What is rank? Originally rank did not exist in this form, but the teacher would fully instruct a student/disciple and then give him/her his “menkio kaiden” or certification of full transmission. Today we have grades, dan, or even kyu (student). I would like to stress on this point that I intend to voice my opinion and thoughts, not make a judgment how other people handle or think of grading. Grading is a “pad on the shoulder” and should be a recognition of skill, understanding and personal work and effort a student has spend to learn the art. Grades are helpful for a teacher invited for example for a seminar, to be able to have an idea what skill and understanding a student has, so the student can be properly instructed. “understanding” Since ranking in this sense represents experience, ability and understanding, technical skill can not be the only factor considered when awarding rank. Besides of skill within the technical realm, the students overall understanding as well as his/her actions within the social setting of the dojo and his effort in relationship to his personal situation such as health, age and amplitude need to be considered. A simple example, 6th dan and Renshi .. 6th dan should represent skill and understanding of the art Renchi – “assistant teacher” then means that its 6th dan + assisting in teaching and running the dojo. A dojo is the sum and interaction of all of its parts, and it will stand or fall with the participation and support of ALL its members. If the advanced student does not contribute to strengthening the whole, then the dojo will be weekend. Renshi would be a recognition of a student starting to take on some of the teaching burden within the dojo, freeing the teacher to teach more advanced aspects, or simply have more room to progress by himself. So while a student can be rocku dan, he can be technically as good or better as his “rank” he still will not qualify for renchi if he/she does not start to actually assist and add to the strength of the dojo as a social unite. Rank is responsibility. To get rank for the purpose of status, is a clear sign to not deserve any rank at all. It also is dangerous when rank is given for political reasons, or as tool to advance an agenda. When rank is uses as such it becomes highly destructive and discredits the art and those who participate on either side of that kind of a scheme. In that case rank becomes toxic.
Content creates form, form follows function. In iaido and in the dojo the purpose provides the content, the form follows. The form can be “right” but fully wrong if at that time it does not follow the purpose. For example: When the teacher shows seiza or explains sitting in seiza, proper form is to sit in seiaza as well. – yet if you are not used to sit in seiza, ore injured, you are in pain, if you are in pain, you cant concentrate, if you cant concentrate you cant follow the explanation… so sitting in seiza to a point of pain and great discomfort does not support the purpose.. the content is that you are learning, and the teacher is conveying information, - in this case, it follows you will NOT sit in seiza, or change your position when needed so you can follow the instruction. When practicing seiza, not being used to the motion, your feet might hurt, or it might be greatly uncomfortable. You will decide how much discomfort you can tolerate in order to condition your body to become able to do it without discomfort. In this case, the discomfort is part of the practice, and not distracting unless, - the discomfort rises to the point that all your other actions get effected, then you need to find a intermediate position allowing you to approach the proper position over time. The purpose of a dojo is to teach, to enable individual to learn iaido and the social and cultural aspects of the art. – but following the form of behavior without understanding it’s purpose is without value. For example, if a class is going on, and the teacher is teaching the class, it would be impolite to walk through the room, so it would be polite to wait until the teacher gives you permission (signs to you, tells you) that it is ok to cross over. … however, it is impolite of the teacher to let someone wait, and especially if the person wanting to cross is senior or a teacher of your or an other art in there own right. If you understand that the purpose is to be polite, and to be kind, then the solution should come easy to you. Rules are important, but if you understand there purpose you should know when you should NOT follow them, or amend, bend them to fulfill there purpose. Because, form follows content, and form without content is empty and without meaning.
Money, the tyranny that limits who and what we are and what we can or can not do. This reaches further then “what we can afford” it limits how we relate to others. The daemon creates separation of classes, prejudice, it limits who we are “allowed” to teach, to serve, to save to support, and even to see. From a tool of exchange Money has developed into a determining factor of all social and even personal life. It strangles our freedom, it undermines our humanity, it perverts our inter-human relations. This is why in the nishi kaigan iaido dojo does not make the attendance of classes dependent on the ability of the individual to pay. As long as all involved genuinely thrive to do there part to continue the dojo and the art it hands on to future generations we have cast of the tyranny of mammon.