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Thread: Faking it - Japanese Style

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    Default Faking it - Japanese Style

    Dear Folks:

    We seem to go in cycles with discussions concerning the roll of rank on these forums. Currently I am involved in a discussion on HAPKIDO FORUM as well as MARTIAL WARRIOR and have seen more that a couple of discussion over on MARTIAL ART PLANET. As always the discussion comes around to what constitutes authentic rank, what is the role of rank and whether MA really needs rank. Just for the record, IMHO, the MA don't need rank and I personally wouldn't mind seeing something closer to the licensing and certification approach taken in the traditional Japanese RYU-HA systems.

    However, I start this thread to ask about how people are dealt with in traditional RYU when they represent that they are of a particular standing but cannot substantiate that in any meaningful way? What I have noticed on E-BUDO is that folks who are a member of, say, TSKSR seem to know each other pretty well and know who is of what standing. Seems like the same can be said for MJER as well, yes? It also seems as though people take a dim view of someone saying that they are a student, teacher, member, etc when they are not. Does the Japanese traditional MA community have some approach to dealing with such folks? Thoughts?

    Best Wishes,

    Bruce
    Bruce W Sims
    www.midwesthapkido.com

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    Depends on how broadly you want to define "traditional" and I cannot speak for the whole "traditional" budo community over here, but as an example, the circle of people, Japanese and foreign, seriously doing koryu in Japan is pretty small and pretty much everyone either directly knows everyone else, or knows someone who knows them, their sensei, etc, so situations can be checked out fairly quickly and quietly.

    As for how such people are dealt with, there isn't any one "approach" as to what is done and it depends on the situation, the people involved, etc. Sometimes a public comment may be made, but more often it seem that a "those that need to know have been informed directly" approach is taken, and often the situation falls into the "those who matter know the real deal so do we really have to waste our time on this?" realm of things. As my sensei told me years ago when I brought up the subject of how to deal with frauds (and others have echoed similar sentiments), "the proper way to deal with them is to realize that they aren't worth your attention and to ignore them". Anyways, it's all case by case.

    There are plenty of people in Japan "faking it", as you say, and everyone knows it, but Japanese social conventions, especially in the budo world, tend to focus on direct personal relationships so you might say that the general tend is to avoid "unseemly" direct public confrontation unless it is unavoidable for some reason. If some information needs to be passed on often it will be done directly to those who "need to know" and most everyone knows what the real deal is anyways so there is often little need to make a "public" statement (remember we are talking about a relatively small group of people here nationwide).

    For what it's worth,
    Rennis Buchner
    Rennis Buchner

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    Thanks, Rennis:

    Yes, KORYU was what I had in mind when I referred to "traditional". I know there is an approach or institution in Japanese culture where the community collectively elects to simply ignore or "shut-out" a person, but I can't remember the Japanese word for it. From what you are saying though, apparently there are is no Japanese equivalent to the sorts of trademark or "copyright infringement" sorts of things that we have here in the States, yes? Is the feeling generally the same with folks who whip something together on their own to produce some new GENDAI art as well? Thoughts?

    Best Wishes,

    Bruce
    Bruce W Sims
    www.midwesthapkido.com

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    I've always viewed rank in MA as similar to the notion of rank in the army. The only question worth asking is "how big is the army?". Anyone can be 7th Dan if there's only 3 people in the system. If there's 100,000 then it's probably a lot harder.

    Dirk

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    As always the discussion comes around to what constitutes authentic rank, what is the role of rank and whether MA really needs rank.
    The reason that there is "rank" as such, and the only reason that the martial arts need rank, is for competition. The dan-i grading system was brought about by Jigoro Kano for use in his judo system, which engaged in competition. It was embraced by the karateka and the kendoka, because they engage in competitions. It is a good way to attempt to level the playing field so that you do not have the very experienced trouncing the novices. Other than that, it's pretty much totally useless.

    "Authentic rank" is only "authentic" within the organization which granted said rank. Presumably, the organization is the entity which is sponsoring the competition which will utilize the ranking for division placement. Outside of the organization which granted it, any "ranking" is basically worthless.

    As a whole, westerners tend to be much more concerned with "rank" than any of the Japanese that I've dealt or trained with.


    There's my two cent's on it.
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

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    I agree with what you are saying, Paul, but my original question was, I think, more along the lines of "management", so to speak. For example, in the KMA the issue of "airliner promotions" in which a person gets on a plane in Korea as a 4th Dan and gets off the plane in the States as a 6th Dan is pretty well-known--- though it happens less today with the INTERNET. My original question had to do with individuals who represent that they are of a particular standing or even membership in a traditional Japanese lineage when such is not the case. So far what I get is that they are simply ignored. I also suspect that if they WERE a member of an organization, but inflated their rank or standing they would be shown the door, yes?

