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Beyond Style 6 -- Proliferation of Styles

Why are there so many styles of Karate? There does not appear to be as many different styles of Judo, Kendo, or Aikido. Why is it that styles of Karate have proliferated?

I have an observation. Within a style of Karate, there is usually only one 10th dan at a time. This creates something of a ceiling for the other senior instructors. There might be several 8th dan and some 9th dan, but there can be only one 10th dan.

If the 10th dan dies, one of the 9th dan might be elevated to 10th dan, and again, there will be only one.

So what happens, for example, when five of the 8th dan and three of the 9th dan break away from the style or organization and create their own styles or systems? All of the sudden there are eight new 10th dan! The ceiling is miraculously lifted.

And it is not only the highest dan holders who can benefit from this. Even a 5th dan who declares his own style might similarly declare that he is now a 10th dan. After all, each style must have its own head.

It is the structure of Karate styles that leads to an increase in 10th dan holders. And to some extent, this might also be one of the reasons there are so many styles. It is something of a vicious cycle.

Let me ask you this. Would an average consumer of Karate in the United States prefer to learn from an 8th dan or a 10th dan? If you were a senior instructor, would you rather be a 6th dan under an 8th dan, or a 6th dan under a 10th dan -- which situation presents the best opportunity for advancement?

Style is not only about rank (and titles). Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.

But you must admit that there certainly are a lot of 10th dan in Karate. I think that they have quit awarding 10th dan in Judo and Kendo altogether.

For me, what matters most is who you learned from and what you have done with what you learned. Your ability counts most, not the name of your style.

My good friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, learned from Chosin Chibana during the 1960s. Generally, students under Chibana Sensei say that they teach the Kobayashi-Ryu form of Shorin-Ryu. Nakata Sensei never says this. Instead, he says that be teaches "Chibana Shorin-Ryu." In doing so, he is acknowledging his Sensei, which I think is a good idea.


Charles C. Goodin