A Study of the Criteria For Promotion to 9th and 10th Degree in Judo
From time to time several of our members (such as Herb Moore of Tucson, Arizona and Jon Patrick of Connecticut) have interested themselves in the subject of the promotion of Judo leaders to the 9th and 10th Degree Black Belt in Judo. The subject is important to all USMA leaders. After much research I thought it proper, as Chairman of the USMA Board of Examiners, to record a few thoughts on this subject.
Those of us who have, for many years, watched the development of the Martial Arts in America have noted that in the absence of written requirements, the situation regarding promotion to 9th and 10th Degree becomes seriously distorted. In the Orient, these promotions are very strictly controlled, even though there are no written requirements for 9th and 10th Degree promotions we have ever been able to find. It seems that the general attitude of many Americans is: if there are no written requirements, then any 8th Degree is just as well qualified as any other 8th Degree for promotion to 9th and 10th Degree. The result is that some leaders, although they may be fine Martial Artists, are promoted to 9th or 10th Degree without having been outstanding in any of the several areas we cover in this essay. Thus, these ranks, which should be awarded to a very few outstanding masters, have become quite common in some arts. The USMA, as the virtual leader in unifying American Martial Arts, is again taking the initiative by clearly setting down requirements for 9th and 10th Degree in Judo. We have done this to explain our own promotions to these degrees, and to give our members and other Martial Artists guidelines for their use.
This is particularly important because our Board of Governors has, effective January 1,2004, promoted O-Sensei Porter to 10th Degree in Judo. It is only proper that when this extremely important promotion is made, everyone should be told exactly what criteria our Board used in elevating O-Sensei to this rank. The 10th Degree in Judo is now held by only two Judoists in the world, Anton Geesink of the Netherlands and O-Sensei.
It has been my good fortune to associate with many 10th and higher degrees (in many different Martial Arts) during my 31 years in the Martial Arts, and especially in the process of running our USMA Hall of Fame and International Training Camp for the past four years. Each year during our meetings of the USMA Board of Examiners, the top leaders at the USMA International Hall of Fame discuss their ideas and experiences on the subject of 9th and 10th Degree promotions. I have collected much information, done a good deal of research, and have thought deeply about this matter.
I have used as a basis for this essay the “USMA Requirements for Promotion to 9th and 10th Degree in Judo,” which was approved by the USMA Board of Governors in 2003 (attached to this essay). These requirements are very brief, and so our Founder, O-Sensei Phil Porter, has asked me to explain them more fully in this essay because I am the Chairman of our USMA Board of Examiners. He has also been kind enough to answer many of my questions and make other suggestions regarding this work.
Below I will list the seven USMA 9th and 10th Degree promotion requirements, following each with an explanatory commentary. I feel very strongly that everyone who is interested in the future of the Martial Arts must think about this question of 9th and 10th Degree promotions; without emotion, but rather with a critical and thoughtful approach.
In the commentaries I will mention some of the records of several world 9th and 10th Degrees, and our two American 9th and 10th Degrees to illustrate the points I will make. For each of the seven requirements, I will quote the USMA requirement first and then add an explanatory commentary.
First, the Competitive Record of the Candidate
The USMA requirement is: To be qualified in this category, the candidate must have a long record of Judo competition. The competitive record must cover a period of at least ten years and one hundred tournaments, including state, regional and national competition. For both 9th and 10th Degree, the candidate must have placed in one or more senior national championships. In addition, winning or placing in national and world masters competition is desirable but not required.
As you may know, in quarter horse breeding, the ultimate rank is Supreme Champion. There is one basic criterion for attaining this pinnacle of achievement, and that is: the horse in question must have run triple A time in actual races a certain number of times. After that one test has been accomplished, other qualifications must be achieved.
It's the same in Judo. A person, to be qualified for 9th or 10th Degree, must have been through the mill, so to speak. He must have faced the brutal agony of hard competition. This is so important that Anton Geesink, one of only two living 10th Degrees at present in Judo, could have been promoted to 10th Degree on his competitive record alone. He was 18 times all category champion of Europe, the first Olympic Gold Medalist in the Open Category, and World Championship Gold Medalist twice. He was the first person to beat all the Japanese champions he faced for several years.
