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anon
01-23-2007, 09:31 AM
The dojo I am a member of is considering either switching affiliations or becoming an independent dojo. While I do not have the ultimate say in this regard, I do have a voice and would like to get feedback from anyone who has been through this. Or if you've always been independent and can provide insight as to what that's like the feedback would be appreciated as well. Some of the main concerns are continued longevity and legitimacy of the dojo. Is there any difference when it comes to attracting and retaining students? Ultimately if you're independent you're awarding your own rank, correct? How hard is it to become directly affiliated w/ hombo?

thanks.

James Davis
01-23-2007, 12:18 PM
I've been a member of an independent dojo for eight years. My aikido has always been just fine at every other dojo I've visited, and every seminar I've gone to. It all comes down to what you want that piece of paper to mean...

Being a part of an idependent dojo, your rank may not mean so much to other people, but it's not about what other people think, in my opinion. I've seen people who have no "recognized" rank do some amazing things, and I've seen people who haven't practiced for six years and have lost a lot of their edge that still have that piece of paper that says they're a shodan...

One of my sempai is looking at jumping through the requisite hoops to get ranking through Hombu. I've chosen to do so as well for the sake of my students. While I'm comfortable just having some skill, my future students may want recognition for their accomplishments, so I want any rank that I award them to be recognized.

How important is rank to you?

Keith R Lee
01-23-2007, 02:15 PM
I agree with James. Is getting a slip of paper from Japan that costs a few hundred dollars really that important to you? Organization this, system that, who really cares as long as the training as good. That's what you're there for, right?

aikidoc
01-23-2007, 02:39 PM
I think rank is important to most people who want to teach or hope to teach. The issue for me is transferability of the rank. I started out in an independent organization. They ended up being more "hobbyists" than seriously trying to improve their aikido. However, they also tried to hold themselves out as comparable to other organizations and as a former friend in the organization pointed out to me they were far from it.

If you stay in your own dojo or organization, it likely does not matter. However, that can be limiting for one's own advancement.

I'm curious why is is considered "jumping through the requisite hoops"? I never had any problems. You fill out some paperwork, know the techniques, pay your fees and take a test. How is that any more hoopish than any other testing procedure. Unless someone just walks up to you and hands you a certificate and says you are now ___dan.

I've heard this argument regarding Aikido politics as well. The only political elements I have noticed in being affiliated with the Aikikai have nothing to do with the Aikikai. THey have to do with the organizations and personalities in the organization with power. That too can be avoided by affiliating with a shihan without the trappings of a big organization.

aikidoc
01-23-2007, 02:53 PM
I agree with James. Is getting a slip of paper from Japan that costs a few hundred dollars really that important to you? Organization this, system that, who really cares as long as the training as good. That's what you're there for, right?

There in lies a dilemma. Unless the organization you are in has people comparable in knowledge and skill as some of the shihans who have spent their lives studying the art then the issue of advancing one's quality becomes important. Unless of course someone prefers to stay where they are. I view it as a process not an end product. A never ending process constantly requiring learning and evolution of my understanding. Hell, I have to do that anyway just to stay ahead of my students.

Would it make any different if there was no cost involved? The Aikikai, as an example, tries to maintain a certain basic level of quality by establishing testing requirements and sending out or allowing affiliation with shihans or test committees to advance members in rank. It's not a perfect system, however, no one has put forth one that works better.

There are a lot of people out there of a free spirit mindset that do not want to have any rules or be guided by criteria. There are also some that just simply don't care about rank, organizations, or whatever and just want knowledge. However, there are also a lot of hucksters out there that teach stuff they have no business teaching. Some standards help establish a level of competency, abeit inperfect.

anon
01-23-2007, 03:58 PM
thanks for the replies- i also have looked a little at the "similar threads" which i probably should have found before initially posting. rank seems to be a recurring theme and it's been asked as to whether it's important to me. answer- yes it is important. not in terms of i'm a shodan, nidan, or sandan but in terms of maintaining a credible lineage. if a dojo goes independent and the highest rank at the time is say nidan then essentially you've established a ceiling of nidan for everyone unless you grant your own rank. I'm not too big on that idea- there have been many threads on ranks w/ well thought out positions. One of my favorite posts (can't remember poster) summarized rank as being for the benefit of the dojo not the individual...a perspective i'm beginning to adopt. I've been a member of a mma dojo (long before i ever heard the term mma) in the past and know what can happen in terms of sokeship type behaviour. In my mind an accurate, honest "family tree" is important to the long term stability of a dojo.

i have no problem paying affiliate dues and fully realize any organization is going to have issues. Again, i'm not driving this bus just trying to get an idea of what the ride is like. thanks again.

