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aikidoc
07-13-2006, 08:18 AM
I don't know if this has been discussed before. There seems to be a phenomenon that occurs around 2nd kyu (brown belt level if using colored belts). Some of the characteristics I have noticed:
1. Training gaps: they stop training for long periods or start becoming scarce or irregular. Some stop all together. It generally starts with excuses-someone in class is pissing them off; they are bored; life is taking over, etc., etc.
2. Ego takes over: they start thinking they are as they sometimes say in Texas "all knowed up". It is characterized by quickness to correct others even those who outrank them, trying to stop others while doing ukemi, and claimed boredom-they are not learning anything new (even though the still don't have the basics down).

I have thought about this over the years and wonder what others think about it or if they experience it. My feelings are there is somewhat of a quick fix mentality with us yanks. We want everything in the instant mode and 4 years of training is definitely not instant. I also rationalize that it could be due to people simply not being cut out mentally for the discipline necessary to be a lifelong martial artist. It frustrates me to see people go so far and then falter-especially when they have talent.

Anyone else experience this? Do you have solutions?

gdandscompserv
07-13-2006, 08:30 AM
how many "brown belts" have you seen this phenomenon in doc?

Mark Freeman
07-13-2006, 08:40 AM
Hi John,

I've just lost one of my brown belts, just before he got to take his shodan test ( a coincidence? ), life seemed to get in the way. I think the reasons for stopping are many, some of which you highlight. I think it may be more noticeable at around this level, because they have come so far, it is a shame that they don't continue. We don't have the same concern for a 5th kyu dropping out, do we?

Maybe at this level, the commitment needed to really 'get' the art starts to become apparent and the thought scares them into submission?

We as instructors have to live with the frustration, there is not much else we can do about it. Our commitment to the art is ours, we cannot give it to others, they have to find it within themselves.

I would speculate that there is a similar drop of plateau when the serious student has to face the prospect of teaching to others what they know. Now there's an even bigger level of commitment to frighten off the faint hearted.

In general, we in the west do buy into the instant gratification culture peddled by the ones profiting from our child-like gullability. Practicing a 'do' is not something that fits into that mould. Lifelong commitment to anything is not an easy choice to make. The rewards are not fully realised for quite some time, although many including myself, find an instant increase in general wellbeing the moment aikido is started.

Do I have any solutions?... No...sorry :(

regards,

Mark

Clayton Drescher
07-13-2006, 08:44 AM
Riggs Sensei,

Hope you all are doing well...
Unfortunately for me I may have a case of this syndrome myself (though I have perfectly good reasons! :D )

I had to leave my dojo in San Francisco a few weeks after attaining 2nd Kyu. I've have been away from aikido for just over a year now (married, moved, now commute) and there is a definite gap in my life, I must return to the art as soon as the situation allows.

I hope I avoided the two problems you mentioned during the course of my training. While I was training in SF I was a full-time grad student and I was able to spend much more time at the dojo than I did on campus. I always had a great time with the people I trained with. I did get bored on occasion, but I attribute that more to burn-out than anything, so occasionally I would take a week off to clear my mind and let my body rest.

I really hope I avoided the ego problem. My dojo was predominantly yudansha. Everyone else was either my level or near it or super-beginners (where I could feel justified slightly adjusting their technique). I always felt like a student, and in no situation to teach anyone anything, and was perfectly satisfied with that. It helped that there were lots of black belts to correct the beginners so I never had to anyway. I can imagine there might be a problem with the brown-belt syndrome in a dojo with a broader cross-section of student levels and less senior students.

If I had been able to stay at my dojo in SF, I can't imagine taking large amounts of time off, my friends were all getting their shodans and that is a real goal of mine. It could have been attainable fairly quickly if I kept my regular training schedule. Now that goal has shifted much further down the line, and I have come to yearn just for the act of training at all, even if a black belt isn't in the immediate future.

Best,
CD

aikidoc
07-13-2006, 09:57 AM
Hi Clayton: good to hear you're still at least thinking about training. I'm sure different situations get different responses. You were luck in that you had high level talen around you. We have a mixed group although being small we are top heavy with 4 black belts. You'll have to drop by and train in the finished dojo if you get back to Midland during the holidays. We always enjoy having you. Check around, there might be something close to you-lots of dojos in California.

As to concern with 5th kyu, yes, I have a concern about why people drop out-especially if they are talented. However, I suspect a lot of that has to do with the art just not fitting them personality wise. I also have less investment in my time and effort working with them at that level. I fully appreciate the work they have done to get to 2nd kyu and to me it seems a waste not to stick it out. I appreciate the new students as well and hope they all stick around. Unfortunately, many find that it is not a quick trip and for whatever reason choose to not devote the time and effort. Some can't do it for financial reasons.

I have seen this with about a half dozen brown belts. I personally have difficulty understanding why it happens since I did not experience it myself. In fact, I did the opposite. I significantly increased my training when I hit 2nd kyu from 5 days a week to 7 and 2-3 days of double training (early morning and evening classes).

Mark: I like your comment that people have to find the commitment within themselves.

gdandscompserv
07-13-2006, 10:00 AM
my sensei had a way of "beating" the ego out of us. :uch:

CNYMike
07-13-2006, 10:19 AM
The problem of people dropping out is common to all martial arts, not just Aikido. 18 years ago (!? where does the time go?), a Shotokan karate teacher told me that if you start with 100 beginners, only ten will be there after a year; of those 10, 1 will reach Shodan. And if you have 10 shodans, only 1 goes farther. That's why I always say up to 90% of the people who start MA quit within a year. I don't know if it's that bad in Aikido -- the dojos I go to seem to have a pretty solid following -- but it's there.

And it's not just MA. Someone told me that at the start of the year, gyms will get a rush of new members because they've resolved that this year, they'll get in shape; by June, they're gone. Is it the culture of "instant gratification"? A valid answer but too pat, somehow.

As to ego, it can sneak up on you and work on you when you think it isn't; you can watch for it, but the damn thing is stealthy. Also, personally, I am a senior student in a couple of the arts I do but rankless, so far, in Aikido, so minding my place is tricky. I have to watch for it!

cguzik
07-13-2006, 10:21 AM
This is something I've been thinking about quite a bit recently: I have been second kyu for about a year now, getting close to nine years in aikido. My perception has been that as my experience grows, so do the durations of the plateaus in my training. However, the gradients between plateaus also are getting steeper. When I go from one plateau to the next these days, it feels like a much larger jump in understanding than I was experiencing four years ago. This makes for a frustrating situation because as the sense of learning going from one plateau to another accelerates, but the time between such changes increases, it tries the patience much more. While on the plateau, I find myself wondering if I am stagnating. What I have to remind myself is that the changes occur to a large extent as a result of my observational abilities -- and those can be improved and cultivated during those long plateaus.

Also, there is a change that occurs in motivation as one becomes a more senior student. I must admit that there are more and more days when I go to the dojo more out a sense of obligation to the group than I do because I want to for the sheer enjoyment of it. During those long plateaus, when one does not have the same sense of learning some new revelation everyday, it's just not as much fun. I sometimes go only because we have a whole bunch of beginners and I feel obligated as a more senior student to be there to help. Sometimes, that sense of obligation feels a little heavy. It makes me empathize for my teachers in a way I never thought of until recently. And it makes me respect their love of the art and training in ways that I could never appreciate. I try to think about that when the sense of obligation gets a bit heavy and I just don't feel motivated. It's something that insipres me today that I could not have comprehended four years ago.

CNYMike
07-13-2006, 10:23 AM
..... As to concern with 5th kyu, yes, I have a concern about why people drop out-especially if they are talented....

My first karate sensei told me athletes would take to karate like fish to water, but they'd be gone in weeks. The screw ups with two left feet and ten thumbs are the ones who stick around. (After 21 years, I guess you can figure out which group I was in. :o ) Counterintuitive but true.

ajbarron
07-13-2006, 10:49 AM
Interesting discussion. What about Shodan regression syndrome ???

Following my Shodan test I knew I would have to take a break, especially since my partner had given me free rein to train as much as I wanted to prepare, and the child chauferring, house renos and lawn work were being neglected.

I took my break, started practicing again feeling that I would reduce to 2 to three times a week from my test untill after the summer ( about 4 months). Now I'm going through a " where's my white belt stage". I feel as if I need to start all over again, nothing works well and I'm constantlly not being able to catch on to techniques!!

It's frustrating ,but, being a long time "participant" in many activties I understand what a plateau and and regression are and I'm on the regression slide right now.

Thought I'd share. :)

Cheers
and keep on rolling.

Andrew

mriehle
07-13-2006, 11:05 AM
Interesting discussion. What about Shodan regression syndrome ???

I don't think this is the same problem.

When I got my shodan it felt like everything I did got worse. And I didn't take a break. My teacher tells me it's just your perceptions changing. I trust him, so...

...well, anyway...

...same thing happened at nidan.

I think that lends credence to his argument. Still...

...am I getting better or worse?

aikidoc
07-13-2006, 11:11 AM
As to regression and plateauing, I tell my students the following: focus on basics. It is likely you have become sloppy with them and the sloppiness is inhibiting your ability to move ahead. Ufortunately, everyone wants to do the "cool" fancy techniques. I try to integrate them in the training with the emphasis on doing good basics being necessary to make the cool stuff work. Recently, I did one hour on basics and 3 hours on kaeshiwaza. It was fun, although I may have spoiled them on looking for ways to get out of nikyo and kotegaeshi. :)

I haven't seen shodan regression syndrome yet. THe ones I have there now are as dedicated as one can expect. Perhaps this group I have in the Brown belt ranks will experience it. Don't know.

Bronson
07-13-2006, 11:17 AM
Thanks Chris, I was going to write out my ideas but you already did it for me :D

I think that as we train we will encounter different transitions. Transitions in how we move, learn, think, feel about the art, etc. It's at these transition stages that you're likely to loose people. Our bodies and minds seek to maintain the status quo. All change, even change for the better, is resisted at some level. If you can resist the resisting :confused: you can make it through to the next phase.

I remember once when I almost dropped out. It was much like Chris said, aikido training had lost that specialness in my life. It took on a much more mundane quality... like brushing my teeth. When I wake up in the morning I'm not excited to brush my teeth, but I do it everyday and if I happen to miss a day it niggles at the back of my mind.

For me the trick was to embrace the transitions. I had to learn to know them for what they were and that if I persisted some new learning or phase was bound to come. The interesting thing is that now when I hit one of the transtitions I often become excited again. My techniques don't work, I question my commitment, I feel like I should just quit... but at the back of my mind I'm excited to find what I'll learn on the other side of the transition so I stick it out. It's worth it every time.

Interestingly I think this continues throughout life. I've been told that the founder of our style Rod Kobayashi used to call Godan, Go-Down; as at that point he had noticed peoples commitment and ability start to wane.

