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 Post subject: Seniority
PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 6:08 am 
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The other night after class, the question of 'seniority' in the Uechi system came up.

Interesting, so I thought I'd make a thread of it to see how the average Uechi practitioner here thinks.

So here goes:

1. What constitutes "seniority" in Uechi karate? What does it mean in Okinawa vs. what it generally mean in the western world?

2. Do Westerners determine seniority by the number on a certificate?

3. In other words what criteria does the Western dojo have for determining seniority? How is this concept taught by Western teachers?

4. a. Date a person began training in karate?
b. Current rank (or date of rank) only?
c. Age?
d. Date of Shodan despite one's present rank?
e. Political position within your/any organization?
F. type of organization one belongs to?
G. place where a student has studied and or the teacher he trained under?

5. Experience only (as in number of tournament wins, etc.)? Or how do you measure 'experience'?

6. Family relationship to the dojo owner / headmaster?

7. Combination of all or some of the above?

8. None of the above (then - what...?)

9. If by rank recognition…do we look at who awarded Dan ranks or Shihan ranks; was the award by an organization or by the person's sensei? Does it make a difference?

10. How do we look at a student who was awarded ranks without the proper time in grade?

These are all related questions that came up from the group of students after class.

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 Post subject: Re: Seniority
PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 6:10 am 
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i would also be interested in how people think in reference to how the seniority process is handled or recognized by Okinawan Standards.

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 Post subject: Re: Seniority
PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 9:56 am 
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:lol: :lol: :lol: Man did you ever open a can of worms !!! :lol: :lol: :lol: To the point, in your face type of thread though... I like it!!! :lol: :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Seniority
PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 10:22 am 
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OK... Let's start with this concept about Okinawa.. Okinawa is 72 miles long, and only 3 miles wide at the widest point..Because of this and the fact that the internet isn't as popular over there as it is here, it basically means that you will probably run into a friend (or foe) at any time. So basically if your bark is worse than your bite over there you won't be respected as much.. The Okinawan's have taken on a few of our expressions (to the best of their ability) and I have noticed that "Time to prove" is one that a few like to use often. I leave it here until the weekend. Just some insight to spur conversation here to start with..

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 Post subject: Re: Seniority
PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 11:12 am 
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I would like it to be (and is for me) a rather simple process to define seniority. If one must look for or ask who is the senior then to begin with you are not the senior. If you do not look for who may be the senior and you do not ask it means one of three things. A/ you ARE the senior or B/ you will treat everyone as if they are the senior and you will discover who is truly senior and of course C/ You will believe you are the senior because you checked off the appropriate boxes.
Choosing "C" may eventually bring you much unhappiness.

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 Post subject: Re: Seniority
PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 3:23 pm 
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Yep, Steve, a can of worms all right, something that I envisioned when starting this thread, but hopefully leading to polite, considerate discussions for the benefit of all. You and Leo bring up some good points that surely, in one form or another, are in people's minds when considering this Topic.

There have been and there are_ presently_ so many arguments over what 'seniority' means or should mean and how it is measured…meaning what 'component parts' of karate do make up the word 'seniority' and what 'essential components' should be considered in addressing the 'title' of senior.

We know that there are so many, in all systems of Karate do, that are want to boast about their knowledge and abilities. Given human nature, it is to be expected and understood.

Then there are the ones who don't boast at all in their presence on the Uechi scene, anywhere, as seniors because of their lifetime dedication to the style that was eventually rewarded with rank as issued by their teacher.

We have all seen, the wonderful example of the Okinawan masters on display at seminars in the US _ where they will pick the seniors in attendance and have them line up front. That speaks volumes to many practitioners as to the innate respect shown to one another.

I see a similar manifestation of this in a top flight professional athlete and Uechi senior, the famous NFL Hall of Famer, Andre Tippet, a high ranking Uechi-ka within the Okikukai organization.

Andre is a formidable fighter and superior traditional Uechi practitioner in my book.

Yet he never brags, and is the first one, in any mixed setting, to come forward and shake hands and hug seniors in the group, whoever they may be.

Leo, thank you and you make very good points.

Along these lines: Let's postulate that all the facts are available about a person - age, rank level, date of rank, etc. Not that a person is boasting or bragging, but that these are the KNOWN FACTS.

Now - how do you determine if he is senior in the light of these facts...?

What if he's boasting these facts - but they are real, proved, confirmed? Does it matter?

In the conversation with the students, I was left with the impression that their feelings were not about fighting ability but seniority, the subject of this topic, unless one suggests that fighting ability makes one senior, and then how does one truly measure this ability…the dojo floor…the tournament floor….or the street gutters at three AM against multiple armed opponents?

