On 17th October, 2005 I was unexpectedly awarded 4th degree black belt after spending 4 days with Master White, 8th Degree of Molum Combat Arts.
The first question asked is what did I have to do for the grading, as most, like myself are indoctrinated into the test date scenario that is usual with martial arts, where you do your time, learn your stuff, pay your fee and if you have a good day, pass and are promoted. The test usually lasts between 2 to 5 hours and this is the basic way modern gradings work and this is fine and usual. However, as I did not go to the US to be graded, didn't expect to be graded nor did I request it, the real answer to the question of what I had to do for my 4th degree promotion was simply: be myself!
However, this is the fact that makes it a unique promotion. Before anyone puts 2 and 2 togethor and come up with 8, here is what I did physically or tangiably to earn the promotion:
Tested over 4 days straight and I mean 24/7 (or in this case 24/4)
During which time I performed my grade patterns and many applications and techniques from other ITF patterns.
Taught a seminar to both Taekwon-do (with ranks from white belt to 4th degree) and Jeet Kune Do students in front of 4th to 8th degrees with them participating as well - after an 8 hour flight to DC
Sparred 8 rounds of continuous stand up sparring one after the next
Fought 6 rounds of ground fighting one after the other
Broke with a high section twisting kick (behind me at shoulder height)
Performed a jumping reverse turning kick to a board on top of my own girlfriends head
And a reverse knife hand strike through three boards
- all one after the other with no pauses.
I had in-depth discussions on the applications of Taekwon-do techniques, its history and traditions to the small hours of each morning
Presented a thesis that was 170 A4 size pages long!
All the while not actually knowing that I was being tested, which in the end was actually the biggest test of all, as it was a test of my character as well as knowledge and physical attributes.
On presentation of the rank award, Mr Melton, 4th degree and Chief Instructor of Virginia Martial Arts School and our host for the week, as well as technical advisor on any Taekwon-do matters unknown to Master White, read out a letter that accompanied the certificate of rank promotion, which said the following:
Dear Mr. Anslow,
It was very nice to see you and Gill at Mr. Melton's this past weekend. After reviewing
your teaching methods, watching your competition standards, and visually observing your
conduct for the past 4 days. I think that you should be promoted. I know that you are well
past the time to get this, and I know that you want to test. Tests come in various types,
and this one is based on experience. I have seen many martial artists in my time and you
are above the norm for your rank and experience. Therefore, by the authority vested in me
as the Director of the Molum Combat Arts Association I hereby promote you to 4th Degree
Black Belt in the Molum Combat Arts Association, with all rights and privileges pertaining
thereto. This is not an Honorary Degree as I know how you feel towards such promotions.
This is not a gift, but a true representation of your skills. You may decline it, but that will
not change my opinion of what I saw this past week. You owe me nothing but your
friendship. You have honor, strength and integrity. This above all else will stand out in
my mind. Congratulations from the Old Man.
8th Dan MLKFS
7th Dan Keisatsu Jujitsu
Mr Anslows Promotion To 4th Degree
17th October 2005, Virginia, USA
Mr Anslows Promotion To 4th Degree
17th October 2005, Virginia, USA
Temporay 4th Degree Certificate
As I mentioned above, having been indoctrinated into the test date scenario that is usual with martial arts
gradings, I was at first not going to accept this promotion. In fact, had I not met Master White in the flesh, I may
not have done so.
The reason being is that I guess I am choosy to a high degree about who grades me. I am not bothered what
anyone else thinks of who has examined me, but personally for me I need to know they are quality and
preferably first hand and that their expectations and needs for giving a promotions are high and are simply not a
paid commodity for a signature.
With this promotion it was pointed out to me that instead of the usual 4 to 5 hour dan gradings, I had actually been tested over 4 days and not just on technical merit but character as well.
I spent a night sleeping on it and thinking it over, as I had seen Master White perform and his martial knowledge and background credentials are extremely high and it was all this that went part way to my acceptance.
For the record, Master White is an 8th degree black belt who started his martial arts training whilst in the military at the age of 17. Though he has had Karate, Taekwon-do and Kung-Fu experience during his training career he has formulated a system to teach police and corrections officers a practical self-defence system they could use within their force continuum, known as Keisatsu Jujutsu. Master White retired from military service in 1995 after a 23 year career, though continues to teach Self Defence to military personnel. Master White is also a certified Police Defense Tactics Instructor, and he is an authorized training provider for the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board. In short, he is a serving Police Officer, who as well as active duty, trains and teaches other police and jail officers in martial arts, as well as military personnel.
After hearing of the promotion, I chatted to both Mr Melton and Gill about it and they pointed out that it wasn't as if I didn't know my grade stuff as I had been practising it now for over 5 years, and last graded in 2000 so technically I was fine and normally it was just a matter of paying the grading fee and performing on the day without errors (as per the norm), which is the usual standard.
However, it was Master Whites kind words that encouraged me to accept it finally; as I lay there that night, it reminded me of a Mas Oyama story from years back about a guy who wanted to grade under this legend and travelled to Japan to train and do so. After some years training, he asked if he could grade, as he was more than technically ready.. but because he had asked, Master Oyama held him back for 2 years, stating his character wasn't ready, even though his skill was.