Bronson

p.s. George Leonard's book "Mastery" speaks to this subject very well.

gdandscompserv
07-13-2006, 11:33 AM
focus on basics.
i LOVE basics!

aikidoc
07-13-2006, 11:56 AM
Bronson, I like the transitions perspective. Although I'm not sure some see it that way while training. They simply see they are bored or geez I've done ikky over a hundred times.

Bronson
07-13-2006, 12:27 PM
Although I'm not sure some see it that way while training. They simply see they are bored or geez I've done ikky over a hundred times.

You're right, they don't. It takes a certain amount of trust in your Sensei when they say "it's normal, just keep training." Eventually you come to realize for yourself that it is normal then you can step outside of it and look at it for what it is.

I was also thinking about all the different things I've tried and quit over the course of my life. For whatever reason Aikido has been the one thing that I've connected with enough to structure other aspects of my life around. For some people it's gardening, or ball room dance, or quilting, the important thing is to find something that you connect with enough to loose yourself in. Maybe those who permanently quit Aikido just haven't found it yet, maybe they never will.

Bronson

aikidoc
07-13-2006, 12:47 PM
It connected with me in many aspects as well. Different strokes for different folks I guess. I do try to let my students know they are not the first to go through these issues.

Bronson, I was up in your neck of the woods (a bit south-Dowagiac) over the 4th of July. It made me home sick. I worked for a year at the Fisher Body Plant in Kalamazoo when I was a bit younger.

raul rodrigo
07-13-2006, 07:33 PM
I went through the brown belt syndrome for three years. Was stuck in a plateau at first kyu where I wasnt getting any better and I was wondering if I was better off just leaving. So I would disappear from my dojo for weeks or months at a time. There was always a work reason I would cite, but really it was as if aikido—my aikido, anyway— had lost all flavor.

Then for a number of reasons, I seemed to break through a wall in early 2004 as I trained for my shodan exam. My progress since then surprises me still (I have video, so I know how I used to move). Which is not to say that aikido is no longer hard. I still get frustrated. But now I'm working on very different problems.

For me it was a question of faith and commitment—was I willing to put in the time and effort to (maybe just maybe) get the breakthrough to the next level? For years it was easier just to blame the art itself or just disappear. I was sure that the next level called for more than I had.

kocakb
07-13-2006, 11:31 PM
I am in the brown belt syndrome :(

I started to miss the classes and for a couple of months, I go training once a week (or less)...as you all mentioned above, I have good reasons, too; like feeling less improvement (which is in fact not true, truelly I am not honest to myself and I learn everytime something new), biggest reason is always: "I am too tired today", "it is too hot today"...and I catched myself a few times thinking to quit aikido totally...

I don't know how I will overcome this situation. I even realized that I am spending very little time in aikiweb. In the past, I used to read most of the threads in the forum, now just visiting the side for a few seconds, glancing at the topics and closing the window :(

it was the same today, until I saw this topic. And I felt a bit embarrassed after reading what you all wrote. However, I don't know the solution. When I get up mornings, I make a decision to go to training, and loose my willing after work...

Amelia Smith
07-14-2006, 06:38 AM
Ah, brown belt syndrome! I see a lot of that going on with particular people, and I wonder if it's more about them than the stage of development, since for some brown belt syndrome seems to last six years or more, while for others it's only a couple of months. One more dimention of brown belt syndrome which hasn't been mentioned above is total insensitivity to uke, which for some reason seems to go along with the rest of it.

I trained less for about a year while I was a 2nd kyu, partly because of the demands of graduate school and perhaps because I was at a slightly different style of dojo that I didn't like so much as my old dojo. Mostly, though, it was graduate school. I did take a break for about 6 months after shodan, though, to do some travelling (in an area where there was no aikido, and practically no martial arts of any kind). When I came back I found myself the senior student in most classes, and that situation has continued to the present (2 years later). I haven't been bored so much as frustrated by the occasional lack of other students. I think that for those long, later plateaus, you need to transfer a lot of your attention to teaching, and get some sense of progress from the progress of newer students -- withour overcorrecting.

So, I think I missed most of brown belt syndrome. Whew!

Dan Hover
07-14-2006, 06:55 AM
along certain lines, I have noticed that Brown Belts and even some shodan tend to be rougher at seminars, as if to prove that they are deserving of a rank or somewhat "better" than you. This I think maybe the flip side to the quitting/boredom coin. It seems to me that at Brown belt, the deshi reaches that stage like a teenager who wants to rebel against parents and make a name/identity for him/herself. In this case the student acts against the sensei or the "group" which is the dojo. Which developmentally is okay and somewhat normal. It then leads to either leaving the group with some need for recognition unfilled (IMHO that need is a class to teach, that they really don't deserve) or assimilate back into the fold realizing the responsibility to the dojo, other students, both higher and lower ranked than they, and more importantly the art itself.

aikidoc
07-14-2006, 07:06 AM
Bulent's comments suggest that some brown belts "burn out". Perhaps overtraining is the issue.

I have definitely noticed Dan's observation about seminars. I used to do a lot of seminars when I lived in Southern CA. I avoided brown belts and when I could identify them new shodans. If I ended up with one I invariably got tweaked pretty hard-when you work with your hands it is important to protect them. I rarely had a problem with 3rd or higher dan ranks. The brown/shodans seemed to all think that everyone could or wanted to be thrown as hard as they could muster. Often their technique set up was scary or they simply muscled you as hard as they could. I learned to watch and choose carefully to avoid injuries.

John Boswell
07-14-2006, 10:38 AM
As a personal note of experience, being one of the brown belts that had disappeared from the mat for a while, I wanted to touch on one thing.

Yes, life gets in the way, but everyone will have that. It happens. We deal with it.

But for Brown Belts (and perhaps for new Shodans as well?) there is a lot of pressure.

Speaking for me personally, I hold the rank of Shodan in high regard. I know many people consider it to be a "first step" and a rank indicating "ready to start learning" etc., and you can say that all day, everyday till you are blue in the face. HOWEVER, I personally hold the rank of Shodan in very high regard, I place a lot of responsilbity on that rank, I expect a certain amount of quality from anyone with a black belt and believe that any Dan rank is deserving of respect.

Because of that viewpoint, I feel a tremendous amount of pressure in training up for and the eventual testing for Shodan. Furthermore, if I personally feel that I am not ready for the rank, or not worthy, I will not test for it! All due respect for Riggs Sensei, who has taught me so much and guided my aikido path from day one, but I have a an opinion on Shodan and I'll not test until I'm ready and THEN ask for his blessing to test... and wait for that blessing.

Lan Powers, brother-in-arms and all around good guy, has passed me in rank for two reasons: First and Foremost... he is better than I am. His skill in aikido is definitly there! He was a near natural in aikido due to years of martial training and I give him a lot of credit. He's good. He's modest and humble. He can plant anyone on their butt and seriously hurt them... but he'd much rather shake your hand! He's a good, good, good guy... and he's a skilled martial artist.

The second reason Lan has passed me in rank (I had joined aikido 6 months before he did) is because I got the hell out of his way! Lan is a generous fellow. He caught up to me and wanted to go through the ranks together, brother with brother. As much as I appreciated the thought and gesture, I felt extream pressure to "keep up" knowing full well that I never would be able to. Am I beating myself up? Maybe a little. But at the same time, I did NOT want to hold him back! I did not want him to feel he had to wait on me, or help me along, in order for us to remain ranked together.

Thus... I disappeared for a short time. Just long enough to push him on ahead of me. Underhanded? Maybe. Sneaky? Darn right. But it took the pressure off of me, pressure I didn't want or need.

I'm not in aikido for rank. I'm in it to learn, to become a capable martial artist and enjoy the Way that is Aikido. My way isn't for everyone, and may even be looked down upon by some. Sorry, that's just the way of things for me.

So, to anyone out there with wayward 1st kyu's, ask them if they are feeling the pressure. And when they say "no," ask them again. Everyone feels SOME pressure. But if it is keeping them off the mat, find a way to take the pressure off and get them back ON the mat.

In the end, we all do this because we enjoy it. If we aren't enjoying it, then what is the point?

aikidoc
07-14-2006, 12:23 PM
I don't think I put you in the syndrome category. You always come back after your hiatuses and that's good. Your last was because you were a new pappa and that's totally understandable. Don't short change yourself though, you are progressing just fine. The only pressure you are feeling is self imposed. I don't start putting it on you seriously until we get to that testing point. Otherwise, I put the same amount on everyone no matter their rank. It is my understanding that the Japanese don't put nearly as much esteem to shodan as you do. I do like the fact that you respect the rank; however, don't let it become a stressor. With all you guys approaching or at black belt I have as much stress just keeping you guys challenged with new stuff . :)

John does pose an interesting question along this line though. Do 2nd and 1st kyus feel stressed or pressured by the black belt looming ahead and the concomitant change in roles-especially in smaller dojos where your status increases?

aikidoc
07-14-2006, 01:51 PM
I'm not in aikido for rank. I'm in it to learn, to become a capable martial artist and enjoy the Way that is Aikido. My way isn't for everyone, and may even be looked down upon by some. Sorry, that's just the way of things for me.

So, to anyone out there with wayward 1st kyu's, ask them if they are feeling the pressure. And when they say "no," ask them again. Everyone feels SOME pressure. But if it is keeping them off the mat, find a way to take the pressure off and get them back ON the mat.

In the end, we all do this because we enjoy it. If we aren't enjoying it, then what is the point?

Pursuing rank is always a personal choice and testing in my opinion is a personal competition not one with others.

I'm not sure I agree with taking the pressure off 1st kyus on the way to black belts. Part of earning the belt is dealing with the pressures inherent in getting the belt. Being under pressure should not make one enjoy what they are doing less. I do probably create pressure at the 2nd and 1st kyu level since I tolerate less sloppiness and expect more refined technique and in depth understanding of the art. If one defines that as pressure, then so be it. To me, I am throwing down the challenge to raise one's level of aikido. It's easy to cruise along at a certain level of competency but requires commitment and focus to elevate one's level. I hope my students are never comfortable with the "status quo" and are always in a learning mode.

John Boswell
07-14-2006, 02:18 PM
I define "pressure" here more like Peer Pressure. (And this is not an accusation by any means of anybody.)

But situations that bring about,"When are ya gonna test? When are ya gonna test? When are ya gonna test? When are ya gonna test? When are ya gonna test?" being asked over and over. If I hear that (which I don't) or if I feel that (which I do, but again... that's me) then that is when the pressure is on.

Testing for the sake of testing is what I fear and feel pressure from.

