Comparing Baseball to Martial Arts by KJN Ronald Stone
The other day I was invited to a baseball game. I was led to believe it was a major league event but was a little surprised when upon entering the stadium I noticed that the usual baseball diamond was now round.
The players all ran onto the field wearing football style helmets instead of traditional caps. Not having been to a game in a long time I wondered if it was a new rule to protect the players against injury.
It was also interesting to note that all the players wore World Series rings even though I didn’t recognize any of them.
Eventually the first batter walked up to the plate holding his bat upside down, and the pitcher thew an underhand lob which resulted in a hit. I was more than a little surprised to see the batter then run clockwise towards what would otherwise have been third base.
Having played baseball since childhood from Continental league to Little League, thru Pony League and High School ball, I turned to my friend and asked why this was called baseball. He explained that the head of the two team “league” created what he called a modernized style, and that he still considered it Major league baseball since it had officially been sanctioned by a former coach who had retired from the Baltimore Orioles.
My friend also explained to me that even if you never picked up a ball in your life or studied the rules, for a small fee you could be designated an official player in that league, complete with website and certificate of acceptance.
I must say it was fun watching these well-conditioned athletes compete, but wondered how they would do against a real baseball team. I guess I’ll never know because MLB and its commissioner don’t recognize it, even despite that letter from the old Baltimore Oriole’s coach.
While I realize that some may have a little difficulty understanding this whole situation, I suspect that many of my martial arts colleagues will grasp it immediately since such things are relatively commonplace in the West.
For example, today it is not uncommon to find martial arts schools which issue master level uniforms to white belts and hang school certificates on the wall signed by single individuals, even if such certificates are not recognized by the country of origin of their art.
Many are not aware, for example, that a Kwan (Ryu) is not sanctioned by one single individual no matter how high his or her rank may be. A Kwan is certified by an established Federation comprised of several well established kwans. Another misconception is that a grandmaster can certify another grandmaster and issue a fellow grandmaster rank certificate.
Actually, grandmaster rank is issued by a panel of several other grandmasters and certified by a federation such as the Korean Marial Arts Instructors Association. In Japan for example, receiving, let us say, an eighth dan from the Kodokan does not grant one the right to issue new Kodokan certificates and rank to others without their review and acceptance of the nominee.
Also, true martial artists know that combining a few Judo techniques with some Taekwondo and a little Hapkido does not mean that a whole new style has been created. A legitimate new Kwan is reviewed and tested by a group of Federation heads to determine if there is enough of a difference to become an established style of that federation. Otherwise, it’s just baseball in a football helmet.
As mentioned in previous articles, an instructor can use rank as they see fit in their own school, but once outside of that school illegitimate rank is the martial arts version of stolen valor. One might ask why such things matter. Well, imagine being on trial for your life only to find out your defense attorney never actually went to law school, but rather got a certification letter from a former law school professor, and that such letter would not be recognized by the bar association. How about going in for chest surgery and finding out your doctor learned by monkey see monkey do, and never graduated from any legitimate medical school. How would you feel? Also ask yourself how all those generations of doctors who did the actual work and study, and took the time and expense to put themselves through school would feel about such an individual?
As was once said by a fellow grandmaster, knowing how to scuba dive and shoot a rifle doesn’t make you a Navy SEAL.
As to the argument that all these arts had to start sometime so how about creating another now, I would remind you that there has been evolution and development of the traditional arts for centuries, and that merely creating something new, while not impossible, is highly improbable and usually highly arrogant.
About the author: R.W. Stone is currently a practicing veterinarian in Central Florida. He is an avid horseman, a master ranked martial artist, a best-selling western author, and a firearms enthusiast. After joining a martial arts school in 1970 Stone started studying Yudo with a Korean grandmaster. He eventually became a member of the Judo team of the University of Illinois. It was at the University that a Korean classmate and friend introduced him to Tae Kwon do. After graduating veterinary college, he found the martial arts becoming too sports oriented and eventually after moving from Miami to Central Florida he sought out a Hapkido grandmaster. Currently Stone is ranked 8th dan in Haemukwan Hapkido, 4th dan in Daehan Yudo and a second dan in Kukki Taekwondo. He is Hapkido Master Instructor at the American Dragon Martial Arts Academies.
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