Even though there are very few Geesinks, a leader who is qualified for 10th Degree must have had a solid competitive background. In America, our present 9th Degree is George L. Harris and Philip S. Porter is our one 10th Degree. Harris was several times national champion and also a US Olympian. Porter placed third in the nationals at the advanced age of 38 (he actually stared Judo late, at age 27). Both have a solid record of state and armed forces medals behind them.
In discussing competition, one must also consider the length of the competitive period. We have had a few brilliant Judoists who have done very well on the national and international mat, but have virtually quit Judo training, teaching and other activities after only ten or 15 years of fighting. Many of them have won Olympic or world medals and then simply disappeared; not only from competition, but also from coaching, teaching, writing, or studying Judo. The masters competition provides opportunities for extended competition. In Porter's case, over a 22 year period after his normal 15 year senior competition period was over (1951 to 1966), he began, in 1975, to compete in the masters category, winning four national gold medals without a loss and also world gold and silver medals in the masters (1998). Therefore, his competitive effort spans a period of 47 years.
Charles Palmer of England had an excellent competition record in Europe, as did Trevor Leggett, who won his 5th Dan in Japan in a big contest the day before Pearl Harbor in 1941.
Second, the Coaching Record of the Candidate
The USMA requirement is: To be qualified in this category, the candidate must have produced, by coaching in his or her own club, at least 100 junior or senior national or international medallists in Judo.
Only a select few of our fine competitors have become outstanding coaches. Fighters who have achieved great competitive distinction may not desire to pass their expertise along to others. If they do, they may communicate their techniques in two ways: coaching champions or teaching students. Coaching champions is by far the most difficult. Coaching champions is a very difficult and demanding task. Coaching is entirely different from teaching. It is much more difficult to produce champions than it is to teach. Why? Simply because there is no real measurement of teaching, whereas, coaches can immediately measure their results by counting the number of champions. There will be many students but few champions. Champions must not only be able to perform the techniques, they must be able to do so under tremendous mental pressure and against determined resistance. Teachers produce students who can perform techniques against an unresisting partner; coaches produce athletes who not only excel in technique, but also in winning tactics and strategy in the stress of combat.
This fact is almost totally misunderstood in Judo. As an example, the USJA Coach Certification Program, which I started in 1980, has actually become a Teaching Certification Program, run by teachers most of who have never coached or produced a champion in their lives. The final ridiculous outcome of this situation is the absurd fact that unless coaches pass a program run by these “certified” teachers who are non-coaches, they cannot coach their own players on the floor of the national championships!
The coach who does not understand all the aspects of Judo tactics and strategy will not be outstanding. Not only excellent technique is required of champions. They most also be highly qualified in the application of the tactics and strategy of winning, and the coach must show them how to do this.
Among the American and European 9th and 10th Degrees, none has a coaching record, as far as I know, which can approach that of Phil Porter. Over a 31 year period he produced over 1,000 junior and senior national and international medallists. I have seen his computerized list of the 500 national and international medallists he produced at the National Judo Institute in just eight years, from 1984 to 1992. Of the two American and three European 9th and 10th degrees we have mentioned, he stands out as the most successful of all. There were years when Porter's NJI team not only took first place as a team in the US Senior Nationals, but even won as many as 18 medals, more than the six next best teams behind his team put together.
T.P. Leggett also produced many champions in England, as did Geesink in Holland. One should also mention Willy Cahill in this regard. Along with Porter, Cahill has produced many hundreds of champions, both junior and senior. There was a time when Cahill's team won the US Junior Nationals (of any organization, you name it) team championship for several years in a row. As in the case of Thornton in refereeing, his coaching record alone is sufficient to gain him 9th Dan promotion in Judo.
Third, Organizational Leadership
The USMA requirement is: To be qualified in this category, the candidate must have been chairman or president of at least one national or international Judo organization. To have held a position as a director of an international Judo organization also qualifies a candidate in this category. This includes such positions as director of development, director of training, or director of refereeing of a continental or world Judo organization.
This is a category where several of our highest ranked Judoists have excelled, while others have not entered this arena at all. As Anton Geesink was probably worth 10th Degree from his contest record alone, Charles Palmer might have been promoted to 10th Degree, on his leadership record alone. Palmer not only served as the second president of the International Judo Federation, he was also, for several years, the Chairman of the British Olympic Association, the Olympic governing body for all Olympic sports in Great Britain. George Harris too served for years as the president of the US Judo Association, and was present at its founding in 1954.