Pressure due to being pushed to a higher standard? Great!
Pressure due to eliminate sloppyness? By all means!
Pressure to refine and raise one's ability? Of course!
But putting on pressure to test, just to get people to test for the sake of testing? huh uh

MAN! Do I have ISSUES or WHAT??? :crazy: :hypno: :rolleyes: :confused: :eek: :p :D ;)

(maybe I'm just an egotistical, self-centered, arrogant punk? hmmm... NAH! :p I'm too good for that to be true. ;) )

aikidoc
07-14-2006, 03:49 PM
I never ask anyone to test who is not ready. Quite the contrary-if someone wants to test and I don't think they are ready I'll advise otherwise. So asking someone to test is not pressure but recognition that they are ready.

aikigirl10
07-14-2006, 04:26 PM
I don't know if this has been discussed before. There seems to be a phenomenon that occurs around 2nd kyu (brown belt level if using colored belts). Some of the characteristics I have noticed:
1. Training gaps: they stop training for long periods or start becoming scarce or irregular. Some stop all together. It generally starts with excuses-someone in class is pissing them off; they are bored; life is taking over, etc., etc.
2. Ego takes over: they start thinking they are as they sometimes say in Texas "all knowed up". It is characterized by quickness to correct others even those who outrank them, trying to stop others while doing ukemi, and claimed boredom-they are not learning anything new (even though the still don't have the basics down).

I have thought about this over the years and wonder what others think about it or if they experience it. My feelings are there is somewhat of a quick fix mentality with us yanks. We want everything in the instant mode and 4 years of training is definitely not instant. I also rationalize that it could be due to people simply not being cut out mentally for the discipline necessary to be a lifelong martial artist. It frustrates me to see people go so far and then falter-especially when they have talent.

Anyone else experience this? Do you have solutions?

I have totally experienced this.. myself actually.

The #2 in your post i honestly don't think describes me however. I tend to be the total opposite, i rarely even speak during class, being somewhat reserved around a big group of middle-aged men who i have not one thing in common with (other than we do aikido). Personally i see alot more ego in beginners than i do in the higher ranks. The beginners come for 2 weeks and think they are awesome, and the vets have already been through this and are over it. That's usually how i see it.

the #1 in your post describes me perfectly. I have let my training slip somewhat and i realize and recognize this. However, i really don't know why it happens. I still love aikido. I definitely want to be a lifelong martial artist, i really just don't know what it is. I'm wondering if it will be better once i get my license (in a month), but i really couldn't say.

Um... overall, i have heard of alot of people going through these types of things, but most of them usually do return to aikido, and more devoted.

For me personally, who knows. I don't know where aikido will be in my life 2 or 3 years from now, but for the time being i've learned to accept this behavior of mine, until i learn where my priorites are in life. And, as long as that's ok with me, i don't see how it's affecting anyone else at all.

*Paige*

interesting thread

Karen Wolek
07-14-2006, 04:44 PM
I'm 2nd kyu....I'll start practicing for 1st kyu when I get home from Texas (August 6th). I'll have the hours by the end of October or so.....but I have never tested as soon as I have gotten the hours, so I am just assuming that test won't be til at least December.

I haven't had the brown belt syndrome mentioned by Riggs Sensei in his first post. The symptoms I have had have been: using too much strength, being too rough/causing pain, cockiness, maybe a little 'tude with the cockiness, frustration. <grin> Well, the 'tude I have had for awhile, I guess. ;)

I don't get away with sloppiness or carelessness or slacking off. That has gotten more obvious in the past year or so. If he knows I know what to do, I'm expected to do it right...and he has no qualms with telling me off for it. And if I do it wrong or carelessly once out of 10 times, you know damn well he will see that one!!!!

So that's a difference between me and a 5th kyu. Expectations.

I don't think I get bored much. Well, if we do tai no henko for a half hour, I do. I guess I SHOULDN'T but there it is. But I'm at a point now where I like to kinda play with things, try to figure things out, see what works and what doesn't. Sometimes my partner doesn't really let me, though. More senior people will understand if I tell them what I'm doing...but most of my dojo is junior to me.

It's a young dojo....7 years young. We had our first shodan test in May, which was very exciting! He started training before our dojo opened....we have one guy who just tested for 1st kyu who has been with our dojo since it opened. I started a little less than 4 years ago; there are only maybe 5 or 6 people currently practicing who are senior to me.....and 30+ junior to me!

So I'm a "senior student" much earlier than someone at an older dojo. The Woodstock dojo, at which I train a few times a month, is much older....a 2nd kyu there is far from senior. There are lots of people there who have been training for 15, 20, 30 years; I'm just a baby in comparison.

So....pressure. I dunno, I think I feel the pressure more some days than others. I do spend a lot of time in class helping out beginners. Although we are discouraged from "teaching" on the mat, with beginners, we are expected to help. Some classes, I only work with beginners. Just depends on the makeup of the class. Luckily we have an advanced class once a week, 2nd kyu and up only. I'm usually the most junior in that class!!!

I'm also at every class....and the only student who does attend every class. And I'm kenshusei, to boot. So there, expectations and responsibilities!

I think my sensei probably looks forward to having some blackbelts around, so maybe we will get there faster than the "younger" students will. I dunno. But I just think that if most of the students are 5th kyu and below, the 2nd kyu students will be given a lot more responsibility earlier on than a dojo where most of the students are yudansha. Just comes with the territory.

I love my dojo, I love watching it grow, and I love watching it grow up. I love most of the newbies.....I love when they learn to take ukemi and I can toss them around, especially. Heh heh heh.

So most of the time I don't feel TOO much pressure....my sensei doesn't emphasize tests and rank, so I don't think any of us feel pressure to get the black belt. Well, maybe our recent shodan did. He was VERY relieved when the test was over. We'll see what I say in another year or so when I have to get ready for MY shodan test!

Oh, and no training gaps here....if I miss a day, people are asking where I was!

markwalsh
07-14-2006, 05:55 PM
"White belts are ignorant, brown belts are mean and black belts are arrogant."
Heard that somewhere :-)

davoravo
07-14-2006, 06:33 PM
I am a brown belt currently attending class rregularly and I would say it probably has as much to do with changes in life circumstances as anything.

I started aikido as a university student and initially attended twice a day and weekends. There have been several phases to my aikido career including moving cities and adjusting to working evening shifts and weekend shifts that clashed with class.

Currently, I am a father and my wife expects that my family is my number one priority, so even attending class once a week is negotiated if other members of the household need attention.

I would think that given the long learning curve for aikido that most brown belts would have experienced significant changes in their life circumstances since starting training.

For myself, I have accepted that I am unlikely to improve significantly at my current rate of training. Others might feel frustrated and that if they can't get better then they shouldn't come at all???

Peter Goldsbury
07-15-2006, 05:14 AM
I know many people consider it to be a "first step" and a rank indicating "ready to start learning" etc., and you can say that all day, everyday till you are blue in the face. HOWEVER, I personally hold the rank of Shodan in very high regard, I place a lot of responsilbity on that rank, I expect a certain amount of quality from anyone with a black belt and believe that any Dan rank is deserving of respect.)

I define "pressure" here more like Peer Pressure. (And this is not an accusation by any means of anybody.)

But situations that bring about,"When are ya gonna test? When are ya gonna test? When are ya gonna test? When are ya gonna test? When are ya gonna test?" being asked over and over. If I hear that (which I don't) or if I feel that (which I do, but again... that's me) then that is when the pressure is on.

Testing for the sake of testing is what I fear and feel pressure from.

Pressure due to being pushed to a higher standard? Great!
Pressure due to eliminate sloppyness? By all means!
Pressure to refine and raise one's ability? Of course!
But putting on pressure to test, just to get people to test for the sake of testing? huh uh

MAN! Do I have ISSUES or WHAT??? :crazy: :hypno: :rolleyes: :confused: :eek: :p :D ;)

(maybe I'm just an egotistical, self-centered, arrogant punk? hmmm... NAH! :p I'm too good for that to be true. ;) )

Hello John,

Interesting thoughts.

My own experience of testing has been quite different. When I was a 1st kyu, in the UK, I was training at a seminar taught by Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei and was suddenly told in the morning of the last day that I had to take a shodan test in the afternoon. So I had a few hours of intense stress and pressure, then it was all over. I passed and became a shodan and wore the hakama, but I do not think that this was a particularly stressful grade, either. I trained in the main dojo under the watchful eye of the UK shihan, Minoru Kanetsuka Sensei, but everybody was under the eye, not just the new black belts.

I think the Brown Belt Syndrome is not universal in aikido. For a start, in the UK (outside universities and children's classes in the Aikikai) there were no coloured belts and so the 'syndrome' was not associated with a certain kyu grade. If it existed, I suspect it was due to dojo dynamics. I can think of one possible scenario. A dojo is run by a sole relatively low-ranked yudansha (up to 4th dan), who feels the need to uphold the 'standards' of the dojo. There is a need for dedicated shodan, nidan and higher kyu grade students who can act as role models for the beginners and can also cover for emergencies: the times when the instructor is not present. There is also pressure to uphold the martial standards of the dojo, whatever these are.

I have never encountered this in any of the dojos in which I have trained here in Japan. In the main dojo in Hiroshima, there are a large number of higher-ranked yudansha (I mean 5th and 6th dan), so the onus of maintaining martial standards almost never falls on kyu grade students. In addition, kyu grade tests are conducted by the head of each local dojo, so I hold my own 1st kyu tests. Dan tests are held twice a year in the main dojo and everybody knows when these take place. There might be local pressure in a branch dojo for a 1st kyu student to take the shodan test, but this is nothing like a 'syndrome' (which I understand to be a major problem like an undiagnosed illness).

In my own dojo there is a large gap between the instructors (4th to 6th dan) and the most senior student (1st kyu). So there is no pressure on any students to take tests in order that they can teach in the dojo and cover for absences. We have a teaching rota and so it is quite likely that I myself will be in the dojo training when one of my lower-ranked colleagues is instructing. Of course, the 1st kyu students will eventually take their shodan tests, but there is no pressure to test and I will not allow them to take their shodan tests unless I think they will do well. They have trained for five years, but waiting one or two more years will be OK.

So I suggest that Brown Belt Syndrome is a phenomenon found in certain dojos that follow a particular teaching and training ethic. I hazard the suggestion that it is to be found in dojos that place relatively high stress on the importance of individual responsibility (including resonsibility for one's own progress in aikido).

Best wishes,

Amelia Smith
07-15-2006, 07:27 AM
I hazard the suggestion that it is to be found in dojos that place relatively high stress on the importance of individual responsibility (including resonsibility for one's own progress in aikido).
Or, perhaps it's found at the point at which a student takes on more individual responsibility. I think that most people who train for a long time will eventually have to become more self-directed and/or take on more responsibility. The need to take on more responsibility might come from opening a dojo, becoming one of the senior students, or losing a sensei.

--Amelia

Peter Goldsbury
07-15-2006, 07:55 AM
Or, perhaps it's found at the point at which a student takes on more individual responsibility. I think that most people who train for a long time will eventually have to become more self-directed and/or take on more responsibility. The need to take on more responsibility might come from opening a dojo, becoming one of the senior students, or losing a sensei.

