Achieving Rank and Proficiency with the WKKJO
Do you ever feel as though you are constantly being judged or evaluated in life? We all make choices (and take actions) based on our personal values, experience (environment), and capacity (genetic disposition). So who has the right to judge another without knowing the road that person has travelled? The bottom line is: everyone has the right to judge us (whether we like it, or not). We are all weighed and measured by others every day of our lives, and this judgement is based on how we receive and treat others around us. That is not to say that any judgement pre-conceived by others is necessarily accurate, but we will be judged nonetheless, and this judgement leads to how we will be treated by our peers in society.
Martial arts provides standards (e.g., Bushido and Chivalry) where people are taught to uphold codes of conduct that were established for the betterment of society. Living life honorably, and nurturing respect for one’s self and others is at the top of this list, and these are universal guiding principles in life - whether it be in ancient times of the Samurai/Knight, or in modern times of our complex, online, society. These values of honour and respect lead to acceptance and tolerance of the views of others regardless of age, gender, race, or sexual orientation. It assumes a responsibility to strive for diplomacy while knowing you have the self-control to end any negotiations as peacefully as you can.
This concept carries over into how we practice martial arts, respect the benefits of the many different arts around us, and judge our progression up the ladder of proficiency - in other words, how we mix many arts together (while maintaining respect and distinction for each art), and create a progressive ranking system that allows us to judge our proficiency, and the proficiency of others around us. Truly mixed martial arts incorporate this value of respect and demonstrate appreciation for specific martial arts by incorporating skills from many authentic and traditional martial arts (Boxing, Wrestling, Karate, Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu, Judo, etc.).
For example, MMA enthusiasts are more knowledgeable and understanding of the fact that Karate fighters, Kickboxers, or western Boxers (arts that focus on striking) don’t like to go to the ground because ground fighting is not the focus of these specific arts. Similarly, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu focuses on ground fighting and striking skills are marginalized when training in traditional BJJ. However, this seperate focus on refining techniques does not mean that the grappling arts cannot lend a wealth of knowledge and experience to the practitioner of the striking arts (and vice versa). Focused study on each separate art is certainly necessary in order to develop proficiency, but the key to success (as proven many times in the MMA cages of modern combat sports) is to appropriately mix the arts, so that your abilities to transition from feet to floor is seamless and natural.
At the WKKJO and SMAA our goal and training programs pull these many arts together under the umbrella of true MMA, and we rank people in tandem for both striking and grappling arts to allow students to better understand how the ranking system of one art compare to the ranking system of another. Understanding progression (i.e., judgement) of proficiency in each art in tandem allows the student to become a true Mixed Martial Artist, while preserving the integrity of each individual martial art. By immersing oneself in our unified training programs, students come to completely understand applications in striking, grappling, and ground work. This effort is designed to cultivate true MMA skills in tandem with one another. It also provides for an extremely rich, dynamic training regimen that truly cultivates the mind and body over time. Adaptation is the key to pushing your development in an environment that is safe, respectable, and education-oriented.
Based on this concept of unified “tandem” progression of striking/grappling arts, SMAA has adopted a unique belting/ranking system that joins the arts more appropriately for MMA progression up the ladder of proficiency. I developed the WKKJO Belt System ™ after more than 40 years of martial arts training and more than 26 years of operating a martial arts club in London, Ontario, Canada. I have trained with many great budo-ka and fighters over the years (Seikichi Odo, Royce Gracie, Mazi Heydary, David Hassin, Dennis Lane, etc…) who all had various views of how martial arts should be practiced and propagated - both from a classical/traditional martial arts perspective, and from the perspective of modern Combat Sports.
My teachings through the WKKJO and SMAA are borne out of my beliefs and values as they have been shaped by many experiences over time, and through many influences from other martial artists I have encountered along my journey. I believe it is a disservice to the public and students who aspire to learn martial arts by telling them that one way is the only way. This is too simplistic and narrow in my view of the world today. Diverse methods, ingenuity, and creativity come from an appreciation of many martial arts, not just one. This is the founding principal - the guidepost for SMAA, and the basis for development of our unique program. All arts are respected, and none are shunned in favor of the “ultimate” martial art.
Robert Trias is often considered the “father” of Karate and its propogation in the U.S. and North America during the later half of the 20th century. When his students would ask him his views on the “ultimate” style or system of Karate, his response was simple - there is no “ultimate” Karate. There is only “good” Karate and “bad” Karate, but nobody can claim to have the “ultimate” Karate. His point is very simple, in that the person defines the style (not the other way around), and different styles work differently for each individual practitioner - and we should all embrace what others have to offer. A practitioner’s individual skills, proficiencies, and natural abilities will all be shaped by different body-structures, different natural talents, and different experiences in their progression through life - nobody can claim that one art is “ultimate” for everybody, because we are all different and we have different talents (and needs).
At SMAA we embrace this principle that no art is the “ultimate” martial art, and we strive to pull together many devotions into a practical course of study. SMAA also embraces a simple, but thoughtful belt system summarized below that I created to assist students and others in understanding what is necessary to achieve various ranks in both fields of knowledge through the WKKJO and SMAA. I have also created criteria for each rank so that requirements are transparent for students and instructors. This is not a tandem progression system that is written in stone, but it serves as a general guide that compares the ranking/proficiency of the arts, and provides a general progression for the student who work hard in each devoted area of study. The curriculum is shared through charts on the walls in the gym and slide shows that are projected onto a screen for specific classes. This model is at the forefront of teaching methods in Martial Arts. Some of my Senior students have already expressed gratitude for my efforts to provide transparency.
WKKJO Belt System: