In my last post, I mention that I only intend to hire certified brown belts or above to coach at my dojos. Most judo players in the United States have no difficulty with that concept, but I know quite a few who might have some qualms with that. I’m addressing that situation today.
I “grew up” in judo outside the national organizations by the deliberate choice of my father and his judo beliefs. I started in 1989, took a break in 1995 while I served in the United States Navy (couldn’t find any judo schools during that time), and restarted in 2001. I finally achieved a black belt in 2005, but it was not a sanctioned belt until 2008. Since that time, I’ve been promoted to third degree black belt under the auspices of the United States Judo Association. Now that my history is out of the way, I’d like to talk about what growing up in such a way was like.
I’d never heard of sanctioning bodies until I got back into judo in 2001. My dad never mentioned it and he was my go-to guy for judo for a very long time. As long as he or his students were around, rank and learning were never an issue, or so I thought. In 2003, I traveled to Florida to work for Walt Disney World. Prior to my departure, I signed up for USJA because there were no Yawara clubs in Florida and if I wanted to practice (Duh!) I need to be a card-carrying member of the club. It was a great time and a wonderful opening of my eyes to judo outside of Yawara, but then I went back “home” and didn’t need to worry about it again.
By the time I was up for black belt, I’d not been paying any attention to USJA and so my points and promotions got out of line. “No worries,” I thought, we’ll get it all lined up and ready when I need it. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen the way it was supposed to for a variety of reasons including moving away from the club at my college and my dad dying in 2008. Syncing rank when there’s no one around is difficult under normal circumstance and impossible when one irritates one’s “instructor.” So, by 2012, I had been condemned to remain a Shodan for life.
Finally, in 2012, after numerous clinics, events, and two clubs that I run, awarded my Sandan. I, point-blank, refuse to let my students suffer under the same weights that I suffered. While I admire my dad and value every rank he ever signed off on (my shodan and nidan awards are my most prized rank certificates), once he died the organization he established lost its way and the cult of personality began. My students will never have to suffer that fate because their ranks will be certified.
Enough of my personal judo history and feelings regarding that!
The certified rank: Is it really better? I don’t think it’s better or worse, but it is recognized nationally as a minimum standard of competence. I think that the knowledge behind the rank is more important than the rank itself because the rank is only recognition of your knowledge. If you are demonstrably over-ranked, you and your students suffer from the stigma of insufficient knowledge and excessive rank. If you’re demonstrably under-ranked you and your students will have a hard time progressing and may be accused of deliberately under-ranking for competitive reasons. Neither situation is good, but I’d rather be under-ranked than over-ranked.
Teach your students well. Provide them with excellent learning opportunities and excellent coaching. If you do your part right, their rank will show through. Others may suggest that you or your students are prepared and ready for their next rank. If those others are well-respected and well-qualified, they provide good backing and external verification for those promotions. Don’t let your students suffer because you have an issue with the national organizations. Maintain your certifications and rank for their sake.
Let me know what you think of this idea, post in the comments below or e-mail! Don’t forget to like the Roswell and New Mexico Military Institute Judo Clubs on Facebook!