“Dan rankings – A sequel: Aiki News Editor’s ideas on rank certificates put in practice after 23 years” by Lorenzo Trainelli

Shumeikai Italia is an Aikido association founded a few years ago in order to gather under a common roof a number of independent dojos whose common characteristic is the adoption of Tamura Nobuyoshi Shihan’s model as a general orientation in their practice. Its name reflects this orientation, being inspired by that of Tamura Sensei’s dojo “Shumeikan” in Bras (Provence, France). While taking care of the group identity, the association supports a project towards a possible unification of the Aikido environment in Italy and has been instrumental in establishing an Aikido body, AI – Aikido Italia, that comprises four independent organizations to date.

Among some innovative actions that have been taken, Shumeikai Italia adopted the suggestions published in Aiki News #69 editorial “Dan rankings” (November 1985) concerning dan certificates. Aiki News editor Stan Pranin envisaged the design of a new type of dan certificate containing supplementary information, in order to prevent abuses and sloppy behavior in rank awarding.

Therefore, as a means to guarantee and display the integrity of its dan ranking awarding system, Shumeikai Italia is currently issuing three different kinds of dan certificates:

· Technical rank certificate, awarded by the Technical Committee upon technical examination;
· Acknowledged technical rank certificate, in recognition of a rank that has been previously awarded by another association (acknowledged after appropriate scrutiny by the Technical Committee);
· Honorary rank certificate, awarded in recognition of non-technical merits in support of the Art and/or the association.

The text printed on each certificate clearly states to which category it pertains. Furthermore, both “technical” types include a “verso,” where the holder’s complete ranking history clearly appears. This personal history includes all previously conferred ranks, both technical and honorary, from any group or federation, that have been appropriately authenticated. Relevant data such as rank, issuing organization, issuing date and certificate number are reported.

This represents just a signal, hoping to leave a mark in a world that greatly suffers from lack of integrity in rankings. Stan Pranin’s editorial was mainly concerned with big organizations and with Japan in mind; however, the problems brought to the reader’s attention (such as abnormal ranking pace, artificially built-up careers, lack of transparency in personal ranking history as well as in rank awarding systems) are frequent, if not commonplace, in many countries. Italy’s highly fragmented Aikido environment is but one example, and Shumeikai Italia is proud to act as a test rig for these innovative – albeit 23-years old – ideas!

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