--Amelia

Hello Amelia,

I agree, but the issues you raised do not necessarily relate to Brown Belt Syndrome, as I understand it from this thread. I have trained for a long time and over the years I have taken on more responsibility. This extra responsibility has come from all of the three examples you mention snd in addition running a large international aikido federation.

Best wishes,

Lee Salzman
07-15-2006, 09:44 AM
As a brown belt with about 5 years training, who is a hair's breadth away from giving up on aikido lately (and this from a guy who was until only recently training just about every day of the week):

1. Too much mysticism, too little practical explanation. Whenever I seem to be experiencing problems, the senior student, or perhaps sensei, will just bombard me repeatedly with phrases like: "Use your ki." or "Use your center.", with no further explanation. Bland phrases like that belong on Hallmark greeting cards, not as instruction. The farther I get, the less practical instruction I get, which is increasingly replaced with the equivalent of Zen koans.

2. Doubts about instructors. I see the skill possessed by visiting noteable sensei at the occasional seminar or surprise appearance, and then I see what my instructors are teaching, and in many cases I simply fail to see how what they're teaching could take me to that level, or in other cases, I am starting to become almost certain it won't because the instructors seem to have less commitment to teaching good aikido than I have to learning it. The instructors who can actually inspire me don't seem to be around to teach much.

3. Extreme confusion. I have tried practicing every day of the week for quite a while, even at different dojos to make that happen. But I only get the feeling that I am practicing/experimenting with the wrong things, only more frequently (see #2). No greater understanding appeared as a result. I feel like I lack any proper roadmap of how to get from point A to point B. I have a repetoire of things I have been shown in class, but without any real idea of how to employ them to affect progress (see #1), and many instructors who won't even let me use them in class because they have their own dubious and extremely suspect ideas (see #2).

4. Doubts about the art's method of teaching and imprinting itself in the body. After looking at other arts lately, I am starting to see some of them have a more thoughtful progression and idea of what the student should be learning and when. And it is only by looking at what some of the other arts are teaching and why that I am seeing potential explanations for what's in aikido and why, but stuff I'm not even sure most of the instructors I have available see (see #2).

That's the two cents of a frustrated brown belt.

John Boswell
07-15-2006, 10:31 AM
Lee,

I don't want to "knock" any dojo, but your issues seem to relate specifically to your instructor(s).

Were I in your shoes, I'd look for another dojo. Not sure if you have that option or not, but if you do... go try out other dojo's and "interview" the Sensei there. Watch some class and participate if they will let you. If they don't, probably don't want to be there anyway. If they do, give them a shot and see what you think.

Personally, I have no doubt in the ability of my instructor. I can see what he's doing, relate it to higher ranking sensei or shihan and know exactlly where he is coming from... and where he is going.

Time to go shopping, my friend! :D

John Boswell
07-15-2006, 10:34 AM
Oh, and no training gaps here....if I miss a day, people are asking where I was!

Now you're just showing off. :p :D

aikidoc
07-15-2006, 11:03 AM
As a brown belt with about 5 years training, who is a hair's breadth away from giving up on aikido lately (and this from a guy who was until only recently training just about every day of the week):

1. Too much mysticism, too little practical explanation. Whenever I seem to be experiencing problems, the senior student, or perhaps sensei, will just bombard me repeatedly with phrases like: "Use your ki." or "Use your center.", with no further explanation. Bland phrases like that belong on Hallmark greeting cards, not as instruction. The farther I get, the less practical instruction I get, which is increasingly replaced with the equivalent of Zen koans.

2. Doubts about instructors. I see the skill possessed by visiting noteable sensei at the occasional seminar or surprise appearance, and then I see what my instructors are teaching, and in many cases I simply fail to see how what they're teaching could take me to that level, or in other cases, I am starting to become almost certain it won't because the instructors seem to have less commitment to teaching good aikido than I have to learning it. The instructors who can actually inspire me don't seem to be around to teach much.

3. Extreme confusion. I have tried practicing every day of the week for quite a while, even at different dojos to make that happen. But I only get the feeling that I am practicing/experimenting with the wrong things, only more frequently (see #2). No greater understanding appeared as a result. I feel like I lack any proper roadmap of how to get from point A to point B. I have a repetoire of things I have been shown in class, but without any real idea of how to employ them to affect progress (see #1), and many instructors who won't even let me use them in class because they have their own dubious and extremely suspect ideas (see #2).

4. Doubts about the art's method of teaching and imprinting itself in the body. After looking at other arts lately, I am starting to see some of them have a more thoughtful progression and idea of what the student should be learning and when. And it is only by looking at what some of the other arts are teaching and why that I am seeing potential explanations for what's in aikido and why, but stuff I'm not even sure most of the instructors I have available see (see #2).

That's the two cents of a frustrated brown belt.

Some very interesting points have been made. I chose the syndrome sort of tongue in cheek as in medical terms it usually means a varied set of symptoms indicating a problem which can be hard to pin down into a specific diagnosis. Perhaps the situation is more prominent in smaller dojos such as mine. I don't know.

Lee makes some good points.
1. Too much mysticism. Extend ki, etc. I always found those explanations frustrating as well since they have little meaning other than esoteric descriptions of what someone is doing physically or mind/body wise. Sometimes, it may be the instructor does not know how to articulate what he/she is actually doing-i.e., they are not in tune with their own physiology and body dynamics. It may be due to their level of understanding.
2. Doubts about the instructors. I don't know if this is due to lower rank or the quality. If lower rank, find someone of higher teaching skill. If it is quality, that is a quandry. I too experienced this early in my training. I was lucky to live at that time in an area where you could attend seminars with high ranking yudansha about once a month if you chose. I chose to avail myself of the training opportunities as much as I could afford. Unfortunately, that led to some internal discontent on my part. I recognized that the independent group I was primarily training with had some definite quality issues-they rarely ventured to seminars (I was at them and never saw them), they seemed content on just doing what they always did and not evolving their aikido (a problem that still persists with the group). I solved this by using class time with them to subtlely practice what I was learning at seminars. I also pursued study with another instructor concurrently and studied tapes and CDs a lot looking for things that I learned at seminars so I could refine them even more. When I moved to another group with higher quality but also a certain amount of inbred quality issues, I continued my self study until I found the master instructor who was where I saw my aikido going. It can take quite some time and some luck but your teachers will appear when you are ready for them. Fortunately, I found Hiroshi Kato sensei and he provided major insight into things I was struggling to work out on my own and continues to do so as I am able to train with him. My suggestion is to find your direction/comfort zone and work toward it using the tools you have developed. It is a slow and sometimes frustrating process and one that requires a lot of self study and experimentation with what you see. In the long run, you will train yourself to train yourself even when others cannot.
3. Extreme frustration. The lack of a road map can be difficult. So, in my opinion, don't rely on others to provide it. Make your own. Make an effort to learn something every time you step on the mat. I have trained with this mind set for years and I always expect to learn something even when I am teaching. It never fails me.
4. Teaching Doubts. Aikido in my opinion does not as an art do a good job of preparing instructors. The cirriculum can be too varied and is instructor based most of the time. However, one can use some of the elements laid out by the aikikai on how you approach your own education. Tai sabaki, kihon waza, henka waza, oyo waza, oyo henka waza, etc. At the basic level a focus on tai sabaki and then kihon waza will help you develop your own learning process. It allows you to understand your movement patterns and responses and train those elements. You can always integrate weapons as well to help train tai sabaki, etc.

Just some thoughts.

Karen Wolek
07-15-2006, 11:18 AM
Now you're just showing off. :p :D

Always. ;)

aikigirl10
07-15-2006, 02:19 PM
As a brown belt with about 5 years training, who is a hair's breadth away from giving up on aikido lately (and this from a guy who was until only recently training just about every day of the week):

1. Too much mysticism, too little practical explanation. Whenever I seem to be experiencing problems, the senior student, or perhaps sensei, will just bombard me repeatedly with phrases like: "Use your ki." or "Use your center.", with no further explanation. Bland phrases like that belong on Hallmark greeting cards, not as instruction. The farther I get, the less practical instruction I get, which is increasingly replaced with the equivalent of Zen koans.

2. Doubts about instructors. I see the skill possessed by visiting noteable sensei at the occasional seminar or surprise appearance, and then I see what my instructors are teaching, and in many cases I simply fail to see how what they're teaching could take me to that level, or in other cases, I am starting to become almost certain it won't because the instructors seem to have less commitment to teaching good aikido than I have to learning it. The instructors who can actually inspire me don't seem to be around to teach much.

3. Extreme confusion. I have tried practicing every day of the week for quite a while, even at different dojos to make that happen. But I only get the feeling that I am practicing/experimenting with the wrong things, only more frequently (see #2). No greater understanding appeared as a result. I feel like I lack any proper roadmap of how to get from point A to point B. I have a repetoire of things I have been shown in class, but without any real idea of how to employ them to affect progress (see #1), and many instructors who won't even let me use them in class because they have their own dubious and extremely suspect ideas (see #2).

4. Doubts about the art's method of teaching and imprinting itself in the body. After looking at other arts lately, I am starting to see some of them have a more thoughtful progression and idea of what the student should be learning and when. And it is only by looking at what some of the other arts are teaching and why that I am seeing potential explanations for what's in aikido and why, but stuff I'm not even sure most of the instructors I have available see (see #2).

That's the two cents of a frustrated brown belt.

Well, it seems to me like all of your problems are caused by something a little more obvious. And if you don't mind me saying so i think it's the manner in which you are being taught. In other words, you probably should look for a different dojo. Almost all of those #s refer back to #2 which is "doubts about instructors". That right there should be your first clue.

Even as a struggling brown belt myself, I am able to defend the art of aikido by saying, that aikido is a magnificent martial art and there is very much to be gained by practicing it. I think if you did find another dojo where the instructors were more devoted to teaching you in the correct way, you would be much more satisfied.

Of course, i don't know how your dojo is run, so there isn't alot of input i can give, but just based on how you explained your problem it looks like it all lies with the poor quality of instruction that you are being given.

I hope you work this out.

*Paige*

seank
07-16-2006, 03:17 PM
I'm right in this range at the moment, having only trained in Aikido for approximately three years, but with nearly 20 years martial arts experience I don't see myself as dropping things any time soon, even though I might take the odd class off due to injury or life commitments.

That said, I wonder if this might also be a situation of idol worship? When you start Aikido everything is new and confusing and usually you've seen something in your Sensei's technique that has led you to begin practicing. As you progress you become more knowledgeable and of course start to ask questions about the manner and method of teaching, especially as you begin to develop your own technique.

I've noticed more recently a gap in the practice of my sensei and my own practice, which sometimes leads to frustration, but is also a tool I can use to better my own understanding.

