Over the last few years, I have been blessed with numerous opportunities to travel the country and share my art. I've been able to network with some of the biggest names in the martial arts community, and have been asked to share my reviews and critiques as a "subject matter expert" on several projects by published authors. I'm truly grateful for every opportunity afforded to me, and I'd like to think the respect that I've earned is due to how I carry myself both on and off the mat.
But here's the kicker. Those same people wouldn't blink an eye at an Asian instructor with half of the experience claiming the same or even more. If my last name was Nakamura, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. For whatever reason, Westerners have this self-inflicted inferiority complex towards our Asian counterparts in what is considered possible and legitimate. We have a mystique about the Asian culture that clouds our judgement and leads us to revere those who really aren't that different from us.
- Kano Jigoro (1860-1938) - four years of prior training before earning Menkyo in 2 different styles (one being Menkyo Kaiden) and opening the Kodokan at age 22
- Okamoto Seigo (1925-2015) - reached 7th Dan after only 11 years of training, and four years later established the Daito Ryu Roppokai
- Shimabukuro Eizo (1925-2017) - promoted to 10th Dan at age 34 by the All Japan Karate-Do Federation
- Ji Han Jae (1936--) - three years of prior training before creating Sung Moo Kwan Hapkido at age 21
- Song Yong Ki - two years of prior training before creating Han Moo Kwan Hapkido at age 17
- Mas Oyama (1923-1994) - seven years of prior training before opening Oyama Dojo, teaching what would later be known as Kyokushin, at age 30
- Miyagi Chojun (1883-1953) - twenty years of prior training before opening his dojo, teaching what would later be known as Goju Ryu, at age 29
- Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645) - self taught swordsman, created Niten Ichi-Ryu at age 15
- Bruce Lee (1940-1973) - three years of training before teaching Jun Fan Gung Fu (literally "Bruce Lee's Kung Fu") at age 19, renamed to Jeet Kune Do at age 27
- Hwang Kee (1914-2002) - undocumented prior training, opened the Moo Duk Kwan at age 31
- Hatsumi Masaaki (1931--) - fifteen years of prior training before earning Menkyo Kaiden (highest license attainable) in 9 different styles and founding the Bujinkan at age 41
- Peter Urban (1934-2004) - two-to-three years of formal training before opening his own dojo at age 25, officially broke away from Yamaguchi and created USA Goju at age 30
- Adriano Emperado (1926-2009) - from ages 21-23, began development of what would be known as Kajukenbo along with 4 other practitioners, established the Kajukenbo Institute at age 24
- Victor "Sonny" Gascon (1933-2013) - left Kajukenbo and established Karazempo Go Shinjutsu at age 28 after only 15 years of experience
- James Mitose (1916-1981) - created Kosho Ryu Kempo at age 19 after an obscure training history he claimed was 14 years. Retired from teaching at age 37
- Nagamine Shoshin (1907-1997) - created Matsubayashi Ryu after only nineteen years of training, age 40
- Carlos Gracie (1902-1994) - eight years of prior training before opening the first Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy at age 23 (though started teaching on his own at 17, with only three years of training)
This campaign of ignorance and internet bullying is a dark mark on the legacy of the honorable martial arts we all owe our training to, and it has to stop. First, it serves no purpose. It does nothing to further the martial arts community and is just a waste of internet ink, as no one has ever stopped teaching or training because a slanderous article was written about them. And most importantly, pieces of paper that most can't read mean absolutely nothing in the real world, and any certification can be disputed by another practitioner. Certifications are only as valuable as the respect you have for the person signing it, and it's not up to you to declare if someone else's certifications hold any weight. The only way to truly know if someone is legitimate is to step on the floor and train. More often than not, both parties will come away with a better understanding of each other and some mutual respect. That is what Budo is truly about! Everything else is cowardice...