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This topic often is a confusing one to many. But while it can become complicated, the clarifications
may be found, by acknowledge the different definitions, and categories of Martial Arts seniority :

Dan Rank and / or Number

Technically / Honorary Dan Grade

Instructor Rank = Years of teaching

Traditional Title

Age and Years in the MA

Knowledge / Competence / Abilities

The chronological order of following a particular Instructor

So in fact, every of these aspects may be qualify someone to be senior of another, or not.
Many great Grandmasters see themself as students, wearing no belt, and may get defined as seniors by others.
Does this sound great?


Everyday more and more people spending countless hours in the internet, telling stories, their opinions, and joining all kind of forums, blogs, or whatever comes up new ! On the other side, Martial Arts ranks are reached faster then ever ! This means, with less training, many get their promotion quicker then before all this time stealing stuff was out there. Don´t get me wrong, it´s absolutely wonderful to have the Web for communication, Martial Arts research, and information. But these INTERNET GOSSIPS should better use their time to practise, instead of waisting it with this kind of foolish activities !!!! 99.9 % of them anyway don´t have the balls to contact, or criticize anything or somebody trough direct contact !!! WIMPS !!!

Or: The miss-interpretation of recognized Martial Arts ranks !

Here another case of rank fraud:

STEP1: One guy likes to have a Black Belt rank in a specific style of Martial Arts. So he went to an open organizations like: the World Black Belt Bureau, the International Association of Karate & Kobudo, the "United States Martial Arts Association", the "World Organizer of Martial Arts", the "Master Martial Artists International Association", etc. At any of these organization he get any rank in any style without a background check ! Why, you ask, is that possible ? Well, the good idea of these organizations is to trust everybody 100 %, in the spirit of the way of the Martial Arts (Do or Dao). Unfortunately, there are too many individuals out there, were using this fact to get ranks which they never earned !!!

STEP2: After receiving their certificate, these persons then applying another certificate from a legitimate, recognized organization. For proof of their rank, they send a copy of the recognized Black Belt level from one of the above named organizations.

STEP3: Nobody knows why, but in most cases the well known organizations are not asking for a copy of the original testing / promoting certificate and issuing a recognition certificate from their own organization !!!

The guilt in all that cases lies by the legitimate, recognized organizations, which are not proofing the legitimacy of the applicant or doing any background check !


Here we go: After you passed your 3rd Dan you have to wait in most of the Martial Arts schools and organizations 3 or 4 years for your next test.

If you look at the early days of modern Martial arts like Taekwondo, Hapkido, Karate, etc.., you will not find time in rank requirements at all.

These regulations came first up in the late 50s and early 60s, mainly because out of three reasons:

1. Because of the non-existence of curriculums above the 4th Dan or so.

2. That the instructor has an official reason for not promoting students who already have mastered all the required techniques for the next test, especially not to a high Dan rank

3. That the instructor can make money from these Black Belts in the meantime.

4. That the instructor has time to create or learn new techniques and training methods, which he then can teach to his students.

So the question is, if these waiting periods, without exceptions, in the ability orientated society we live in today, a still up-to-date?

Definitely not if a 75 year old Grandmaster, who is in Taekwondo for 40 years, and was always held back from promotion, now finally passed his 7th Dan and have to wait for his honorary 8th Dan another 8 years !!!!! Duuuuude !!!!!

Or is it the fact that many Grandmasters believe to loose respect, their position or their prestige, if they promote their students fast to a high rank ?

In most of the cases were these things happen, the reason is one or more of the folling:

1. They taught their students bad techniques

2. They taught their students only physical and no mental methods like meditation, Buddhism, etc., which form a good character and heart

3. They tread their students not equal or / and worse then themselves

4. They lied to their students

5. They never spend time private with their students

6. They dont care and have no knowledge about the private live of their students

In last two thousand years, there have always been the military, where a lot of people learn easy techniques to kill at the same time and the Martial Arts institutions, like schools and mostly private or family based relationships.

So even there is a great improvement of international information exchange via the Internet, the facts are remaining still the same: Nobody can teach a Martial Art to a large amount of students at one time !

