The ranking system in the Bujinkan often receives criticism and it has been an area of discussion and controversy.

Regardless of the thinking or the reality, many put value and emphasis on rank.  However, when it comes down to it what does it really mean or matter to us or to Soke?

Soke said a recent training session that you should know your own rank as well as know your own limitations and expertise as well.

You should know what your rank is and therefore what your responsibilities are and ultimately what you represent.  You should train at a pace that is suitable for you.

So, I’m going to make a risky assumption here and say that rank in the BK has nothing to do with skill.  Skill based rank is limited and may well be the point of confusion.

Other martial arts that I have trained in, assign rank according to skill, how many techniques you know, how solid your form is etc.

Most of the leaders outside of Budo that I have had the honor to be around, have risen up the “ranks” of leadership on the basis of responsibility, ethical prowess, and pure ability to inspire and motivate people.  Honestly, these people are not always the most skillful people in the group, but have the innate ability to lead and get the job done.

Imagine the warrior on the battlefield who does not have the best skills or marksmanship, but has the guts to advance, lead people and obtain targets.  What takes this warrior places is not the skills, but the guts and the confidence to get the job done.

I truly believe that the above example is the closer to Soke’s intention when he gives rank.  It is not skill based. However, having rank is a responsibility that drives us to train harder to live up to our level.  Similar to the story that Soke told me about what he did when he was given the Sokeship from Takamatsu sensei. The only way to be worthy of his title was to train, train, train.

Soke also said at the recent DKMS that people are not perfect, and that it is immature to look through eyes that expect perfection.  What you see, most of the time, is not the truth.  So, if ones jumps to conclusions and takes action based on what is seen, it will most likely be the wrong action.  You need to use all your senses to perceive and therefore avoid taking action that can lead you astray.

It is my humble opinion, but I truly believe that when we obtain rank in the Bujinkan that it is not based on skill, but ability to be an ethical, just, diplomatic, and a leader who can do good for the world.

Skills can be developed through training, if you keep going.

 There is nothing more valuable than experience, and the only way to gain that is by living.