View Full Version : O'sensei's "rank"

Please visit our sponsor:

AikiWeb Sponsored Links - Place your Aikido link here for only $10!

09-08-2000, 07:39 PM
on the subject of rank, I remember reading somewhere that O'Sensei had never received any 'rank', mostly because of his wandering from dojo to dojo, and some have even said that because of this, none of his certificates mean anything.

Any thoughts on how this relates to modern ranking?


09-08-2000, 08:05 PM
From what I understand, in his days they didn't really use a ranking system. They got certificates or something, stating that you completed your training. I'm not too sure though, this is just what I can recall reading. :)

09-13-2000, 08:54 AM
What does it really matter if the certificates mean anything? Every martial art was started by someone, so are you saying that you would rather study under a style that had stronger tie-backs to the earliest forms because of an older-is-better attitude? The certificates don't really mean anything except that you have been recognized by those who have been there before you, those you have trusted to train you.

I've never heard of any confrontation that was settled by the combatants sitting down at a table and laying out their certifications until one emerged victorious. It all comes down to your own skill. Do you feel that what you are learning is worth being ranked among the "accepted/older" martial arts? If so, then it really doesn't matter if we are learning from the United Federation of Panda's ("I'm So Pretty"), nor does it matter what ranks O'sensei received.

Slowly returns soap box to its upright position in the hopes that no one noticed. Whistles.

ps, sorry if you haven't seen the snickers commercial I gratuitously reference above, it is quite funny.

09-13-2000, 09:00 AM
I thought I would add my two cents in for this one. I study a style of martial arts (Sanchin-Ryu) where the founder was ranked in different styles, and when he declared his style in the late 70's he was challenged often. These were not sport matches, but the old fashioned out in the field matches. He "won" every challenge match to show his style effective. The reason I bring that up is that Ueshiba also showed that his style was effective and that is what matters (I'm talking about martial effectiveness only right now, I realize that the spiritual aspect of an art is ultimately more important). But, I have been told by many people who are only interested in rank that my rank isn't recognized by anyone because he created the style.
I really don't care if no one recognizes mine or anyone elses rank. It is what it means to me on the inside and what the art has given to me that means something. Same thing in Aikido, who cares if anyone ever recognizes your rank/style/branch or whatever. Look at what it has given to you and how it has helped and changed you. That is what will be left behind when you are gone.

09-15-2000, 02:48 AM
Very well said, Kevin and Magma! I agree wholeheartedly with both of you: no one ever won a match by flashing his/her certificate, and ultimately it's not your "rank" that matters, rather it's the effort YOU have put into your training to come closer and closer to the spirit of Budó.

I may be wrong on this (so please correct me if I am), but "ranking" and "recognition" are basically fairly recent concessions made to the western mindset by the different Budó-ryu, to provide for the west's "need" for an "objective" measure of a student's progress in any particular Art; as opposed to the student refining his technique, indifferently of any consideration of "rank" in the essentially competitive western mindset, and the refining of his spirit being the ultimate goal.

Thus,the issue of recognition of "rank" among the different schools arises and totally screws us up. In the end, the whole "My style is better than yours and I'll duel with you to prove it!" boils down to a whose dad can beat up whose dad, who can pee farther or whatever.

In ancient times, duelling had an important purpose: recognition as a WARRIOR kept you employed and fed. It wasn't a question of Art, it was a question of reputation, honor and employment. Of course, if you had an effective style you could teach it and maybe win the favor of a powerful daimyo if you taught his soldiers a good way to fight.

Obviously, nowadays, duelling doesn't have any useful purpose, and it winds up being a bragging match. I've said before: it's not the Art that wins a match, it's the opponents that win a match. If a Ju-jitsuka beats a Karateka in a match it doesn't mean that Ju- jitsu is a better Art than Karate. It only means that the Ju-jitsuka was a better fighter and NOTHING MORE.

Having said that, I do believe that "ranking", taken with a large grain of salt, does have some merit. For example, it gives the beginning students a more concrete goal to reach, along with the initial psychological effect of "rewarding" effort, or "positive reinforcement" of the beginning student's training. Furthermore, if handled properly, it institutes a reasonable curriculum of fundamentals and waza that the student masters as he "rises" through the ranks and leads logically from the easiest techniques to the more advanced ones.

And having said that, please remember that we no longer live in the violent world of Japan's feudal period, thus Martial Arts are no longer "necessary" to survive in our society. Rather they are to be used as a vehicle to better ourselves as earnest, sincere, forthright and useful human beings.

