JSON: The Fat-Free Alternative to XML (And Margarine Is Also Fat-Free)

It seems suddenly to me, people are running from the XML hills and into the JSON forest.  I’m an experienced developer and am quite familiar with XML and JSON.  I once tried to research comparisons, thinking there would be some rational discussions done on the topic of choosing one vs the other.  What I found are some hair-raising myths, misinformation, and bias.

I came across this article “JSON: The Fat-Free Alternative to XML” and decided there was an incredible amount of bias and misinformation spewed by the very organization that develops the JSON project.  Similarly, perusing the programming forums yielded more bias and misinformation.  I decided to debunk some of the misinformation and challenge the facts presented, in an attempt to convert bias into facts – or simply dismiss the warmongering misinformation altogether.

I chose said article to pick on, because it appears on JSON’s site.  As to the other statements about either platform, they can easily be found on any programming forum.

Here’s the article with my notes embedded in red brackets.




Extensible Markup Language (XML) is a text format derived from Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML). Compared to SGML, XML is simple.  HyperText Markup Language (HTML), by comparison, is even simpler.  Even so, a good reference book on HTML is an inch thick.  This is because the formatting and structuring of documents is a complicated business.

[Why are we talking about HTML?  And no, HTML is not simpler than XML.  Not by a long shot.]

Most of the excitement around XML is around a new role as an interchangeable data serialization format.  XML provides two enormous advantages as a data representation language:

  1. It is text-based
  2. It is position-independent

[Anyone who has used SAX knows position is very, very much important.  Anyone who uses DOM knows that position is not guaranteed.  Don’t assume anything about element or attribute positions in any XML document.  And, XML isn’t a language.  There’s no vocabulary, statements, control of flow, or anything to communicate instructions.  It’s format, not a language.]

These together encouraged a higher level of application-independence than other data-interchange formats. The fact that XML was already a W3C standard meant that there wasn’t much left to fight about (or so it seemed).

Unfortunately, XML is not well suited to data-interchange, much as a wrench is not well-suited to driving nails. It carries a lot of baggage, and it doesn’t match the data model of most programming languages.

[Yup.  You read that right: “XML is not well suited to data-interchange”, and “doesn’t match the data model of most programming languages”.  My hair is standing on end right now.  I guess SOAP is a flop?]

When most programmers saw XML for the first time, they were shocked at how ugly and inefficient it was.

[Was XML unveiled like the Apple S6, where everyone held their breath for the reveal… and most programmers [sic] became …shocked?  Really?!  Can any who were present at the unveiling be named?]

It turns out that that first reaction was the correct one.  There is another text notation that has all of the advantages of XML, but is much better suited to data-interchange.  That notation is JavaScript Object Notation (JSON).

The most informed opinions on XML (see for example xmlsuck.org) suggest that XML has big problems as a data-interchange format, but the disadvantages are compensated for by the benefits of interoperability and openness.

[Note: this site, xmlsuck.org, or xmlsucks.org, does not exist as of this writing.  But I didn’t know that informed people – the MOST informed ones – gathered at sites like xmlsuck.org.  I just assumed that the experts gathered at sites with a domain ending with “.edu”, or with domain names like “Microsoft”, “IBM”, “Oracle”, or “Sun”… to say nothing of “IETF”.  Wow, was I ever misinformed…]

JSON promises the same benefits of interoperability and openness, but without the disadvantages.

Let’s compare XML and JSON on the attributes that the XML community considers important.

[I’m already so riled up and on the defensive, I’ve got popcorn in the microwave.  And I don’t even know yet what I – as a member of the XML community – consider most important.  I wonder what the members of the JSON community feel.  And where is this promissory note?  Come on, popcorn…]


From http://www.simonstl.com/articles/whyxml.htm

 Simplicity

XML is simpler than SGML, but JSON is much simpler than XML. JSON has a much smaller grammar and maps more directly onto the data structures used in modern programming languages.

[This is a very common adjective – “simplicity” – to describe XML and JSON.  Tell you what.  Let’s see what they look like, you tell me who’s simpler.  And JSON – like XML – is not a language, and so, there’s no grammar.]