Philip Porter has excelled in the organizational leadership area. While he was Chairman of the National AAU Judo Committee, he rewrote the constitution and bylaws of the Pan American Judo Union in 1963 and served as both PJU secretary general and technical director over the next several years. He also served as Chairman of the US Olympic Judo Committee for several years. Following that he became president of the US Judo Association in 1980, taking that organization from a net worth of $35,000 to $1,500,000 and building the beautiful National Judo Institute over the next 15 years. Now in his 80th year, Porter has founded and is running the US Martial Arts Association. The USMA now has nearly 6,000 registered members in 633 different Martial Arts in over 1,200 clubs throughout the country and world.
A major part of leadership is the willingness to break old patterns to achieve progress. Nothing illustrates this better than the fight throughout the world to free each country from the Judo rank domination of Japan. The Europeans, particularly the French, were the first to do this, long before Porter lead the movement in America. Porter was instrumental in founding the Armed Forces Judo Association (under its former name, the SAC Judo Society) in 1954. In 1969, he convinced the AFJA Board that the organization should be a national organization in its own right, not part of the old Japanese Judo organization. This meant that the AFJA would not only change its name to the US Judo Association (USJA) but could no longer get its ranks from Japan by mail order from the Kodokan. This was a very controversial and difficult course to take at the time, but this step broke a big barrier to the progress of true American Judo.
Then again, in 1988, Porter, as President of the USJA, pushed through the promotion of George Harris to 8th Degree. This was the first 8th Degree made in American without getting permission from Japan. Again, it was a very difficult and controversial action. At that time, everyone in American Judo was afraid of being independent of Japanese rank domination. Porter insisted that it was our right to award ranks as we chose, and the promotion was made, breaking another barrier to Judo progress.
Incidentally, an old friend of Judo, Dr. Gibbs Dibrell, who has recently passed away, was visiting in Japan at the time this first American 8th Degree promotion (for George Harris) was made. He showed the announcement to Isao Inokuma, World and Olympic Gold Medalist in Judo. O-Sensei Porter has in his possession the hand written message by Inokuma Sensei written right on the top of the announcement, which was dated May 1, 1988. The note says; “July 4th, 1988, Day of Independence of Judo in USA. Congratulations!! Isao Inokuma.” The note is dated July 5, 1988 by Inokuma.
Thus, when we speak of American Judo, as distinct from Japanese Judo, we are thinking of this long struggle to free ourselves from foreign domination. This is what other leaders mean when they say that Porter is the Father of American Judo. The affectionate title does not mean that Porter was the first American Judo leader, far from it. It means that Porter was the primary leader who fought to make American Judo truly free and American.
Fourth, Refereeing and Understanding the Rules of Competition
The USMA requirement is: To be qualified in this category, the candidate must have refereed in the Pan American Games, World Championships, or Olympics, or have served in an official refereeing capacity, such as chief of referees, or a member of the arbitration committee, in these events.
All of the high ranking leaders we have discussed have had some experience in this area, and two of them are especially noted for their efforts. When the first Olympics were held in Tokyo there were no written rules for Judo. Phil Porter, who was then Chairman of the U.S. governing body for Judi, the AAU Judo Committee, was a member of the four person Consultative Committee of Referees for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, made a special effort to obtain a copy of the Judo rules, even in J apanese. He was told that the rules of Judo reside in the minds of the top Japanese referees and are not written down! This caused such a stir that the Japanese, after the Olympics, made an effort get them written down. They were eventually translated into English by George Uchida, one of the first Americans to be internationally certified as a referee. Then in 1965, when the World Championships were held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, both George Harris and Phil Porter refereed, using the new rules. Porter was called upon to referee the finals in the heavyweight division between Geesink and Matsunaga, the Japanese champion. Porter also refereed the match between Geesink and the then All Japan Champion, Sakaguchi. Charles Palmer was also a fine international referee, who worked in the 1965 World Championships.
In 1967 Porter, knowing how muddled the International Judo Federation (IJF) competition rules were, rewrote the entire rule book, discussed the changes with Charles Palmer both at the 1967 Pan American Games at Winnipeg, and the World Championships in Salt Lake. Because Palmer was then President of the IJF, his help was important in getting these changes approved at the IJF meeting in Salt Lake.