NagaBaba
01-23-2007, 10:02 PM
To practice aikido you need a Teacher. Not nidan, sandan or other rank -- a Teacher. Without a Teacher you are lost - no trasmission is possible. And practice will degenerate with time. So from this point of view affiliation is a false dilema. If you affiliate with some federation, but you will not find a Teacher for you -- it will not be a big help.

tenshinaikidoka
01-24-2007, 12:15 AM
Being independant is not that bad. One question to ask oneself is, what is an affiliation, and what type of lineage? Every school, orginazation, affiliation or whatever you want to call it, started within someone or a small group of people. Aikido was started by O'Sensei. Many "traditions" were also started by people. So, why is it if someone breaks away from an affiliation or orginazation that they or thier rank are any less credible.

I obtained my ShoDan in an independant dojo issued by my Sensei. Am I any less skilled than any other Shodan? No, and I might be more skilled than the average ShoDan. I also might be less skilled than another ShoDan. Our dojo has a lineage that can directly link up to O'Sensei. So there is the lineage.

If someone says that my rank is fake, illegitimate or whatever term they choose to use, that is fine, I know I worked many years to obtain my rank and I also realize it is just a belt and really means nothing in the real world.

While lineages show who taught who, usually from O'Sensei on down to the current Dojo-Cho, this really means very little. When it comes to how good the instructor is that will be teaching you all the lineage in the world won't make him a good or bad instructor. You must evaluate the instructor for who he is not where his lineage traces up the line to. Many bad instructors have great lineage lines but little else.

Now do not get me wrong, there are frauds among us and they may have trained for a year or two, and suddenly open a dojo, claim (or purchase rank) from some association and start teaching. I think all teachers should be checked out and if your suspicious, hey, ask who thier teachers are or were, how long they trained etc. I would then do my homework and track down anyone I could, based on the information they gave me, and get in contact with thier former teachers and/or students who trained with him/her.

Ok, sorry to be so long winded, just my two cents, for what it is worth!!!!!

happysod
01-24-2007, 03:29 AM
HI Anon,

Experienced with both types of groups - one who switched and an independent from day 1.

The group who switched (many years ago, Dave Humm I think was with the same lot) didn't do that well in my opinion as the instructors were not really of a level or temperament to sustain it in terms of dojo longevity - so it is a valid concern.

My current (independent) lot have fared better, but in part because of a willingness to train elsewhere and bring it back - so it's back to the temperament of the dojo and its instructors.

I feel to progress and keep a decent standard in an independent dojo can be harder work than in dojo connected to a large association, mainly because it's up to the members to make the links to others in ma rather than coming as part of a package. However, I've equally seen affiliated dojo quickly become stilted and, although affiliated, rather cut-off because the only link has become paying the fees.

In short, I don't believe that affiliation matters as much as some claim, except as John said for transference and recognition of rank. As long people within the dojo are vigilant and honest about their training and do get off their arse to experience other forms of training - not just aikido BTW - its all good.

Quick suggestion, if you go independant, sort out your insurance and a code of practice covering as many potential dojo issues as quickly as possible - these are areas which can cause unnecessary rankles later on if they're left to being written on the back of a fag packet.

chris w
01-24-2007, 07:22 AM
written on the back of a fag packet.

??? :confused:

raul rodrigo
01-24-2007, 07:47 AM
??? :confused:

I think in Britain this refers to a pack of cigarettes, though I could be wrong.

Dazzler
01-24-2007, 08:14 AM
The dojo I am a member of is considering either switching affiliations or becoming an independent dojo. While I do not have the ultimate say in this regard, I do have a voice and would like to get feedback from anyone who has been through this. Or if you've always been independent and can provide insight as to what that's like the feedback would be appreciated as well. Some of the main concerns are continued longevity and legitimacy of the dojo. Is there any difference when it comes to attracting and retaining students? Ultimately if you're independent you're awarding your own rank, correct? How hard is it to become directly affiliated w/ hombo?

thanks.

Hi

You dont actually say why you are considering such action.

Is it technical difference? Politics? Personalities?

Having seen a number of switches both to and from the organisation I am with throughout the last 15 years or so I think the hidden aspect of such action can be a serverance of ties with friends and partners of many years standing.

In one of his many excellent posts, George Ledyard recently talked about the reunification of instructors and students after some 30 years.

Maybe in this case the 30 year separation was necessary, however, I would suggest careful consideration before taking such action.

If there is no choice go for it, but do bear in mind that such decisions carry costs.

Regards

D

anon
01-24-2007, 09:26 AM
Hi all, once again thanks for the responses. So what i'm getting from several of your posts that seem to coincide w/ my thinking is summarized as follows:

Independent not bad just harder perhaps to maintain quality and definitely more work administratively. Keeping w/ the "family tree" analogy used earlier, I'm going to define the root structure as shihan level instruction, the trunk as lower rank dans, and the limbs as kyu ranks. Becoming independent runs the risk of losing some or all of the root structure W/out proper root structure the tree (dojo) w/ be stunted and possibly wither. It is possible to train w/ various top level instructures as independents to cultivate that root structure. However, there is something different about showing up for a few seminars a year from a particular shihan and being one of his students. (As an aside i'm not sure most people w/in an organization are truely the shihan's student). Something that sczpan alluded to. Also something Ledyard sensei talks about in terms of if you want to reach the top level you need to train (regularly- my emphasis) w/ top level instructors.

