Now as these connections grow, we begin to see another phenomenon: cross certification. What most people consider as cross certification is simply trading rank. Johnny has master rank in one style, Bobby has master rank in another style, and the two award each other black belt rank in their various styles to pad their resume. I think we can all agree this is simply bullshit. Rank itself serves only as recognition of one's progress according to the requirements of the system/organization, so receiving rank in something you have never studied is beyond pointless, not to mention outright fraudulent.
So what makes this rapid progression possible? The truth is that martial arts are not as different as people may lead you to believe. All martial arts are built around using the body in the most efficient manner to execute physical combative techniques against another human being. While there are absolutely stylistic differences, often times an adaptation made by the founder of a particular style to best suit their personal body type and not necessarily meant as a one-size-fits-all mechanic, there are only so many ways to move your body in such a way as to inflict pain or damage to another person. Styles themselves are all just variations of the same physical movements. If we stop looking at "techniques" and start understanding principles of movement, every style has the capacity to encompass any technique. A Taekwondo axe kick is a Judo outer reap, a punch is a throat grab, etc. This is clearly demonstrated when you begin the process of bunkai and oyo (analysis and application). Quite frankly, they're not moves, just movements. How we apply those movements is shaped by our stylistic understanding, but when we strip away the confines of our style and start to connect the dots of basic human movement, you start to see more similarities than differences. In fact, at that level, the differences between arts really amount to strategies and tactics versus technical descriptions.
Take Oyama Masutatsu for example. In just seven years of martial arts training, he was able to earn high ranking in Shotokan, Goju Ryu and Judo, not to mention a Menkyo from Yoshida Kotaro, the man who introduced Ueshiba Morihei to Takeda Sokaku, in Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu... All by the age of 30! Now, we can say that he was just an extraordinary martial artist, which he definitely was above the norm and I don't mean to take away anything from his accomplishments, or we can stop putting our Asian counterparts on a superhuman pedestal and admit that once you have a strong foundation, learning other styles just isn't that hard. I highly doubt he started at white belt, and worked his way up through every kyu and dan rank with commonly accepted time-in-grade (actually the fact it took him a total of just seven years proves he didn't). The other option is to say that Funakoshi, Yamaguchi, Yoshida and the Kodokan all sold him his rank and he was a fraud. How'd that work out for the bull?
- If you paid anything for testing or registration fees, they'll say it was bought and not earned
- If it was free, they'll say it was so worthless that the instructor couldn't even charge you for it
- If you earned it faster than normal, they'll say people are just giving rank away
- If you earned it slower than others, they'll say you're an incompetent student
- If you only trained in one art, you're closed minded and inexperienced
- If you train in multiple arts, you have no loyalty or patience
- If your certificate is from your instructor, they'll say it's just a club rank and holds no weight
- If your certificate is from an organization, they'll say it's not the same as earned rank
- To clarify this point, let's look at Kukkiwon. Unless you fly to Korea to test at the Kukkiwon, you do not actually earn your rank through the Kukkiwon. You earn your rank from your instructor, and for a fee the Kukkiwon will send you a certificate recognizing that. But that's not buying a certificate...
If you really want to know if someone is a competent martial artist, go and train with them! All of the trappings and spiritual connotations aside, let's not forget that martial arts training is a physical endeavor built around skills of war and combat. How can we judge someone as a martial artist, without experiencing their physical application of those skills? At the end of the day, someone's rank, title or license is none of anyone's concern. Titles and licenses only exist to establish one's authority in the heirarchy of the system, and rank is simply an acknowledgement between student and teacher of progress made and requirements met. Someone's rank, title or license in a different organization or style from you really has no bearing whatsoever for you. A 5th Dan in Shotokan doesn't outrank a 4th Dan in Goju Ryu. But that being said, if what someone is wearing bothers you so much, go take it off them!