XML

<!DOCTYPE glossary PUBLIC "-//OASIS//DTD DocBook V3.1//EN">
 <glossary><title>example glossary</title>
  <GlossDiv><title>S</title>
   <GlossList>
    <GlossEntry ID="SGML" SortAs="SGML">
     <GlossTerm>Standard Generalized Markup Language</GlossTerm>
     <Acronym>SGML</Acronym>
     <Abbrev>ISO 8879:1986</Abbrev>
     <GlossDef>
      <para>A meta-markup language, used to create markup languages such as DocBook.</para>
      <GlossSeeAlso OtherTerm="GML">
      <GlossSeeAlso OtherTerm="XML">
     </GlossDef>
     <GlossSee OtherTerm="markup">
    </GlossEntry>
   </GlossList>
  </GlossDiv>
 </glossary>

JSON

{
    "glossary": {
        "title": "example glossary",
		"GlossDiv": {
            "title": "S",
			"GlossList": {
                "GlossEntry": {
                    "ID": "SGML",
					"SortAs": "SGML",
					"GlossTerm": "Standard Generalized Markup Language",
					"Acronym": "SGML",
					"Abbrev": "ISO 8879:1986",
					"GlossDef": {
                        "para": "A meta-markup language, used to create markup languages such as DocBook.",
						"GlossSeeAlso": ["GML", "XML"]
                    },
					"GlossSee": "markup"
                }
            }
        }
    }
}

[If you don’t know XML or JSON, then neither should seem any more simple than the other, despite the author’s attempt to throw off the reader by tossing in a few gratuitous XML tags to make it look a little more verbose.

If you know XML but not JSON, then I bet the XML seems more simple.  If you know JSON but not XML, then I bet the JSON seems more simple.  I know both.  Let me tell you, neither is particularly more simple than the other.  In fact, both get the job done fairly well.

The XML itself has it’s own bias: note the unfair gratuitous DOCTYPE element which is wholly unnecessary from an academic POV, and the author should have known better.  Shame!

Bottom line: neither is more simple than the other when used for similar purposes.]

Extensibility

JSON is not extensible because it does not need to be.  JSON is not a document markup language, so it is not necessary to define new tags or attributes to represent data in it.

[Uhmmm…  What?   “It is not necessary to define new tags or attributes to represent data in it”?  Is that what I read?  

Here’s a clue: You DO need tags or attributes to represent data within it – it’s a required element of any JSON document, and all JSON parsers will refuse to parse a document when even a single field is missing it.

But getting back to point: Did the author just say JSON isn’t extensible because it doesn’t need to be?  What kind of categorical statement of vision into the future is this?  Why not just shut up and let the development and user community decide how and if JSON should change?]

Interoperability

JSON has the same interoperability potential as XML.

[Oh really?  JSON is new.  My Excel spreadsheet can’t read JSON files, although my current version of Notepad can!  😉

Oh, wait… I see that sneaky little “potential” word in there.  See?  That’s what I mean by author bias.  This is the kind of word an infomercial pitchman or used car salesman would use.

Bottom line, neither format is interoperable with systems that do not expect the format.  For XML, it is only interoperable if it is valid.  JSON doesn’t support schema validation, so, JSON is not interoperable, and has no potential for interoperability until there exists a mechanism to make it valid.]

Openness

JSON is at least as open as XML, perhaps more so because it is not in the center of corporate/political standardization struggles.

[What the hell does this sentence mean?  And what does “open” mean?  And what corporate, political, or standardization struggles are we talking about?  Come on, there’s a few cardinal rules for XML, and no more so than in JSON.  So stop it already, “openness” is BS word.]


From http://www.karto.ethz.ch/neumann/caving/cavexml/why_xml.html

In summary these are some of the advantages of XML.

XML is human readable

JSON is much easier for human to read than XML. It is easier to write, too. It is also easier for machines to read and write.

[Oh, God… are we really going down this road?

If you don’t know XML or JSON, neither will seem more readable than the other.  If you know XML but not JSON, I bet the XML seems more readable.  If you know JSON but not XML, I bet the JSON seems more readable.  I know both. Let me tell you, neither is particularly more readable.  (Didn’t we just go through this?)

Machines find it *easier* to read and write JSON files?!  Did the author just make this assertion: “JSON files are easier for machines to read and write than XML files”?

There’s a ring to this:

“JSON files are easier for machines to read and write than XML files”

The stunning absurdity of this statement is profound.  It’s as if the author is aware of some EPROM code built into the hard drive’s controller that makes all the chips bitterly complain about all the XML files they keep having to move onto and off of the platters.

Here’s the lowdown:

Parsers must read them – both file types – with 100% accuracy and not an iota less.  So, I ran sample formats through their respective parsers, and came to a stunning conclusion:  They were *all* readable!

To further prove my point, I ran XML through the JSON parser, and it turns out JSON found the file to be completely unreadable.  To be fair, I also ran JSON files through the XML parser, and XML decided that it, too, was unreadable.

I also performed some cursory tests involving CPU and hard drive performance when reading and writing XML and JSON files.  It turns out performance is generally negligible, but generally favors XML – particularly when using SAX.

Bottom line: I caught the author lying and making up this BS nonsense.

But, the author *did* say “human readable”.

In that case, my question is, “Who the hell cares?!” A programmer writes data in formats so as to represent the data structure, not so that some boob can read it with Notepad.

I think the truth is in the middle somewhere: even the most biased JSON developer will be able to figure out XML, and the most biased XML developer should be able to figure out JSON.  And let’s face it: INI files are much more human readable for the purposes they were designed for, and much less error-prone to human error when read by its respective parser.

So let’s put this to rest: Readability is irrelevant.  If you need end-users to read and understand the same blob of data your parsers are going to use, you have not designed your application very well.  HTML is said (by the above authors) to be more readable than XML… and we don’t read web pages by reading raw HTML, now, do we?  So forget about the “human readable” bias crap.]

XML can be used as an exchange format

…to enable users to move their data between similar applications.  The same is true for JSON.

[And not only is it true for JSON, but the argument is moot.  Just what the hell is a “similar application”?  I can move TEXT and CSV files between notepad and any word processor.  I can also move my Excel spreadsheets from Excel to Google Drive spreadsheet.  And for what it’s worth, neither Word, nor Excel, nor Google Drive will render my XML or JSON files other than to display it in exactly the same way as it would be displayed in Notepad.

And neither format can be used to exchange data between applications if either or the other application doesn’t expect it.  Sending in bookstore inventory is not going to work in a shoe store inventory system, whether or not it’s in XML or JSON.

Exchange is only as good as both the application providing it and the application consuming it.]

XML provides a structure to data so that it is richer in information

The same is true for JSON.

[Hmm…  “it is richer” or “can be richer”?  Subtle difference, I think.  One has merit, the other is preposterous.  At face value, XML does not guarantee rich information, whether or not you want to consider attributes, comments, preprocessor directives, and CDATA elements.  The fact is, it’s up to the developer to make data rich, not the data format.

XML *can* provide a structure to data that *can be* richer in information than JSON.  Attributes, preprocessor directives, comments, and CDATA elements are all possible.  But, what does “rich in information” mean?  How is the structure – and not the developer – responsible for that?  Perhaps, the limited kinds of data that can be placed in JSON might make it less capable of being rich, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways for a developer to provide the user quality of “rich data” to the end user.  Just because you have rich data does not necessarily mean it must be transported in XML, JSON, or any other specific format.  Use what is convenient.

To illustrate, a spreadsheet can provide rich information as well – like formulas and conditional formatting.  And it can provide a host of presentation features – fonts, cell merging, etc.  So this argument seems to me like two siblings squabbling over who is the boss of the other.

This argument is nonsense.]

XML is easily processed because the structure of the data is simple and standard

JSON is processed more easily because its structure is simpler.

There is a wide range of reusable software available to programmers to handle XML so they don’t have to re-invent code

JSON, being a simpler notation, needs much less specialized software. In the languages JavaScript and Python, the JSON notation is built into the programming language; no additional software is needed at all. In other languages, only a small amount of JSON-specific code is necessary. For example, a package of three simple classes that makes JSON available to Java is available for free from JSON.org.

[We covered this before.  The structure is different, neither is better or worse.]

XML separates the presentation of data from the structure of that data

XML requires translating the structure of the data into a document structure. This mapping can be complicated. JSON structures are based on arrays and records. That is what data is made of. XML structures are based on elements (which can be nested), attributes (which cannot), raw content text, entities, DTDs, and other meta structures.

[XML separates?  No, it does not.  Google Chrome separates the presentation of HTML from the structure of that HTML.  XML (and JSON) are the formats.  That which separates the format from the presentation is the application.

Come on, this is programming 101.  Did you really make me make this argument??]

A common exchange format

JSON is a better data exchange format.  XML is a better document exchange format.  Use the right tool for the right job.

[Better?  Says who?

And what is your definition of “data” vs “document”?

Here is Merriam-Webster’s definition of document:

  1. a computer file that contains text that you have written
  2. a writing conveying information
  3. a computer file containing information input by a computer user and usually created with an application (as a word processor)

And data:

  1. factual information (as measurements or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation
  2. information output by a sensing device or organ that includes both useful and irrelevant or redundant information and must be processed to be meaningful
  3. information in numerical form that can be digitally transmitted or processed

There you have it.  Ambiguity so obscure that one can reasonably deduce that documents are data and data are documents.

Here’s my definition: data are discreet facts; documents are collections of data.  Actually, records, tables, and databases are also collections of data.  Do we need to distinguish between these concepts?  Let’s give it a try: databases are collections of tables (and other metadata); and tables are collections of related records; and records are collections of related data.  Documents, however, don’t distinguish between related and non-related data.  So… documents can contain collections of data which are not related in any way whatsoever – such data must be described in context by use of named elements, field names, and/or attributes.

That’s just off the top of my head.  Am I close?

In this regard, JSON and XML are documents, and both are used for document exchange.  Anyone care to argue with me on this?

I do agree, though: use the right tool for the right job.  But both XML and JSON are document exchange formats.  Although, I guess it’s possible to use XML or JSON to send only a discreet piece of data, making either one capable of exchange of data as well.  But I’m guessing that most of the time, they are used for form documents, and said documents are exchanged.]

Many views of the one data

JSON does not provide any display capabilities because it is not a document markup language.

[Yeah, well, XML doesn’t either.  Although, one could make the argument that XSL and XSLT are the part of XML family which do provide display and multi-view capabilities.  Nevertheless, XML by itself is not meant for data presentation.  HTML is a great data presentation format, considering the many UI features it supports.  There are no UI features in XML or JSON.]


 From http://www.softwareag.com/xml/about/xml_why.htm

Self-Describing Data

XML and JSON have this in common.

[Self-describing, yes, I’ll go along with that.  But JSON doesn’t support attributes.  This can go a long way to making data “more human readable”, and, in some cases, “smaller in footprint”.]

Complete integration of all traditional databases and formats

(Statements about XML are sometimes given to a bit of hyperbole.)  XML documents can contain any imaginable data type – from classical data like text and numbers, or multimedia objects such as sounds, to active formats like Java applets or ActiveX components.

JSON does not have a <[CDATA[]]> feature, so it is not well suited to act as a carrier of sounds or images or other large binary payloads.  JSON is optimized for data. Besides, delivering executable programs in a data-interchange system could introduce dangerous security problems.

[I agree with some these sentiments very much.  But didn’t I read somewhere that XML was meant for “document exchange”, and not “data exchange”?  I’m sure I read and debunked that recently.  XML does provide mechanisms for containing many kinds of data formats, much more so than JSON.]

Internationalization

XML and JSON both use Unicode.

[Agreed.  But it’s better to say “support” rather than “use”.]

Open and extensible

XML’s one-of-a-kind open structure allows you to add other state-of-the-art elements when needed. This means that you can always adapt your system to embrace industry-specific vocabulary.

Those vocabularies can be automatically converted to JSON, making migration from XML to JSON very straightforward.

[I kind of understand where the author is going with this.  All that can be summed up by saying: XML supports namespaces, JSON does not.  The author got caught in a paradox, though: “one-of-a-kind open structure” – this is redundant.  Just “open structure” will do, thank you.  And “state of the art elements”??  No: just text elements following naming rules, and assigned values, nothing more.

But I disagree completely with the notion that XML can be converted to JSON.  Binary data alone makes it not possible.  So does trying to handle attributes.  And embedding quotes is a difficult endeavor if multiple quotes and mixed quotes are used, and here, readability (not my words – this is the author’s!) gets defenestrated.  Just sayin.  But simple text-only documents can usually easily be converted between formats.]


From http://www.xmlspy.com/manual/whyxml.htm

XML is easily readable by both humans and machines

JSON is easier to read for both humans and machines.

[Didn’t I already cover this nonsense?]

XML is object-oriented

Actually, XML is document-oriented.  JSON is data-oriented.  JSON can be mapped more easily to object-oriented systems.

[They are both document-oriented.  That’s because they’re both documents using a well-defined means to assemble the document – not some ad-hoc text stored in Notepad.  Both formats – by very nature that simple text-only documents can usually easily be converted between formats – can map to objected-oriented systems.]

XML is being widely adopted by the computer industry

JSON is just beginning to become known. Its simplicity and the ease of converting XML to JSON makes JSON ultimately more adoptable.

[True, JSON is new.  False, it has limitations that XML overcomes.  It is NOT categorically more adoptable.]


Well, that’s the article with my commentary.  It reflects a growing trend among the developer forums out there.  JSON developers seem to be looking for a reason – any reason – to stand out from the XML crowd.  It is no different than a car manufacturer trying to prove their product is better than the competition.  Politicians do this.  Car salesmen do this.  Programmers should be above all that.

So what to use?

Fair question.  They are both document exchanges.  Programmers – apparently more than occasionally – trust end users to tweak these files like the old days of INI files, because they’re too lazy (or short on funds) to write a front end to help manage data validation.  So Notepad apparently is a document reader for both XML and JSON.

In my opinion, if you have a shop full of XML-experienced developers, stick with XML.  Unless there are reasons you need to go with JSON.

If you have a shop full of JSON-experienced developers, stick with JSON.  Unless there are reasons you need to go to XML.

If you need, or think you will need, to read very large files, consider XML parsed with SAX.  The memory overhead can’t be beat, but, it takes a tough developer to stomach the process necessary to implement SAX.

If you need, or think you will need, to transform the data (either into other formats or for presentation), XML is the way to go.  There is no transform services, yet, for JSON formats, like there is for XML – like XSL and XSLT.

If you have applications which expect XML, use XML.  XML consumers are not so interoperable that you can get away with submitting JSON instead.

If you have applications which expect JSON, use JSON.  JSON consumers are not so interoperable that you can get away with submitting XML instead.

What if you have no developers experienced in either, or you have a ton of developers experienced in both; but you have no applications and you are building everything from scratch, and none of the above applies?

Flip a coin.  Heads: use XML.  Tails: use JSON.

And whatever format you use, create a front-end to allow the documents to be edited properly.  Don’t buy the “readable” argument, it’s nonsense.

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Crap Martial Art(ists)

Yes, you read that right.  If you’re one of these clowns, watch out – I’m not holding anything back.  I’m tired of explaining myself to innocent folks who say things like, “gee!  you’re good!  how come you’re not a higher belt rank?”, or, “can you do that stuff like in Airbender or Crouching Tiger?”  Oy…

It is because of these people that the American world of martial arts suffers a black eye.  A 20th degree black belt?  Who was the 21st degree black belt that promoted you to that absurd rank?  I’ve collected some outrageous assertions of rank and experience to show how silly this game of one-up-manship seems to have become.  One wonders, is there any compensation going on for some area of significant male deficiency?

My feeling is that most martial arts highest award is 9th degree.  Some, like WTF Taekwondo and Shotokan Karate, the highest is 10th, and up until recently, 10th was given only posthumously.  In Bujinkan, the highest is 15th degree.  To get the highest degree, you had to put your entire life into it.  I can’t reason, then, how someone can earn two of these things in a single lifetime.  I thus have developed the Crap Martial Art(ist) list.  You are on my list if you’re at the highest level and you don’t show what you’ve done to promote your art.  10th degree?  Fine.  Let me see what you’ve done to improve or promote your art globally.  If you can’t, you’re on my roster.

So, let’s have at it.


First place: Victory Martial Arts.  Joseph Victory, founder, is an entrepreneur who has degrees in 21 or 23 martial arts (depending where you read)!

  • (1) 11th degree
  • (17) 10th degree
  • (1) 8th degree
  • (1) 6th degree
  • (1) 3rd  degree

Yes, you read that: 10th degree in seventeen martial arts or organizations.  His son, Jason, also has a colorful award collage:

  • (14) 10th degrees
  • (2) 9th degrees
  • (1) 8th degree
  • (1) 6th degree
  • (1) 3rd degree

And each have received (2) Menkyo Kaidens, which are awards not typically given in martial arts, but which represent around thirty years of experience.  You’re on my list, because you don’t indicate what you did to further the art of… whatever it is in which you are a master.

http://www.victorymartialartscouncil.com/about_us

EDIT:  Seems now his resume more modestly changed somewhat to reflect a more humble martial arts journey.  This site shows he only has six 10th degree, a 7th degree, and a 3rd degree.

http://www.maotw.com/gmg/v/victory1.html

And this one withholds all except one 10th degree in a style in which he is Soke – something that I thought was considered crass to give yourself a rank in a style you founded:

http://victoryschoolofmartialarts.com/about_us

So… still not impressed.