This is just possible with Martial Sports like: Wu-Shu, Tae-Kwon-Do, Shotokan Karate, Kickboxing, etc.

But even this fact is well known by the general Martial Arts public, there a still organizations and schools which try to do it !!!

Just look at Korea, where they made out of the Self Defense system Hap-Ki-Do a Martial Sport with tournaments !

Take China, where modern Wu-Shu was especially designed for competition and also adopted even by the so called Shaolin monks ! Unfortunately today Martial Artists of a traditional Chinese style were addressed as Wu-Shu practitioners too.

In times where Black Belt ~ Dan ranks getting more and more meaningless, and the Martial Arts changing more and more into a realistic direction, should it be not make

more sense to focus rank testing on ability, knowledge and character instead of age ?

Finally one more fact: Today, arround 70 percent of all 10th Dan holders (ca. 921 worldwide), are younger then 55 years of age.


Here is another modern phenomenon. More and more Martial Arts Grandmasters are accepting very high multiple positions, like: Vice- President, Board member or National Representative.

But are they active working for this organizations, giving seminars, taking care about administrational issues, recruiting new members ? Nooo !!! In most cases they dont! They are just happy to add another position on their resumes !!! Does that really makes sense ? Or should they instead serve only one institution with full attention ?


Here we are stepping on thin ice, because maybe some people get really pissed about this matter: Generally we can say a word is not so much worth then 100 years ago, were property and other goods changed owners by only a verbal contract. In the todays world, everybody who do not have a written agreement, will be get screwed. On the other site was a promise from a Martial Arts Master allways a trustful thing. Because today there are so many "Masters" out there, this should have not been changed, because in Dao or Do, the way of the warrior, a man allways stands to his word. NEEEEEEEEEE !!!!! Forget it: If lets say a Master from one part of the world tells you that you a his son, just means that he wants another beer from you. The next minute he will tells this some other Black Belts !! If he says you a allways welcome to stay at his house, he means maybe in next life !!! If 30 people from this islands promise you to do something, just means that they maybe think about once !!! OK, lets go to a different part of the world: If these people promise you something in your hand, is it most of the times just because they dont like to loose there faces !!!! Hey, I really like all of the here listed folks, but should a Black Belt, especially a Martial Arts Master not be s good sample for the others and keep his promises ??!!


This issue is relatively new and started ca. in the mid 70s. Soke Peter Urban was the first who separate from his instructor Gogen Yamaguchi after learning everything from him and got stuck with his promotion. He promoted him to 10th Dan and found US-Go-Ju.

O my god ! Very bad !!! How he can do this many said ! He is too young for this rank !
These critics are still around today and maybe will never understand the way of the Do or Chuan, etc. They even try to tell others how they should structure their ranking system !
At age 31, Hwang Kee combined Soo Bahk Do / Tae-Kyon, Karate Formd out of books, with the Chinese T'ang method and developed Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan.

At age 40, Mas Oyama established his Kyokushinkai headquarters.

Grandmaster Kang Uk Lee of Tang Soo Do was a 6th Dan at the age of 29 and by the time he was 40 received his 9th Dan.

A 22 year old with only a few years of study in Jiu-Jitsu found his own art and call it Judo. Jigoro Kano was born in 1860, received instruction in Jiu-Jitsu for the first time in 1877, and by 1882, he founded Judo. By the time Kano was 40, Judo had come to enjoy great popularity.

So if someone thinks he have to create his own system, its his dam right and it doesnt matter how old he is !


This thing also often happens: You talk about a Martial Artist to somebody and he says:
I dont like this guy, he sucks !
Well, maybe thats right !?! But everybody always should remember the follow:
There are Martial Artists with very good or bad skills
There are Martial Artists with very good or bad characters
There are Martial Artists with a lot or a little knowledge
There are Martial Artists with any possible combination of this three
So maybe he is a great guy but his skills a not impressing. Or he is a hell of a fighter, but a very criminal person.
A Black belt who has a huge lack of realistic applications for his techniques can progress, but a bad character mostly never changes.
Unfortunately there are just a few people at all, who are standing 100 % to their word and not always looking for excuses.


