Friday, November 15, 2013

A letter that left me speechless

It wasn’t all that long ago that I posted on why I didn’t want to be a 10th dan. Although my feelings haven’t changed about being qualified, I was persuaded to reconsider. Part was my age and the uncertainty that comes with it. Another was a letter I received last week from an organization and man I greatly respect, Shihan Patrick Hickey, President, USA Karate Federation. I certainly don't feel worthy but, as I said, greatly respect those who awarded it. (I've turned down several similar offers in the past - all from people and organizations who knew nothing about me except what they read.) I have trained with these highly skilled men and the USAKF, which for many years was the official National Governing Body for karate in the USA under the US Olympic Committee. They know me and we have trained together many times, over many years. Hanshi George Anderson, who founded the USAKF, was a great mentor to me as well as a close friend. I not only learned a huge, huge amount from him but he also opened many doors for me around the world, allowing me to train with almost anyone I could name. I equally admire Hanshi Koeppel. He has been a legend for as long as I can remember. So to be placed among these two giants of the martial arts makes me feel very uncomfortable.

Neither Facebook nor Blogger will allow PDF files to be posted. So I can’t include the actual letter I received from Shihan Hickey. But the following is what it said:


The Premier Federation for Karate in the United States of America
Historic Founding Member, World Karate Federation & Pan American Karate Federation


Patrick M. Hickey, President

Roger Jarrett, Secretary General

John Linebarger, Vice President

Robert Burns, Esq, Treasurer


Hanshi Jim Mather
United States National Karate Association
C/O California Karate Academy
1560 DeAnza Blvd.
San Jose, California 95129

November 1, 2013

Dear Hanshi Mather:

The recognizing of a 10th dan is a very personal event. In the United States many individuals either rank themselves as 10th dan, stay away from the title as it is considered a retirement, the 10th dan does not come from a group in Japan, or simply use the idea of not being a 10th dan to create notoriety (the individual knows inside he is not a candidate for any senior recognition).
The goal of the USA Karate Federation is to recognize senior masters in the United States with equal experience and involvement in the martial arts just as any other nationality or art that recognizes the 10th dan. There are certain individuals, such as yourself, with experience and experiences that many current and upcoming karate masters, both in Japan and the USA, will never have. The United States, in a legitimate forum, needs to step up and give proper recognition to individuals in the United States that have a treasure of knowledge equal to or greater then many recognized karate masters. In this sense, the USA Karate Federation does not “promote” to 10th dan but simply recognize those individuals who are of 10th dan – the most senior and knowledgeable of the karate in America with strong character, integrity and morals.

Karate came to the United States as early as 1945, one generation after karate entered Japan from Okinawa. In the 1930’s Karate became part of the Butokukai which was one of two rank and title awarding organizations in Japan. The active karate instructors of the time came together in some fashion and established an order of hierarchy in both major groups. This order became legitimate ranking for karate in Japan and a hierarchical control was established over karate as in other martial arts of the day in Japan. It is my belief that those master’s chosen at the time to be the leaders of the karate movement in Japan were chosen because of their knowledge and influence in karate. Many modern (1930-1972) masters trained under one or more of these individuals.

Hanshi George Anderson once told me, “Dan rank means nothing. What really establishes an hierarchy is who asks who the question.” You have and continue to be a go to person influencing many senior masters and yet you are available to even the beginning white belt. You are one of the most senior karate-ka in the United States today, still active and yet very humble with strong morals that you are not afraid to project. Your experience and wealth of knowledge is equaled by few, Americans and Japanese alike. We at the USA Karate Federation cannot think of any reason why this organization should not recognize you as a karate 10th Dan. You join the few individuals that the USA Karate Federation has recognized as 10th dan - Hanshi George E. Anderson and Hanshi Philip W. Koeppel.

You have our recognition, respect, and warm wishes.

Yours in Karate and the Martial Arts,


Patrick M. Hickey, President
USA Karate Federation
1550 Ritchie Road, Stow, Ohio 44224 • USA



  1. Hanshi Jim,

    What a wonderful letter. Congratulations!

    Best wishes,