I do find it interesting, as many people have indicated, that this period through to shodan sees many Aikidoka becoming harsh or rough with their technique. By way of comparison, what are these same Aikidoka like 6 months or twelve months after they grade to shodan? I believe that during this period people are finding "their own Aikido" and revert to something a little more base during that time, but eventually develop their own style.

Maybe, as much as anything else, brown belt syndrome is a manifestation of the challenges being faced in developing your own style, a chrysalis for want of a better term...

pezalinski
07-17-2006, 11:06 AM
Lee,

I've seen that kind of "brown belt syndrome," too. And I've experienced it first hand, and come out the other side.

Keep on practicing. It takes a while before your body and person truly starts to integrate the movements of Aikido.... and it' s not all external movement, readily visible... All of those exhortations to "extend ki" and "move from your center" actually ARE good advice, and your instructors probably have a reason to keep on suggesting them. And it probably won't do any good to change to a different dojo, or seek out other instructors, because it's just going to be a case of "same song, different singer" telling you the same things you've been hearing all along.

The best way I can describe it is that there is something going on during this plateau, some kind of internal change happening within your aikido. Others are encouraging you, yet you don't yet understand what they are saying... Persevere, and see yourself through to the end of whatever change this plateau has to offer you... or change locations, and risk prolonging the plateau.

mriehle
07-17-2006, 12:00 PM
And it probably won't do any good to change to a different dojo, or seek out other instructors, because it's just going to be a case of "same song, different singer" telling you the same things you've been hearing all along.

Well, maybe.

But if someone is having trouble extending ki, the instructor has a responsibility to give him or her ideas about how to change it. The classic one is to change the visualization they are using (and, IME, brown belts are often still using visualizations where ki is concerned).

A great example:

I usually use a laser-lights visualization for unbendable arm. One guy in one of my classes just couldn't get that. So I changed it to flowing water, which he did get.

Obviously the visualizations will be more sophisticated (or should be!) at brown belt level, but the idea is the same. Sometimes it's as simple as "direct the energy at the shoulder, your sending it toward the elbow".

There are lots of tools in teaching. An art like Aikido necessarily includes some tools for teaching intangible ideas. Not using all of those tools is doing a disservice to your students.

aikidoc
07-17-2006, 04:20 PM
I'd try to use VAK concepts (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) to help someone over a training hump-different learning styles. The visual person responds to seeing things, the auditory to verbal description and the kinesthetic to feeling things.

The label I chose "brown belt syndrome" appears to be appropriate as I note those going through it seem to experience different symptoms with a similar result-decreasing or stopping practice. For those successful at overcoming the tendency to drop training, I am curious how they did so. During my Brown Belt (2nd 1st kyu phase) I increased my training frequency and only took time off due to an unforseen inability to get there (fog, fires-lived in Southern California) or a work conflict.

If you recognized yourself going through it, how did you break the tendency to quit?

giriasis
07-17-2006, 07:56 PM
If you recognized yourself going through it, how did you break the tendency to quit?

I think I'm going through it right, now. In the USAF it can be a year between 3rd and 2nd, a year and half between 2nd and 1st and two years between 1st and shodan. You really have to find reason to train OTHER than a black belt. You don't have the instant gratification of obtaining your next rank within a year anymore like I did from 5th to 3rd kyu so I've really am forced to find another reason to train. For me, it is finding a reason other than obtaining a black belt.

What I've discovered that I have found that I just want to find the joy in training. I think once we get to a certain level the plateaus get longer and harder to differentiate, you don't notice your improvements as much as you did at 5th or 4th kyu. But the key has been finding patience with myself and having faith in myself that I will improve over time and shodan will just be a natural consequence of my training rather than the point of training.

johanlook
07-17-2006, 08:39 PM
I don't know if this has been discussed before. There seems to be a phenomenon that occurs around 2nd kyu (brown belt level if using colored belts). Some of the characteristics I have noticed:
1. Training gaps: they stop training for long periods or start becoming scarce or irregular. Some stop all together. It generally starts with excuses-someone in class is pissing them off; they are bored; life is taking over, etc., etc.
2. Ego takes over: they start thinking they are as they sometimes say in Texas "all knowed up". It is characterized by quickness to correct others even those who outrank them, trying to stop others while doing ukemi, and claimed boredom-they are not learning anything new (even though the still don't have the basics down).

I have thought about this over the years and wonder what others think about it or if they experience it. My feelings are there is somewhat of a quick fix mentality with us yanks. We want everything in the instant mode and 4 years of training is definitely not instant. I also rationalize that it could be due to people simply not being cut out mentally for the discipline necessary to be a lifelong martial artist. It frustrates me to see people go so far and then falter-especially when they have talent.

Anyone else experience this? Do you have solutions?

I've been experiencing the characteristics that you describe since I was 5th kyu. Generally I keep my ego under control enough that I can keep training with everyone in the class. I don't have a problem with correcting people though - unless it's someone who really needs it. Perhaps it's just a normal ego thing. I remember hearing about this experiment where college students played jailer and prisoner and they had to stop the experiment before the end of the week because the jailers where getting too into the power trip of it.
Now I've never had the impulse to beat anyone with a baton but perhaps the whole hierarchy and I've got better skills that you thing naturally goes to one's head.

jason jordan
07-17-2006, 09:58 PM
If you recognized yourself going through it, how did you break the tendency to quit?

Coming from a background as a kid from "Shotokan" karate into Aikido... I until about 3rd kyu found it very difficult to fight the quitting spirit, but the principle of "Masakatsu Agatsu" was and is just something that rings in me.

"Proper attitude and victory over self" that principle even to this day helps me when I want to give in.
I found that everytime I felt the urge to quit, by pressing myself I always gained greater knowledge, understanding, and my skill increased.

Now a shodan who will be testing for Nidan in just months, I find myself feeling as though I know absolutely nothing (even for shodan level) but I have learned that this is just the next step in achieving a greater knowledge of the art I have come to love. I hope that even when I am 7th dan that I will still have the feelings of knowing nothing!!!!

"Failure is on the path of least resistance"

pezalinski
07-18-2006, 08:15 AM
For me i think I've realized that part of the reason for my lack of showing up for practice is maybe the lack of new material coming in.

... So travel. To Seminars. To other dojos, for a "friendship visit." There are so many different approaches to aikido, it's hard for me NOT to find new material in new places. :D And I have never been turned away from a class at an aikido dojo, whether I was a first time visitor or not - even as a white belt. Sign the waver, pay the (minimal) mat fee, put on your dogi and train.

(One of the happy wonders of the aikido world -- I would be surprised if you'd have the same kind of welcome at another shaolin school...)

My sensei travels extensively, often internationally, to practice with friends in other dojos. And he encourages that kind of behavior in his students. We always bring back new approaches, or a new understanding of our "old" approaches, when we return to the dojo.

It's a Good Thing. :ai: :ki: :do:

Lee Salzman
07-18-2006, 09:40 AM
If only it were as simple as going to other dojos. I've done so. Bought all the books I could find, too. None of what is taught addresses the questions that are arising in my practice right now. I've just been practicing to a point where I can see the limitations of my instructors and "aikido" itself. That is not to say the instructors at these other dojos or the inspiring instructors at my home club are not good, because their kihon waza is quite good, certainly better than mine.

Just that well, I can understand how their stuff works, and I can see the limits of it, and why it won't answer questions I'm dealing with at the moment. Maybe I haven't internalized all of it into my body, but I can plainly see the outcome of what happens even if I do. These limits are stuff aikido is SUPPOSED to teach, but has never been taught to me. The only place I could find answers is from another discipline entirely, which is no longer aikido, and which may push me out of aikido entirely, for lack of time to practice both. But in the end, again, all I'm trying to learn is stuff that aikido should have been teaching me from the beginning, but didn't, and not just intellectually, but in a way where the lessons can be applied entirely instinctively, without thought.

So for me, brown belt syndrome is simply: I've learned enough to be fairly sure I won't learn all that I want to learn from aikido. It just took me 5 years to see past the hand-waving. It could be that I'm wrong, or I may learn valuable stuff that can be applied back into my aikido much later on, but this is just how I strongly feel at the moment.

Dan Hover
07-18-2006, 09:50 AM
Lee, I don't understand what you mean by "limits" that Aikido is supposed to teach?

Lee Salzman
07-18-2006, 09:54 AM
Instinctive control of one's own body, stuff that may variously be referred to by stuff like ki, or breath power, but not only that, but how to learn it in a practical, objective, step-by-step manner, as opposed to a quasi-religious, "figure it all out yourself" approach.

Dan Hover
07-18-2006, 10:30 AM
Fair enough Lee, but in a practical, objective, step by step approach is very "western Minded" vs. self intuition/Flash of insight is very "eastern" or quasi religious, niether approach is better than the other just differences. I do koryu where very little explanation is offered and questions are not really encouraged. Not to mention mirrors are not used (as a manner of correcting your mistakes). The notion is that the teacher is the "ideal" form. Now insofar as step by step approach to something as indefinable as Ki or Kokyu Ryokyu, or even instinctively acting, (deliberate use of the word 'act' as opposed to 'react'), goes into what Mr. Martindale was saying above, repetition. Which is somewhat of a cliched saying when a senior student hits a rut. countless repetition which in turn gives that flash of insight to some greater idea or notion. Or a sense of Critical self awarness that not too many people have, or could even begin to cultivate. My only caveat is to tell you that sometimes the grass is always greener in other Budo.

aikidoc
07-18-2006, 10:38 AM
If only it were as simple as going to other dojos. I've done so. Bought all the books I could find, too. None of what is taught addresses the questions that are arising in my practice right now. I've just been practicing to a point where I can see the limitations of my instructors and "aikido" itself. That is not to say the instructors at these other dojos or the inspiring instructors at my home club are not good, because their kihon waza is quite good, certainly better than mine.

Just that well, I can understand how their stuff works, and I can see the limits of it, and why it won't answer questions I'm dealing with at the moment. Maybe I haven't internalized all of it into my body, but I can plainly see the outcome of what happens even if I do. These limits are stuff aikido is SUPPOSED to teach, but has never been taught to me. The only place I could find answers is from another discipline entirely, which is no longer aikido, and which may push me out of aikido entirely, for lack of time to practice both. But in the end, again, all I'm trying to learn is stuff that aikido should have been teaching me from the beginning, but didn't, and not just intellectually, but in a way where the lessons can be applied entirely instinctively, without thought.

So for me, brown belt syndrome is simply: I've learned enough to be fairly sure I won't learn all that I want to learn from aikido. It just took me 5 years to see past the hand-waving. It could be that I'm wrong, or I may learn valuable stuff that can be applied back into my aikido much later on, but this is just how I strongly feel at the moment.

