Proper Wearing of Unit badges, Rank Insignia, and Service Patches

Unit Badges, Rank Insignia, and Service patches may be worn on the uniform in a variety of patterns. This version, based on standard military designations, and was adopted by the International Martial Arts Convention of 1957 as the worldwide standard for both Utility and Dress/Ceremonial Uniforms. None are required, but any may be used.

    1) Chosen Style Patch– usually worn on the left breast, over the heart, indicates primary or preferred style.

    2) Flag Patch– this is a Country of Origin badge usually worn on the upper right shoulder. This tradition comes from normal military fighting stance in which the sword arm is toward the enemy, so that soldiers could identify each other on the battlefield.

    3) Unit Badge (military)- normally worn on the right upper shoulder, this patch designates the type of unit to which the individual is assigned; engineers, artillery, infantry, calvary and so on.

    3) Dojo Badge– same a Unit Badge, this patch indicates the school to which the individual is affiliated.

    4) Rank Insignia– usually worn on the both shoulders below the Flag or Unit badges so it can be seen by subordinates, may also be worn on the collar, headband, or lapels.

    5) Name Badges– are usually worn on the right breast. (Sensei Patch replaces this and is not worn on the shoulder because Black Belt rank is indicated at the waist.)

    6) International Affiliation- most martial arts also have international organizations that certify and grade affiliate members; this badge usually incorporates a symbol of the designated style and a symbolic map of the globe, usually worn on the left shoulder because most martial arts stances present this side to the opponent.

    7) National Affiliation Patch– most martial arts have nationwide organizations that certify and grade affiliate members; this badge usually incorporates a symbol of the designated style and the country of origin flag.

    8) Hash Marks– small chevrons customarily worn in the forearms of non-commissioned officers to indicate Time-in-Service; this tradition comes from the fact that many non-commissioned officers of long service who had participated in many battles often had scars on their forearms from defending themselves in hand-to-hand combat; similar in application to the “additional styles studied” badges; some Dojo wear specialty badges for weapons (nunchaka, sai, etc.) or related arts, like CPR, on the sleeve.

    9) Hidden Patch– completely unknown except in schools of Ninjitsu, this may be an actual Clan Patch, similar to the Unit and Dojo badges, sewn over the normal manufacturer’s tag inside the jacket where it is not seen unless the wearer shows it. Or simply the tag itself, which would attract no particular attention if one is captured and searched, because sewn underneath are secret tools such as lockpicks, or hidden messages being transported by courier, or devices used to identify one Ninja agent to another in the field. British pilots carried maps printed on silk hidden in this manner during WWII to help them escape if shot down over enemy territory.

    10, 14, 16) Additional Patches– if any, may be worn along the outside seam of the trousers, although this is considered excessive; this is a variation of the dress uniform having a stripe down this seam, which is acceptable for military rank above major and dan rank of 5th degree or higher.

    11) Specialty badges– Special Qualifications such as Airborne Wings, Combat Infantry Badges, Pilot or Medical Insignia and so on are usually worn on the left breast above the Campaign Ribbons.

    12) Campaign Ribbons– military campaign ribbons designate Theatres of Operation and Campaigns in which the individual has participated, customarily worn on the left breast.

    13) Medals and special decorations are usually worn below the campaign ribbons, or around the neck if a pendant award; among martial artists, the Order of the Arrow and Black Belt Knighthood are such honoraria.

    15) Service Badges– same as Campaign Ribbons in meaning; in many Dojo honorary badges of membership are often awarded for common service; affiliated schools often exchange badges; usually worn on the back, across the shoulders.

    17) Style Badges– indicate any other styles or systems in which the individual holds rank.

    Croix d’guerre-  or “Rope of War,” worn looped over the right shoulder of the dress uniform, indicates participation in a covert or silent mission; the rope symbolically represents strangling the enemy quietly as opposed to the ceremonial sword or Combat Infantry Badge, which indicates “standing fire,” or facing the enemy in battle.

    Epaulets (shoulder boards)– are not customarily worn on martial arts uniforms.

    Olympic Medals or Medallions– are not normally attached to the uniform, but rather worn around the neck by the attached sash, ribbon or cord; the German Iron Cross is another example of this.

    Some Ninjitsu ryu employ headbands, scarves, hoods and masks as part of their ceremonial uniform. Schools derived from Samurai traditions wear helmets or armor as well as swords for official functions. Kendo and Aikido schools wear the formal Hakima or ceremonial skirt when training and on parade.

    As can be seen, many of these decorations reveal information about the wearer, especially those that indicate a preference in style. For this reason, many schools use no badges on their training uniform to prevent an opponent from taking advantage of this intelligence. A martial artist with a few years experience, however, can usually deduce an opponent’s style and likely strategy from the tactical display of his stance. Judoka stand with feet apart and arms wide to grapple; Boxers close their stance protectively and make themselves a smaller target; Tai Chi masters stand perfectly relaxed and balanced.

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