According to Mountain Stream Budo's bylaws/reigi, if a student is absent from training for 365 consecutive days or longer, he will forfeit his rank upon returning to the dojo, don a white belt as a demonstration of humility, and then, following a sufficient period of time, will re-test either for his prior rank or a lower rank depending upon how much he remembers and how sharp his skill level is.
However, how long can this type of "inactive" training go on? Should a student be allowed to take one class every 364 days for countless years and still maintain his rank? Should a student who doesn't care about progressing in rank be permitted to train for a month, take 5 months off, train again briefly, take 8 months off, etc.?
Certainly at the black belt level, students are expected to train regularly and consistently. A black belt student who stops by for a class once or twice a year just in order to keep his rank is not the same as a green belt student who does the same. Although a black belt student who misses 360 days of training and then returns would be allowed to keep his rank, consistent weekly training should then resume. Of course, exceptions can be made for students away in college or with significant injuries or illnesses.
Part of the discipline of training in a martial art is getting into class regularly, training when you don't feel like it, and maintaining a regular regimen. Everyone has a job, a family, kids, homework, stress, and a hundred other "real-life" reasons to miss a class. I'm not saying that martial arts is as important as any of these by any means, but it's necessary to find a balance if you consider your martial arts training a life-long endeavor and part of who you are.
Thus, every martial artist should have short and long-term goals, which we mark with rank. It's a lot easier to earn your brown belt, or black belt, or 3rd dan or whatever, and to sit back and tell yourself that you've reached your primary goal as a martial artist, and that you don't feel the need to progress any further. This is where laziness and humility can become confused; although no accomplished martial artist wants to hunger specifically for his next rank, he should always strive to improve by training harder and continuing to learn - as his skills and experience grow, he will come in a roundabout way to be ready for a higher rank. Rank is, after all, nothing more than an outward designation of skill, experience, and wisdom.
So, although the rules say that one can train once per year and still maintain rank for an open-ended period of time, I think it's important to qualify this so as to prevent people from taking advantage of it. At some point in a student's training, at black belt say, after having missed a year or so at the dojo, one needs to commit to resuming full-time, year-round ACTIVE training in order to keep and maintain one's rank.
I wouldn't want to be represented by a lawyer who only tries a few cases a year, or have surgery performed on me by a doctor who's last operation occurred 10 months ago. . .and I certainly wouldn't want to be taught by a martial arts instructor who only trains sporadically at best.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
On Saturday March 31st, Mountain Stream Budo is proud to welcome Sensei Julie Keil (4th dan Shorin-ryu karate, 4th dan Okinawa kobudo) and her granddaughter Giang (1st dan karate, 1st dan kobudo) from Midland, Michigan. If travel arrangements work out, they will be joining us for kobudo class on 3/31 and possibly adult karate as well. Please join us in training with our very special guests!!