If you have the root structure as an independent great!...but if not much more difficult.

Is this about right?

As for this particular situation and the why part of possibly becoming indie or switching... i haven't gotten into that on purpose. There is no real way to talk about it w/out making things public that don't need to be.

thanks.

Dazzler
01-24-2007, 10:14 AM
As for this particular situation and the why part of possibly becoming indie or switching... i haven't gotten into that on purpose. There is no real way to talk about it w/out making things public that don't need to be.

thanks.

Fully respect that.

NagaBaba
01-24-2007, 12:10 PM
Shihans in their organisation set up standards. And frankly, these are very high standards. Not everyone in organisation is up to his standards, or is his 'student' but these standards exist and they provide opportunity to increase skills of averyone. Tests are some supplementary motivation to keep standard up.

Independent dojo standards are very..........hmhmhm........random, cos pedagogical system not consistent. Lack of consistency(learning from different sources) is one thing, other, even more important, there is not check up for head instructor skills, no possibility to compare skills and standards as it is done in organisation between different dojo.
Third important thing is lack of synergy in independent dojo -- in organization synergy is very important source of enrichement of student skills. Look at this in that way: noone is able to learn all from a teacher, so every shihan learned some particular aspects from O sensei. The same is true on our level. So if you become independent you aikido sooner or later become more and more poor and sterile, while in organization there will be always exchange and transfer of knowledge.

anon
01-24-2007, 12:32 PM
NagaBaba,
Could you elaborate a little more on what you're calling synergy?

"The same is true on our level. So if you become independent you aikido sooner or later become more and more poor and sterile, while in organization there will be always exchange and transfer of knowledge."

Hmm, i see where you're coming from but i'll have to say the exchange and transfer is possible but not automatic w/in any organization. Also, i think there is a real threat of dilution w/in an affiliation if there isn't some new genes introduced from time to time. That is experiencing how others perform aikido as well. One thing i'm considering is how much i've learned by particular instructors taking personal interest in my aikido- if you're not part of someones family (orginization) how much commitment to me as a student can i expect. why should they commit to me if i'm not committed to them?

As you stated each of O'sensei's students took part of his aikido. So then collectively through them maybe we can see O'senseis aikido. Which only further reinforces that we should be coming together and not further splintering. I guess you have to temper that w/...so long as a part doesn't dilute the integrity of the art.

independant
01-24-2007, 02:38 PM
I think independence, is not a terrible thing at all. Like someone stated, every art has started from someone who had knowledge of another art. I guess a paper certificate signed by Doshu in Aikikai is important to some, but not me. I have certificates signed by my instructor and he is sa good if not better than anyone I have had seminars with. Of course this is from my own experience and not everyone has good luck in finding a good teacher.

It is really up to you however anon. Do you want a piece of paper to show your "legit" in other peoples eyes, or are you legit if your tested and passed at a certain level and you have a piece of paper signed by an independent person?

It really is up to you, but take consideration into what being in a large org. means as opposed to contrlling your own criteria!

Food for thought!

jason jordan
01-24-2007, 03:32 PM
Hello to all. after reading this post I feel that it is time to introduce you to Sensei Michael Moreno 6th dan Aikikai.

Sensei Moreno or "Papa" as I call him is by far one of the most experienced teachers we have in the states. He and his father the late Miguel Segura Moreno Shihan 7th dan were responsible for bringing Aikido to Mexico. Sensei began his training at Honbu dojo in the 70's and is a "legitimate" student of Ni-dai doshu and of course many other shihan there at hombu. Sensei Moreno has a very- deep knowledge of aikido and this is evident in his instruction and his lifestyle. Never in my "short" but adventurous (10yrs) career as an aikidoist have I met a teacher that is as kind, POWERFUL, and humble as he.

Sensei Moreno is President of the United States Aikido Association and has an opened the doors of this association to all who are looking for quality aikido training, and SUPPORT.
The association is the"Bigg man for the little man" what I mean by that is this....

As we all know "some"-politics have crept into the aikido world particularly in the western parts, this is to be expected; however Sensei Morenos' concern is that those who really desire to grow in the art of Aikido have the support to do so. The website for the U.S.A.A. is almost complete which will give more information but please feel free to contact me at www.jason@southlakeaikikai.com
or http://dallasaikikai.com/

His heart is simply to spread true Aikido which is about "Power, love, and unity"

And for those who really want to know....He is known for Instruction and having lots of power.

This is just a lill clip we put together on youtube hope you enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sYajkwr6HU

And also before I go. We are inviting everyone to a seminar at Plano Aikikai in Plano Tx in March featuring Michael Moreno 6th dan. I will post all the details tommorrow

The seminar will be from Fri-Sun followed by testing.

