Outsider questions on high ranks (11-15 dan)

Discussion in 'Ninjutsu Resources' started by Thomas, May 3, 2006.

  1. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    I had a good read through http://www.martialartsplanet.com/forums/showthread.php?t=35518&page=7&pp=15&highlight=ninja+15th+dan and did a few searches through the ninjutsu forum but didn't really find a good thread answering a couple of questions I have. Encouraged by post #93, I'd like to start a new thread. Granted, I am an outsider looking in but I just interested in a better general understanding of how things work in this style.

    Looking at sites like http://www.jigokudojo.com/faqs.htm#rank and http://www.bujinkansf.org/faq/#ranks , I have a few questions in general if no one minds answering them.

    What considerations are taken in for promotion to a high rank like the 11th-15th dans?

    What is the average length of time for progression to 5th dan, to 10th dan, and through the 11-15 dan ranks?

    Also, do the "earth, water, fire, wind, and void" in the 11th through 15th dan ranks have any particular meanings as far as expectations physically and/or mentally... what, if any, is the significance in the use of those terms?

  2. Big Will

    Big Will Ninpô Ikkan

    I am by no means an authority in this art, but as far as what I have been told, 11-15th dan is basically only based on Soke's wishes. And for 10th dan you need a recommendation from 3 other 10th dans (judans). And 4th dan is the last grade a shidoshi can give you.

    I could be wrong though, and if I am, I wish to be corrected :)
  3. Dale Seago

    Dale Seago Matthew 7:6

    As far as I've been able to determine, that seems to be the case. He has -- again, as far as I know -- never made public his particular criteria/expectations for any of these grades.

    Right again, it's a "committee action" of sorts. 9th dan requires either one or two other judan+ signatures.. .I think it's one.

    Shidoshi in the sense of 5th dan, yes, as the 5th dan test can only be done by Soke, or by a 15th dan in Soke's presence in Japan. However, a judan+ can have someone promoted to 6th, 7th, or 8th dan.
  4. Big Will

    Big Will Ninpô Ikkan

    Yes, that's what I meant :)
  5. llong

    llong Valued Member

    This is something I won't have to worry about for a long, long time. :(
  6. Nick Mandilas

    Nick Mandilas Resistance is an option..

    LOL. Amen brother!
    I'm 33 with knees that ache 24/7 from my Karate days. By the time I reach the end of 4th Dan, I'll probably sit my godan test from one of those electronic wheelchairs with the shopping cart at the front!

    *Bokken swings down...Nick swings into action..."Byuuzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz"*
  7. llong

    llong Valued Member

    Now THAT is funny!!!!
  8. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Thanks for the replies so far.

    How long does it take to make rank, e.g from white belt to 1st dan? Between 1st and 5th, and from 5th to 10th (or 15th)?

    I took a look at a couple of bios and noted that for good martial artists who worked hard and progressed in the art, attaining 15th dan could be done in 20-25 years. I imagine this isn't the norm, but I am curious if there are any "minimum wait times" between grades and such. Not counting the time it takes to reach 1st dan, attaining 15th dan in 25 years would work out to about a year and a half per dan grade. Is this typical?
  9. bencole

    bencole Valued Member

    I agree with the assessment so far, but I also think that the thing that distinguishes the 11th - 15th dans, in my own personal opinion, is the degree to which Soke sees your heart and capabilities. In my opinion, it represents a level of trust, so to speak.

    I personally believe that Soke gives 15th dans to individuals who have "captured the essence" of what he is teaching. That means that even when Soke is no longer guiding them, they will be guided INTERNALLY by that process within them.

    For this reason, personally, I do not fret about the "future of the Bujinkan without Hatsumi-sensei" as so many others do. Enough pieces of the art are scattered throughout enough people, that if one takes the time and effort to pursue those pieces, one can "re-assemble" the art. In this sense, Soke has already fulfilled his obligations to the art (e.g. to ensure its longevity and viability into the future).

    It is part of a traditional Japanese counting system of 1-5. Notice that the rank is "Judan Chi...", Judan Sui..." In other words, 10+1, 10+2, etc.

    That's a tough one.... I know people who were 3rd dans after 18 years of training, and I know people who were 10th dans after 10 years. People have different natural abilities, different commitment levels, and different experiences.

    Both had experiences in prior arts of between 10 years and 15 years BEFORE joining the Bujinkan.

    Naturally, someone who already knows how to move the right arm with the left foot and how to keep balanced through bending the knees will "progress" more quickly at the early stages. However, this prior knowledge can affect one's ability to internalize certain aspects of the art, which creates a very lengthy "plateau" for some.

    Some people who have experience in other arts have tremendous difficulty in tossing aside those habits and internalizing Soke's teachings. Others are able to tie Soke's teachings into the larger picture of "what is martial arts." The latter (as with the 10th dan in 10 years) will progress faster.

    Rank is pretty immaterial in the Bujinkan when comparing ACROSS individuals. That means that two people who are 4th dan NEED NOT NECESSARILY know the same material. This makes little sense to many outside the art, but it makes complete sense to (at least some of) those in the art. :D

    The only things that are "comparable" are 5th dan, which means Soke tried to "kill you," and 10th dan, which means that Soke listened to the advice of 3 advisors about your capabilities and heart. Anything other than that, and it is anybody's guess what is the basis.

    Though, based on my experience, I can pretty much look at someone for one training session and "guess" their rank. This intuiting is part of the learning, imo. It's part of "the eyes" to see the art.

