Essence above rank

Setting goals, setting targets, is one of man’s prime characteristics. And when he achieves them, in any way, then he goes for the next one…
This ambition, this drive, has been accused by many to be a negative thing of our species (just as desire has been accused by many philosophical systems and religions to be one of man’s flaws). And I never understood this accusation because clearly, by setting targets, man is setting himself apart from all other life forms on Earth.
But one of the greatest distortions, in the act of setting a target, is when you instead set yourself for a… sausage hunt.
You know the “sport”. You hang a sausage in front of your face by tightening a collar around your neck and then you start your running into the unreachable. And once you are convinced by yourself (and through others) that this should be your “target” all that remains is to repeat this act again and again, because practice makes perfect…
On top of it, you have the proof of being right, since any sausage hunt creates a fast dog!
The possibility of setting yourself free is minimal, since like always, it is also reassuring when many do the same mistake, and there is hardly an escape from that…
Unless one is ready for a “revolution of re-thinking” his life!     

There are far too many reasons why any kind of ranking, in the practice of Martial Arts, is a… sausage. Here, I would like to mention only one of them. And by doing so, it is impossible to stay politically correct about it, because when you make a statement like that, it is like going against… everybody (with a very few and rare exceptions).
The right thing to do on this matter always was too easy, and maybe that alone irritates those who love to make it complicated, earn money from it and, most of all, indirectly “control” their students with the ranking system.

“Techniques should be ranked and not the person”

The above line, said by a “simple” Sensei (Hachiman bless him!) could be the punch line on all my efforts to say, write and explain “my” positions, that regard the ranking system as we know it today.
It can not, all by itself, tell you what to do in order to survive in a ranking dominated Martial Arts world, but this line should be burned in the memory of each practitioner for his entire life.     

There is nothing more natural than this axiom, since it is the technique that sets the standard, and the person the one who tries to achieve it.
And once he achieves it, that doesn’t mean that he should make this level a part of his name!
If you turn this upside down, if you break this rule, you are looking at a ranking system. And that is what usually happens. Practitioners enter the Art, any Art for crying out loud, being promised to be ranked themselves, and have it written on a piece of paper in order to show it.
The “great catch”, that escapes most people, lies in the fact that this is the beginning of running in the right trail but into the wrong direction, because you set your mind and your practice for a rank-hunt and not a technique-hunt, as it should be!
The standard argument here is, that both things are leading to the same result, since if you are good at your technique you will be ranked accordingly. So, you will be told!
But ladies and gents the same result of any issue doesn’t justify the method!
No argument can go above this.

Practicing without the use of a belt ranking system is not my idea anyway, even if I wanted to.
It is well known that the samurai did train systematically through their entire life, day in day out, without any… rank about their abilities.
And O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba didn’t bother too, in his early days…

Now let us suppose that you read this again, because it kinda struck you, then you go over a little research to verify my “fairytale” and you get struck again…
So, what are you gonna do about it? Or better said what can you do?
Go to your next lesson and state that you will train as hard as you can but no longer participate in any form of ranking?   
You will be better off fighting bare handed with lions in a pit, than go “against” the flock, because you will be silently cased aside, at the best, and blamed for it as well!

It is as I always said, not because I am trying to be wise here, but because I was, am, and will remain bitter on this… and probably right!

“One must keep his priorities and his mind.
If someone could give you all the ability of an Art, with one hand, and all kinds
 of recognition, with the other, I ask you
What would you reach for, first!
It’s okay to want recognition, too. So, grab as much is in your reach, or comes
your  way, but don’t blink an eye for more. If you have to chase it, it’s a “trap”.
If you find it laying down dead, take my advice. Don’t bent too much...”

Aikido-The Book In Between (page 98)

March 23, 2007