In most countries in the world a driver license most renewed all few years. Well, in the world of the Martial Arts if you once passed the test, lets say to the rank of 7th Dan with the age of 50, you will hold this rank forever. Even if you forget all the forms and cant do nearly no good techniques at all at the age of 56, because of a disease or too much body fat or whatever, many state to be still a Grandmaster ! So far it should be OK, but in most of this kind of cases, the people then still act like if they are in shape, as they have been at their peak time. Maybe any Martial Arts organization should come up with some kind of Rank license too ?


Its sad that many black belts still mix up the three groups of fighting. So here they are:

1. Self Defense
Easy to learn systems are concentrate on a fast progress to apply techniques on the street. These are i.e. Wing-Chun, Jeet-Kune-Do, Krav Magda,Progressive Hapkido, etc.

2. Martial Sports
These styles and systems, like Judo, Kickboxing, Shotokan Karate, Tae-Kwon-Do, Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, etc., are techniques and training methods were are mainly focus on competition.

3. Martial Arts
Traditional and modern, internal and external systems and / or styles like Korean Hap-Ki-Do, Chinese Kung-Fu, Japanese Aiki-Jitsu, etc., which are covering a complete education curriculum, including weapons, medicine, meditating and breathing exercises, etc.

So guys, please dont name your systems "Combat Shotokan Karate", "Sport Wing-Chun" or "Street Tae-Kwon-Do", etc., because if you change an Martial Art in its basics, its not the same anymore and so should not called like it, just because the name is well known by public.


It can be called the Martial Arts black hole time travel phenomenon.
There are some Martial Arts organization claiming to be in business since the 60s, 70s,...

If you check the details, its in most of the cases the same result: The leader of this institution appoints to a single local school which was opened during the times, but never was an organization since a couple years from now.

Hey guys: A good wine needs time, you cant cheat on the taste !


Do you ever wonder how a "National" organisation (lets say: "National Karate-Jitsu-Budo Association" or something like that) can issue "International" certificates (Dan, Hall of Fame certs., etc...) ?

Or a Kung-Fu organisation which issues Tae-Kwon-Do or Karate rank and other certificates ?


Well fellows, here is one more example of misinterpretation of traditional titles: Nearly every week somebody wakes up in the morning and has an inspiration to set up a new system of Martial Arts. Irrespective of the fact that less than one precent of this new Jutsu's and Do's have to offer really something new, its of course a human endeavour to create something own. Unfortunately the traditional Asian titles for a founder (Soke, Doju, Sijo, etc.) will most of the times overrated. Often this titles become seen as some kind of rank, what is absolutely not the fact. Even a yellow belt can find a new name for a system and so becomes a Soke !


This kind of promotion on advertisements, etc. is very common. But, what does it mean when people are the instructors of: Special Military or Police Units, Rich man, Bodyguards, Sky Marshalls, etc. ? Well, nothing than it says. It dont proofs any Super skills or extreme knowledge. Unfortunately this fact is often ignored.


Here is another lack of knowledge sample: One guy on a seminar told his friend about a person in a Karate uniform he knows from tournaments. He always performs Kung-Fu forms and now claims to be a Karate stylist, he said. COME ON !!!! Is this critic with him 24-7 or how does he know how many styles this guy learned. PLEASE !!!! OPEN YOUR MIND AND NEVER JUDGE FIRST !!!


Just let define some terms:

Sport = physical motion of the human body.

Science [Lat. scientia =knowledge] = theoretical and practical research and organizing of a specific field.

Art = personal expression of one or more people.

If you take a look at the Martial Arts community today, you will find the terms Martial-Sport, Martial-Art, Martial-Science, Street Art, etc.


This term describes people who claim to be very "traditional Martial Artists", but mostly dont know the meaning of "traditional":
A system holding that all knowledge is derived from original divine revelation and is transmitted by tradition.
That means: The training, including forms, etc. is performed like it was excatly done from someone in the past.

Well, but thats only the technical side. On the other hand "Tradition" also means a process sequence or procedure who was determined by somebody in the past.

