I have tried to studiously avoid contentious or political posts since starting this blog, but there is one glaring anomaly in the shogo system that i feel is worth airing.
Most of you know that in addition to the kyu and dan system of grading, there are three shogo grades – Renshi, Kyoshi and Hanshi. These are said to be a measure of suitability as a kendo role model rather than the technical ability measured by kyu or dan. There is however a correlation and currently 6th dans are elligible for Renshi, 7th for Kyoshi and 8th after some considerable time for Hanshi.
Like many aspects of kendo this has changed several times over the years. I believe originally, as with Naginata, the grades went only to 5th dan and the shogo were a measure of further development. Later it was possible to gain Renshi at 5th dan, Kyoshi at 6th and in rare cases, Hanshi at 7th. Originally these shogo were granted on recommendation by the relevant prefectural or country association and confirmed after examination of each candidates kendo cv by the ZNKR.
Several years ago the method of qualification was changed. Hanshi is still awarded by recommendation and election, but Renshi and Kyoshi are gained by submitting a written thesis. So far so good! Where in my view things become a little unfair is that the Renshi paper must be submitted in English or Japanese, which is hard on folk who’s first language is neither. Worse still, (for me at least), is that the Kyoshi paper can only be submitted in written Japanese, which is pretty daunting even if you speak the language. The ideal candidate for Kyoshi is therefore a native speaker with the benefit of a Japanese university education.
This then starts to give us a two tier, (maybe three tier system) 1, Japanese 7th dan Kyoshi, 2, Foreign 7th dan who were awarded Kyoshi before the change of rules and 3, Foreign 7th dan Renshi. The dissadvantages for the latter group are not just that they will perpetually be lower in the pecking order than their Japanese writing counterparts, but confined to the Renshi group in the Kyoto Taikai and other danbetsu events.
There were discussions some time back, coming from the German Kendo Federation about establishing a European Kyoshi qualification, but to me, this sounds divisive and just a way of highlighting an “us and them” scenario. Having gone through the stringent ZNKR and FIK dan examinations it seems unfair to have to drop out of the system at the shogo stage.