MENKYO KAIDEN AND SOKE – AN OVERVIEW
Beforehand, I would very much want to do away with the misconception that in order to become Menkyo Kaiden holder or even Soke, one needs to be of certain age or have studied the martial arts for over 50 years. This age requirement associated with tittles or ranks was an invention of the Japanese in an effort to maintain their sovereignty over as to who gets what and sageguard their worldwide legacy.
All through Japanese history, most Soke and Menkyo Kaiden holder were around the age of 16 to early 20s, sometimes younger. Life expectancy was very short especially during the war times. It is important not to be so critical nowadays, of some of these new masters and Soke with the exception of grandmasters. Let us no get so hang-up on titles but on the quality and the virtues of a man’s deeds.
Menkyo Kaiden is a Japanese term meaning “license of total transmission”. It is a certificate that is granted by the Ryu, or other organization meaning that the recipient has learned everything that the organization or Ryu can teach, and is licensed to pass on all aspects of its training.
In the order Menkyo system of licenses and certificates that predates the more prevalent Kyu/Dan system of colored belts created by Jigoro Kano’s teacher but propagated by Kano in the 19th century for Kodokan Judo. The Menkyo Kaiden is typically the highest level of license that exists, and it often, but not always, the de facto successor to the Soke of the Ryu. The Menkyo Kaiden is no longer exclusive to the Japanese or organization. Some schools that use the dan system retain the Menkyo Kaiden as a method of denoting a successor to the head of the school.
Soke: is a Japanese title that means “Headmaster or inheritor” (or sometimes translated as “head of the family” or even “Grandmaster”, the latter usage is a common Western misconception). It can mean one who is the leader of any school or the master of a style, but it is commonly used as the highest level Japanese martial arts title, referring to the singular leader of a school or a martial arts Ryu. This tittle was mostly held independently of rank level but mostly based on experience or trusted as a position of honor to avoid the prolifiration/desimination/finito of a Ryuha.
A Soke is often the inheritor of a Ryu or martial tradition and not necessarily the founder of that Ryu. The Soke is ultimate authority within their Ryu and have all final discretion and authority regarding promotion, curriculum, doctrine, and disciplinary actions. A Soke has all authority to issue a Menkyo Kaiden certificate indicating that a practitioner has mastered all aspects of his Ryu; and can also issue a Sokeship to another master not within the same Ryu. There can only be one Soke per Ryu.
Yet a further observation, is that a Ryuha or family line is exquisite and unique on its own right it is not a system or someone’s interpretation of the same. It is not a photo copy of the same thing someone else is doing with some additonal steps. The formulation of a system (not the same as Ryuha or line), especially when that system looks like a million others out there, does not entitle you to affix the title of Soke.
I personally take pride in the trusted positions of servitue vested upon me; for they are a testament of my worldly deeds and sacrifices; however, they DO NOT define me.
ONLY A SMALL MIND JUDGES ANOTHER BASED ON APPERANCES INSTEAD OF CONTENT – AWAKEN AND LIVE RIGHTOUSLY!