|CHRISTOPHER N. GEARY
||PROFILE OF A MARTIAL ARTS MASTER
Throughout my career, I have worked hard to learn as much as possible about outstanding martial artists. As a teacher, I am responsible for building a bridge between the past and the future, and this requires a good understanding of the history and traditions of the martial arts. I have been able to gather some information from books and websites, but it’s even better to talk with people who have first-hand knowledge.
In February 2006, I continued my ongoing research into the career of Professor Nick Cerio, the man who promoted me to first-degree black belt in 1995. From my earlier research, I knew that Nick Cerio had been awarded the title of Professor in April 1989 by Soke Thomas H. Burdine of the Kokonryu Bujutsu Renmei Association.
The title Soke (pronounced soh-kee) is a Japanese word with more than one meaning. It can refer to the headmaster of a martial arts style. It also can signify the head of a guild of skilled craftsmen, usually (loosely) family based. (This position of head craftsman was usually inherited.)
I also knew that Soke Burdine, representing the World Soke Council, awarded Professor Cerio the title of Kaichi Yudansha Shihan in September 1989. By awarding this title, the World Soke Council indicated that they viewed Professor Cerio to be worthy of a status above that of the Dan ranking system, and they granted him the authority to use whatever ranking system he felt was appropriate. Professor Cerio named himself Judan (10th-degree black belt) of Nick Cerio’s Kenpo by the power given to him by the World Soke Council.
You may remember reading in an earlier chapter that the World Head of Family Sokeship Council presented me with the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame Master Instructor of the Year award in 2003, but I want to make it clear that the World Soke Council is a different organization. Incidentally, the name of the World Soke Council was changed to The World Headfamilies / Headfounders Council in 1989 because the word Soke refers solely to Japanese arts. The organization decided to expand its membership after receiving applications from many potential grandmasters who practiced arts that were not of Japanese origins.
After doing additional research, I learned more about the career of Soke Thomas Burdine, who holds Ph.D. and M.A. degrees. He is a former top instructor of Aiki forms for the Juko Ryu International Martial Arts Association, and he has worked with martial arts masters such as Kenji Tomiki (a student of Morihei Ueshiba, 1883 – 1969, the founder of Aikido), Ed Parker, Aaron Banks, and Frank DeFelice. Soke Burdine met Nick Cerio through his staff in Rhode Island. Though Professor Cerio was never a student of Soke Burdine, each became a member of the other’s organization, sharing knowledge over the years.
Soke Burdine served in the United States Navy from 1955 to 1959, then worked for the police department in Lafayette, Indiana (where he still resides today), from 1962 to 1983. During his 21-year career in law enforcement he became an expert in riot control, was a juvenile detective for one year, and received specialized law enforcement training in the U.S and England.
I was interested to see that in addition to being an Aikido Grand Master, Soke Burdine also holds high black belt ranks in Judo, Ju Jitsu, Karate, and Tai Jutsu, as well as other Japanese, Chinese, and Okinawa disciplines. He is the head of his own Aikido System (Kokon Ryu Aikido/Aiki Jutsu) as well as Kokon Ryu BuJutsu Renmei International. He also developed the Burdine Aikido System Law Enforcement Control, a martial arts training system for law enforcement personnel. His Sokeship was issued by Soke/ Professor Dr. Rod Sachroski of the Juko Ki International through a Japanese Soke, Soke Kuniba.
After reading about Soke Burdine, I knew I had to get in touch with the man. I called him to introduce myself and express my admiration for his accomplishments. During our conversation, I asked if he might be willing to review my technique. He mentioned that at his age (68) he was no longer doing promotions and that he was no longer the head of the World Soke Council, but he asked me to send him an e-mail with more information about myself. I sent him an e-mail with links to my websites and other sources of information. On March 2, 2006, Soke Burdine sent me an e-mail asking for my address. He told me that he had reviewed my lineage, instructors, years of knowledge, and training in the martial arts and was very impressed. He commented, “It is clear to me that you are a very dedicated person who likes to share knowledge. I have decided to send you an Honorary Seventh Dan in the art of Kempo, but I will need your address. May you continue with your studies and your quest of sharing knowledge and disciplines. With good health for you and your loved ones, Soke Burdine.”
When I asked Soke Burdine to tell me a little bit about his organization (Kokonryu Bujutsu Renmei Association), he sent me an e-mail saying, “Kokon stands for old and new: Ko means old and Kon means new. It is just an organization where I can get away from political views and pressure—where I can work with my students without the hassle of a dollar bill for each and every movement. There is less jealousy. The Kokon Ryu teaches the traditional way of the arts, following the masters’ principles. Nothing special, but it belongs to me. I can assist other martial artists such as you without the hassle. I am able to give them a start toward their future, with pride, knowing someone cares. Techniques are the same as any other. The name again is personal.”
He added, “While on the subject, people think that when they receive their Sokeship they are a Tenth Dan—wrong! This is only a title, not a rank. Your rank is what you earned through your arts. I have had many discussions with fellow artists on this subject, and to no avail. So it is good that I have my own organization.”
On March 6, 2006, I received Honorary Certification (Seventh-Degree Black Belt) in Kempo Karate from Soke Burdine, Head of Family Kokon Ryu Bujutsu Renmei International. This was my first promotion from a Soke, and it was the first time Soke Burdine had presented this honor to anyone. He explained, "This is given in respect to you and your hard work, not like a grade through testing. As you can see, I am my own person."