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zen kokusai soke renmei

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Article by W. Durbin, Soke

In the early days of the martial arts in America, there were many problems, not the least of which were people training in the arts who either, because of an instructor moving or them moving, were unable to test when they were deserving of higher rank; or who ran into organizational politics keeping them at a much lower rank than the skills they actually possessed.

A second problem came about when people who had not properly trained, or who had trained on a limited basis and ceased to work out, but still wanted the prestige of teaching the martial arts, falsely represented themselves to the public.

Onto this scene came Rod Sacharnoski and some of his associates with the idea of creating an organization to provide assistance to legitimate martial artists who were locked-in at ranks they had obviously passed, and to provide further training for individuals without current instructors.

Thus Rod Sacharnoski, Albert C. Church Jr., and Professor Harry Olsen formed the World Jujitsu Union in 1971. Between them these men combined the knowledge of traditional styles of Jujutsu, Karate and Kobujutsu as well as Judo and other arts. Through their organization they helped countless individuals continue their training and progress as martial artists in both the United States and Europe.

Always maintaining Asian accreditation and sponsorship, the organization helped improve the quality of the martial arts in America, with Rod Sacharnoski appearing on television shows, in numerous martial arts publications, and giving demonstrations and clinics to help the arts become better known and more widely accepted.

During the period of time that the World Jujutsu and Karate Union developed and expanded, the organizers met, trained, and worked with other individuals who exhibited the qualities of the founders of the martial arts, and so in 1973, the Zen Kokusai Soke Renmei (the first Sokeship Commission in the West) was founded with the object of recognizing individuals who met the qualities and qualifications of Shodai Soke (founding headmasters) of the martial arts.

Rigid qualifications were established with the idea of maintaining a high quality of martial arts with the foremost requirement that the person had trained and earned master licenses in the art(s) which they wished to represent in their ryu. These master licenses had to be from legitimate systems of martial arts, not unrecognized styles with questionable lineage.

Rod Sacharnoski was the person most responsible for introducing to the West the title of Soke and has, through his own personal style of Juko-ryu Bujutsu, set the example of how a headmaster should develop their art and spread a martial arts tradition. Maintaining such high quality has meant that there are few Soke recognized by the Zen Kokusai Soke Renmei, but Sacharnoski has always been more concerned with quality than quantity.

To train with a Zen Kokusai Soke Renmei headmaster is to know that you are training under someone with real quality and qualifications to teach the martial arts. This was the goal of those masters involved in the beginning, and is being carried on with integrity by Rod Sacharnoski today.