If someone made loud and indiscreet claims of being a better, stronger, and fiercer fighter than a famously-known champion, he might well expect a "friendly visit" and be offered a chance to justify those words.

But ….the general consensus in the conversation I had with the students was that in an honorable style, such as Uechi Ryu, challenges are not issued by strapping young 25-year-old fighting champions to 80-year-old masters. The younger man shows great respect and deference to the older man.

I have seen this respect bestowed by the Okinawan masters when teaching in the States…something that is very honorable in the view of so many.

As to the rank issue…I suppose so many of us could say a lot about the rank criteria used by most Uechi-Ryu associations today, but it would only upset and anger a lot of folks.

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 Post subject: Re: Seniority
PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 3:36 pm 
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Leo has a pretty good idea about it I think..I just spoke to my Senior and thought it well to pass on what brought me to him.. And that is depth of knowledge..I've met "Seniors" that wear 3 or 4 stripes on their Obi, but unfortunately lack depth of knowledge.. They have "checked off their boxes", have successful schools, pay the insurance, and talk the talk.. Some are great web hosts and politicians.. Butwhen they step into Yoi they simply lack the Depth of Knowledge they (and others) have brought them to believe they have.. It's almost like a question mark goes off in their eye..Now watch Gushi Sensei step into Yoi... See any question marks??? :lol: I never have...Not pretentious.. Not Ego.. Just certain of what he does so very well.

PS... Andre could probably "palm" most of our heads like a basketball, so that doesn't hurt either :lol: :lol: :lol:

Just goofing Andre.... "GO Pats!!! " :lol: :lol:

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Last edited by Stevie B on Sat Feb 04, 2012 1:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Seniority
PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 4:24 pm 
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All very good points. It will be interesting to see other comments re: the depth of knowledge and how it should be measured.

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 Post subject: Re: Seniority
PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2012 12:35 pm 
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I would like to add one more thing to my last.. Depth of knowledge comes in many different forms as well.. People train in Karate for many different reasons.. ie.. Kiyohide Shinjo and Seiki Irei Senseis.. I was fortunate to train under both.. They were both trained by the same person (Seiyu Shinjo Sensei).. And both had completely different styles of teaching.. One focused alot on kumite and hardness, one focused more on Kata and forming weapons (Sokusen, Shoken, ect...) Both effected my journey in a good way...
In the Okinawan culture they look at age in an admirable way.. You would never see a group of thugs picking on an old man over there.. and if they did, it definately wouldn't be for long.. I think in that aspect we have something to learn from their culture for sure..

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 Post subject: Re: Seniority
PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2012 4:03 pm 
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Again good points, Steve, particularly as it might refer to the definition of 'depth of knowledge' which has many meanings, as diverse as the personality of people who study our wonderful art.

As I expected, not to many readers want to get involved in this discussion for a number of reasons easy to imagine.

One school of thought, as we often read about in the modern world, holds that depth of knowledge must fit certain paradigms inherent to a 'martial art' …one very much in the consciousness of students, as much as they may deny it, being self defense or self preservation, the very reasons why they were attracted to it to begin with.

So if we were to consider this 'self preservation' component' we cannot discredit the evaluation process of so many in TMA as to the 'tactical aspect' of our tools' application that so many practitioners have a tendency to take for granted.

So the often proffered opinion is that 'depth of knowledge' must also include more specialized training, other than an effective tool box…akin to someone who, as an example, may be a deadly shot with a firearm he carries, but lacks the type of tactical 'know how' in its use under potential street engagements. Something which is shockingly brought to bear in schools like the Lethal force Institute, to name only one of such organizations.

One needs only read the book by Rory Miller, Facing violence, to catch a sobering glimpse of how lack of such knowledge will quickly sink a person in street engagements no matter how effective he may be at TMA.

Our Dave Young, of the realist forum on these pages….writes
Quote:
There are MANY experienced martial artists out there - there experience only lies within their own art and if it is an experienced MMA fighter then the only related experience is what was borrowed or taken from the style they learned and used in their situation, but again sport and just training is not the gauge to compare too real experience in a real confrontation.

And that is the only thing we are talking about not comparing apples to oranges which are a fruit but still very different in category, taste and texture.

On the other side of this.....There are MANY real life warriors with a few to many real life experiences who only have a great deal of experience in the situation they have faced, but again experience alone without the training is still falling short.

A skill level for survival which is what we are talking about not the sport, recreational, or feel good martial artist...just the real life warrior which is the real world we live in-

No disrespect to anyone who practices martial arts for any of those reasons and the many more who just love the arts...

The category I am addressing is the one for personal survival inside and out of the courtroom.