Lee, your comments are quite vague and it is difficult to pinpoint what you see as limitations in aikido and what you feel won't work. My instructor used to work on testing his aikido against other arts. He would work out with high level instructors in other arts to see what would work or not. He refined this over the years and would deal with problems when they visited where he was training-you know the ones who wanted to come in and see if your stuff worked-kind of like the dojo challenges. Apparently, he was quite successful at correcting such misconceptions. He is still with the art 50+ years later, so apparently he is comfortable with what he found.

I'm not sure you are suffering from "brown belt syndrome" as much as you are conflicted about whether aikido is the right path for you. I'm not sure what the cause is but I get the impression you are going through a stage of looking at all the possible flaws in the art vs. looking at how to fix or overcome them. You training is apparently not fulfilling your needs or answering your questions. Such issues are difficult to address. I know little about your situation or instructors and this is not a good place to air such concerns. My impression, however, is that you are undergoing a serious "aikido identity crisis". Have you looked at other arts to see if they meet your expectations? Aikido is in my opinion difficult and it is sometimes a real challenge to find what you seek in the art. It is not for everyone. Some prefer the punch/kick arts or grappling arts. Reading and tapes and seminars all give valuable information if you know how to extract it. That, however, can be a challenge.

aikidoc
07-18-2006, 11:01 AM
Instinctive control of one's own body, stuff that may variously be referred to by stuff like ki, or breath power, but not only that, but how to learn it in a practical, objective, step-by-step manner, as opposed to a quasi-religious, "figure it all out yourself" approach.

This sounds like an issue with teaching "style". The Japanese instructors have more of a tendency to "figure it out". They don't want to hand you everything, I guess figuring if you have to work harder for it you'll own it more. Western instructors are used to teaching more methodically. You can help yourself by training to train-i.e., learning to model and understand what others do regardless of their ability to effectively present the material. I was fortunate in that early on I had such an instructor. Over the years I worked hard to hone that skill and am reasonably competent in picking things up quickly. Some have a more difficult time and need more guidance-just different learning styles. If you are more comfortable with a directed approach then a change in instruction might help.

Yes, it has strayed. The discussions have been interesting though.

akiy
07-18-2006, 01:42 PM
The discussion on "Better to Train in Many or Few Techniques?" has been moved here:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10675

-- Jun

Berney Fulcher
07-18-2006, 02:06 PM
Ego takes over: they start thinking they are as they sometimes say in Texas "all knowed up". It is characterized by quickness to correct others even those who outrank them, trying to stop others while doing ukemi, and claimed boredom-they are not learning anything new (even though the still don't have the basics down).
Also being a 2nd kyu right now, I find these brown belt threads really interesting, even if I feel like I'm being pigeonholed :) (Though I admit the sterotypes often fit)

As someone said above, my sensei tends to beat it out of me :p I'm not sure why he put a frown at the end, as it really seems to accelerate my training when he does.

In general though, if someone feels they are not learning anything new, or feels they have the basics down well enough, doesn't it behoove the sensei to show them that they don't?

We all go through plateaus where we feel like we aren't learning as much, and often the quickest way through them in my opinion is to ask more questions, which in turn leads to more (sometimes forceful) demonstrations, which in turn leads to more things to work on. And things to work on = no boredom.

MaryKaye
07-18-2006, 04:42 PM
I've found that training in other schools--particularly ones quite stylistically different from mine--really enhances my training at home. I particularly enjoy two dojo that I get to visit just once a year (for a week each) while travelling. I really notice how I've improved each year, far more than I do at home where the improvement is so incremental. It's good for my morale.

I also notice that my teacher has some areas on which she is particularly demanding. At home I never feel like I get them quite right; but those are the areas on which I get compliments when I'm visiting, so I can see that all that extra drill actually pays off.

When I'm at home and not travelling, I try to set goals for myself--at the moment I'm trying to take ukemi more efficiently so that I don't get tired so quickly. This way, if we spend yet another hour on the two throws we learned for fifth kyu (I'm sure I don't do them perfectly, but have no idea how to improve any more....) I can be thinking about breathing, keeping my center while getting up, and other ukemi issues rather than feeling bored with the technique.

I try not to think about my next test, for which I'm perpetually impatient. I don't succeed, alas. But I can at least find some other thoughts to compete with that one.

Mary Kaye

pezalinski
07-19-2006, 09:53 AM
Instinctive control of one's own body, stuff that may variously be referred to by stuff like ki, or breath power, but not only that, but how to learn it in a practical, objective, step-by-step manner, as opposed to a quasi-religious, "figure it all out yourself" approach.

Lee, I think you may be on to something, here. I agree that the training methods usually employed in the standard Aikido dojo setting are inappropriate for developing what you are looking for in a reasonable amount of time. Aikido programs are not usually structured, beyond the "introductory 6 weeks" class. Most schools, most instructors, teach in the traditional ad hoc manner.

This kind of large group instruction is not the kind of intense, personal training experience that I think you are looking for. It's a matter of commitment -- structured training requires an adherence to a schedule for both instruction and attendance by all parties - so that you're not always doing make-up work for the students who missed a class. Thankfully, the underlying principals of Aikido are consistent throughout the art, so the principles can be acquired in spite of the fact that the techniques vary from class to class.

The closest thing I can think of in the Aikido world would be for you to become an uchideshi for a high ranking instructor you really respect, or take a lot of personal one-on-one classes with said instructor(s). Essentially, you need to become a disciple of someone who is willing to train you to be all you can be. That kind of accelerated training, once you've gotten a good foundation (say, at 1st or 2nd kyu) is invaluable.

I don't know who your sensei is, but perhaps he could make a recommendation to another instructor for one-on-one training. Or, if you asked, he/she might be willing to take you as far as they can. A master instructor knows that he or she will be excelled by their best students -- that is the nature of teaching -- and they should be comfortable with doing all they can, and then passing you up the chain to someone they know can do more for you. (And if you don't have a master instructor, then find one.)

Lyle Bogin
07-21-2006, 12:44 PM
Brown belt syndrome, or what I have heard refered to as a "hakamitude" problem, is pretty normal and almost unavoidable. There comes a point at which people want to express their accumulated knowledge, and sometimes it comes out in a flood instead of a nice trickle. There is also the opposite problem, where people jibberjabber about their "unworthyness" of the next rank so often it's pointless.

John Boswell
07-21-2006, 02:55 PM
" Hakamitude "

THAT'S FUNNY. :D I'm gonna have to remember this one. ;

Robert Cowham
07-21-2006, 04:41 PM
What you call brown belt I call new shodan syndrome. Have seen quite a few people achieve shodan and then dissappear. There were invariably life changes present, but the key thing was some level of loss of direction/desire as far as I could see. The sense of achievement of a goal quite long sought for, and yet without a goal beyond it. Also a realisation that shodan actually wasn't *that* advanced...

Our dojo tends more to the Japanese style of not treating shodan as such a huge issue, so we don't have minimum time in grade, and I must admit I am generally in favour of that. 1-2 years in grade before shodan is pretty restrictive IMO - sure if people aren't training that much, but for those making real progress...

Am personally dealing with a period of much reduced practice due to knee problems and work going manic on me (and young family), but am hopefully in a position where I can do quite a lot on my own. Thinking and visualising is useful, and I enjoy swinging a sword in the back garden, or the grounds of the hotel where I am staying on business...

Robert

Lan Powers
07-21-2006, 11:40 PM
quote < Our dojo tends more to the Japanese style of not treating shodan as such a huge issue, so we don't have minimum time in grade, and I must admit I am generally in favour of that. 1-2 years in grade before shodan is pretty restrictive IMO - sure if people aren't training that much, but for those making real progress...> unquote

Wow ! That seems way-short in time to me.
Our organization has Shodan at the end of 3-4 years of STEADY training. Others have it even more from what I read. (Not disparaging, just noting the trend)
Different strokes ....
Lan

Robert Cowham
07-22-2006, 03:25 AM
Sorry I wasn't being clear - I meant that having a rigid time in grade requirement (e.g. 1 year at 1st kyu, not 1 - 2 years to get shodan!) was restrictive.

Robert

aikidoc
01-20-2007, 08:44 PM
Geez-another one.

One of my students in another city just had one of his females wig out because she was not getting tested for ikkyu when she wanted to-she was not ready in his and my opinion. She called us both liars, said we disrespected our sensei, were not living the aiki-philosophy, were not trustworthy, and then resigned from the dojo.

Maybe we should just stop promoting people to nikyu or ikkyu. Some seem to have their brain go someplace where the sun doesn't shine.

I have some problems with people deciding when they are ready to test. She also got in an argument with the instructor during class. Not good behavior. What is frustrating is she is Japanese and should understand the art conceptually better than that.

Kevin Wilbanks
01-20-2007, 08:56 PM
I have some problems with people deciding when they are ready to test. She also got in an argument with the instructor during class. Not good behavior. What is frustrating is she is Japanese and should understand the art conceptually better than that.

I met a woman who taught English in Japan and came back with a shodan in about 2 years. She said it was very common. I have also heard that women are often promoted nearly automatically without holding them to the same kind of standards as men in Japan - sort of a sexist, patronizing thing. If the woman comes from Japan, rank promotion as a long, difficult meritocratic process likely seems frustrating and perhaps even 'inauthentic' to her, since her expectations were forged in Aikido's country of origin.

As for the last sentence, another thing my friend told me was how amusing she thought it was when westerners got so wrapped up in Japanophilia that they idealized average Japanese people. According to her experience, people were just as likely to be greedy, inconsiderate, selfish, stupid, shallow, and so forth there as they are here. It's just another country full of people. And, just like here, fully half of them are below average...

aikidoc
01-20-2007, 09:12 PM
Well, if they get it automatically and us Americans actually make them earn it then I'm guilty as charged in changing Aikido.

I don't think we are wrapped up in Japanophillia but I'm not going to change my expectations of respect and common courtesy for anyone. I realized she is somewhat Americanized but I bet if it were a Japanese sensei she would not be as disrespectful to his or her face.

Jorge Garcia
01-20-2007, 09:30 PM
I have a small group of Japanese students and adults I am teaching Aikido to. I am their first teacher. They are returning to Japan in a year. I joke with them that it will be funny when they tell the other students in Japan that an American taught them Aikido. They are always super respectful to me though so I feel fortunate in that regard.
Jorge

Kevin Leavitt
01-21-2007, 02:25 AM
Wow, Jorge, I always assumed that you were of Japanese decent.

Rich Stephens
01-22-2007, 12:26 AM
I studied Aikido in Japan quite a number of years ago and am now considering studying again here in California. I think you will find that one reason you are getting brown belt syndrome in your students is the massive length of time American sensei require for students to move up through the ranks. Someone in this thread posted they have been training for 9 years and aren't yet shodan! I've always been puzzled by this because it is very different from Japan where the goal seems to be to guide the students through the basics and up to shodan quickly. And then the real learning begins.

This difference in approach is one of the things (amongst others) that has made me hesitant to study Aikido outside of Japan.

