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I feel a change in my Aikido in the past couple of weeks. It's always been described as short sharp and nasty, but I never felt it.
Reccently though it seems to have stepped up a level or two in terms of sheer nastiness and power. My irimi nage is now basically about taking ukes head and bouncing it off the mat. It's no less Aiki, I'm not stiff or muscling the technique but from somewhere I've found power and my technique has changed to be inherently more brutal.
I know why it's changed, I'm annoyed. I'm annoyed that "You were all borderline on the day, but I like him so I passed him" has become respectable post grading feedback. I'm annoyed that kyu gradings are treated as an inconvenience.
I can't express how much of an impact that day has had on me. I feel like I've spent five years dreaming and then woken up after falling out of bed. Hierarchy no longer exists to me. If you have something useful to teach I'll listen to you, if not I treat you no different than I would out in the real world.
Commonly this is refered to as an attitude problem, this post actually demonstrates all of this. Seems strange to me how I have "issues with authority" and yet for so long I've basically been a zombie.
If my instructor had said to me five years ago "I and only I will grade you up until 4th kyu" I'd have concluded he was part of a mickey mouse organisation and gone back to TKD or Ju-jitsu.
They worry about student retention and slipping standards but they don't actually care about kyu grades. Do they put on proper kyu gradings with a qualified grading panel? No. Nobody in authority can be bothered with them, so instead they all grade their own students in class time at a time where we're supposed to be standardising Aikido within the organisation.
Formal Kyu gradings actually fell into disuse because nobody could be bothered (or nobody was competant enough) to organise them. Nobody knew when the next grading was and when they did organise one, no-one i.e. the instructors turned up to it.
Even the 1st kyu gradings are ad hoc, squeezed into the timetable of a teachers course if and when someone turns up to grade and they're treated more like a teacher training exercise than a grading.
Do they make sure there are enough able bodied people to take ukemi for the grading? No. They're all instructors, most carry perminent injuries, most of the rest only take ukemi once in blue moon. Interestingly though I've been asked to go to two 1st kyu gradings purely to take ukemi for people with the threat of not being allowed to grade used for good measure. "It is expected you will go".
Therein lies the problem. A lot is expected, in our organisation as I do not presume that the above is universal to Aikido, of kyu grades.
Nothing is given back, especially if you are male. If you are female you can be awarded hakama at 5th kyu after 4 months training for dedication. For a male though turning up to every class, every course, maintaining the dojo website, taking ukemi on every grading, keeping the place clean and helping out with the juniors just about marks you out as being average.
You wont even have your gradings taken seriously.
I get the feeling that this'll get me into "trouble" but hey. As long as they don't expect me to wipe the smile off my face.