So with that being said.....to gauge ones own skill level - not their own B.S. Meter the two main factors are real world experience plus training experience will equal someone's own real world skill level.

Here is another example outside of this area. I am training 90 Marine State Officers in Water Survival - Many who are former Marines and other branches of the service....However after the first day of training 38 Marine Officers voluntarily dropped out of the training due to their own inability to complete objectives - on day two 20 more followed and after yesterday we graduated 14 students - All who are top trainers in their departments coming from a variety of backgrounds and skill levels - but very few passed all of the real world situations we gave them.

Do not get me wrong:

All are warriors
Dedicated Officers
Great Professionals to be around

except most let their own B.S. Meter hide their own actual skill which for some very minimal.

So to judge ones own real world skill level you add real world experience with training experience to get the skill level. That is what I am saying.

Most people never understand their B.S. Meter and only truly know it when the real world time comes. And sometime that is WAY to late......

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Stay Safe, Stay Strong, STAY ALIVE!

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 Post subject: Re: Seniority
PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2012 4:06 pm 
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But in the end Simple respect for your peers is probably the most important thing.

Possibly the very best take on this seniority and depth of knowledge questions, is what I just received from a good friend via email, which I will share on this forum, as I believe it to be the very best evaluation:
Quote:
The easiest way to explain seniority may be to use a military analogy. Seniority is fluid - one may be senior in age but junior in rank. One may be junior in age but senior in rank or position (in the military, a company, a dojo). So, respect is shown both ways.

A commander of a squadron may be a young man with a college degree and a commission. His "subordinate" is a high-ranked non-commissioned officer, an "old Sarge".

Lower in rank than an officer, but far more experienced and field-tempered. He knows his men and the assignment.

The Captain (or higher) relies on the lower-ranked but older man's expertise. The Sarge respects the commander for his rank level and position of authority.

He guides his commander and serves as advisor, and the commander makes the necessary decisions commensurate with his position of authority, and accepts the responsibilities that go with the position.

The lower-ranked person has seniority and "life experience" that proves invaluable to the younger commander.

The commander has the position of authority and responsibility and therefore the respect of the Sarge. One is senior in rank and responsibility, the other in age and career experience. Each respects the other.

It's very similar in the dojo, with some variation due to culture.

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 Post subject: Re: Seniority
PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2012 4:32 pm 
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Personally I see such questions resolved by the simple view of our 'participation' in Uechi Ryu, for as long as we remain alive, as a Brotherhood.

An example of this view here: Back in my old town I belonged to a famed rowers' club and competed in several national races…

Our club has a history of having won a myriad of rowing races over the years under a number of diverse coaches.

One stellar example is here …. http://www.gdangelo.it/canot/abbagnale.html

The famous brothers who won the Olympics along with many other world titles.

I briefly met these world champions when returning back home and visiting my old club.

They were far from arrogant or displaying superiority…instead they approached me to show their respect for an old rower, part of a family of rowers for the club, someone who made a contribution in the history of the club.

To them everyone who ever rowed in competition for the club, regardless of the abilities of the coach of the time, was a member of a brotherhood who contributed to the furtherance of our famous club.

So I was honored by them with a copy of their photo taken after winning the Seoul Olympiads [1988] …and inscribed…'To Van with friendship and respect'

Image

We in the Uechi world would do well in following that example.

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 Post subject: Re: Seniority
PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2012 9:35 pm 
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Very interesting topic, Van. And thanks for the invitation to chime in. You of course knew that I'm never afraid to say what I think... ;)

You and I have been in this for a long time, Van - you more than I. And we're also both professionals outside of the dojo, attempting to show what our predecessors meant by karate "do" vs. karate jutsu. And we both have practiced multiple martial arts, and have had the benefit of meeting many great but humble men. And we both have the benefit of being exposed to multiple cultures. So my guess is that neither of us would get all that emotionally hijacked over the subject.

I remember once hearing Bobby Campbell describe Uechi Ryu as a Chinese style in Okinawan clothes. The description still brings a smile to my face. I bring that up because this whole seniority thing we're attempting to characterize is very dangerously in the realm of an Asian concept in American clothes. What we do here with "martial arts" spans the spectrum from combat to law enforcement to sport to art to lifestyle. And what we do is in a constant flux, making seniority of anything almost a silly concept.

Remember when life was much simpler? The center of Uechi's universe was Futenma, and we all celebrated the seniority of the great but humble Uechi Kanei. We all more or less had a place in the greater hierarchy, and we all had numbered certificates with official stamps from a single, central organization. Then Uechi Kanei's health began to fail, and all hell broke loose in The House. The secretary ran out the door with the official books, the son was maligned, some great practitioners quietly backed away from the unseemly behavior, and we all had to start over again. But it wasn't all bad. It's reminiscent of the attack by a rival hominid group in the film Quest for Fire. It was a terrible event that led members of a complacent tribe through an incredible journey which resulted in game-changing discoveries. It was just a story, but a telling one nonetheless.

