I’ve written several posts in the past about the fractionalization of a martial arts style when students leave their masters and go form their own style. My thinking on the subject was sparked again by a discussion I had with some friends a few weeks ago. We were talking about black belt inflation, which is where some styles have gone to actually award ranks higher than 10th dan!
There are a few examples of this, but the most well-known is Bujinkan, founded by Hatsumi Masaaki. For those who haven’t heard of him or his style, his martial arts lineage is generally considered to be the only legitimate instruction of ninjutsu in the entire world. He is generally a very well-respected person and martial artist, and has many schools scattered across the globe. Some interesting notes: 1) He actually is a doctor with a degree in medicine from Meiji University, so it is not pretentious of him to refer to himself as ‘Doctor’. 2) In April 2001 he received the Apostolic blessing from Pope John Paul II, which makes him the first ‘Holy Ninja’! (Does that mean he can use holy water bombs in addition to smoke grenades? I think I see a plot for a new ninja/zombie flick!)
Anyway, if you look at the list of his senior students, you will quickly notice that many are above 10th dan, with the highest being 15th dan! That’s a 50% inflation rate on dan ranks, which is the highest I know of.
But back to my original subject, which was splintering of martial arts organizations. One of Hatsumi-sensei’s more well-known students is Stephen Hayes, who has his dojo in Ohio. According to this discussion in the forum on Bujinkan’s website, Stephen Hayes has been formally removed from affiliation with Bujinkan. I don’t know any details except for what’s mentioned in the forum discussion, so you can read it for yourself if you care to.
Why does this sort of thing happen? I speculated before with Oyata-sensei’s students that it may be because he is known to be short-tempered and a little hard to get along with. Still though, Ueshiba Morihei (aka O-sensei), the founder of Aikido, had several students leave to found their own styles even during his lifetime, and he didn’t particularly have a reputation of being hard to get along with. My speculation is that prominent martial artists often leave their former organization and found their own for economic/business reasons. These people have dedicated the better part of their lives to their art, and as such their dojo becomes their primary source of income. Therefore after you have founded your own dojo (or several dojo’s), why would you want to send a large percentage of your student’s dues to the main dojo? You’re the one teaching your students, and furthermore you depend upon the money from your students to support yourself and your family. If I were in a similar situation, I don’t know that I would do any different.
In some comments on my earlier post, Allen Amor and Sharon Hayakawa, both long-time students and friends of both Oyata-sensei and Shintaku-sensei, better explained why Shintaku-sensei left Oyata-sensei’s Ryute and founded his own style. I think an economic interpretation is valid there too.
This kind of fractionalization of martial arts is unfortunate in my opinion, but it also seems to be inevitable. When the practice and teaching of any art or skill, martial arts included, becomes the livelihood and primary income of an individual, the business and economics cannot be ignored or factored out of the equation. I think that’s a major point that I was missing before when I talked about Albert Giraldi-sensei and Shiro Shintaku-sensei.
As for myself, I enjoy martial arts very much, but it will never be more than a hobby for me. I have neither the time, discipline, nor disposition to dedicate my life to its study, and certainly not to make it my primary source of income. I’m more than happy just to work as an engineer.