Mr. Riggs' comments above about his Japanese student are interesting. On the one hand you seem to be saying that since she is Japanese she should know better, but at the same time are dismissive of her Japanese opinion of what proper "aiki philosophy" (whatever that is) should be and how students should be treated in regards to testing and whatnot. I'm going to guess that she thought she was promised the chance to test, maybe with an off-hand comment that didn't seem like a promise from the sensei's American perspective but would to a Japanese, and when it didn't happen, that's why she questioned the sensei's trustworthiness. Like I said, I'm just speculating, but I lived in Japan for several years and have even been married to a Japanese woman for 14 years so I have some experience in cross-cultural communication issues, ,ha!

What is the history of how/why American dojos began to take so long to move students up through the Kyus and to Shodan? If there is another thread on this, let me know and I'll look it up and read it so as to keep this thread on topic. Thanks.

Kevin Wilbanks
01-22-2007, 01:02 AM
Interesting perspective overall, Rich, but using the difference in ranking practices between the two countries as an excuse not to practice seems awfully silly to me. Who cares? There is a lot of great Aikido here, and your experience on the mat will not be any different with a little dye on your belt or an extra piece of paper or two in your drawer.

Personally, if I had unlimited recovery abilities and traveling resources and nothing to do but study Aikido, I would probably spend most of my time in the US and Europe, not Japan.

aikidoc
01-22-2007, 05:40 AM
Rich your point is interesting. She was aware about when we might test her. Not the point. Circumstances changed that. She wasn't ready.

Yes, there are differences in promotion and in MHO 9 years to shodan is ridiculous. However, I think the attitude in Japan is since we are not training with the masters we take longer. They double our time between dan ranks compared to Japanese students as well.

Ron Tisdale
01-22-2007, 08:36 AM
I really am not sure if the difference in time between ranks/testing is because the Japanese assume we'll take longer, or if it is because most non-Japanese seem to look at a "black belt" as a sign of being able to defend oneself. There was an interesting article in JAMA sometime ago that looked at the different expectations for training, and especially yudansha rank, between Americans and Japanese. Americans seemed to often link self-defense with martial art, while Japanese seemed to put that much lower down in priorities or expectations.

Best,
Ron

Josh Reyer
01-22-2007, 08:42 AM
Rich your point is interesting. She was aware about when we might test her. Not the point. Circumstances changed that. She wasn't ready.


I'm extrapolating from my own experience and making massive generalizations here, but it is my impression that in Japan, at least nowadays, the test determines whether you are ready. For example, in my dojo tests are held every three months, and the instructor encourages the students to study for the tests and take them. It is my impression of Hombu (though I hope someone who trains there regularly will correct me if I'm wrong) that once you get your time in, you should test; how you do determines whether you were ready or not.

Of course, you are the man on the spot, Mr. Riggs, and I don't intend to suggest your judgment is faulty; surely there are people for whom testing is an exercise in futility and the result a foregone conclusion. She may have been one of those people. I'm just trying to explore the cross-cultural angle. I suspect from your story that is a case of a cultural difference exacerbated by her personality issues.

Coz:UK
01-22-2007, 09:10 AM
Quick question: If the Japanese girl had been allowed to take the grading and put on a good 'performance' would you have given the grade? It sounds like gradings could be more of a formality than an actual test if certain people are told they can't go for the grading. Just a thought... :rolleyes:

Budd
01-22-2007, 10:13 AM
Well, I'm in my early 30s, but getting more and more silver in my hair, if my brown belt and I both spend enough time "where the sun don't shine", maybe we can both darken our hair color and belt at the same time -- without even testing . . . yippee.

Seriously, though, bad behavior is bad behavior. There are people that just need external validation or to show how "good" they are to everyone that's watching. This manifests in many ways -- acting like a thug to juniors, not playing nicely with others in seminars, being a poor guest when you visit other dojo, etc. I've not seen this to be exclusive to brown belts or aikidoka (or even martial arts). Typically, such things reflect poorly on one's teacher, in any discipline.

I'm not particularly in a hurry to advance in rank. I do it (partly) because it reflects part of my obligation to my dojo and instructor. I think testing also serves a similar purpose that tournaments did when I used to compete in combat sports -- you know you have to show up on a given day and perform, just with testing in budo, it's a little clearer to me that the real opponent is myself.

aikidoc
01-22-2007, 10:57 AM
THe points mentioned are well taken and it is difficult to generalize.

Generally, I prefer not to embarass people by putting them on probation which is an acronym for failing to meet the standards of the rank being tested. If someone needs more training, no matter the hours, I feel it is better to let them know and get them the training. Especially, when the rank is nikyu or ikkyu levels. Just having the hours and time in grade should not be automatic.

Budd, you are right-bad behavior is bad behavior and this middle aged lady no matter her heritage demonstrated just that. As to reflecting poorly on the teacher, I disagree-at least in this case. My student is very supportive of his students and does not deserve to be treated in this fashion. He has a small school with a family atmosphere. She is simply way off base. I think some of these issues are external to the training environment and we are getting it taken out on us.

Rich, I disagree. I'm not on the spot for anything. I'm just the one conducting the test. She's the one on the spot in terms of behavior and testing.

By the way, I'm not approaching this as an airing of dirty laundry. I have seen this many times over the years. It frustrates me to see people get so close to shodan and then just piss away the opportunity for weak reasons. To train for so many years and then just quit escapes me. Different priorities I guess. When I went through that stage in my training, I did just the opposite. I cranked up my training and efforts-went from 5 to 6 days a week to 7 and sometimes double duty on 3 days a week while attending more seminars. And perhaps that is the crux of the matter, I saw the goal looming much closer and wanted to achieve what I set out to do. Maybe I was more goal oriented than they are-don't know. And yes, as everyone who has gone through the process I'm sure I had issues with instructors , etc. I just focused on my training and where I wanted to go with it and let that stuff work itself out over time. I have others that hung in there and are now part of the teaching staff. They continue to train to this day.

By the way, this lady had issues with a previous instructor as well and perhaps there may be a pattern there with her.

aikidoc
01-22-2007, 11:01 AM
Perhaps a deeper issue to consider here is why do people quit after investing so much time, money and effort in their training?

Ron Tisdale
01-22-2007, 11:15 AM
I don't know...I quit wrestling toward the end of the season in my second year. If I had continued showing up to practice, I would have lettered a second time, and gotten my jacket. :) At the time that seemed kind of a big thing to me.

But I found myself on the mat, wrestling, thinking about my writing rather than living in the moment. It just didn't seem important anymore. So I stupidly just stopped showing up. Come the end of my semester, I got an F on the course that you were automatically enrolled in as a member of a varsity sport. That got my attention...and I went to speak to my coach. He was kind...he gave me a choice...and A in the course, or the jacket. ;) I took the A in the course of course.

I guess I say this for a couple of reasons...
a) bad behavior is bad behavior...it really doesn't matter why. The coach would have been perfectly correct to not give me the jacket AND flunk me. But I did learn some good lessons from him. One was that the quality of HIS mercy at least was not strained. Two being that respect is respect, in Asian MA or Western sport. A wise teacher will demand it. Three being that there are consequences for your actions. Live with it.
b) Sure, you can stop doing anything at any time...including living. But it would probably benefit us in most cases not to drop something we have a large investment in casually.

Best,
Ron

Budd
01-22-2007, 11:28 AM
To the first point, I think it's always a reflection on the teacher how the students behave (as well as on the dojo, on the other students, etc.). In a dojo collective everyone shares responsibility and should take ownership -- it's just that the dojocho is the senior person and has the most responsibility. Obviously, as an adult, the student that exhibited the bad behavior is the person most responsible for their own actions, but an alternate argument can be made regarding them getting to a certain level without clearly understanding the requirements and responsibilities for 1) Having that level & 2) Advancing.

Please understand, I'm not criticizing the dojo or teacher in question, I'm more or less ruminating on how a collective is sometimes only as strong as its weakest link and the roles/responsibilities an instructor/senior may have. With each advancement in rank that I've made, I've become increasingly aware of the responsibilities to my dojo and my training that go along with it. It only gets harder, but then my ability to adapt and cope should be improving as well, ja?

Which leads to the point you just raised, regarding why people quit -- I think someone else chimed in that there's a natural drop-out associated with this type of training, I know my own instructor keeps details on how long people stay with it, their reasons for leaving, etc. In traditional dojo, I think a main goal is to have a healthy dojo collective to facilitate the training (this is accomplished in various ways), but another goal is to have enough people able to pass along/transmit the curriculum/skills/etc. Part of the "intangibles" that get passed along -- with waza/techniques, body skills and other knowledge -- is an "attitude" of training-for-its-own-sake.

Yet, along with the watering down of martial arts that's prevalent (inevitable as you make something ever-more-popular) is this entitlement attitude of "well, I've put in the time", or "well, I'm the next highest grade after Sensei" that is can be dangerously (and frequently) colored by a need to "get it". The brown belt syndrome and "hakamitude" that we were discussing earlier seems to go along with the idea that "I'm almost there!", instead of "Yup, another day training, need to work on that relaxation thing". When their illusions of competence/mastery get shattered, a knee jerk reaction can be to throw in the towel, throw a tantrum and/or walk away . . .

odudog
01-22-2007, 12:17 PM
Japan is a test taking society. It sounds like she was really expecting to take the test. It might have been better to let her take the test and fail then to deny her the opportunity to test. This happens all the time for the kids taking the college entrance exams. They see how close or far they were in actually getting in and then have a basis on how much more they have to study. This mode of thinking is the opposite of us here in the US. We don't want to fail and will avoid taking the test if failure will be assured. Instead we wait until we are pretty sure that failure is not going to happen.

I don't know if you have seen the test syllabus in Japan, but when I saw what was required in the Aikikai Honbu Dojo, I was just floored by the simplicity. I was then told by someone there that they don't take you to be a serious student until you become a 2 Dan then they crack down on you hard. So even though she might not have been technically ready to pass the exam, she might have thought that she would still be able to pass for the grading is far from being a 2 Dan.

aikidoc
01-22-2007, 12:35 PM
No one was denying her the opportunity to test. It was just being delayed for a week or two so she had the opportunity to work on things she needed.

To a certain extent, student behavior is reflective of the standard set by the dojo cho. However, it is virtually impossible to make everyone behave-if you have raised children or animals you will realize this fact. The fact she chose to misbehave shows me she has ownership of the problem and issue. She did not do the curteous thing which would be to discuss off the mat her concerns in a mature (she is mature) and professional manner and then working to resolve her concerns with the dojo cho. Instead, she chose to vent her frustrations with whatever by flying off the handle. A serious mistake on her part since she set a poor example for a senior student and misbehaved in a manner that demonstrates to me she is not deserving of the rank-stating people were liars, making false statements, acting inappropriately in class as a senior student, threatening the instructor, etc.