When thinking about seniority, I reflect a bit on my professional life. After spending years paying my dues in school and then in academia, I was called upon to start a research unit (at a director level) in a Virginia BCBS. At the time I felt too young for the role, but I managed to rise to the occasion. It was a great 11.5 year ride that might have ended differently when the Virginia Plan chose to go public. As it turned out, they lost out on their bid to be a Southeast Region Superplan, and allowed themselves to be bought out by what is now Wellpoint/Anthem. I hedged my bets by buying lots of stock. I made out like a bandit on my stock, and lost my job because Richmond was no longer the center of that company's solar system. Many of my seniors similarly fled the organization, and created start-ups.

A similar scenario happened again at my next job. My company made a "gold standard" product, but got bought up by a "big fish." They disbanded the company and brought the expertise to their home.

And it happened again. I worked for a tuna which sold a "gold standard" product (also used by the federal government, by the way), and a shark bought us up. Thanks for the memories. More excellent experience on my resume, but...

My point?

I'm working again. I've somehow always managed to land on my feet. And with each new company, I lost seniority on day one but gained greater experience. I no longer direct people today and I don't have the headier management-level salary, but... I'm learning and I'm having a blast. And I'm being watched.

More importantly... I learned a lesson very early on when doing a postdoc at UVa under a great researcher. The lesson I learned was never to get too far away from being the person who actually makes the widgets. Any fool can D&D (delegate and disappear). But a company makes no money if there isn't someone there to do "real work." My mentor at UVa would be in there with me doing the experiments, and he wanted me to hand him the data partway through the process. And he wrote like a madman, and encouraged me to do the same. When he presented at a conference, nobody mistook him as a person who was detached from the lab and didn't really have a clue what was happening.

A book worth reading about this subject is Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success. In it he describes a problem with KAL (Korean Airlines), and why they had a series of fatal crashes. In Korea, age and experience are treated with reverence. That's wonderful... up to a point. When a copilot has knowledge of impending doom but doesn't seem to be able to get it through the thick skull of the pilot that they're all doomed, and he'd rather speak only once and let sheet happen, well... Houston, we have a problem.

Seniority is worth talking about to the extent that it helps us accomplish something. Right now if I was obsessed with seniority, I wouldn't have a job in this capitalist economy experiencing a wretched bear market. Meanwhile I'm doing things that few people with English as a first language can be found doing, and enjoying it. I got that opportunity because I never considered "real work" beneath me. And in doing so I'm actually better-poised to get the next management position - managing people who do my work.

"Seniority" in American martial arts is a bit like that. Take a look at the lay of the martial arts land today. Whatever you see today will likely be gone (as you know it) tomorrow. If you're not one of those people who bring something to the table, then the writing on parchment and the fancy belt won't mean squat. I'm not suggesting one need to be a sparring champion to be a senior, or a person who followed a "chosen" path. Far from it. I'm suggesting that the real seniors quietly persevere, and assume nothing. They may have great aspirations and frankly may be driven by gargantuan insecurities. But tenacity, ingenuity, and execution count more than pedigree. Why? Because outside an Asian culture, pedigree and 3 bucks might get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks, and not much more.

Or in the world of business, "What have you done for me lately?"

As with my own business world, it's very important that an American "senior" know how to reinvent him/herself as the world around us changes. Shinjo Kiyohide is a great example here. He was once an Okinawan Sport Karate Champion, but those sport sparring days are long over. And now a person who once (by Jim Thompson's account) didn't have a clue why we do all this Uechi pointy thing stuff is dedicating himself to rediscovering his style's roots. He accomplished what he did in the past not by being his father's son, but by doing what his father did. His insatiable curiosity and incredible tenacity - combined with having been dealt a good hand in life - have combined to make him as relevant today as he was in the past. His relevance takes on new meaning today, but he's still "the real deal." And if we're all lucky, we'll see a different Kiyohide when more wrinkles set upon his forehead.

As I was told once in a resume-writing class... It's not about where you've been, but what you've done. And the doing should never stop.

That's seniority in the eyes of this humble practitioner.

- Bill


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 Post subject: Re: Seniority
PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2012 11:28 pm 
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And a very sobering post.Thank you bill.

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 Post subject: Re: Seniority
PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2012 11:30 pm 
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Oh..Bill...meant to ask you...what is your take on 'depth of knowledge' ?

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