And finally we have a third part of the meaning of "traditional": It is practical common sense based on teachings and experiences passed on from generation to generation. Traditional knowledge is an authority system. It sets out the rules governing the use of resources - respect, an obligation to share. It is dynamic, cumulative and stable.

So, finally we can say:

1. If someone in the past changed a style even just a little bit, its no more "traditional". A new tradition was created.

2. The term "Non-traditional" makes no sense at all, because of no.1

3. The term "traditional" has no valuation. Its neutral !

4. There is not such a thing like "in the tradition of the old Masters !" (Too much Karate kid video input !) A tradition allways goes back to only one person or one group of people !


Yes, still today its often common that a. e. a Korean 4th Dan Holder comes from his homeland to the West and during his journey he was promoted with an Ocean rank to 7th Dan. Congratulations!


Here is another example of the way how people still think today: If a Chinese cook with no Martial Arts experience at all, opens a Kung-Fu school and a Non- Asian is doing the same thing across the street, you can bet that the Chinese guy has a full house and the other not. Unfortunately it's still not well known that many of the worlds best martial arts grandmasters living in Europe, Australia or the USA and OOOOHHH ! wonder, they are no Asians!!!


This phenomenon takes effect after someone gets too many certificates, trophies or other honors in a short time period. In most of the cases this individuals receive awards at several Hall of Fame events or they are very proud of a worthless free certificate, which was send to them from another country. Also advanced age or high Dan ranks are reasons why they change to this Big head status. Maybe they should join the group of people, which forget that everybody will die sooner or later and that you a student you whole life!


The evolution of the Fashion Masters has two roots: One started when the first formal standards for uniforms were set up in the 50s for Shotokan Karate. The second begun in the late 60s. Grandmaster Al Dacascos was the first in the U.SA. who showed up in a black Kung-Fu uniform at a tournament. All the other participants wearing their white Karate Gis. Since then, these two roots are present today like this: 1. At every tournament in the western hemisphere you have a model-like clothing contest, which should in fact be judged too. Hey, if you couldnt place at forms or fighting you get a trophy for your nice Martial Arts uniform. Better then nothing! 2. No Gi ~ No Ki ! Maybe thats what this group of martial artists are thinking? Most of the traditional stylists today just dont practice at all, before they work out without their Gis ! EXCAUSE ME??!!! At all the countries martial arts came from it was and many times it still is a common thing to train in street cloth and not in a shiny, white uniform. These kind of martial artists really havent understand the way of DO and they should start to read books and to think about the philosophies behind the martial arts!


Well, lets talk about instructors were focus too exactly on the percentage of the angle of the blocking arm, the distance between the legs or the height of the hip. Especially Wing-Chun and Shotokan teachers give too much attention on this topic. OK, in Shotokan Karate tournaments you get fewer points if your stances are not exactly in the ankles the rules specify. But does that mean, that you feel comfortable? I dont think so. Another example is the Wing-Chun Bong-Sau. I heard many times instructors telling their students that this lower arm block have to be in an 135 degree angle and that the upper arm must be 110 degrees away from the body. Hey, why just dont make it 135,78965 degrees !!! Instructors should more focus on the individual body and its abilities, instead of fixed numbers!


Unfortunately more and more wealthy individuals in the Martial Arts scene try to make an additional big buck with their personality.

The range of this behaviour goes from giving sometimes-worthless seminars up to senseless certificates. To make it clear: we dont talk about the regular Master who makes his normal living with it, pays his bills or just try to get even with the costs he has. We mean some folks who really have some hundreds of thousands or a couple millions USD $ of their bank accounts. These movie stars, authors, Grandmasters or whatever, still charges any poor soul who is interested in the Martial Arts a certain fee, instead of giving away what the have to offer for free.

Maybe they should go in a forest for deep meditation to remember the meanings of the Korean and Japanese word DO, what includes: Family way, Way of Life, Harmony way, etc. Did they forget all they have ever heard or learned about helping and supporting others or do they really believe that they found a way to use all the money from their grave ?


Give me a break !!! Do some people really have no fantasy at all or are they just too lazy to think and find a good name which fits to the new stuff they have put together ?

