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A man sufficiently gifted with humor is in
small danger of succumbing to flattering delusions
about himself, because he cannot help perceiving what a
pompous ass he would become if he did
               Konrad Lorenz

Rank Inflation and Grand & Glorious Titles

On this page:
Great and Glorious Titles

We picked up the term "rank inflation" from Bob Orlando in his thought-provoking book Martial Arts America. In it he discusses how, because of marketing pressures, merely having a black belt is no longer sufficient status to compete in an often cut-throat market.

In many ways, this is a self-inflicted wound. By cheapening the rank of black belt by handing it out like candy, it became  necessary for instructors to inflate their own rank to maintain their superior positions. Extra -- and more grandiose -- titles have become commonplace. It is not just enough to be a teacher anymore. Complex hierarchies have developed within organizations to specifically define the pecking order among high ranking individuals. Since most of these terms are from other languages and cultures, it is difficult to tell which are legitimate terms and what are made up -- much less what the exact qualifications would be for such a title.

It is in this that we finally come back to the third form of padding information. Combining it with fast advancement and lower standards, we encounter people who have been advanced to black belt prematurely. In fact, the black belts in many commercial schools have the same physical aptitude of mid-level students in more traditional and stricter schools. In such schools, the black belt has functionally become just another mid-level belt. The scramble then becomes for dan ranking and how high up that totem pole you can climb. Unfortunately, by the time someone has achieved 3rd, 4th or -- sad to say -- even 5th degree dan ranking in such schools, they are reaching an equivalent skill level required for a mere black belt, 1st dan, 20 or so years ago.

The problem with padded information at this level is that is is probably still substandard. Instructors who wildly advance people (and themselves) seldom have mastered the depths of their art. So they cannot teach you anything except information they have pirated. The instructor cannot teach that which he does not know himself. And this really should make you seriously re-examine the high belt teachings to see if they really are new depths or just the same information dressed up with fool's gold.


Great and Glorious Titles
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