September 28, 2011

What do they mean when they say “we are the only authorized/recognized organization”? What does it mean to be the national or international authority? When the novice seeks information on the internet or at some tournaments, a member of some organization will say “you have to become a member if you want your progress to be officially recognized no other organization has the authority to issue rank.” That is nonsense. Anyone in the U. S. has the legal right to file documents with a state or other government subdivision to form an organization. An organization may be formed as a business or a nonprofit entity. The formation documents will state what is or is not recognized by the entity. The entity may also state what certificates and/or awards it will issue. An organization may divide its membership into groups and determine the insignia that shows a member’s position in the group. In most Japanese martial arts we use the obi of different colors to designate rank. The organization may issue a rank certificate to verify the member’s status in the organization. Rank in one organization may or may not be recognized as valid by another organization. If a person holds any rank in an organization it is valid only in that organization. If the standards for holding such rank are greater than or equal to those of another organization then it is usually recognized by the other. There are children younger than seven years holding black belts in our country. Black belts are supposed to be a sign of maturity, experience, skill, and authority. These are as valid as any others. We can only know that the issuing organization’s requirements for the belt were met. The easiest way to get a black belt is to buy one. The most difficult way is to compete for it. Many martial arts organizations provide an opportunity for promotion in rank by challenging a number of competitors holding a rank higher than the challenger and making an impressive score. In most Judo clubs we see black belts both new and worn and we don’t know who is higher in rank. In some Karate and Jujitsu clubs the black belt rank is shown be adding bars to the ends. One needs to know the color and order of rank insignia for a particular organization, and the rank requirements to determine what a certain obi means in the organization. We have to remember that a teacher organized what he would teach into steps and decided to show the progress of his students by changing the color of the obi as steps were completed. Any other teacher is free to do the same. The only authority a martial arts organization has is to govern itself.

Sensei Joe