Hope to see you there. Jun if you are reading this, I especially want to extend an invite to you. Contact me when you can.
:ai: :ki: :do:

God bless everyone

aikidoc
01-24-2007, 05:03 PM
The issue of independent dojo quality is complex. A lot depends on the rank and ability of those spitting off. Maintaining quality is a challenge since there is no one above the senior ranking person to move their aikido ahead or ensure a standard is met.

Let's say we have a bunch of sandans decide they have had it with the politics or whatever of an organization and decide to go off and set up their own. They set up bylaws and make someone a 5th or 6th dan to head the organization. Does this person equate with someone who was promoted by a shihan above. One organization I know did something similar with the exception of the top guy being 5th dan in a splinter group. Now the head instructor is a self promoted 6th dan by bylaws. He went from 2nd or 3rd dan to 6th dan without ever testing again-time in grade, rank given. So we have someone starting an organization who had never been promoted above 5th dan, with a bunch of 3rd dans and now one of the 3rd dans has gone to 6th dan How can that be a quality move? The student surpasses the previous instructor who retired via bylaws with no additional training. The organization does not test above 2nd dan. Those under him gave him the 6th dan rank-he was the most senior person. Promotion from below-an interesting concept. Now the question is can this person possibly be equal to an Aikikai 6th dan? Maybe. Not likely since there has not been any guidance for years and he doesn't attend seminars. What then happens to the next generation. They go through the same process and get 6th dan. Weak begets weak which begets weaker. The quality will successively deteriorate unless someone is very, very talented or takes it upon themselves to get under and instructor. This is currently happening in the organization-they don't attend seminars either. None of them have to test once they get to 2nd dan. What are these guys going to look like in a few years? 6th dans with deteriorating basics? The basics are likely weak anyway since the process had already gone one generation. How seriously will others take them? One area group has only nidans-the head instructor is retiring. The others have for the most part fallen apart. So with bylaws permitting them to do this and no one senior above them the group of nidans will continue to progress in rank by a time in grade criteria. X number of years to sandan, Y number of years to yondan, etc. They don't interact outside their little group. Sorry, but I just can see how they can maintain quality with this process. Unless they've got it "all knowed up".

The issues are complex for independents and difficult for them to maintain quality standards. And I do know the argument issues-he/she is really good (who judges that?); he's been training a number of years so he deserves the rank (really-what do years have to do with it if the person has been doing nidan level training for years without instruction); I don't care about rank (OK-why not just do away with rank in your organization-last man standing or something like that gets to teach) and just train for the pleasure-recognizing of course that your students will have a difficult time getting someone to recognize them if they leave); it doesn't matter to me the rank as long as they know what they are doing (who judges that and why do people go to fraudulent 10th dans instead of unranked instructors if that's the case commercially?).

I've been the independent route. I prefer to continue to have my knowledge challenged and have some guidance to move ahead. But that's just me.

Independant
01-24-2007, 05:50 PM
I agree with the last post to a certain degree. But I do not hold my stakes in orginazations either. There are many "systems" if you will, who have Shihan heading them and 3rd to 5th dans under the Shihan. The promotions are done very rarely and other than testing dan ranking, the Shihan(s) are never around to give guidance or instruction. This is, I am sure, not the case with all associations but I have seen it. I also know of a very well respected Shihan who tested someone for ShoDan and the person, in everyone's eyes, failed very miserably. But the rank of Shodan was awarded (only reason I can think of is it was for political reasons). This person is now a SanDan.

So again, I agree that if you close yourself off and do not train with anyone on the outside (seminars or other training opportunities) then yes, you might become stagnant and your techniques may squander. But tell me, how do top ranking Shihan maintain thier proficiency level?? They train alot? So do independant instructors. They teach alot? So do independant instructors. If you are poor in the basics, then you are poor all the way around. If you never improve, it really doesn't matter what rank you are, you will be no good to anyone.

Self awarding rank I am not fond of, but time in grade promotions I do not think are a bad thing (After a certain dan rank). Again, some people may care how "legit" you aer and may shun you, but who cares, you yourself know how good you are and you can show it on the mat. I know I can!!!

aikidoc
01-24-2007, 08:20 PM
True you may well be able to show it on the mat but how do you give students credibility if they chose to move?

Yes, the organizational system is not perfect. I saw a sandan test that was horrible once-wasn't even a good shodan test-the person passed because they were the significant other of the dojo cho who happened to be on the oganizations teaching committee. There are politics I'm sure. I have left organizations for that reason.

Shihan level instructors generally continue to learn-they take the beginners mind approach. I have heard many 8th dans state they felt like they are still a beginner with respect to O'Sensei and they are still trying to figure out what they felt him do. At least, the have the level of skill necessary to evolve their own training-many studying for 50 plus years.

Independent
01-24-2007, 09:32 PM
I would assume that a student would or should be told "Your rank means something here, but it may not in another dojo" and I have seen many dojos state they will not strip an Aikidoka of his/her rank but they must go through an evaluation period. I think that might be the same when a Tomiki Aikidoka goes to Aikikai/Yoshinkan/Iwama etc. Even legit rank doesn't always transfer if a student moves.

