one's own, or that the previous training of an individual would "taint" further training in another style or system or art.

I have heard of Instructors who will not allow a person who is CURRENTLY studying under another method to Cross-Train with them. I hold the opinion that this is entirely pursuant to the individual . Some can carry it off, some cannot.

Hope this helps,

20th December 2001, 22:33
M(r)s. Tsuchiya,

This is a rather bizarre requirement. My experience has actually been the opposite. Most of the schools I have encountered or studied with are encouraged by students who have had previous MA experience (and none has ever objected). The more expereince, the easier it is, generally speaking, to teach the person (they just seem to "get it" faster and more efficiently than others, and often times come equipped with knowledge of the basics, e.g., knowing how to breakfall, knowing how roll, knowing that your supposed to tap when it hurts:) etc.)

On the other hand, there are those that cannot "empty their cup," so to speak, and filter what the teacher shows them through their preconceived assumptions about the proper way to do a particular kata, or technique. In this case, a beginner with no MA experience is easier to deal with. It has been my experience, however, that those who bring their own assumptions to an art and cannot put them aside as instructed by the teacher do not last very long. They usually stop attending class after awhile.

Finally, I know of one koryu teacher who was wary of accepting any student with no MA experience. He much preferred the experienced student, wherever that experience may have come from.

I think I would be a little suspicious of any school that wouldn't accept experienced martial artists. These are combat forms, after all, not cults (well, at least mostly :) )

Arman Partamian
Daito-ryu Study Group

Ginzu Girl
21st December 2001, 18:53
Hi everyone,
Thanks for the feedback. I thought it was an odd rule myself :confused: but I figured it would be good to run it by those of you with actual teaching experience.

For example, I couldn't imagine turning a kid away from a western sport just because he'd done something else. "I'm sorry but as an ex-soccer player you're just too conditioned to go for a slider with your foot or head. It's really for your own safety."

Like I'd said, I'm glad I'm not the only who thinks this sounds weird!:D

P.S.--Everyone please feel free to use my first name. Bye for now. . .

22nd December 2001, 21:27
I have heard of a lot of this in my area. Basically, it is the schools who don't believe in what they teach (the McDojos) who institute such rules. They don't want someone killing their credibility from within.

27th December 2001, 03:17
I've been reading this thread with interest.
Anita-san, are you sure you haven't misunderstood? People who are currently practicing something else cannot join Shorinji Kempo, but previous experience of another art is not in and of itself a barrier to joining. The problem is that someone with prior experience of another art needs to be "deprogrammed" in order to be taught the SK forms, punching being an obvious example. But that wouldn't, and shouldn't, stop someone from joining. They just need to work harder to break their previous programming. If, however, they are currently practicing something else, then that's a different matter. They can't serve two masters, and so would be turned away for that reason. Refusing them on the grounds of prior experience itself sounds just plain weird to me, which is why I asked you to clarify the point.

27th December 2001, 03:33
Hi All.

Not sure could it be that maybe the Instructors want to discourage the "style hoppers".

You know the ones that study a system for a year or so and get fed up and than join another style for ayear and so on.

I meet lots of MA Guys that have studied
many systems and when asked why their answer is because the systems are not complete and they need to supplement by studying other systems.

Or Guys that only take a bit of each system and ignore the "non-working bits".

Just some dry throat pondering., I can see those beer jugs in the distance coming closer as evening nears.
:beer: :beer:

Steven Malanosk
27th December 2001, 03:57
I agree with Tony, however..........................................

There are those " me included, but I still usually accept them on a trial basis" that feel, that a student who leaves their Sensei, style etc., is not loyal. I remember, back in NYC circa 60's and 70's, you did not join another school, without written permission of your teacher. I require this of students from affiliate and friendly dojo / Org. etc.

Those preserving a KoRyu, would definatly do well, to be carefull not to allow the style to be effected by outside input.

My synthesis is proof of this, being that because of my long time cross training, I cannot justify teaching my students just GoJu or just JuJutsu or just KoBuDo.