Porter then went on to train referees throughout the country for the next 15 years, and refereed the finals in the World CISM Games (the Military Olympics) in Austria in 1971. He also wrote the commentary on the rules used by the USJA for many years.
While on the subject of refereeing, one should mention Fletcher Thornton. Thornton is undoubtedly the finest referee yet produced by the Unites States. His handling of several finals in both the Olympics and World Championships was outstanding. This achievement alone deserves 9th Dan promotion in Judo, in the opinion of many of our experienced leaders.
We should also mention Kenneth Kuniyuki, who refereed the open division finals in the first Olympics in Tokyo between Geesink and Kaminaga. To our knowledge, Kuniyuki Sensei was not promoted to 9th Degree in Judo before his death. This is an unfortunate injustice which, one hopes, will someday be corrected.
Fifth, Teaching Judo
The USMA requirement is: To be qualified in this category, the candidate must have a record of actively teaching Judo in a club, or in running Judo seminars, for a period of at least 40 years. In the area of teaching Judo seminars, the candidate must have taught at least 200 seminars outside his club at camps and other locations during that 40 year period.
How does one measure the excellence of a Judo teacher? One method certainly is the number of students he is able to attract, either to his club, or to seminars which he conducts. The production of champions is not considered here. Rather, for teaching excellence, two major factors are essential. First is a deep understanding of how and why the techniques work in the first place, and second is the ability to clearly transmit that knowledge to others.
All of the leaders we have discussed in this essay have been outstanding teachers. Phil Porter, has recounted to us many times the wonderful teaching ability of T. P. Leggett. Porter studied under Leggett for four years in the Budokwai in London, 1954-1958.
George Harris is a magnificent teacher. In fact, he has devoted his life for 40 years, since the first Olympics, to teaching young students, especially at his summer camp in New York. Anton Geesink has run seminars all over the world for many years. Phil Porter has undoubtedly run more seminars in the United States and around the world than any other American. When he was 78, in the fall of 2002, Porter ran a fall seminar tour for 90 consecutive days. He also conducted summer seminars in Germany that year, as well as a spring tour and the yearly USMA International Training Camp in St. Louis. His teaching schedule continues unabated. Each year at our International Training Camp I ask every camper, without signing his or her ballot, to designate the finest instructor at camp. Porter is always the top selection, with the exception of one year when the great teacher of Aikido, Walther Von Krenner, was voted number one. We don't know how many seminars Porter has run in his 61 years in the Martial Arts, but it is probably upwards of 3,000 or 4,000. This is why his students and friends everywhere call him “Teacher of Teachers,” or “O-Sensei.” It is this record that counts. Porter is simply the most experienced Martial Arts teacher in America.
Sixth, Creative Contributions to Judo
The USMA requirement is: This requirement is fundamental to the growth and development of Judo because Judo advancement comes principally from the efforts of the few creative leaders to generate new ideas and theories about Judo, and who also create the audio visual materials to pass those ideas along to others. To be qualified in this category, the candidate must have written and published at least one original book or video in the technical area of Judo. This may also include the creation of video and DVD teaching materials.
This area is fundamental to the growth and development of the Martial Arts. Unlike physics, where the theoretical physicists are well known and the experimental geniuses are virtually unknown, there are very few theoretical Martial Artists. This whole area is so unknown and so important that I shall go to considerable length to discuss it.
Probably Geoffrey Gleeson is the finest creative thinker ever known in Judo. His outstanding books, “Judo For The West,” and “The Anatomy of Judo,” are classics in the field. These masterworks easily qualify Gleeson for the rank of 9th Degree in Judo.
Although writing creative essays and books and creating films or videos about Judo are an important part of creative contributions, there are several other ways to make creative contributions to Judo. Many creative teachers in Judo develop their theories and teach them in their classes and seminars, but do not write them down. Thus, when they pass away, their genius is lost to the world.
In general there are three ways the theoretical inventions of Judo teachers are recorded for the future:
(1) Books, (2) Videos or films, and (3) Essays or monographs on individual aspects of the theory of Judo.
