Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Hold the Meiyo...

One thing that has been a pain in my rear since I took over Icho Ryu is the topic of honorary rank. In Japanese, that would be: Mei(distinguished) - yo(honor) - dan(step) I'm not against honorary rank as long as it's understood that's what it is and not a authorization to teach or to a position of authority in an organization. However, too many people for my taste tend to think that's what honorary and gifted rank conveys, authority and knowledge.

Part of this is culture clash. In a small group in Japan training, people in authority and earned positions tend to know who is who and what's real and realize the rank is a status symbol. For example, my uncle was on the Waseda Karate team in college. When he graduated, he was promoted to 7th dan. Everyone knew it was not earned, but it fit with his position in society. His family was rich and well connected in business and politically. His father in law was a government high official. He sat on the board of FAJKO and WUKO for a time, and to do that, you needed to have a high rank. Everyone knew the rank was just so no one would feel like they were dealing with subordinates, a simple mask, but in Japanese culture a needed one.

But when you have more than a small group, who's who and rank can be a problem when the group is too large for everyone to know each other. Than in those cases, how honorary rank is viewed can be abused. It's a mistatement at best, and fraud at worst.

Now, just like he was taught to do by his teachers in Hawaii, Bernie viewed a teacher of a martial art as needing to be at least a 3dan(sandan) for teaching purposes. At that point, a sandan should be skilled enough to start standing on their own two feet. They should be able to self learn more, and be able to teach fundamentals to new and intermediate level students.

So, Bernie would award a sandan to someone who had minimal training if they were teaching another art. It was a recognition of their rank and status in the other art, and you were supposed to honor that. So, 3dan was given. In most cases, this was not a problem. Most people have enough sense to know it's not truly earned and don't try to pass it off as earned. But when the group is too big or a person is far removed by distance, things can happen.

Here's one particular case. There is a teacher who based off two weekend trips to train with Bernie and one weekend seminar trip by Bernie to teach at his dojo/dojang/kwoon has been portraying himself as a fully authorized teacher certified by Bernie Lau and as the only sandan not an LEO(Law Enforcement Officer) to reach that rank.

That frankly, is a load of smelly brown stuff. Here is a list of people who earned that rank or higher rank from Bernie through training on a consistent basis for years who are not LEO.

  • Andy Dale 6th
  • Wayne Gorski 6th
  • Fujko Gardner 5th
  • Mike Bissonette 5th
  • Wayne Brannon 5th
  • Glenn Kondo 5th
  • Sam Lovell 5th No longer affiliated -retired
  • Loyd Lovell 4th No longer affiliated -expelled
  • Lonny Grimm 4th deceased
  • Gene Tucker 4th
  • John Spiers 4th
  • Luis Cabral 4th
  • Phil Pederson 4th - retired
  • Randy Beamer 4th
  • Irene Cabral 3rd
  • Nel Bettis 3rd deceased
  • Steve Shoji 3rd retired for health reasons
  • George Smith 3rd retired for health reasons
  • Scott Cornelison 3rd
  • Dennis Perkins 3rd
  • George Gouger 3rd
  • Mike Belzer 3rd
  • Bill Belser 3rd no longer affiliated
  • Dana Ahola 3rd no longer affiliated

Depite repeated requests to remove this information, it is still up on his website. Now despite the man in question being a pretty decent martial artist from all reports, he obviously didn't earn his rank through training.

This is more a question of integrity as to what is being taught than anything. Now, if Bernie had thought to do this certificate with a chop showing it was honorary, this would not be a problem. But it's one I inherited and will cope with. I do this simply by telling what I do know of the man's time with Bernie to anyone who asks. I don't go and try and deflate him by name, but I'm not going to ignore it totally either. Especially when the first thing he asked me about was Bernie coming back out to promote people, but he was not going to pay for Bernie's trip expenses.

What I find amusing more than anything is Icho Ryu is a pimple on a fleas butt on the mangy dog that is martial arts. If you have to bask in Bernie's reflected glory to look good to students, than you need to go and get a life change since you have bigger problems than can be solved in martial arts training. Too bad there isn't a Jiffy-Life place where you can get that done for $20.

So I dislike the idea of honorary ranking. But I do see why it exists and do understand why some people like the use of it. So, while I don't plan on having to do this often, I'll award honorary rank if someone in Icho Ryu can convince me the reasoning is good enough. However, these kanji for Meiyodan, pictured at top right, will be on each certificate next to the person's name and rank.

Now, to the idiots who would be dumb enough to try and pass themselves off as having earned this rank, they simply reveal themselves for what they are. To anyone who can read the kanji, this is a bit of a joke on the person with the certificate.

Why do it this way? Well, simple really. This reduces honorary rank to what it truly is. A thank you from the group awarding the honorary rank to someone who has been helpful. Now, to a person who earned honorary rank, they will appreciate the gesture as a nice "thank you" and something to hang on the wall or put in a drawer under their socks.

To anyone who is a waste of breath (and mistakes do happen, people can be misjudged as to their real intentions), this is a way to see them embarrass themselves if they try to pass as a martial arts instructor teaching Icho Ryu.

So, most of the time, I'll hold the meiyo. But for some, they want lots of meiyo. They can order their own budo sandwich with all the meiyo they want and stay away from mine.

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