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We just launched social network site for martial artists and their fans. Its ready to go but I'm not posting in here link to it as I'm worried it might be against stackExchange rules. Anyway, as we are constantly changing and improving I have few questions in regards to discipines/grades we have listed on the site. When registering, user has an option of selecting discipline so e.g. judo, kung fu, boxing etc and then grade. My question is about the disciplines and related grades that should be included. We spent considerable amount of time going thru wikipedias and various sites but it proved to be more difficult as it often happens even schools have different grading systems.

So for now we have short list of disciplines:

Aikido
Boxing
Brazilian JiuJitsu 
Judo 
Karate 
Kung Fu
Taekwondo
Other (suggest discipline)

I know there are very knowledgeable posters here practicing various disciplines and so if you could point me to resources where I could find clear information on gradings for any of the above disciplines that would be great.

Also there are various types of Karate, Kung Fu etc and I was wondering if it would be worth splitting these or just keep one general name as it is. It probably depends on discipline but please let me know what you think.

Now, if you practice discipline not listed above we are happy to add it to the list above, just let me know and I will extend the list.

I really appreciate any advice on the above so thank you all for any help.

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    Karate styles can differ considerably, there can even be differences within the same style for those that are not tightly controlled by a governing body. As for grades, just list kyus and dans - belt colors and adornments can differ according to style. – slugster Jan 27 '16 at 2:10
  • thx @slugster, I noticed there are gradings differences even between schools and wanted to come up with something that everyone uses. Its important that website is easy to use and am afraid if we start splitting disciplines it will get overcomplicated. ATM I think its pretty good and simple to use but we really need to get disciplines/grades right, thanks again – spirytus Jan 27 '16 at 2:29
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    I think this question is asking "is there a taxonomy of martial arts" which does not sound like a bad question in and of itself. However, I appear to be in the minority here. – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Jan 28 '16 at 8:50
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Do not bother.

A rank is just an internal thing specific to one particular organisation within a style within a martial art. They do not translate at all between styles nor can you compare them. Even within the same styles, what a "black belt" means can vary massively.

Fundamentally, a black belt covers about 3cm of one's bum and cost about £5/$5/€5.

You are much better creating a good reputation system on your site so people can earn useless fake internet points... And even that has massive failings.

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  • I agree. Make a text field. – Huw Evans Jan 27 '16 at 10:38
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Don't Forget HEMA Disciplines!

I practice Italian longsword, which is a Historic European Martial Art. (Commonly referred to as HEMA). I discourage the simple addition of "HEMA" to your list, because then you would need to lump together Karate, Judo, Aikido, Tae-Kwon-Do and Kung-Fu as "Asian Martial Arts." Sure, HEMA is less codified and practitioners usually study more than one system, but it covers such a large range of techniques, schools, and/or disciplines that it deserves the nuance.

Some HEMA disciplines could be: German Longsword, Italian Longsword, Spanish Greatsword, I-88 (Sword and Buckler), and English Quarterstaff. This does not work well, though, because German and Italian Longsword cover more than longswords; armored and unarmored combat, grappling (in armor or plain clothes), falchions, bucklers, and daggers are included in these martial arts. Alternatively, you could call each of these disciplines by other names: "German Longsword" can be referred to as the "Ringeck / Lichtenauer / Talhoffer Tradition", and the "Italian Longsword" could be called the "Fiore del Liberi Tradition." I've recently heard the argument that the Fiore's system should be called "European Longsword" because he very likely travelled around Europe to formulate the system he did. Even so, these are just named after some people who had their own widely known schools and may not have agreed to recognize the people we grouped them with as within their own discipline. So HEMA disciplines are maybe not as settled as you'd like them to be, leading your product to be not that great.

I know of HEMA clubs which don't have much in the way of hierarchy. I also know those who do have a ranking system are often not recognized by other HEMA clubs. While Europe had an expected progression for their warriors, (page -> man-at-arms -> knight) their "ranks" really meant more about what their job was and not how good or experienced they were at it or how they got there. So assigning strict "ranks" where there really are none is silly!

A Suggestion

Look at the SE "tag" system. Users can suggest tags of their own, but occasionally people sort and remove under-used tags. It's a decent system which takes advantage of the users' knowledge of the subject. The developers for this network of sites likely know little of each particular site, but gave the communities the tools to develop the tags and maintain them. We even have the occasional "burninate (delete) the '___' tag!" conversation in the meta sites for each SE site.

This means that an individual who studies a particular flavor of karate, Judo, Krav Maga, and their wacky personal discipline named "SickOfTheSuffix-Fu" can apply those tags to themselves. If asked what rank they are for each art, each practitioner can see a list of what others have already put in, and use those. Sure, you'll occasionally get something like a bare-knuckle boxer with the rank of "first generation greyscale unicorn pink bunny of the fifteenth class," but that's the life of a social network for you.

This approach could even use a simple SQL database to relate known disciplines with their ranks, and it's a simple matter to add, store, and recall ranks for disciplines. Even better, the users tell you what the rank system is!

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