To me this is good, but to some others.................. see my point?

There is nothing like a clean slate to work with though.

27th December 2001, 07:25
I think Steven has an excellent point. In the case of kobudo, the objective is not only to teach effective technique, but also to preserve the style as an art form for posterity. Consequently, any cross-training that leads to a student ultimately teaching a watered-down or adulterated form of the art, means that the art itself is no longer being taught. If all the students add their own interpretations based on their cross-training, the art has now effectively ceased to exist. For this reason alone, I could see a student being refused admission, quite apart from the ethical considerations of trying to serve two masters.
For those coming to the Tokyo boozeup tonight, the hour draweth nigh...

27th December 2001, 12:03
It may not be common, but it is such that my BS meter hits red immediately.

Teachers with this type of requirement have usually made something up, and don't want to the real thing walking through the doors. I also agree that these types are the only ones who benefit from a policy which discriminates, certain koryu excluded.

If, however, they are currently practicing something else, then that's a different matter. They can't serve two masters, and so would be turned away for that reason. Refusing them on the grounds of prior experience itself sounds just plain weird to me, which is why I asked you to clarify the point.

Yes, you're right, you can't serve two masters, and sometimes even one is too much. If you believe this, then probably the "master" of the type of school to which you refer are just the type who wish to be called "master." This is another level on the ol' BS meter.

To call someone a teacher they must be an instructor first. If not, then how does anyone deserve to be called master and have unquestioning students who will do his/her every bidding?

(BTW: The bold type in the quote is mine, not the poster's)

There are lots of terms for teachers who do not "allow (as if they can be stopped)" students from having any experience at all to study with them. Here are a few examples: Master, Grandmaster, Supreme Grandmaster, Soke, soke-dai dai soke, shihan, hanshi, shidoshi, and sometimes, even sensei are just too much (this is a decision made by the student if they really are studying with "someone who came before"). Others which should have the meter nearly tearing away the fabric are those who "tell you" or imply that they are dojocho, kancho, kaicho, especially if they have too many black belts in the class, and way too many for themselves to be based in reality, and use the dan-i grading system.

Legitimate koryu again excluded.

If you are doing a mainly striking style, then you do need some experience in a judo club, even if only for the ukemi. If you do judo, you do need some work on striking. There is no magic here, and no masters, just good, strong, ethical people who are willing to take you on. Then again, if you do get stuck with a two-year contract on what turns out to be some super soke-dokey, well, don't say no one warned you.

So, Word up, and have a great New Year!


27th December 2001, 12:09
No legitimate koryu instructor uses the dan-i grading system, at least none that I know of. If you come into something which does and they claim to dole out technique in Tenjin-shin'yo ryu, kitoryu, TSKSR, TSR Shin-TSR, or any other, be very careful. You just may get what you are asking for.


Jeff Cook
27th December 2001, 14:44

My BS meter gets pegged out also when I see and hear the same things. However, I can honestly say in all of my travels and training in various styles I personally have not experienced that. In fact, just the opposite - training in other systems was encouraged. The only criticism I experienced was when I was training in judo and aikido at the same time - criticism, but not discouragement.

I do take exception to your one indictment: "No legitimate koryu instructor uses the dan-i grading system, at least none that I know of." Perhaps you should investigate some of the oldest koryu still being practiced today, such as Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu: http://members.cts.com/king/e/erikt/iai/miura.htm
Here you will find that the current headmaster (grandmaster) holds the rank of 9th dan. This paragraph may be of interest to you as well: " Among the rankings currently held by Miura Hanshi are 8th dan in Koryu Kakushu Bujutsu from the Zen Nippon Kobudo Sogo Renmei (awarded in May, 1975), and 9th dan Hanshi in iaido conferred in April, 1992 by the Dai-Nippon Butoku-Kai. Miura Hanshi is held in such high esteem that in 1977 he was named 8th dan in Toyama- Ryu Batto-jutsu, the modern military form of swordsmanship, without having requested such ranking or even joining the organization."