In fact there are two major groups of senseless name creations:

1. Used for Martial Arts Organizations (Also two used in combination): International, Intercontinental (Breakfast ?), Worldwide, Universal, Global and maybe soon Intergalactic too ?

2. Used by the creators of new Martial Arts Systems: Founders use more and more their country of residence or the one, the Martial Art they practice comes from, like: South-Siberian Korean Tae-Kun-Do, West-Japanese West-Virginian Jiu-Can-Fug-Jitsu or North-East Madras State Chinese Scrimp-Chuan-Fa ?!?


Every year some people wake up and mean to see the big money in organizing a Hall of Fame event. The result is that there is a big range of activities which mostly make no sense at all. The range of the promoters goes from individuals to small Town- and international organizations, sometimes with only 2 reps. outside the U.S.A. On the other site, it is really funny to see things like i.e. a : South-North-Western-Michigan State International H.O.F., an Universal United H.O.F. or a World United All International H.O.F. What comes next ? An United Nations Any Belt All you can pay H.O.F. ? Of course any organization which is maybe only 3 years old, have a right to hold this kind of events, but where is the true spirit of Martial Arts ? Definitely not at an everybody who pays will be honored thing. The newest version now, are Hall of Fames organized from regular Martial Arts schools. Cool, if this growth we will have instead of right now arround 50 Hall of Fame events in the USA only, maybe 20.000 in a couple years !!!! UUUUUU!!!! SOUNDS SCARY !!!!


This absolutely "Non-Do (way)" like behaviour was started by Japanese and later also by Korean and Chinese Martial Artists, who think that anybody which is a Non-Asian, cannot perfect and reach a high level in a specific Martial Art. Later on, this stupid way of thinking was taken over from some of these Non-Asians which now saying that nobody can learn a specific Martial Art as good as they did during their stays in Asia. Another poor attitude is the making up of pseudo secrets. (No, I can not tell you: my age, how many forms we teach, the name of my teacher, how this technique works, where I have got my certifications from, etc.). How my brother Grand Master Reno Morales would say: "BUDDHA BLESS !!!".


The power of money says Hi again. Does it make no sense at all, that i.e. a Karate organization certifies a individual in Chinese Kung-Fu ? (The best thing is, that these persons paid some bucks and a really proud of these kind of papers ?). It looks like, that the founders of this kind of organizations are the same as these who creating an i.e. an Hap-Ki-Do Association although they learned and practised this art only for a short time.


Unfortunately we have to recognize that many founders of Martial Arts organizations have not any fantasy at all. Instead of doing a serious research of existing names of their new child, they just choose one and that is it. The fact that this name is already used by another organization or group, does not bother them at all.


This kind of tragedy started in Europe and is today also a part of the American Martial Arts scene. (Dont be mad ! Also Asia have ca. 4 of this events !) Again individuals, small and big organizations held up their own World Championships. Actually there are ca. 25 of this events for point / semi-contact fighting and ca. 13 for full contact Kick Boxing. The last way out of this disaster ended with the Star System back in the 80s.


Do you ever hear something like: This style comes from Korea, Japan, so the best Grandmasters only can be from this country too. Especially Non-Asian practitioners of Martial Arts from this two countries, were often unnecessarily held back to advance in higher Dan ranks.

What a big surprise: Just a couple month ago the Kuk-Ki-Won finally promoted after 30 years in existence, the first Non-Korean to the level of 9th Dan in W.T.F. Tae-Kwon-Do. Hip, Hip, Hurray!!!

How many Non-Japanese Shotokan Karate stylists were certified from Japan with the same rank ?

Why is a rank certificate from the U.S.A. worse than one from Asia ?

In the philosophies of Budo / Mudo one of the best things for an instructor is, that in one day his student has more knowledge and better skills than himself. So why is it the biggest nightmare for nearly all Korean and Japanese Martial Arts teachers to promote and / or recognize a student at their level or higher ? Instead of helping them to earn the recognition they deserve, they put them down.


Please feel free to send us any suggestions, corrections and other short articles about this kinds of topics.


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