Levels and Titles
Takenouchi-Hangan-Ryu-Matsuno-Crandall School of Iaido
Titles and Ranking System
A style exists as a concept, fluid and mobile. Much like a day would pass with the sun coming up and setting whether we had clocks or not. The clock or time devices allow us to organize the gift of the day or time itself for a better use and indirectly a better appreciation of the invisible importance of time itself. A style is a group of thoughts, beliefs and physical moves that together allow a participant to strengthen their self-confidence, their life, and physically respond to challenges that may occur. As the style would be time so the school is the clock.
The role of the school is to take this fluid concept called a style and structure it so that others can learn and grow from it without hindering the style’s many purposes and beauty. The analogy I sometimes use is that of the style being water. A gallon of water is just mobile and fluid, and therefore lays spread out on the floor. It is obtainable by individuals who see it, but it is in such disorder that no one gets it all nor is it pure, clean or complete. The school is the container that holds the water so that it is fully obtainable. But by doing so the container creates restrictions on how it is obtainable, which would now be through the opening at the top. Although the water is now obtainable it has an order of what water comes first and what water comes last. The water on the top is the first to pour out and as it is consumed the water on the bottom becomes the last water consumed. Much like a one gallon container with a cap on top to open and close as you use it. Here if the style is the water and the school the container, then the school sets the guidelines for obtaining this gallon (style) of water. The school has guidelines in its design to allow each individual to learn all that there is and to do it so that each individual grows fully and benefits from all they chose to drink from the school. The style (water) is kept clean or pure in its form and can benefit all that choose to take the cap off the container (school) and follow the process which will allow them the style (water).
My instructor Headmaster Matsuno had three levels for students. They were Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. His belief was that these terms allowed you to know where you stood in your quest for knowledge, nothing else, for ranking is only an obstacle in the way of true knowledge. With that thought a person could be at the level of Intermediate for 4 or 5 years because the joy was in the journey not in moving to the level of Advanced. I was brought up this way and believe it is good and that it works. I also realize that in our world today that slowing down to appreciate the beauty of a style is hard for people to do or to understand. Today individuals do not just desire personal achievement or personal satisfaction but rather they need methods to know they are growing and that others can recognize that they are learning. Much like the need of a child who wants to see the pencil mark on the wall to know they are growing. Has this come from technology or the fast pace of work and daily life? I do not know, but it does exist and needs to be addressed. As a result I have added Advanced Beginner and Advanced Intermediate to the structure of our ranking. I have kept the title of Kyoshi as an Instructor with the certificate of Master as late Headmaster Matsuno did for me, which allowed Headmaster Matsuno to have me teach his style in other countries while he was still alive and living in Japan. This moved Hanshi to the worlds more common title for style leaders known as Headmasters, which goes along with the traditional concept of Master Instructor.
The traditions of a style must be maintained, yet there must also be room for small steps of growth. This growth prevents stagnation and allows a healthy expansion and sharing with new generations of students. As Headmaster Tsuneyoshi Matsuno did for myself and all of his students, so too I hope to do for my students. The following is the ranking system for the sword style of Takenouchi-Hangan-Ryu-Matsuno-Crandall.
Beginner No designation on right shoulder. Use bokuto/bokken for at least one year, may purchase a metal sword when promoted to an Advanced Beginner. This sword may not be live.
Advanced Beginner No designation on right shoulder. Use a non-live metal sword. This promotion requires fundamental knowledge of katas, terms, history and knowing the oath.
Intermediate Denoted by one black stripe on the right shoulder. Students are promoted to intermediate rank by a verbal, written, and skill performance test.
Advanced Intermediate No change in uniform or number of stripes. Students are allowed to use live swords.
Advanced Denoted by additional black stripe on the right shoulder (now there would be two stripes in total). Students are promoted to Advanced by verbal, written, and skill performance test. They also must have participated in at least one public performance for the school.
Tashi Noted by Tashi patch on right shoulder. Expert Student (can be taken out of ranks and assist in running the class if a Renshi or higher is also present). There is a verbal, written and skill performance test and they must have participated in at least two public performances for the school.
Renshi Noted by Renshi patch on right shoulder. Polished Expert (Assistant Instructor). With this rank the student receives an Instructor certificate. There is a verbal, written, and skill performance test. Student receives a certificate of rank and title. Student has performed for school in public more than four times over the years. (And must previously be a Tashi for a minimum of at least two years)
Kyoshi Noted by Kyoshi patch on right shoulder. Teacher Grade (Instructor). With this rank the student receives a status of Master Instructor and a teaching Master certificate. Student has taught classes many times and has contributed to the history of the school. (And must previously be a Renshi for a minimum of at least two years.)
Hanshi Noted by Black Gi Top and Black Hakama. The head of the school and referred to as Headmaster (Master Teacher or Instructor) The chosen heir of the style by the previous Headmaster and the individual responsible for the style direction and future.