Second place: ISA Martial Arts.  Look at George Petrotta’s rap sheet:

  • (4) 8th degree
  • (5) 7th degree
  • (2) 6th degree
  • (1) 5th degree
  • (2) 4th degree
  • (3) 3rd degree
  • (2) 2nd degree
  • (2) 1st degree
  • (1) 4th kyu

But here’s the rub: On the web site, if you only looked at the left side of the spillage, you’d count the degrees pretty much as I did.  But if you read more closely, you find there are duplicates: he lists his 1st degree, then his 2nd degree, etc – all within the same organization.  An example is WTF certification from Kukkiwon.  He lists 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree.  He should have listed only 3rd degree, rather than try to make a fluffy resume.

And, the jig is up: he also lists the dates on which he earned them, which coincide with the bare minimum requirements to attain the next rank.  To me, this should happen rarely, and only for exceptional people, but not every rank.  Further, having multiple rank in a single martial art but from different people or organizations is absurd, too.  Either, you’re 1st degree, or your 2nd degree.  How can you be both?  If we properly compress and strip out the unnecessary (and honorary) ranks, it turns into this:

  • 8th degree (Taekwondo)
  • 8th degree (Sungja-do)
  • 8th degree (Hapkido)
  • 4th kyu Kempo (4th kyu is about 1-2 years of training).

The letters, awards, halls of fame, etc are of no use to anyone: they are a congratulatory token of appreciation between two entities, and should be kept private between the two parties, not pasted on a boastful resume.  Also, if you are the founder, it’s crass to award yourself a rank of any kind.  Please, climb down off the pedestal you’ve built for yourself.  The martial arts world does not need a redefinition of humility.  You’re on my list because I don’t see your contribution to the art of Taekwondo or Hapkido.  I note the international affiliations of some of the groups, and I applaud that.  But really – where is the information about what you do?  What is the value you provide to the art?  What is the value you provide to the practitioners?  And besides, the absurd resume is disgraceful, and shows a complete lack of humility.

http://www.isamartialarts.net/Aboutus.html

EDIT:  seems now his credentials have been removed.


First place tie: LAOFIMAA / International Martial Arts Association – Luis A. Ortiz

What a joke.  Same as ISA Martial arts: he’s fluffing up the resume by posting honorariums and obsolete ranks.  Also, he’s the founder of – get this – 20 fighting systems!  Come on, man.  Here’s your resume: 10th degree (karate), 9th (kickboxing), and founder of a bunch of fighting systems with no known recognition or posted numbers of members.  And that 10th degree? (or the 9th, for that matter?)  Get serious.  Who are you kidding?

There’s another website which lists additional absurdities.  So either set of these credentials applies, perhaps one website is not as up-to-date as the other:

  • Founder of 14 fighting systems
  • (2) 15th degree
  • (18) 10th degree
  • (5) 9th degree
  • (4) 8th degree

http://laofimaa.tripod.com/id1.html

and

http://www.breu.com/ibs/sokeship/Ortiz/index.html
(now a dead link)

But this one’s live:

http://www.wwmaa.org/memberlist/blackbelts/list2.htm

  • (6) 10th degree, and founder of 6 styles
  • (2) founder of 2 styles
  • (4) 8th degree
  • (1) 6th degree

Bottom line, you’re on my list because of the outrageous claims of high degree and the substance of martial arts you provide to out industry.