Trevor Leggett was outstanding in this area. His books and essays on Judo technique are still as fresh and important today as they were 40 or 50 years ago when they were written. Anton Geesink too is an important author. His book, “Judo in Evolution,” is an important contribution.
I believe that the books, videos and essays written by Phil Porter are one of the most massive contributions to Judo ever made. Porter is sometimes called The Father of American Judo. One reason is because time and again, Judo coaches are using his methods, perhaps without even knowing that the ideas originated with Porter. He wrote the basic rank systems for American Judo, which have been published in at least 200,000 copies over the past 32 years since they were first published. His two five volume video series, “The 65 Throws of Kodokan Judo,” and “The Counters of Judo,” are classic best sellers still going strong after 30,000 copies have been made. His two books published in 1972, “Judo >From the Beginning,” and “Championship Judo Drill Training,” are collector's items, and it is our hope that he will republish them.
In the area of creative essays, I am happy to say that O-Sensei Porter has just completed a set of essays outlining his creative contributions to Judo, and also made a series of DVDs which will be available soon.
Seventh, Devotion to Judo
The USMA requirement is: To be qualified in this category, a candidate must have practiced Judo continuously for at least 40 years for 9th Degree, and 50 years for 10th Degree. Devotion is a word difficult to define, but known to all. We mentioned earlier that some fine Judo champions and leaders lives in Judo are more or less a flash in the pan. They are not “Stayers.” They do not have what is called, in a horse, “Bottom.” I am reminded in this regard of a quotation from James A. Michener's “The Eagle and the Raven,” a study of the life of Andrew Jackson. In talking about leaders of that time, Michener said, “All four men lost many battles as good men will, and all gained immortal victories as persistent men do.” Some of the great leaders of Judo we have listed have experienced great reverses, but all have kept on struggling without letup.
I believe all of the leaders we have discussed here, Palmer, Geesink, Gleeson, Leggett, Harris and Porter, have exemplified this devotion. For example, it is now 61 years since Porter started Martial Arts training, beginning in boxing in the US Army in 1943 and starting Judo 53 years ago in 1951 at Travis AFB, California. During that time, fighting, teaching, and learning for him have never stopped, and continue even today.
A Note On Japanese Promotion Procedures
We know very little about the criteria used to promote Japanese Judo leaders to 9th and 10th Degree. A veteran of hard training in the 1950s in Japan, Martin Eder, once asked Kyuzo Mifune, 10th Degree, how a person gets to be promoted to that rank. Mifune answered that the person should have added something new to the theory of Judo. Mifune himself was famous for his analogy of the way a beach ball reacts when pushed, and this was apparently considered to be an important theoretical contribution to the theory of Judo.
O-Sensei Porter has told us many stories about his teacher of 30 years, Sumiyuki Kotani, the last of the Japanese 10th Dans, who died October 19, 1991. Kotani's teaching ability was outstanding. His kindness, compassion, and sense of humo were a source of great joy to his students. He was a personal student of Dr. Kano, the founder of Judo, and traveled with him on several trips to Europe and elsewhere. Japan has promoted 12 leaders to 10th Dan (13 if we count Dr. Jigoro Kano), and there are about 30 living 9th Dans. Kotani Sensei was certainly one of the greatest of the Japanese 10th Degrees.
Below I have listed the names of the Judo leaders whom we have discussed in this monograph (in alphabetical order). I have then personally rated them on a scale of one to ten in the seven criteria we have covered (I fully expect others will rate them differently, this is only a suggested guide). I suggest that you make your own ratings to determine for yourself whom you feel is qualified for promotion to 9th and 10th Dan in Judo.
I feel very strongly that this analysis proves quite clearly that all of these five leaders are well qualified to hold 9th and 10th Dan in Judo. I know of no others in America who can even approach their excellence in these criteria. If you have facts which I have not mentioned, please by all means let me hear from you. Mail your comments to the address at the top of this monograph.
Comparative Ratings of American and European 9th and 10th Degrees
||Leadership In Judo
||Refereeing & Rules
||Devotion to Judo
List of Japanese 10th Dans in Judo, in order of their promotion date.
