Lineage in the Martial Arts – Whys, Wherefores, and So What!
Hanshi Stephen F. Kaufman
The recent uproar on the various sites and pages has shown that a big uprising about someone’s lineage in the martial arts has become the subject matter of choice. While this does bear merit in many instances, it should also be taken into consideration that, as Musashi said, “It should be understood that without the assistance of a teacher, many roads become open to a practitioner—some on the correct path and some on the incorrect path.” Having been in the practice for close to sixty years has given me a broad overview of so-called legitimacy. Some would agree with me and others might be adamant in their view.
Lineage does not always represent the highest ideal for a person to go out into the world and proclaim themselves master of this or that. What it does is simply suggest that a person has studied with so and so and, therefore, is supposed to know the wherewithal of a particular system or style—that, and nothing else. It is for the individual to proceed along a given path of their own choosing which, in the final analysis, is indicative of their devotion to something and the manner in which they have pursued that regimen of learning. Studying with a particular teacher does not guarantee ability. For the most part it is a piece of paper that tells of someone’s participation in a school or a system. As well, it does not denote proficiency. We all know about many black belt mills that sell credentials that are readily available for foisting on an unsuspecting public. This is nothing new, and note should be made at this point that the origination of this mediocrity did not first occur in the US. It began way back when, especially given the reality that money was often the ruling force in the matter.
Add to that the incredulous lack of self-esteem a weak ego would use to prevail. What the suckers don’t understand now and didn’t understand then is that it takes years to be able to function adequately on any level, regardless of art, and never mind a 10th dan that one can readily buy. The incredible amount of masters, grand masters, kyoshi, hanshi, supreme grand masters, great grandmasters and what not are totally ludicrous in lieu of the fact that the vast majority of these title holders have done nothing of value to the enhancement of the art forms, though they may have indirectly lined their own pockets.
To quote Musashi again, “The ‘way’ is not for everyone. It takes an exceptional person to arrive at the level of their own perfection without the approval of or assistance of someone.” It takes extreme patience, fortitude, perseverance, and the frustration of standing alone and living through all of the self-doubt, fear, and confusion, not forgetting to mention the idiotic remarks of those who are and will always maintain their position as wannabees and losers.
I am not concerned with lineage. I have studied many fighting forms and styles since the 1950’s until I evolved into my own Hebi-Ryu budo. which is mine and mine alone, and it works for me, based on the teachings of Musashi and common sense. It comes down to a simple point of fact. Once you have truly come to understand what it is that you have essentially pissed away your life on, you also come to realize the meaninglessness of rank and title.
For more info on the author, visit www.hanshi.com