In fact we had a 2nd kyu move and go to another school affiliated with the Aikikai, he went through his eval period and soon after was tested and obtained his ShoDan!!!!! This may be a rare case (especially since he skipped a rank in theory) but one worth noting.

Enough of my mindless dribble, lets just get on the mat and train!!!!!! In oneness!!!!

tenshinaikidoka
01-24-2007, 09:34 PM
If anyone wants, I can print them Shodan certificates and put my chop on them, send them to you for a small fee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOL ok I am kidding of course!!!!

happysod
01-25-2007, 03:06 AM
John, as always, makes excellent points which are perfectly valid and I won't even try and refute- an independent dojo does have a harder time maintaining consistency and advancing within the art.

However, as he rightly points out, this is only normally true if essentially the dojo becomes insular. An insular attitude is more a function of the dojo attitude and location rather than its affiliations as geography and temperament can ensure even a well supported club with good ties drifts into its own "unique" take on aikido.

There are very good reasons with staying with a large association and certainly the opportunities they represent in terms of instruction and infrastructure are hard to overestimate. However, they come with a lot of baggage and strictures than can chaff. Now I'm not saying that independent dojo don't sometimes mirror the worst excesses of a large organisation in a microcosm, but the lack of bureaucracy is refreshing, the politics are normally less knife-edge and while seminars can’t replace decent long-term training, they can help fill in the gaps.

I think most of us who have posted (even the great Dr S) have been in agreement in that beyond a certain point the type of dojo doesn’t matter, it’s the access to the right teachers which matter. Affiliation may smooth the way to gaining access to those teachers, but not as much as the correct attitude and just the sheer willingness to root out the little buggers.

PS Fag packet = cigarette packet. I must remember not to use this one as I do remember causing some consternation on a US naval base when I mentioned I was just “popping out for a fag”. You’ll be pleased to know the marines did give me time to explain myself...

aikidoc
01-25-2007, 09:05 AM
Ian's point is well taken, its all about the teacher and whether they can stimulate and improve your aikido. I was at one time in an organization where I experienced that problem. Partly due to geographics, partly due to cliques/politics and partly due to concern about the technical direction I saw developing versus what other aikikai organizations were doing. As a result, I ended up teaching myself for my next 2 ranks and then left. I had too much invested to leave earlier but I was also searching for the type of instructor I felt would make it happen for me. I found that and left. I also ended up in a much smaller organization which I was part of developing. It worked nicely. I and my students are getting the guidance we need technically and now I get to help annoy those that hate structure :) . Sometimes you have to be very patient to find the teacher you need/want. I did and it has been a great experience. I had been working out stuff on my own a lot and the very first seminar was an AHA experience. His technical depth blew me away and it quantum jumped things I had been trying to explore on my own. Now I'm in a stage where I'm just trying to get as much of what he has to offer as fast as I can before he retires.

dekodo
02-01-2007, 10:38 AM
A lot goes into credibility. How you conduct yourself, your level of respect, level of knowledge, as well as credentials and lineage. If we look at credibility only in terms of skill, this can be difficult whether moving from an independent to an affiliation, the other way around or moving from one affiliated organization to another. The issue lies in the fact that Aikido is a non-quantitative art. Progress, achievement and ability look different as we are not all doing the same thing (even within the same school). I have young athletes and much older individuals without the physical stamina for ukemi in the same classes. They can both have the same amount of hours on the mat and their aikido will look much different. The easiest way to judge ability is too look at the physical, but in doing so you would miss the fact that it's possible the less physically adept student has a firmer grasp on the deeper principals of harmony and conflict resolution. So who gets ranked higher? What happens when those students carry their rank out to another school where less/more emphasis is placed on the advancements that student achieved?

Comparison of aikidoka (especially from different "schools") is only valid if the goals they are trying to achieve are the same. I have rarely found this to be the case. Put two fighters in a ring, the fighter who walks out is the winner and therefore higher "ranked" in terms of their ability to win fights. But...aikido is deeper than that. We work on a million things to become...whatever it is we want Aikido to change in us. Aikidoka A is a weapons expert, knows every kata he has been taught. Ranked Nidan but has an anger management problem and has not incorporated any aikido outside the mat. Aikidoka B Has reduced stress, follows principals of keeping one point, is compassionate, also ranked Nidan and cannot pull off a koshinage for all the whisky in Ireland.

Who has more credibility? In their own dojo? In someone elses?

Since our goals in training are different there is no comparison to each other. We can only look at ourselves and constantly try to achieve in the areas we deem important for the particular life we are leading.

To the thought presented that it is difficult for independents to maintain growth without a high ranking shihan to guide them, let me present this:

As for progress and continued growth...everyone's perceptions are different and your experiences will form your opinions. As for me, my experience has been as follows: I cannot remember the last time I saw a seminar posted where it did not state "all ranks and affiliations welcome". This is great for me as in independent instructor as I can selectively go to any seminar I want and come back with the "good stuff". I have, however, had personal experiences with affiliate organizations (more then once) where dojos could only host other affiliates and in one case, where students were only permitted to attend affiliate sponsored seminars.

