So you want to be a 10th dan and Heavenly Grand Master worshipped by all in the martial arts world, but not sure how to go about it. Well, it is really not that difficult so read on….

The easiest way to become a 10th dan, or even a 12th dan if you want, is to invent your own marital art, print up a fancy certificate and some business cards stating that you are a 10th dan, and throw up a facebook page. Heck, you don’t even need to open your dojo. Who is going to challenge you if you are the founder of that particular martial art? Buddabing, buddaboom, you are a living legend in your own mind and the poor unsuspecting students and their parents will never know the difference. They will even pay for the bragging rights to say their kid is being trained by a 9th or 10th dan.

Does this actually happen? You bet!

Some years back I saw a new martial arts studio open up in my area, offering a style of karate that I had never heard of. Turned out I knew the head sensei. He had been a mediocre sankyu (lowest level of brown) in judo and an equally mediocre kyu-grade in shotokan karate, and yet here he was a 5th dan and world champion in what we will call “XYZ karate.” He had invented his own style and declared himself 5th dan, then held a World Championships, for his style only, at his dojo, of which he was the only senior competitor, therefore, by default, world champion.

I ran into another martial arts studio recently that offered two different martial arts but neither was affiliated with a legitimate national or international body, even though they claimed they were. A little research turned up the fact that each head instructor was also the head of each “international federation,” and each bogus federation had cross-graded both instructors. “Hey, it’s Thursday, I’ll promote you to 8th dan in ABC if you’ll promote me to 8th dan in DEF.” You get the idea, but again, I feel sorry for the parents who sign their kids up for these unstructured, unrecognized, cash generating programs.

Recently I was talking to a concerned parent, from out of state, who was telling me about the problems she was having with the high-grade judo instructor her kids had. I had never heard of him so checked him out – he was unaffiliated with any legitimate NGB and the rank was unrecognized. Probably another brown belt jumped straight to 9th dan.

More recently one of my fellow judo coaches joked that I should call my style of self defense “Combat Jujitsu” and declare myself 10th dan. Unfortunately, when I Googled it I found that someone had already claimed that name, and no surprise, he had also declared himself 10th dan. Guess I missed another opportunity to be a 10th dan.

Even with legitimate martial arts and Olympic sports such as judo and taekwondo, there is nothing to stop an individual opening a club and declaring himself a high-grade of any rank he wants. The only time they will come under scrutiny is if they try to affiliate with a legitimate national governing body. But can they still keep their high-grade title? Sadly, in some cases yes.  I have run into high-grades who know little to nothing about Kodokan Judo, but because they brought their grappling club into an association their claims to rank were not questioned.

Fortunately this is not always the case. I can recall when I joined one governing body in the US, the first thing they did was contact the NGB in the last country I had trained in to verify my grade. But I have also contacted overseas NGB about individuals I doubted, and sure enough, no record of them or the grade they claimed.

Another option is to become a famous politician or actor. A national governing body will give you exalted rank and status just for the free advertizing. An example is President Putin who just got jumped from 6th to 8th dan, but I must admit, he has done a lot for Russian judo. Then there are all the odd-ball martial arts associations and so called “halls of fame” that will recognize or promote anyone for a few hundred dollars. They will even invite you to a banquet to give the impression of legitimacy, but you will have to pay another couple of hundred dollars for the banquet ticket. There is even an online course that takes you from white belt to 6th dan in 16 DVDs, no training or testing required.

So don’t be discouraged if your legitimate promotion is slow coming, or you really don’t want to have to actually train or test for rank. Just invent a name for your martial art, create a facebook page, and declare yourself a “Sifu Shihan Kancho Dai Soke Supreme Heavenly Grand Master” with a lineage going back a thousand years. Because so many knuckleheads have already done this, the legitimate marital artists have long since given up on busting these frauds. Just don’t step onto the mat with legitimate judoka, because they will see through your BS in seconds.


PS – How to tell if you promotion certificate is legitimate. First, it must be really big and impressive; second, it must have writing you can’t read and at least a dozen official stamps. And it must be signed by a Professor or Doctor who is at least a 12th dan in no less than a dozen martial arts. But if one of them is judo, let us know and we will go and have a talk with him.

About Mark V

Dedicated shooter, seeker, traveler, teacher, trainer, educator
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  1. David says:

    People seem to want the instant gratification rather than work for something these days. They only look at the prize (even if that prize is one they created) instead of enjoying the process!!!

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