I'm sorry she chose this route. However, I think she has total ownership of whatever issues are bothering her and she has damaged her dojo status in a manner that is likely beyond repair. All without bothering to calmly discuss her concerns with the instructional staff and then making baseless statements to put the icing on the cake.

There are appropriate and inappropriate ways of going about something. Immaturity is not necessarily age related.

aikidoc
01-22-2007, 12:41 PM
It just didn't seem important anymore. So I stupidly just stopped showing up.

I guess I say this for a couple of reasons...
a) bad behavior is bad behavior...it really doesn't matter why. The coach would have been perfectly correct to not give me the jacket AND flunk me. But I did learn some good lessons from him. One was that the quality of HIS mercy at least was not strained. Two being that respect is respect, in Asian MA or Western sport. A wise teacher will demand it. Three being that there are consequences for your actions. Live with it.
b) Sure, you can stop doing anything at any time...including living. But it would probably benefit us in most cases not to drop something we have a large investment in casually.

Best,
Ron

Perhaps that is why people quit-it just does not seem important to them anymore. In spite of the excuses one hears, I think that is a fairly valid reason. It's a personal choice and perhaps they got into what they were doing for the wrong reasons. Perhaps, what they thought was going to be less work turned out to be more than they were willing to do.

Yes, I agree bad behavior is bad behavior. The person who chooses to display the bad behavior often times tries to shift the blame to others. That is unfair.

Dropping something casually to me is a reactive response. It would perhaps make more sense to take a short vacation and see if you are missing what you were doing rather than burning your bridges.

Qatana
01-22-2007, 07:05 PM
Some people do not "choose" bad behavior. Some people are striving to overcome severe behavioral difficulties.This may or may not apply to the situation being discussed but it Does apply top some of us.

Ron Tisdale
01-22-2007, 07:14 PM
I do have sympathy for what you are saying Jo, but I have to ask a question. Why do some people with the background you speak of continually fail in life, but others from the same background succeed?

My father had many reasons in life to fail...but he didn't. He didn't accept excuses for himself, and he didn't accept them from me, either. Maybe that is kind of harsh sometimes...but it did work for him, and so far, for me. I hope I'm never really tested though...I've heard of people going through things that make me cringe...so I don't mean to dismiss what you are saying in any way.

Best,
Ron

Kevin Wilbanks
01-22-2007, 07:46 PM
I interpreted what Jo was saying to be more about brain chemistry and mental illness than background. Sometimes, it is very difficult to tell where to draw the line between assessing whether someone can't or won't do something, especially with a problem like depression. Before I ever suffered depression in earnest, I generally thought it was kind of lame excuse for being lazy. Since I had depressive tendencies myself, but never serious hopelessness or amotivation, I thought that severely unmotivated people could just get off their ass and do whatever it was they weren't doing, but that they were just being lame. I still think that in some cases and to some extent. However, I later experienced real depression and found that it makes it so that you don't want to do whatever it is or even think you do or should. Pulling yourself up becomes impossible because it changes the way you think and the content of your thoughts. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people who seem like Aikido shirkers or dropouts with no excuse are actually having depression problems that others, and perhaps even they themselves, don't know about.

I quit Aikido years ago due to a combination of chronic injury problems and unacknowledged depression. I didn't think I was depressed, but I can see that I was in retrospect. At the time it just seemed like I didn't feel like going more and more often, and complaints I had about other dojo members, situations, and aspects of training seemed to become more and more important. What a lot of people don't realize is that depression is not so much about bad emotions as it is bad, circular thought patterns that elicit bad emotions and/or emotionlessness. Often the sufferer does not notice the change in thought patterns or suspect that their thinking is being influenced by deteriorating brain chemistry. The ideas seem just as legitimate, volitional, self-evident, etc... as normal thought patterns. It's sneaky and not necessarily discernable to others or even oneself.

Ron Tisdale
01-22-2007, 07:53 PM
Ah, that makes perfect sense. I think you are correct, and I didn't understand what she was saying. Thank you for sharing such a personal experience...I don't know that I have that kind of courage. I hope things are well with you...

Best,
Ron

Kevin Wilbanks
01-22-2007, 08:36 PM
Depression is practically an epidemic in the US. At any given time, between 5-10% of adults suffer from major depression and up to another 20% or so probably suffer from subclinical or untreated depression. There are a lot of probable reasons having to do with the differences between the typical contemporary industrialized lifestyle and the one humans were generally leading up until the last hundred years of so. It could also have been similarly prevalent in prior eras and simply not well accounted for in history.

It doesn't seem like a big thing to talk about it to me. The vast majority of my family and everyone I've ever known well has been depressed or depressive. I definitely don't want to be seriously depressed again, or be in a relationship with anyone who is, but the milder, lighter gray shades of it are integral to who I am and I wouldn't give it up now even if someone showed up with a magic wand.

If you are interested in understanding depression better, you can get a lot of insight with just a few hours of your time. I recommend a very short book by William Styron called "Darkness Visible".

http://www.tiny.cc/DarknessVisible

There is also a beautiful recent movie that gets it exactly right, while not being depressing in itself, called "Off The Map" with Sam Elliot and Joan Allen. One of my favorite movies ever:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0332285/

Freerefill
01-22-2007, 08:39 PM
I don't know much about 'brown belt syndrome' save to say that my senpai, who are both going for their shodan test quite soon, while both maintaining a steady flow of wit and humor, always revert to their humble selves when put to the grindstone: neither one has an ego of any way, shape, size, or form, even though everyone endlessly jokes about it. I find myself humbled by them and eager to live up to them, but when I myself am put to the grindstone, I find myself lacking miserably. I have a natural tendency to help people, but when the rare occurance crops up when my uke is junior to me (I myself only have 5 months under my obi) and they ask a question, I'm bound by my ethics to answer but stumped by my complete and utter lack of experience and knowledge. Ironically (at least, ironically at first) my senpai seemed to give the same answers to me that I gave to my juniors. As I said, my senpai avoided their ego trips by accepting full well that they had a long road ahead of them, despite their long road behind them.

I think one of the biggest motivators that we have is our sensei. She's a remarkable lady and a damn near workaholic. She's currently holding down 4 jobs and still manages to compete in dog sled races! Yet never have I met a more emotionally secure and calm woman. She teaches by example, and one of her constant examples is that even she, a 4th dan with 25 years experience, isn't doing it "properly". In fact, no one is. It's a constant reminder to everyone, junior and senior alike, that the road is always long. Thankfully, she also manages to show us that the long road is full of wonderful things to keep us motivated and moving.

I also read mentioned about pressure... I don't know if my senpai feel pressure, but I know I certainly did when I was going up for my 6th kyu test. I took about 20 rolls during warmup just so I could calm my nerves, and it didn't help much. My sensei has a policy: if she lets you test, she's seen that you can pass the test, so the test is really a formality; you have the skills of whatever grade you're aiming for. Despite that, I was still a wreck. Though, the more I ponder it, the more I begin to wonder... wouldn't the teachings of Aikido help to focus thoughts and relieve stress due to that sort of pressure? Perhaps I won't be so nervous when it comes to 5th kyu...

And hopefully I'll remember my sensei and senpai when it comes to my shodan test many years from now (sadly, I'm moving away in a few months) and I'll keep my ego right where it should be: non-existant.

Qatana
01-22-2007, 10:04 PM
Thank You ,Kevin, for clarifying my statement.

Rich Stephens
01-25-2007, 07:11 PM
Interesting perspective overall, Rich, but using the difference in ranking practices between the two countries as an excuse not to practice seems awfully silly to me. Who cares? There is a lot of great Aikido here, and your experience on the mat will not be any different with a little dye on your belt or an extra piece of paper or two in your drawer.

Hi Kevin, I realize my earlier message wasn't clear. It's not that I prefer Japan because it was easier for me to get an extra piece of paper (my dojo didn't use colored belts): it's that I don't like the difference in attitude that the two ranking methods reveal.

Americans seem to place more emphasis on the rank (thus the colored belts) and, especially at the shodan level, view it as a great accomplishment - and not the humble beginning that the Japanese consider it. Perhaps because the students are going to place more emphasis on their new rank is why it takes longer between tests in the USA (i.e. if the students are going to think there is a huge difference between 3-kyu and 2-kyu or between 1-kyu and shodan, their sensei better make sure they actually do improve a lot between those steps). Or perhaps its vice versa.

Anyway, overall my hesitancy to study here is that I just don't think the experience will be the same for me here as it was there and I don't want to be disappointed or mar the impact that my short time studying in Japan has had on my life. It's also that I am used to doing and thinking of Aikido with the Japanese part of my brain and to do it in English just seems too weird to me. I realize this attitude is my problem alone and not a reflection on the fine sensei and students here in the usa, so I should probably just get over it and find a dojo and see if it feels right to me! Or perhaps there are Japanese run dojo in the San Francisco area that would help ease the transition?

crbateman
01-25-2007, 08:01 PM
Rich, I've been lurking this thread, but I'm now inspired to make two points of my own:

1) You're generalizing. It goes without saying that every system, every dojo, and every teacher is in some way different. You should look (with an open mind) for a situation that suits you, rather than assuming that none will. I'm sure that there is something on this side of the pond that will be similar enough to be useful to you.

2) Any practice is better than none at all, as your skills will diminish and you cannot benefit from simply remembering how things were in good ol' Japan. Your progress is as much a function of what you set up and focus on internally as it is a result of your external environment. You also could go a long way toward the benefit of others by passing on what (and how) you learned in Japan.

Don't let other people's preoccupation with rank affect how you view it. You may be at a crossroad, but it doesn't have to be the end of the road. Just my two cents worth.

Kevin Wilbanks
01-25-2007, 09:16 PM
Rich,

I know what you mean about distaste for preoccupation with rank. I've always thought it would be nice if there were no ranks at all, but that extreme might be confusing. I avoided testing for some of my Aikido years and moved around too much for it others.

Back when I avoided it, it actually had more to do with me taking it too seriously, though not in the standard way. I found that I viewed tests in a very egocentric way - looking at them as an event where I had to perform perfectly and show how good I was. I didn't like getting into all that because I was more interested in aspects of Aikido that I were of interest to me, and not on the syllabus: problems, principles, etc...

I especially didn't like that whenever there was 'free' training time, everyone wanted to cram for their exams and no one wanted to do anything exploratory. It reminded me of college where most people were busy trying to figure out what to regurgitate for a good grade instead of thinking for themselves. I still have these complaints and think it is a problem with the ranking system.

However, I have decided that whenever I get back to a regular enough situation again, I am going to view the test differently. Basically, I am going to take it way less seriously and see it as something I am primarily doing for others. Other people in the dojo like testing, they'll help me prepare for it, they will even do half the work during the test... if I just show up when I'm supposed to and go along with it, it shouldn't be that much of a problem.