09-15-2000, 08:22 AM
It is not the rank which make you a good martial artist!!!
There are many people with high ranks who are not really good martial artists.
(I've read!!)

09-15-2000, 08:24 AM

The above URL links to an explanation of the old certificate system used in Japnese martial arts. (Menkyo Kaiden) It's written by Tiki Shewan, a 6th dan who was uchi deshi to Tamura.

O Sensei, according to Kissomaru, "mastered" two different jutsu styles, and also studied judo for a short while. He was probably the top student of the Daito Ryu revival, although I read an interview with a Daito Ryu sensei claiming he had not actually recieved the final certificate. (The final certificate in the Menkyo Kaiden system corresponds more or less to eighth dan..) I believe he held certificates for sword and spear also, but I don't know which certificates. (The lowest certificate in the menkyo kaiden system is roughly equivalent to 4th dan.)
In December 1940, O Sensei "suddenly forgot every martial art technique (he) had ever learned." We're not in a position to really understand that kind of revelation unless we happen to achieve mastery of the art, I suppose, although I'm sure people will disagree with me there. (I may quite easily be wrong on some minor points about his life)
My point, I guess, is that O Sensei held a number of "high" grades, and none of them matter. Anyone in a position to question his credentials is unlikely to be interested in doing so. And for our sakes, "founder of Aikido" is plenty.

09-15-2000, 09:33 AM
andrew wrote:
O Sensei, according to Kissomaru, "mastered" two different jutsu styles, and also studied judo for a short while
For a more complete look at the history of the founder, please try reading the recent interview with Stan Pranin (http://www.aikiweb.com/interviews/pranin0800.html) here on this site.

-- Jun

09-15-2000, 09:54 AM
that is a pretty interesting interview, thank you.

I read about the whole "seeing the paths of bullets" thing in (I believe) the foreword to "Budo." Wherever I read it, it was definitely in a short piece by Kissomharu on the founders life. The mention I saw jars slightly with what Stan Pranin said on the matter, although what he says sounds about right to me.
Anyhow, that's my ha'pennys worth.
(Do read the article by Tiki, especially if you're not familiar with the origins of the grading system.)

Mike Collins
09-15-2000, 04:56 PM
Seems to me:

What Nick asked was "If Osensei had never received any rank (which I realize is debatable from either point of view- I feel it is moot), does that shed light on the importance or meaningfulness of rank?" that was a paraphrase, I hope I got the question right.

Seems like a legitimate question. If we are all training in an art created by some guy with no "real" credentials, are we spending our time wisely?

If we are spending our time getting "credentials", why? If Osensei modeled for us that clearly credentials are not germaine to attainment, what is the point?

Would this art benefit from completely letting go of rank? My opinion is that if the art could survive, it might benefit the art.

The problem is that most of us who haven't yet attained "rank" feel that it is terribly important. Probably most of us who have attained some "rank" realize it is pretty meaningless as far as the quality of atainment. Those of us who have attained rank and still feel it is important, have their opinion too, and may well leave the art if, suddenly they were stripped of their "rank".

Osensei's having received rank or not doesn't really matter unless you believe that "rank" is necessary to understanding (and the process of getting "rank" may make it so). Either way it is a very interesting question.

Thanks fer the food for thought, I was starving in my own soup.

Mike Collins
09-15-2000, 04:58 PM
I just realized that I use a lot of "quotation marks". That is annoying to read, sorry, I'll try to eliminate this tsuki.

09-17-2000, 02:06 AM
I believe that O-Sensei did not just mearly master a few martial styles and were given rank in this or that. He mastered his life, which is the highest level anyone can achieve...

09-18-2000, 10:15 AM
Magma wrote:

I've never heard of any confrontation that was settled by the combatants sitting down at a table and laying out their certifications until one emerged victorious.

Kinda like a medieaval MA Pokemon style tourney?


09-18-2000, 10:24 AM
Pete wrote:
Magma wrote:

I've never heard of any confrontation that was settled by the combatants sitting down at a table and laying out their certifications until one emerged victorious.

Kinda like a medieaval MA Pokemon style tourney?


that would be so cool

09-18-2000, 10:25 AM
Kinda like a medieaval MA Pokemon style tourney?

hmmmm...... [/B][/QUOTE]

that would be so cool
andrew [/B][/QUOTE]

hahahah "Menkyo! I choose you!"