So you tell me, which scenario allows for more growth in the art? Expose yourself to everything and develop a very personal relationship with the art that cannot be compared to anyone because it is as individual as the person. Or,...hope "your organization got it right and the others got it wrong" and try to do things just like _________(insert Shihan here).

aikidoc
02-01-2007, 11:35 AM
Yes, a lot goes into the issue of credibility and herein lies the pitfalls for independents.
1. With no one to guide them other than seminars, how do they advance without falling into the sokey dokey or self promotion trap? This is especially a concern if the reason for leaving is related to not being recognized for your impressions of your skill level.
2. Although seminars are one avenue of maintaining or improving skill, regular guidance from a senior level yudansha is likely more effective. IT also leads to advancement and solves issue 1.
3. Relying only on seminars results in the risk of incoherent skills/knowledge. In otherwords, there is no consistent guidance but rather a mishmash of training-although it may be very relevant.
4. The tendency for insularity would seem to be greater for independents in general. Otherwise, why bother being independent.
5. Without guidance, how do you know you are progressing? Self-evaluation can be deceiving.
The above address the issues of internal credibility.

As to outside credibility, some thoughts.
1. I personally think this suffers with larger organizations no matter what. Instructors and organizations are more inclined to recognize rank issued by other mainstream, whatever that means, organizations than independents. This could be for several reasons. Dan ranks are likely to be pretty shakey on getting recognized. The Aikikai does not recognize dan ranks from other organizations. Period is the latest word.
2. There is a risk for independent dojos to have inflated ranks. Many who set up their own organizations bump themselves up via bylaws or joining sokey dokey organizations. If there is much of a gap in their rank and their skill, they suffer credibility. Especially the 40 year old 10th dans :) .
3. Many makes claims that in my opinion are not valid. I see a lot of indepedents claim to teach Aikikai Aikido. Really? Unless you are affiliated with the Aikikai I don't see how that is possible. One I am aware of made this claim and was E-Budoized in the bad budo section when the student went to an Aikikai dojo in anothe state and learned much to his surprise that they were day and night different. The claims were made and are to this date being made based on the fact the instructors' instructor had trained with Tohei who at one time been an Aikikai instructor. Technically Splinter cubed. Even though they were a Ki Society splinter group of a splinter group. Kind of stretching it if you ask me. When you look at the lineage of such claims, the connections are far removed or remote and I personally think this does not give the claim any validity at all. And, if I don't mind observing, if you claim to be Aikikai, then why split from them in the first place?
4. Grade freeze-if you are a legitimate independent, at some point, depending on the rank you were when splitting, you are going to have to give in to grade freeze. Your rank cannot progress unless you award it to yourself or get it from your juniors. This is not viewed favorably in a system based on rank being traditionally awarded from top down.
5. Another credibilty issue is holding your organization out as being comparable to another long established organization. This is difficult to do as an independent. THere are cases where the quality is good when splits occur in the 7th or 8th and even 6th dan levels. However, this is not the case in a lot of independent split offs.

I'm not trying to diss indepedents but rather point out the issues and concerns. Personally, I think we should all be under one organization, but that's me.

dekodo
02-01-2007, 12:44 PM
Yes, a lot goes into the issue of credibility and herein lies the pitfalls for independents.
1. With no one to guide them other than seminars, how do they advance without falling into the sokey dokey or self promotion trap? This is especially a concern if the reason for leaving is related to not being recognized for your impressions of your skill level.
2. Although seminars are one avenue of maintaining or improving skill, regular guidance from a senior level yudansha is likely more effective. IT also leads to advancement and solves issue 1.

In no way are seminars the only way to advance. Simply engaging in the dialogs here we are all growing and developing our ideas and perceptions, and therefore, our aikido. More importantly than all the things we do to learn is the idea of self correction(not promotion). One can train and take lessons from that training and apply them..repeat, repeat, repeat. All this done without somebody telling you your foot is in the wrong place. Self reflection will present the answers if we are clear on the goals we are trying to achieve.
If this was not the case Aikido would degrade over time until there was nothing. Imagine, No shihan I know of have said they grasped 100% of O'Senseis teachings. So they get a part. Their deshi get a part of that and so on. If there ware no way to advance outside of direct teacher to student transfer on knowledge, the whole thing collapses.

3. Relying only on seminars results in the risk of incoherent skills/knowledge. In otherwords, there is no consistent guidance but rather a mishmash of training-although it may be very relevant.

Agreed. If the goal is to move like..., act like..., train like a particular person...outside ideas will present inconsistent messages. However, even in the most buttoned up corporate environments I've worked, There was never one way to do it. You build on the work of others and do things your way (maybe not a huge change from the norm...but a little), and you make the process your own. As in life...as on the mat.

4. The tendency for insularity would seem to be greater for independents in general. Otherwise, why bother being independent.