Check out Richard:

  • 10th degree Ninjitsu
  • 15th degree Taijutsu
  • 4th degree Muso Tenshin Ryu Iaijutsu

Additionally, he lists “black belt” in:

  • Karate
  • Jujitsu
  • Taekwondo
  • Aikido
  • Enshin Ryu Iaido
  • Battojutsu

And check out this timeline:

  • In 8 years he went from 5th degree to 10th degree
  • 5 yrs to reach 11th degree
  • 1 year to reach 12th degree
  • 1 year to reach 13th degree
  • 2 years to reach 14th degree
  • and 8 months to reach 15th degree

http://www.ninjutsu.com/shihan-van-donk.shtml


Larry Sanders purports to be 10th degree in Kung Fu as well as holding master rank in:

  • Karate
  • Kung fu
  • Aiki Jujutsu
  • Jeet Kune Do

http://www.austinmartialartsschool.com/martial-arts-instructors-austin-tx.html


James Benko holds these prestigious awards.  Really, now.  (4) 9th degrees?

  • 9th degree Taekwondo
  • 9th degree Hapkido
  • 9th degree Shim Soo Do
  • 9th degree Han Kuk Moo Ki Do
  • Black belt in “other styles” (not listed)

http://www.itatkd.com/gmbenko.html


Next up on the humility ladder is Dan Ordoins.  Currently, he lists himself as 15th degree.  Yep.  And it only took 25 years to do it!  Interestingly, it took 11 years to go from 5th degree to 15th degree – a rate of about 1 year per degree.  I know, there are 15 degree in Bujinkan.  This isn’t Dan’s fault, but honestly – the number 15 violates all that Asians hold sacred to the number “9” – a traditional maximum in other arts.  You’re on my list because at 15th degree, you should at least have a foot in the grave.  Also, the service you provide are to individuals – not to the enrichment of any particular martial art.  And since you teach only privately, there’s no peer review for your work.

http://www.bujinkanlife.com/aboutus.html


Larry Turner does the same thing in the same amount of time.  Really, now.  15th degree?  In 25 years?  And with no discernible contribution to the art, except as instructor to the individual, he make my list today.

http://www.dcbujinkan.com/bio-larry.html


Well, 15 seems to be a magic number so far.  But wait!  There’s more!  Van Donk, a 15th degree, believes people CAN learn Ninjitsu in the privacy of home via DVD.

http://www.blackbeltcourse.com/


Al Simon seems to think that a photo of the plaque showing his certification is the way for us to verify the authenticity of his credentials.  I’m not sure why it’s relevant, but he does the same thing by showing a photo of his Mensa membership.  And he stands in a long line of people who seem to think they can teach a student a martial art from the comfort of one’s own home.

http://www.learn-tai-chi-online.com/?gclid=CMzf7N7q26YCFc9w5QodcCxv1g


Ed Samane does the same trick as Al Simon does, by showing the authenticity of his credentials by providing a photo of the plaque.

Here’s his resume:

  • 33 years old, 8th degree Hapkido
  • 36 years old, 7th degree Tangsoodo

The problem here is he’s way too young for these ranks.  Maybe, not his fault.  But the organization which awarded it should have realized that by awarding someone with such a degree and such a young age, they are watering down the requirements.  Think, for example: if this is his lifelong endeavor, and the average lifespan is 72 years old – he’s got almost 40 years to go – and can earn only 1 more rank.  Clearly, getting 8th degree at 33 shows a desire to climb the rank ladder, but what will you do when you get to the next and last rung – and have 40 years to do it?

http://www.promartialarts.com/page.asp?content_id=11659

Well, that page is dead.  But not this one:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/29/ed-samane-pro-martial-arts_n_1536521.html

and

http://www.promartialarts.com/the-corporate-team/

Now, 4 years later, he’s 43 and has 8th degree in Hapkido and Tangsoodo.  Still, way too young for these credentials.  And, he runs a martial arts franchise.  Yuck…


So there it is.  And I wonder: Why are the majority of these folks American?  This is embarrassing seeing these people strutting around with high degrees that were never intended to be handed out in this manner.

Look, I’m only 4th degree.  I contribute rather little to the betterment of my art compared to others who’ve dedicated their entire lives to the art of Taekwondo.  But I hold these folks in much higher regard than any who advertise their rank.  It just reeks of commercialism, one-up-man-ship, and dares someone to come up with another level or another art to attain mastery.

And now I wonder.  These people call themselves “Master”.  (Or to be fair, maybe others call them “Master”).  But I’m thinking, master chefs produce great food.  Master class performers produce great musicians.  Master smiths produce create works of iron.

What does a master in martial arts produce?  I’m thinking they should produce great students.  But where are these masters’ students?