The Red Belt Epidemic

With the ever increasing number of so called Grand Master’s or Red Belts as we know them today, not only here in the USA but now all over the world. For the life of me I cannot understand how one can place themselves on the same level of their former-(and sometimes current)-Grand Masters or master instructors?
There is no way in hell that I would ever consider myself on the same level as either
of my teachers, .Hohan Soken or Fusei Kise The only two karate teachers I have ever had in 54+ years) Even the “Kise” of today with all of his watered down and made up new kata is so high above me in knowledge, experience, skill an ability, even after 54+ years of hard training and practice. I find those that are claiming to be Grand Masters,-equal-to those of soken, Nagamine, Nagazato, Zenro Shimabukuro, just to name a few, are just fooling themselves as well as their students.

Those that have had the good luck to have been trained on Okinawa have a different mindset then those that have never trained on Okinawa. I’m not talking about those that go to Okinawa for a couple of weeks a year and then claim to have been trained on Okinawa by an Okinawan instructor. I’m talking about those of us that spent years and years of everyday training on Okinawa.

Today Rank has no meaning! It used to be that a 10th Dan, Grand Master had to be at least 70 years old……Not today. Hell we have Grand Masters that are in their 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s……….. I just don’t get it! What the hell is wrong with people? I have seen people claiming to be a 10thDan here in the States with their instructors still alive. How can that be? The true order of rank used to be: a Grand Master had one or two protégés in case one died, that they would groom to replace him when he passed. So that would mean that there was no more than two 9th Dan’s within a given system. There could be many lower ranks, 8th, 7th Dan’s etc. Here in the States we have multiple 10thDan’s within the same system or style???????????????
Some people say I’m just jealous! I’m not jealous, I’m just real!… If I had wanted to be a 10th Dan I could have been so many, many years ago. I find there is no value (other then ego) in being promoted by a bunch of others from different systems of which 90%+ have been promoted in the same manner; Just my opinion.

Red Belt?

Once you reach the ultimate level of a 10th Dan Red Belt, you have reached it all. You are the big cheese, you are the king rat, the top dog, a leader of leaders amongst your style/system and you are the “Man”.

Now just what does that mean? Well, being a 10th Dan/Red Belt means:

You have reached the very top level of your system/style.
You have learned all that there is to learn in a given system/style.
You are the very best in that particular system/style.
You have over a minimum of 50+ years of training in one particular system/style.
You have learned and been chosen to lead a particular system/style by your teacher, who was the head or 10th Dan that has now passed away or has retired and passed the rains to you.
Can you… (the so called Red Belts)… really up hold and/or meet these requirements? I really have a hard time believing that you can……….. I am a meager 7th Dan with 37+ years in time and grade, with over 54+ years of total experiences “WITH” just ONE system, with only One Grand Master and ONE Master instructor. I can truly say I am no way near the above mentioned requirements, so how can you call yourself a true 10th Dan? God bless you if you can say in all honesty that you meet all of these requirements. It is things like this that have degraded real; karate, turning it into a sport as opposed to a Art. (Just my opinion, and you know what they say about opinions, ha.)

James H. Coffman
Shorinji Ryu 1960 – Present
Matsumura Seito 1961- Present
7th Dan-, Jikideshi
Hohan Soken’s first American student