Yamashita, Yoshitugu (1865-1935) Promoted 10th Dan 1935
Isogai, Hajime (1871-1947) Promoted 10th Dan 1937
Nagaoka, Hidekazu (1876-1952) Promoted 10th Dan 1937
Mifune, Kyuzo (1883-1965) Promoted 10th Dan 1945
Iizuka, Kunisaburo (1875-1958) Promoted 10th Dan 1946
Samura, Kaichiro (1880-1964) Promoted 10th Dan 1948
Tabata, Shotaro (1884-1950) Promoted 10th Dan 1948
Okano, Kotaro (1885-1967) Promoted 10th Dan 1967
Shoriki, Matsutaro (1885-1969) Promoted 10th Dan 1969
Nakano, Shozo (1888-1977) Promoted 10th Dan 1977
Kurihara, Tamio (1896-1979) Promoted 10th Dan 1979
Kotani, Sumiyuki (1903-1991) Promoted 10th Dan 1984
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USMA Requirements for Promotion to 9th And 10th Degree in Judo
The following requirements for promotion to 9th and 10th Degree in Judo are hereby approved by the USMA Board of Governors, effective December 23, 2003.
Seven categories of requirements are listed below. It is required that candidates be qualified in at least four of these categories to be promoted to 9th Degree, and in at least five of the categories to be promoted to 10th Degree in Judo. All candidates must be qualified in the first category: The competitive record.
These requirements are very rigorous. The Board of Governors of the United States Martial Arts Association has purposely set these requirements very high with the intent that only a few very highly qualified persons will ever be promoted to 9th and 10th Degree in Judo. The intent is not to lower the requirements so that more candidates will be qualified, but rather to insure that only truly exceptional Judoists will be qualified for these ranks.
In the past, the requirements for promotion to 9th and 10th Degree in Judo and other Martial Arts have been shrouded in mystery. This is in keeping with the Oriental culture from which Judo emerged. However, it is unacceptable for the American culture. Because there are no specific requirements written down for promotion to these high ranks, promotions to 9th and even 10th Degree have become very common in some Martial Arts. The decision of the Board of Governors is that persons who are undoubtedly fine Martial Artists, but who have in no way distinguished themselves as national or international leaders should not be promoted to 9th and 10th Degree in Judo, no matter how many high degrees have been granted in other Martial Arts. Further explanations of these requirements will be prepared and published by the Director of Operations and the Founder of the USMA.
The seven categories are:
First, the Competitive Record of the Candidate
To be qualified in this category, the candidate must have a long record of Judo competition. The competitive record must cover a period of at least ten years and one hundred tournaments, including state, regional and national competition. For both 9th and 10th Degree, the candidate must have placed in one or more senior national championships. In addition, winning or placing in national and world masters competition is desirable but not required.
Second, the Coaching Record of the Candidate
To be qualified in this category, the candidate must have produced, by coaching in his or her own club, at least 100 junior or senior national or international medallists in Judo.
Third, Organizational Leadership
To be qualified in this category, the candidate must have been chairman or president of at least one national or international Judo organization. To have held a position as a director of an international Judo organization also qualifies a candidate in this category. This includes such positions as director of development, director of training, or director of refereeing of a continental or world Judo organization..
Fourth, Refereeing and Understanding the Rules of Competition
To be qualified in this category, the candidate must have refereed in the Pan American Games, World Championships, or Olympics, or have served in an official refereeing capacity, such as chief of referees, or a member of the arbitration committee, in these events.
Fifth, Teaching Judo
To be qualified in this category, the candidate must have a record of actively teaching Judo in a club, or in running Judo seminars, for a period of at least 40 years. In the area of teaching Judo seminars, the candidate must have taught at least 200 seminars outside his club at camps and other locations during that 40 year period.
Sixth, Creative Contributions to Judo
This requirement is fundamental to the growth and development of Judo because Judo advancement comes principally from the efforts of the few creative leaders to generate new ideas and theories about Judo, and who also create the audio visual materials to pass those ideas along to others. To be qualified in this category, the candidate must have written and published at least one original book or video in the technical area of Judo. This may also include the creation of video and DVD teaching materials.
Seventh, Devotion to Judo
To be qualified in this category, a candidate must have practiced Judo continuously for at least 40 years for 9th Degree, and 50 years for 10th Degree. Persons who wish to be considered for promotion to 9th and 10th Degree in Judo should submit their proof of qualification in these categories to the USMA National Office for consideration by the Board of Governors.