For me, the legend of Master White (so to speak) was seeing his technique and knowledge first hand for myself and not only that, but feeling it as we exchanged knowledge and blows over the 4 days we spent together - Mr Melton agreed with me about Master Whites skill levels and his credentials more than verify this. It sunk in that night how honoured I felt to be recognised in this way, having not asked or requested to grade under Master White, but still being recognised for the skills I have learnt, the knowledge I have accumulated and teach and above all my own character, it made this grade special and unique, like a grading of old some way, perhaps the way all grades should be!
Over the 4 days, Master White saw my patterns (forms), complete as a whole and broken down within our many (physical) discussions, he saw me break with high section twisting kick, reverse knife hand (3 boards) and jump reverse turning kick (over Gills head) without a pause between any of the techniques (ie. one after the other), he saw me teach (at the seminar) and taught me, I sparred with him and others, plus he saw lots of other things, but most of all I think he saw beneath the surface and this is what makes the promotion so special.
Not that Im a bad person or anything, but all my previous gradings have been totally skill based and earned that way, so to me, this grading is unique and special as it took into account more than that (but not as a substitute for skill levels or knowledge).
I am honoured that I was promoted by skill, knowledge and character, by someone I truly hold in high regard and respect (and thats not offered lightly by me). Master White I also call Tim, Tim is my friend, but I wasnt graded on friendship, no back slapping, as he knew I wouldn't accept a promotion that way and I appreciate what he said about the promotion to enforce this. I graded for 3rd degree in March, 2000 and have been practising my stuff for that level since then and am happy to verify I know and can perform what is appropriate to my grade should it ever be questioned. As a note, Master White asked for no money for this promotion, so I didn't buy it either, he had nothing to gain by promoting me as even without it, I would still write what I feel about him as I saw and felt it first hand.
I went to the USA to meet and train with friends and that was enough for me. The promotion was an unexpected surprise and thus a bonus and though I'm pleased that it has happened, if it hadn't, I would have been none the wiser and still thought the same of both Masters White and Melton and hoped they feel the same of me.
Following my acceptance of the grade, Master White put a public notice on the IAOMAS forum saying:
After 4 long and crucial days with Mr. Stuart Anslow.
I do hereby promote Stuart Anslow, Rayner's Lane TKD, to the Rank of 4th Dan under the MLCASDS, thereby affiliating his non traditional side with my organization.
Affective Date of Promotion: October 17, 2005.
Stuart has accepted the promotion.
I have seen many martial artist in my time. However, I know talent when I see it. The respect shown to me by Dave and Stuart was above reproach. I couldn't have been honored any better. I watched Stuart perform in the tourney. He looked good even though he was a little nervous. After many conversations with Stuart and Dave. I knew that Stuart was much more knowledgeable than I had expected. In fact he far exceeded my expectations of him. Stuart is a man of great character. I was impressed on how we got along. Usually I am the hardest guy to know. I was relaxed around him and I didn't feel any ego's sprouting about. That in itself was great. Stuart didn't brag or boast of anything, and he was easy to talk to. I found this refreshing. Character is what the martial arts is about. I used to ask the question, where does your character stand under pressure. Many of those who replied were always up front about it. Stuart was up front about everything. Gill as well. I should thank them for lunch at Harry's Bar and Grill where I got to meet the former Director of the FBI. Louis Freeh.
Needless to say on my way home on the plane. I had this flash. Stuart was being reluctant on the topic of promotion, he made a statement that he could do the promotion almost anytime (as he knew what is required), but he wanted to choose who tested him. He didn't realize that I was testing him every chance I got. It made my final decision worth it.
Character was the key ingredient. The tournament attitude, the instruction he gave were all above the norm. I think it was worth putting my name on the line for that. Since our 4th Dan is all based on teaching.
So now, after 5 and a half years I have been promoted to 4th degree in what with afterthought, I would consider a grading type of rarity in this day and age.
Stuart Anslow IV
Further Note from Master White - placed after reviewing the above text for correctness
Just for everyones information. I too went to Virginia with no expectations of promoting anyone. That was the last thing on my mind. But, I am always in a state of evaluation and examination. This just happened. I thought it was the right thing to do at the right time. My visual pictures of Stuart Anslow remind me of a younger day, when I would train and train and train. I was excited to meet this man with a vision. Yes, I like the traditional testing methods. However, I like other methods as well.
Just to give you some insight on my plane ride home.
I was sitting on the plane reading my new book MY FBI, and I was thinking how lucky I was to have that autographed copy in my possession. I was thinking of the luncheon Stuart, Gill and I were having at the time.
Then all of the sudden I was thinking of all the conversations I had with Stuart and Dave. Then I was reflecting on the seminars, then I was reflecting on the tournament, and then the thesis, 170 pages worth by Stuart.
Then it hit me. There are not too many 3rd degree black belts that know what Stuart knows. They go to class, the pay their fees and take skills tests. I was thinking how could I ever keep this thought process in my mind. So, I made a laundry list of things that I had seen and done over the past four days I was with Stuart and company.
So, at the end of the laundry list it hit me. This information and training was too valuable to let go, and the person who supplied it was doing everything I would ask of any Black Belt to be promoted. Yes, Stuart and I had a very short conversation on promotion, but it lasted about 2 min and it was over. The thought never crossed my mind until I was coming home.
Then, I too remembered a story like the one Stuart mentioned. I wanted to offer Stuart something more than a 5 hour test, and a nine page essay on being who is was. He had done it already, and it didn't even hit till I was in the air. So, I came home and made a decision. I will offer the promotion