For Those Who Missed It the First Time
Lineage – Whys, Wherefores, and So What!
Hanshi Stephen F. Kaufman
Author of world’s best-selling version of Musashi’s Book of Five Rings for over 25 years.
The recent uproar on the various sites and pages has shown that a big uprising about someone’s lineage has become the subject matter of choice. While this does bear merit in many instances, take what Musashi purportedly said. “It should be understood that without the assistance of a teacher many roads become open to a practitioner, some the correct path, and some the incorrect path.” Having been in the arts and having practiced for more than sixty years has given me a broad overview of so-called legitimacy. Some would agree with me and others might be adamant in their view.
Lineage does not always represent the highest ideal for a person to go out into the world. To proclaim themselves masters of this or that simply suggests having studied with so and so, and supposedly knows the wherewithal of a particular system or style. That, and nothing else. It is for the individual to proceed along a given path of their own choosing, which in the final analysis is indicative of their devotion to something and the manner in which they have pursued a specific regimen of learning. Studying with a particular teacher does not guarantee ability. For the most part, a certificate or diploma is a piece of paper that tells of someone’s participation in a school or a system. As well, it does not denote proficiency especially with all of the honorariums randomly tossed about. We all know about many black belt mills that sell credentials, readily available for foisting on an unsuspecting public along with the idiotic titles accompanying such nonsense. This is nothing new, and make note that the origination of this mediocrity did not first occur in the US. It began way back when, especially given the reality that money was often the ruling force in the matter.
Add to that the incredulous lack of self-esteem a weak ego would use to prevail. What many people don’t understand now and didn’t understand then is that it takes years to be able to function adequately on any level regardless of art or style and not to overlook a 10th dan that one can readily buy. This includes the incredible amount of masters, grand masters, kyoshi, hanshi, supreme grand masters, great grandmasters, and others who would presume to denigrate those of esteemed accomplishment, and who like to think of themselves as godfathers. Completely ludicrous and meaningless in light of the fact that the vast majority of these titleholders have done nothing of value to the enhancement of the art forms, though they have lined their pockets based on the naiveté of others.
To quote Musashi again, “The ‘way’ is not for everyone. It takes an exceptional person to arrive at the level of their own perfection without the approval of or assistance of someone.” It takes extreme patience, fortitude, perseverance and the frustration of standing alone and living through all of the self-doubt, fear, and confusion, not to forget mentioning the idiotic remarks of those who are and will always maintain their position as wannabees and losers.
I am not concerned with lineage. I have studied many fighting forms and styles since the 1950’s until I evolved into my own Hebi-Ryu budo, which is mine and mine alone, and it works for me, based on the teachings of Musashi and common sense. It comes down to a simple point of fact. Once you have truly come to understand what it is that you have essentially pissed away your life on, you also come to realize the meaninglessness of rank and title.
Incidentally, you address me as sensei. You have to earn the right to call me Hanshi.
For more info on Hanshi Stephen Kaufman, visit www.hanshi.com