I also had a Japanese sensei give us some classes at my dojo on the koryu art Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo - he holds a 6th dan rank in Japan.

Where did you get the idea that no "legitimate" koryu uses the dan-i system of grade?

Jeff Cook

Ginzu Girl
27th December 2001, 18:01
Originally posted by Kimpatsu
I've been reading this thread with interest.
Anita-san, are you sure you haven't misunderstood? People who are currently practicing something else cannot join Shorinji Kempo, but previous experience of another art is not in and of itself a barrier to joining. . . .[text omitted]. . .Refusing them on the grounds of prior experience itself sounds just plain weird to me, which is why I asked you to clarify the point.

Hi Tony,
I don't believe this is a case of misguided "more is better" thinking. Sadly, this student looking into what options she might have if she left the school. We chatted at length about some of her concerns during which I asked specifically about this "no previous MA" policy--whether it was limited to a school, style, or rank, or if she was looking for concurrent training. (No, no, no, & no.)

IMO, she's a thoughtful, respectful and honest person. She is obviously struggling between loyalty to her school and some troubling changes she's observed over time. I also believe that she considers this a personal choice, not a flag-waving agenda. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I accept her reasons for wanting to change as legitimate ones. It is from that basis that I ask my question. (We have to start somewhere, after all!)

Also, I'm not trying to solve her problem (she's a big girl who can think for herself). As I mentioned in my original post, I was just so surprised. :confused: Then I got curious. As several of you mention, it's the kind of statement that triggers alarms on the B.S. meter. Your input indicates that while there appear to be several reasons for this kind of policy, none them seem to be good enough to apply as a screening barrier to admission.

A dear friend in Seattle studies Chinese MA. His SiFu has the following verse displayed in his office: "It's not truth that makes men great, but men who make truth great." Works for me. :D

28th December 2001, 08:31
Dear Anita,
I agree that prior experience should be no barrier to admission. Refusal on those grounds sets my antennae tingling. Something seems rotten in the state of Denmark to me...
One other point I made earlier seems to require clarification. When I said a student can't serve two masters, I didn't mean individual people, but the tenets of the art. I could always rephrase, however, and say, "You can't serve two sensei".

Joseph Svinth
28th December 2001, 10:28
Jeff --

Since the dan/kyu ranking system is a Meiji invention, no koryu that is intent on sticking to its pre-Meiji structure could use it. Instead one would be a menkyo kaiden or some such. Nonetheless, if the practice was subsequently approved by the recognized head of the lineage (most likely during the 1930s, as part of the general fascistization of Japanese athletics), then no matter how anachronistic, it has become part of the tradition.

28th December 2001, 14:27
I didn't use the term lightly nor do I disagree that teachers are out there with [some] roots to Koryu, as in Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu. Dan H. spanked me hard in another thread for stating that DR AJJ didn't actually exist until probably 1920 or so. The source from which I got that approximate date has changed it to "about 1896" but we don't know when the "aiki" in the name was actually put to it, thus I stated that "some" koryu are really gendai and some gendai are really koryu. Mainline DR now uses the dan-i system to some extent but still strictly follows a timeline established before the dan-i system was created by Jigoro Kano.

What Joe said I also agree with, and I didn't make the statement without any thought, as I sometimes do.

You mention the Dai Nippon Butokukai as, and I am guessing your regognize it as a group which awards dan-i grade to legitimate koryu pratitioners. I don't.

The Dai Nippon Butokukai, that of Japan today, and that of the USA -ha is not a legitimate source as to Koryu instruction and ranking. It is a modern organization which charges money for ranking, and nearly all have some kind of designation such as "hanshi." This hardly makes them any more legitimate in Koryu matters than is the Kodokan. I would suggest, though, that the Kodokan's dan-i rankings are far more believable and represents the beginnings of such, though it has certainly made some big changes over the years.

So based on that, I claim no "legitimate" or actual koryu would have use for such system, and traditional or not, it is a modern incarnation, thus cannot be considered a "koryu" system of grading.

I am far from alone in my beliefs regarding the DNBK today.