  10. bencole

    bencole Valued Member

    Or, 2.5 years per rank up to 10th, with various degrees of subtlety at 10th. :D

    I would say that MOST of the "15th dans" have at least 25 years of training under their belts. Some have 40 or 50, such as Sveneric Bogsater, who celebrated his 50 years in martial arts a few years ago! Wowsers! Others have very practical experience in the real world--Dale Seago, Brin Morgan, Natascha Morgan are in protective services; Peter King is a policeman; etc.

    Some of these guys are simply FANTASTIC martial artists. You could throw any weapon on the floor and they could pick it up and use it WELL. You could have multiple attackers come at them and they could control the situation in a relaxed manner. I've been VERY impressed with the quality of some of the 15th dans.

    Some people rise to the challenge that rank presents when it precedes skill. Some people don't.

  11. saru1968

    saru1968 New Member


    Well it will vary dependant on student, Dojo, prior experience etc.

    But in my case i'm in my tenth year, currently Sandan(3rd Dan).

    Now i have met people graded way above me with less time in and some Nidans(2nd Dan) with 20 years in.

    It varies all over the place and i would not personally view our grading system as the same for most martial arts.

    Instructors (Shidoshi 5th Dan upwards, and Shidoshi-ho 1-4th Dan under a Shidoshi) can grade 1 below their current grade ie 4th Dan can grade 3rd Dan.

    As for time again its the Instructors choice.

    I know some people who grade Dan ranks yearly, i seem to grade bi-yearly on average.

    but its all down to the individual, we tend to focus on the enjoyment rather than the chasing grades aspect but i'm sure there are people whose focus is the other way round, which i imagine is present in other MAs as well.

    But this is my viewpoint on it, others may vary.

    Last edited: May 5, 2006
  12. Cuchulain

    Cuchulain Valued Member

    I agree with Ben's assesment. I know people who have made it to 10th dan in around 10 years, but they were very few and far between and generally had lots of experience in other arts and/or military or police experience. This is something that Soke seems to value highly, and I happen to agree it's important to have people around with this experience.

    In my experience, someone who is really gifted could get to shodan in 2.5 to 3 years, but most people seem to do it in around 3.5 to 4 years. After that, if you train hard, put the hours in and show the growth, you can get a dan grade a year up to fifth dan and then after that the same thing if you visit Japan regularly and show that you are working hard on what you learn. There was an interview published in Europe a year or two ago where Soke was asked about ranking and made two comments - you should be training 10 years before 5th dan and also that he only rubber stamps the certificates and so he depends on the judgement of the people issuing the recommendations.

    There was a quote that stuck in my head from this interview - "I only issue the ranks, but it's up to each of you to keep their worth." I like that a lot.

    (Interestingly, there is a widely held misconception that you can pick up a senior dan rank just by jetting to Japan - that may sometimes be the case, but personally I've gone to Japan a number of times without receiving a promotion.)

    It appears to me that some of the very senior ranks do take more time - it would be unusual I think to go from 10th dan to 15th dan in five years - in particular most people seem to spend a bit more time at 13th and 14th dan.

    Obviously I haven't done this though, so maybe Norman or Dale could offer their opinion?
  13. Keikai

    Keikai Banned Banned

    So what happens if it takes 18 years??? :D
  14. Cuchulain

    Cuchulain Valued Member

    Ha ha! Well, if it really takes 18 years (of continuous training), you're obviously really really bad at martial arts, or your instructor is really really bad at martial arts, or for odd reasons, sometimes people refuse ranks and all that kind of thing.

    For the record, it took me 7 years, or rather it took me three years once I actually started trying to train hard to fix the things my teacher told me were holding me back.
  15. Keikai

    Keikai Banned Banned

    Do you know me???

    No, its gaps and moving clubs a lot when i was younger, its only bee the last 8 years that have been static
  16. Brad Ellin

    Brad Ellin Baba

    I concur. Because of this (try finding a Bujinkan Dojo in Turkey 1984 - 1986 or one in Saudi Arabia) it took me 21 years.
  17. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Thanks everyone for responding, especially Ben Cole's thorough post and the follow-ups by all that presented a good view of the ranking system. Thanks!

    That is indeed a very good quote and should apply to everyone, regardless of art. Nice! :)

    One question I still have is

    This is really fascinating and I've never heard of this. Can you steer me in a direction for more information? I've always seen:
    from: http://infohost.nmt.edu/~armiller/japanese/kanjinumbers.htm

    十一 11 Jûichi
    十ニ 12 Jûni
    十三 13 Jûsan
    十四 14 Jûshi, Jûyon
    十五 15 Jûgo
    Looking at http://www.jigokudojo.com/faqs.htm#rank , it doesn't give the kanji but I don't see where 十三 (13), for example, would be written as 十火 (10 fire). I am sincerely interested in this as an interesting bit of info... can anyone add more info on it?
    (I had assumed it had something to do philosphically, as in the Book of Five Rings)
  18. Neil-o-Mac

    Neil-o-Mac The Rev

    The Chi-Sui-Ka-Fu-Ku counting system is an older method of counting no longer used, probably relating to older methods of writing Japanese too, like the old-style Japanese that densho and what-have-you are written in.

    I'm sure Ben will be along to correct me shortly though. :D
  19. Senban

    Senban Banned Banned

    In a similar way, the children's rhyme "eenie meenie miney mo" (spelling?) is actually a remnant of a very early counting system.

    The five elements of Chi-Sui-Ka-Fu-Ku, whilst also having other meanings and connections, was also at one point used as a counting system.
  20. kouryuu

    kouryuu Kouryuu

    Must be your taijutsu then! :eek: :D :Angel:

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