Martial Arts “Masters” – FACT or FANTASY? – Part 4
This post is also available in: Italian
A new section to this article: “Martial Arts ‘Masters’ – FACT or FANTASY?” will be posted every Thursday. Please leave a comment giving your feedback and/or opinions. I look forward to the discussions.
Unfortunately, today there are those individuals who would take a loose interpretation of aforementioned requirements and claim that since they were the “founder” or “patriarch” of their own “system” that they are “Grand Master” or 10th Degree. The pertinent question is: “Grand Master” of what?
In today’s modern age there are those who have used this 10th Degree status under the proposition that they are “founders” of their own system. This is a seriously questionable practice. If it were an instant way to credibility then any individual with little or no training and experience could create a fantasy that he/she had ‘created’ his/her own unique system. My opinion is that, although they may or may not actually be in the process of attempting to create their own system, such a system and their “real” status would certainly lack much substantiated credibility as compared with those individuals whose work and efforts had stood the test of time and scrutiny of their peers. Age old wisdom dictates, “Let the buyer beware.”
Consider that anything is possible but not all things are probable. It is possible that some very gifted and/or talented individual may develop some system that is unique and eventually proven to be valid. However, this would arguably be the exception; therefore, it is much more prudent to view to process of such activity over time.
If a person has truly achieved the level of 10th Degree, what is his curriculum? Where is the evidence over time that such curriculum can produce quality beginner, intermediate, and advanced level students prior to Black Belt? Further, where is the evidence that this “new system” is, in fact, unique? Where is the evidence that such a system can produce quality “Black Belt” level students? Where is the evidence that this system can produce “Master” level teachers? And ultimately, where is the evidence that this system can produce “Masters of Masters” who also have the administrative abilities to minister and serve those under their leadership.
When one puts this in a clear perspective of what these “ranks” and diplomas truly represent in terms of actual work and achievement, it should be clear that it is a process that takes time and cannot appear magically “overnight”. These are not activities that can be accomplished in a “closet” or hidden from general view. They are processes that by their very nature involve literally thousands of individuals over a 30, 40, or 50 year term.
No amount of mystique or even illusion of “secret training” or “secret societies” can substitute for such dedicated lifetime study, practice, teaching, social, and administrative accomplishments. And if, in fact, a legitimately advanced “Master” of a particular style of Martial Arts decides to develop his own “system”, is it truly a new and unique system of his creation or merely a modified “version” of the one he previously studied and “maybe” mastered?
It would make more sense that, if such a “Master” were to leave one system or organization, he would not automatically move up in degrees. It would make even more sense that before he could claim to be of a higher degree he must at least demonstrate the work and organizational activity over reasonably significant time that is distinctly different than what he had left. Until then, any claim of “Grand Master” status would remain questionable at best.
Another serious point to consider is the actual time and effort invested by any such a “master” and particularly a “Grand Master”. There are many legitimate and dedicated martial arts practitioners who could spend their entire life studying and practicing their martial arts. What deserves further consideration is what is known as an “avocation” as compared to a “vocation”.
An “avocation” is an activity that one chooses to participate in due to personal interest and/or passion. Some people call this a “hobby” regardless of the passion with which it may be practiced. A “vocation” is an activity that a person participates in as a profession (work to support his/her sustenance and family). To put it more simply the first is more of a “hobby” for personal satisfaction while the second is the work that your existence and the prosperity of your future and of your family is based upon.
I pose a simple question. Would you ever equate the qualifications of a person who had a passion for medicine, even surgery, and studied it part time (when he could find the time) to a person who attended the intense education, training, practical experience, and consistent organized and formal examination of superiors and peers necessary to become a brain surgeon? I think not.
Viewing this quantitatively first, let’s consider the martial arts practitioner who passionately studies, practices and perhaps teaches his/her “art” two or three times a week for several hours each week for perhaps even twenty years or more. This person would certainly be considered a ‘serious” practitioner and rightly would receive a certain level of respect for his/her dedication, study, and the subsequent skills developed by such activity.
Now, let us now contrast this with an individual who is a “professional”, who spends 40-60 hours each week immersed in every possible aspect of martial arts training, study, teaching, competition, research, promotion, organization, etc. Simply comparing quantitatively over a similar twenty year period the actual time invested in such activity is incredibly and significantly more.
Do the math. Three times weekly for 3 hours equals 9 hours a week. Nine hours times 52 weeks equals 468 hours. Four hundred and sixty-eight hours times 20 years equals 9,360 hours of dedicated study. Most would agree that this is quite respectable.
Now let’s compare “the professional”. Conservatively compare merely forty hours a week times 52 weeks equaling 2080 hours annually. Two thousand eighty hours each year over the same 20 years equal 41,600 hours as a conservation estimate. When we compare the two there is no comparison. Therefore, how would the qualifications of both individuals be the same assuming that they each spent 20 “calendar” years practicing the same art?
If we used the ”part timer” as the standard then the “professional” would have logged work equivalent to approximately 90 “years” (using the standard of active “hour years/hours” set by the part timer)! If you use the “professional” as the standard then the “part timer” would have an equivalent of approximately 4.4 “years/hours” of equivalent work! WOW!!! How can anyone not see the distinct and drastic difference between the potential accomplishments of the two?
One might rightfully argue that the qualitative factors can also have a significant impact on such results, however, the quantitative factors are clearly so overwhelming and enough to stress the probability of the “professional” being quite superior in most areas to the “part timer”.
The subject can be more complicated and unfortunately it opens the possibility and even probability that some individuals (not all) who have not been willing to do the full work necessary sometime use these nuances as an easy excuse to cover their own lack of true accomplishment. They somehow claim and promote their “status” as legitimate high level “master teachers”, or “Grand Masters”, or even “Soke” (founders of a particular system of study).
It is this author’s observation that this has causes a clear “inflation” of the very belt ranking system that could help give credibility to such a valuable method of human development as Martial arts. In my opinion such “inflation” has only served to limit the credibility of our field of passionate study. This “fantasy” has posed a serious obstacle and has hurt all those practitioners of martial arts who have stayed true to integrity, either with their martial arts avocation or vocation.
It is the opinion of this author that it is unlikely and at least questionable that any martial artist claiming to have achieved the levels of 8th, 9th Degree (much less 10th Degree Black Belt) could do so on a part time basis. Such a claim at best lacks credibility and demonstrates a clear and serious limitation to that individual and/or any of those associated with his/her organization/system of study.
I acknowledge there are occasionally some very limited exceptions , however, these are usually due to verifiable mitigating factors. Perhaps that doesn’t matter to certain practitioners. Each must “choose his/her own poison”. However, let’s not pretend. We need to “call a spade, a spade”. If it’s yellow, has webbed feet, and goes “quack, quack”, it’s in all probability a duck. Let’s not confuse it with an eagle!
“…AND THAT’S THE WAY I SEE IT!”®
Copyright © 2010 R.V. PASCETTA, All rights reserved