Again, I agree. It is up to the independent to build bridges to as many friendly dojos as possible and that can be difficult. I would however present that many large affiliation are just as insular with respect to there own members...they just have a lot more :)

5. Without guidance, how do you know you are progressing? Self-evaluation can be deceiving.
The above address the issues of internal credibility.

It is a struggle to push yourself to grow, but you have got to be kidding me with the "how do you know you are progressing?" question. Even the slightest bit of self awareness will allow for this. Conversely, If someone tells you that you are progressing and even goes so far as to give you a shiny new belt, does that mean you are progressing. I would hope the individual is a better judge of their progression than a passive observer.


2. There is a risk for independent dojos to have inflated ranks. Many who set up their own organizations bump themselves up via bylaws or joining sokey dokey organizations. If there is much of a gap in their rank and their skill, they suffer credibility. Especially the 40 year old 10th dans :) .

A major issue with [some] independents.


4. Grade freeze-if you are a legitimate independent, at some point, depending on the rank you were when splitting, you are going to have to give in to grade freeze. Your rank cannot progress unless you award it to yourself or get it from your juniors. This is not viewed favorably in a system based on rank being traditionally awarded from top down.

Yes, if you want to be ranked my Hombu, you need to find a school under that umbrella and sign up.


5. Another credibilty issue is holding your organization out as being comparable to another long established organization. This is difficult to do as an independent. THere are cases where the quality is good when splits occur in the 7th or 8th and even 6th dan levels. However, this is not the case in a lot of independent split offs.

Who is comparing? And what does 7th 8th or any number have to do with quality? There is a tendency to hide behind those numbers. How does this work with the statements made in the beginning. When these (good quality) 6th and 7th dans split, is that it. they cannot grow because they do not have an instructor above them. What if one of those 6th Dans broke off when they were Shodan and continued to grow? When are you allowed to go it on your own?

Bill W.
02-01-2007, 01:24 PM
Yes, a lot goes into the issue of credibility and herein lies the pitfalls for independents.
1. With no one to guide them other than seminars, how do they advance without falling into the sokey dokey or self promotion trap? Going to a seminar/workshop was how the founder and others learned Daito-ryu from Takeda Sensei.
2. Although seminars are one avenue of maintaining or improving skill, regular guidance from a senior level yudansha is likely more effective. IT also leads to advancement and solves issue 1.However you can also learn to pick-up the bad habits of senior level yudansha. Especially since they are guiding you.
3. Relying only on seminars results in the risk of incoherent skills/knowledge. In otherwords, there is no consistent guidance but rather a mishmash of training-although it may be very relevant.Of course it is always up to the individual to provide their own consistency within their practice. Even though you may practice only under one teacher, your training is primarily your responsibility.
4. The tendency for insularity would seem to be greater for independents in general. Otherwise, why bother being independent.Which means, as an independent you will need to make a conscious effort to go and learn from various instructors. This should be no different than if you were a member of a large organization.
5. Without guidance, how do you know you are progressing? Self-evaluation can be deceiving.External validation can also be deceiving. There is no Office of Standards for the martial arts.

4. Grade freeze-if you are a legitimate independent, at some point, depending on the rank you were when splitting, you are going to have to give in to grade freeze. Your rank cannot progress unless you award it to yourself or get it from your juniors. This is not viewed favorably in a system based on rank being traditionally awarded from top down. This is the major concern for any independent dojo. This is probably the reason why you don't see many independent dojos around.
Even if you personally don't care about rank, you might be concerned about your students' future ability to gain rank and opportunities that come with it. To do that, you need to join some organization of dojos to get some general credibility for your students. There is a big difference in credibility between a national organization that has international affiliations in Japan and a national organization with no international affiliations to Japan.
There is a third way besides becoming independent or being affiliated to an organization. Lets assume you don't see much of a future being affiliated to the green national group. After researching things, you realize it would be easier to be affiliated with the yellow national group. Both the green and yellow national groups have the same affiliation in Japan. You might be able to switch from one national group to another and still keep the same affiliation to Japan. Your ability to take such an action depends on your political skills.

Ron Tisdale
02-01-2007, 01:37 PM
You might even join the purple national group, which is affiliated to yet a different hombu dojo in Japan.

Best,
Ron

aikidoc
02-01-2007, 03:28 PM
Darren: nope not kidding. A while back at a demo a high ranking shihan watched a variety of independents and aikikai instructors demonstrate.. In reference to a couple of independents who thought they were doing amazing stuff (one has even written a book), the shihan's tactful comment was: some people are OK to teach but others are OK to be students. He was nicely commenting that there was a bunch of crap being demonstrated. Yet, these people had self evaluated themselves and thought they were really doing high level aikido. Trust me, this instructor knows what he is talking about.