So granted it IS my opinion, but I do have some credible sources on that too numerous to name. It is similar to a judo dojo spreading its teachings to the JO. It does not suddenly make the jo koryu, only that the techniques of SMR, or some other techniques are being taught there. No one is being graded separately from their judo ranks.

And finally, TSKSR. Some who claim to know and have been graded and received some menjo have gone off on their own, teach what they say is TSKSR, grade with the dan-i, or even with the old menkyo, but are not part of a koryu tradition.

There are people also who claim dan grades in variants of Tenjin Shin'yo ryu. I don't buy that, either, for as far as I know, its only legitimate school is in Japan and still teaches by the old or ancient ways, including awarding of recognition of a certain learned status in the ancient koryu manner, though it does change slightlly from koryu to koryu.

I hope this explanation clears things up.

Best Regards,


PS: Thanks for keeping me updated on your web site. I think it is making very good changes, and its webmaster has learned a few tricks. Congratulations on the jujutsu tournament.:toast:

Jeff Cook
28th December 2001, 15:14
Joe and Mark,

Thanks for the additional info and explanations. My view on this closely parallels Joe's - if the headmaster adopted a modern grading system, I don't feel that it negates the "legitimacy" of the koryu, or the "legitimacy" of the instructor. New ways are adapted into the framework of old, anachronistic traditions; does that make the whole thing gendai?

(Then again, being the nonconformist that I am, I think the whole argument of classification is ridiculous! If a koryu's philosophy was to adapt with the times to maintain combat effectiveness and social acceptability, thus adopting new adjuncts derived from the current time, it is always current and "modern." Is it still a koryu if it follows it's ancient tradition of adaptability and adoptability?)

Mark, thanks for the kind words regarding my website and other endeavors!

Jeff Cook

29th December 2001, 15:08
Often times, schools will say that you are not being "loyal" to them if you cross train, and that cross training is untraditional. If my memory serves me correctly, lots of old masters trained under many different people. When did this "stick to one instructor" thing come about?

Myself, I have been with the same instructor for nearly 11 years, but it is a personal choice, not some rediculous rule. However, were I to move away due to work or some other life issue, another school could DENY me because I have previous experience? Thats stupid. Any good instructor should be able to weed out a "dojo hopper" (which I agree are very damaging and you wouldn't want to keep them in the school a second longer) and a serious martial artist, and doesn't need an "all-inclusive" rule to do it. I usually have found the ones who institute such rules are, as mentioned above, the soke-dokey "I AM YOUR MASTER AND YOU WILL SERVE!!!!!!!!" types.

7th January 2002, 09:41
Hey, Ken,
People who trained in more than one art in the past didn't cross-train as we're talking about here, in that they didn't go to Kung Fu on Monday, Aikido on Tuesday, Iaido on Wednesday... Kaiso So Doshin, for example, trained in Judo as a young boy (his grandfather was a sensei), and then Giwamonken Kung Fu in China later, etc. The other point being, Kaiso, Ueshiba O-Sensei, et. al., were geniuses; regular Joes like you and me have enough difficulty learning one art. Cross-training ultimately leads to the law of diminishing returns; instead of training four times a week in one art, if you only train once a week in four arts, your technique will be exponentially sloppy due to the week-long wait before you get to practice the same techniques (within a given art) again. And then there's the conflict of forms I described earlier.... I would have thought that cross-training presented a logistical nightmare. What's your take on the subject?
The other problem with cross-training is the ethical conflict. There's an implied contract between sensei and you; Sensei will teach you techniques, and you agree to use them responsibly. If you're cross-training, you could be passing on the techniques you learned from sensei to people who are irresponsible; at the very least, they're outside sensei's control. You wouldn't give a loaded gun to someone if you couldn't trust them not to pass it on to a third party on the outside, and it's the same with techniques. In addition, spending time in another dojo when you could be studying with your sensei is a slap in the face for that sensei, who has made himself available to train you. Heavy post for my first day back at work, but there we are. January blues are now setting in... :cry:
Happy New Year.