This article continues to explore the question “What does a ‘Dan’ REALLY Mean?”. While from style to style there is no one easy answer, and even in same schools within the same martial arts system this fact persists, individual small systems may be analyzed in regards to this fact. This article aims to explore the meaning behind Dan ranks 6-10 in the Nemuru system of karate.
The previous article went right up through and to mastery, the Fifth Dan. While this level is critically important to understand, and it can often be seen as the penultimate point of the martial arts journey (since very few people make it past this point), there is more to do, more to learn, more to teach, and more to develop. This is evidenced by the fact that there are a total of 10 Dans in the Nemuru karate system. This will be challenging, and primarily based upon conjecture, as at this point there is only one individual in this system that has passed the point of 5th Dan – Grandmaster Paul Munchbach. Despite this, from knowing the man and being involved in this system, educated opinions may be made in regards to these highly advanced ranks of the martial arts:
The Sixth Dan –
I remember returning home from the Army and Grandmaster Munchbach had his Sixth Dan in Nemuru as well as Third Dans in both Japanese Jujitsu and Judo. This was a shock to me since 6 years earlier he had only one rank of mastery, a Third Dan in Nemuru. I remember taking time to speak to him in regards to this, and I found that he was placed into two different black belt halls of fame – the Universal Hall of Fame and… another one (sorry, Grandmaster!). This resulted in an increase in rank in systems that were tightly tied to Nemuru, and immediate promotion to young master level in both of those systems.
While I do not believe that being in the Black Belt Hall of Fame is necessary to acquire a Sixth Dan, the fact is that it becomes obvious that being well versed, even to the point of mastery, in more than one system is required. In essence, Grandmaster Munchbach’s experience has set a precedent for acquiring ranks beyond the Fifth Dan in Nemuru:
Acquire Black Belts in at least two other martial arts systems and implement their principles into the art of Nemuru to begin to shape it as your own in addition to the other “soft” requirements to become a Fifth Dan.
Overall, while the idea of what must be done is simple, achieving this is not, and this will often take significant amounts of time at a Fifth Dan rank, or significant time spent at ranks that are below Fifth Dan while continuing to pursue mastery of multiple systems.
The Seventh Dan –
This rank is another one that was never truly explained in any capacity – one day Grandmaster Munchbach showed up to class and told me he was a Seventh Dan. I just shrugged and congratulated him, and after the class ended I tried to figure out what had actually changed to afford another upgrade, as I had not noticed any major changes, he had not going to a recent competition or demonstration. This is where he and I began to discuss a general requirement in advancement of Dan ranks – generally, you need as many years in training at the black belt rank you have (i.e. – 2 years as a Second Dan to make Third Dan), but this can be altered for a number of reasons, some of which being total time as a black belt. Seeing as he had been a black belt for what I seem to recall was almost 25 years at that point, this advancement made sense, especially with the fact that a couple years ago he had been quickly jumped up to his Sixth Dan. In short, it appears that the requirements for the Seventh Dan vs that of the Sixth Dan are not any more stringent, it is simply time being involved in the arts, continuing to teach, and continuing to do what is right by the martial arts community. The basic rule appears simple; NEVER stop teaching, NEVER stop learning.
The Eighth Dan –
Grandmaster Munchbach’s Eight Dan occurred while I was off on my own running a Mixed Martial Arts Academy (I DO NOT recommend running a for-profit school… I will explain this later), so I was not certain of how that occurred. I remember when I ceased business operations and returned to teach with him and I noticed he had his Eighth Dan. I congratulated him and he shrugged. It seemed to be the same situation as acquiring the previous rank of Seventh Dan, simple time in the arts, time in the rank, accomplishments and achievements, promotion of students, and the never-ending pursuit of the betterment of oneself through practice and learning. This is the first rank that is considered to be awardable only by “council recommendation”.
The Ninth Dan –
This is where things can become tricky – research into multiple karate sanctioning bodies indicate that a Ninth Dan is awarded by “council recommendation”, as with the Eight Dan. All of the requirements for time in service are still considered as for every other Dan rank, but there is one more requirement that is often presented (and is sometimes required for the Eight Dan) is a dissertation on technique and training presented by the Master Instructor who intends to be appointed to his or her Ninth Dan. This is a true demonstration of a lifetime commitment to the martial arts, and is essentially the equivalent of having a doctorate in martial arts practices.
The Tenth Dan –
The level of Grandmastery, the Tenth Dan is seldom awarded except for in cases where it is deemed absolutely necessary. Those who achieve this level of mastery are generally appointed either by:
Passing along of the Entire Martial Arts System (Direct Lineage)
Style Creation Advancement
In short, acquiring a Tenth Dan is a tremendous undertaking, and there is generally only one per style and lineage. Again, all of the previous requirements hold sway in most cases (though not all in this instance), and an additional dissertation is often required. However, there are serious noted problems with the Tenth Dan, easily noted in the article The Road to 10th Dan.
In short, the last 5 Dan ranks are much hard to acquire than the first five, and they don’t seem to mean as much in the grand scheme since this is a smaller system of karate than many others that do exist. However, working towards each of this ranks is an endeavor that is worth pursuing, and the lifetime commitment towards the intended achievement of Tenth Dan is notable, and is a strong reflection of character, honor, integrity, and courage.
As always, train hard, respect others, and become what you are mean to become!