I will probably upset many people with this post but I think that it is time to speak up.
I have enjoyed my martial arts training and have benefited greatly from it. I have grown personally and professionally. I have also had the awesome opportunity to work with the wonderful people who have been and are my students. I plan to continue for a LONG time as there is a lot yet to learn.
Now, on to the topic…
If you have a Black Belt rank in a martial art, you do NOT have a degree. The term “Dan” means step, not degree. It is intended to illustrate that you have taken the step toward becoming a serious student. The term used for a 1st Dan rank is Shodan (Japanese) or Chodan (Korean) and they mean “First Step”.
Now this is an important item because the schools that use “college” or “university” in their names actually aren’t academic institutions. What this means is that they have adopted those words as part of their names but are not recognized by an office of higher education. While I may have missed one, the only institutions that are recognized as being able to grant academic degrees are Minnesota International University, Bridgeport University and Amerstate University. “Degrees” from any other martial arts college or university means that your have earned rank with them, period.
For example, the state of Minnesota’s Office of Higher Education states
“Degree-Granting Institutional Registration is required for most postsecondary institutions that are:
** private institutions or
** out-of-state public institutions or
** grant degrees exclusively at the associate level or above or
** use the terms “academy,” “college,” “institute,” or “university” in their names.”
In addition, they must meet the minimum requirements for credit offerings with 120 credit hours for a Bachelor’s degree. Among those credits are courses in a variety of educational fields including humanities and sciences.
I have checked on several of these martial arts colleges and universities as part of my desire to move past the fitness stigma that has developed. I had hoped to find one that was “real” but only found schools using the term as a marketing point. These may be quality schools but they are not academics. I had really hoped there was one because I had no idea how to create one nor did I want to re-invent the wheel.
Why do I think this is important?
1) It is because the martial arts is viewed as nothing more than a portion of the fitness industry. The is evident in the job postings found (like this one from Lifetime Fitness) that require only a high school diploma/ GED and 6-12 months experience. This is also seen in how many martial arts schools have Zumba or kettlebell or cardio-kickboxing classes to fill hours with paying students.
2) Then again, the sport attitude of many commercial schools dilute the true benefits of the martial arts. This has schools selling the benefits of training by presenting how many tournaments they’ve competed in and how many trophies they’ve won. This version seems to lean toward selling contracts.
That’s enough for this time. I won’t start on wondering why schools rarely list who they trained with and who awarded their ranks. You’d figure if they had earned university degree, they’d have it posted to help establish their credibility.
Author: Master Robert Frankovich
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