    Best Wishes,

    Bruce
    Bruce W Sims
    www.midwesthapkido.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by pgsmith View Post
    As a whole, westerners tend to be much more concerned with "rank" than any of the Japanese that I've dealt or trained with.
    Actually, I'm not sure this is so true. When you meet a Japanese person they will want to know your name, your age, the group you belong to (company, MA organization, university etc.) in relation to the meeting, and your position within that group. Only after this has been determined for both parties will you know how to communicate with each other.

    For example, just the other day I met a visiting iaido sensei at a friends house. We exchanged cards, studied them, exchanged formulaic greetings, it was obvious I was younger, he asked what dan I was and shared his rank in iaido. Then we had a nice conversation.
    Doug Walker
    Completely cut off both heads,
    Let a single sword stand against the cold sky!

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    I tend to agree, Doug:

    Personally, I think there are very strong, yet conflicting, messages given about such things as rank and standing in the MA. OOH there tends to be the line that Rank and standing are unimportant, and only of interest to the most pedestrian among us. OTOH, are the sorts of experience that you mentioned in your post and are altogether too common in the MA community.

    Erring on the side that rank and standing are, in fact, of import to the MA community, my question is how Japanese communities deal with situations when such things are misused. Thoughts?

    Best Wishes,

    Bruce
    Bruce W Sims
    www.midwesthapkido.com

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    For example, just the other day I met a visiting iaido sensei at a friends house. We exchanged cards, studied them, exchanged formulaic greetings, it was obvious I was younger, he asked what dan I was and shared his rank in iaido. Then we had a nice conversation.
    I agree partially. What you are talking about Doug is more social ranking than MA ranking. It has been my experience that the Japanese need to know where a person fits in the social hierarchy. This is evident by the various layers of politeness within the language itself. It seems to me that this is quite outside any MA ranking. If Sensei Joe Bob went up and loudly proclaimed to a group of visiting Japanese karateka that he held a hachidan in Joe Bob ryu karate, they would be less than impressed. If he proclaimed the same thing to a bunch of westerners at an American karate tournament, they would at least be impressed until they saw what he could do.
    So far what I get is that they are simply ignored. I also suspect that if they WERE a member of an organization, but inflated their rank or standing they would be shown the door, yes?
    As with anything Japanese Bruce, it depends. If someone is being a boor, or acting in a socially frowned upon manner, they are generally ignored. However, if someone acts in such a way as to bring disgrace upon the ryu, in the opinion of the head of the orgnaization, then they can be hamoned. This means that their records and ranking in the organization are expunged, and they are no longer a member of the ryu. I have known several instances of this happening.
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

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    Ah.... thanks. So there IS something a bit more than just ignoring a person in the hopes that they will go away and take their delusions with them, eh? I gather there must be some sort of "warning" or "probation", just in case, as well, or are these administrators a pretty unforgiving lot. Thoughts?

    Best Wishes,

    Bruce
    Bruce W Sims
    www.midwesthapkido.com

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    As I understand it, seniority is often more important in the koryu then rank certification. Firstly, this is because "rank" (I'm not even sure this term most accurately expresses this concept in the kory) is not given out the same way as it is in the gendai budo. When you join a karate school, you have a beginner rank, ikkyu or something to that effect. In many koryu, you don't get a rank for five years or some similar amount of time. So comparing people by rank isn't really meaningful because people of greatly different skill levels can be at the same rank or have no rank at all! Koryu also tend to be far smaller then the gendai arts. This means that people know each other. The amount of time you've been studying is more significant and it is known by most everyone in the school because the community is so small. Because gendai budo are much larger, there's a need (ostensibly) for a ranking system that is standardized across the system or organization in order to meaningfully compare people.
    Regards,

    Jeffrey Luz-Alterman

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    I gather there must be some sort of "warning" or "probation", just in case, as well, or are these administrators a pretty unforgiving lot.
    In the few cases that I am familiar with, there were no "warnings" or "probation", just as there are no "appeals".
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

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    Also never forget the "ledger" it seems every Japanese keeps in their heart. They may never balance it, but if they get the chance to do so they generally do.

    In my little corner of the world it can be relatively intense when someone is removed from the protection of the ryu. We jokingly call it being sent to shinto hell.

    As far as buffoons outside the group, it has been my experience that they provide endless fodder for entertaining drinking stories to enliven our evenings after a good day of training. Don't know it this is a part of Japanese budo culture though.

    There is a story that Takamura once flew all the way to Japan to punch out someone who had spoken ill of him in public.
    Doug Walker
    Completely cut off both heads,
    Let a single sword stand against the cold sky!

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