Dear Fellow Buyu,
Recent events that have take place in America, and the aftermath of those events have compelled me to post regarding the rumors and hearsay being spread. This is in regards to the two godan tests administered in the United States under the auspices of Ed Martin, Bujinkan Shihan. The rumor, which died down after the first test, and has been resurrected after the second, is that certain Bujinkan Shihan can test practitioners for godan outside of Japan, without Soke being present or even Soke's consent.
To stop the hearsay and the rumors – this notion is patently false. Full stop. End of story.
Soke addressed this in Japan at the 2004 Tai Kai. The only people, other than Soke, who are allowed to give the godan test must do so with Soke's permission and in his presence. No one is allowed to give the test without Soke's permission, and not outside of Japan.
I do not think this was included in the Tai Kai DVD, because Soke does not like to make absolute statements regarding sensitive Bujinkan matters on video or on messages boards. He makes announcements via jikiden – direct transmission, or man-to-man communication. This infuriates many, but the Bujinkan is not structured like other organizations. Also, for those people who feel that the Bujinkan dojo is not democratic, then your feeling is correct! Soke is the only person in charge of the Bujinkan. It has never been a democracy, and what Soke says and does is not up for debate. If Soke prefers to communicate man-to-man, than that is his prerogative and not for us to question.
We may or may not like certain things within the organization, however we must, as good students, abide by Soke's wishes. If someone disagrees very strongly with how things are conducted, than leave. No one is stopping you. You have that choice. The budo will continue on with or without you.
As anyone who knows Soke is aware, he strongly dislikes the internet. It can be a useful tool to form new relationships and works to develop and maintain networks between various dojo and practitioners. However, as Soke has stated on numerous occasions, the internet can pose many dangers and always asks use to think about what we decide to put out there. Posting on the internet is tantamount to making a public speech, and you will be judged on it - no matter how skilled or unskilled, affable or rude you may be in person. Hearsay, accusations, and false rumors can be distributed at an instant, and once out there, are very hard to correct. This is one of the primary dangers Soke warns us about.
To specifically address the nature of the two tests given by Mr. Martin outside of Japan, I would like to address the rumors and hearsay and end it. Some people know who I am, my position and role in the Bujinkan organization, and my relationship with Mr. Martin and the two individuals taking the test. Mr. Martin has a long, deep, and abiding relationship with the two practitioners who took the test. I do not. Therefore I am free of any notion of inferred bias for or against these two men. I have no stake in whether or not they passed or failed. Moreover, I have witnessed and judged hundreds of godan tests, and have been allowed to train in giving the test, which allows me some insight as to whether or not these individuals would pass or fail. With that being said, I would like to address the facts about what has taken place, and once and for all eliminate any rumors that are going around.
The fact is that Mr. Martin had secured permission from Soke to administer the test to these practitioners at least one year ago. This year (2004) at the Tai Kai, after Soke made the announcement that all godan tests given by the Shihan must be done in his presence and in Japan, Mr. Martin verified that he was still allowed to give the test to these two men (and these two men only in this case) in the US with full approval and encouragement of Soke. I also verified this fact with Soke due to my concern that Soke may have reversed his earlier decision. Therefore, these two tests were fully sanctioned by Soke.
For the record, there have been other, very rare circumstances of foreign Shihan being allowed to give the test outside of Japan and not being in Soke's presence. I will not discuss the nature of those tests, but the fact is that those tests also had the full approval of Soke as well.
In the case of Mr. Martin's test, I was not present for the first test given, so cannot comment on how he did. However, there were three shidoshi level instructors present, and the practitioner taking the test passed according to them. The second test was administered at my dojo during a seminar conducted by Ed Martin and myself, with me and other yudansha acting as witnesses. I can say that in my experience with the godan testing, this individual definitely passed, and I will testify to that if his test is ever questioned.
Many practitioners in the Bujinkan dojo may or may not like these rare tests, or agree with them – and its fine to have that opinion. But it is of paramount importance that no matter what our personal opinions of Mr. Martin, the two men who took the test, the circumstances under which the test was give, or even the mere fact of the test being given at all by a foreign Shihan outside Japan, it does not change the fact that these tests were administered with the full approval and encouragement of Soke, and therefore are not up for review by any of us – mudansha, shidoshiho, shidoshi, or Bujinkan Shihan alike. If you have a problem with anything, then I would suggest following Soke's advice and speak to him personally, man-to-man. If you need his contact information, please feel free to contact me.
My students and fellow buyu that know me know that I am not an avid internet poster, so to avoid anymore rumors or hearsay that may have circulated, or that may arise from this article, please feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com should there be any questions or concerns regarding these recent events.
Bujinkan Dojo Happo Biken Menkyo Shihan
Dojocho – Jigoku Dojo