A fool evaluating a fool will only have a foolish evaluation. Let's face it. Most are rarely capable of unbiased and legitimate self-evaluation. Most are not willing to recognize and admit to themselves that they don't know S#*T. If they have no one instructing them, to do so would invalidate their own training progress. Ego man. It's a hard hurtle to get over for most. Why else would they go independent unless they started that way? A lot like a lawyer defending themselves-they are viewed to have a fool for a client.

Yes, there are many ways by which one can progress. It is much more difficult for the independents IMHO. As I mentioned in my earlier example , this "6th dan" I'm aware of thinks he's legitimately a 6th dan comparable to others out there. His basics have eroded so much due to his insularity that I don't think he could pass an aikikai shodan exam. Yet, he has a group of sychophants that think he could even be ranked higher without anyone thinking it was a bad decision. Not. Everyone in the area familiar with them would just snicker. Sort of like the politician statement by I believe Lloyd Bentson to Dan Quayle when he stated he knew Jack Kennedy personally and Qualye was no Jack Kennedy.

dekodo
02-01-2007, 04:09 PM
A fool evaluating a fool will only have a foolish evaluation. Let's face it. Most are rarely capable of unbiased and legitimate self-evaluation. Most are not willing to recognize and admit to themselves that they don't know S#*T.


I agree whole heartedly...but why is it you think the shihan are exempt?
If we follow those above us because we are incapable of self-evaluation...and those in turn follow those above them...eventually you wind up at the top fool.

If that individual is misguided (self or otherwise), those mistakes become truths and are passed along.


If you believe the quote on your home page...

"Aikido is not something to learn from others, but to learn by oneself. Ideally, the practice should be for oneself, and it should be rigorous and sternly self-disciplined, by one's own choice."

How do you reconcille that with the idea of a top down teaching methodology? How could the Shihan in your demo example have evaluated a practice in others that, per the quote, is for oneself. What criteria is being used for the evaluation?

I have trained with blackbelts that could not fight themselves out of a wet paper bag, but the critera used to award the rank was not solely martial. It could not be witnessed in a demo on the mat. You need to sit with them, discuss their lives. how they deal with people, how aikido has changed them.

At that level, back rolls and sword forms are irrelevant.

again...different criteria.

aikidoc
02-01-2007, 05:09 PM
I agree whole heartedly...but why is it you think the shihan are exempt?
If we follow those above us because we are incapable of self-evaluation...and those in turn follow those above them...eventually you wind up at the top fool.

If that individual is misguided (self or otherwise), those mistakes become truths and are passed along.


If you believe the quote on your home page...

"Aikido is not something to learn from others, but to learn by oneself. Ideally, the practice should be for oneself, and it should be rigorous and sternly self-disciplined, by one's own choice."

How do you reconcille that with the idea of a top down teaching methodology? How could the Shihan in your demo example have evaluated a practice in others that, per the quote, is for oneself. What criteria is being used for the evaluation?

I have trained with blackbelts that could not fight themselves out of a wet paper bag, but the critera used to award the rank was not solely martial. It could not be witnessed in a demo on the mat. You need to sit with them, discuss their lives. how they deal with people, how aikido has changed them.

At that level, back rolls and sword forms are irrelevant.

again...different criteria.

I never said the shihan were exempt (I have even heard it said some were not very talented), however, they have a whole lot more foundation to evaluate with. They grabbed O'Sensei-most spend their lives trying to figure out what he did on a constant and never ending quest. They had the opportunity to feel it from the top and at least know what it should feel like.

My sensei's quote on my webpage was based on his belief that people cannot be taught but have to learn from exploration, self-examination and guidance. He frequently uses dama des when instruction-that's not correct. To assume someone's pursuit is accurate or the way when bad principles are being followed does not hold water. My sensei does not focus on your style of doing a particular technique so much as the movement principles you are using. He will correct bad form or bad basics.

As to applying such a principle to the demonstration mentioned, bad basics or bad movement or bad use of aikido principles, etc. are all bad form. Just because someone appears to be doing aikido does not mean it is being done with good form or kihon.

tenshinaikidoka
02-01-2007, 05:42 PM
OK, so a Yondan becomes independant, for whatever reason. Opens a dojo and begins to teach. How does a Yondan get promoted beyond his current rank? To my knowledge, isn't it a time in rank thing, promotion of the art, teaching seminars etc!!!?????

Martial Arts were created by men and women, who had experiencein other arts, created and packaged thier flavor and voala, there is a new system. O'Sensei did this, heck, it could be argued Takeda did this with Daito Ryu (history is not so clear there). O'Sensei had a teachng license in Daito Ryu, went on to create Aikido, and then awarded rank in "his" system!!! How is this, completely different then an independant Aikido school issuing rank etc? It really isn't, it just means that the independants are not playing by someone elses rules, won't be recognized by the Aikikai (boo hoo) or some other "branch" of Aikido. MOST, and I stress most independant dojo's I know, openly send and attend seminars whenever they come available. Most Shihans do not spend a great amount of time with the dojo's under them other than at seminar time. Not the case in all, but it is in most.

O'Sensei had to find his way to make Aikido. I think everyone has to find thier way. O'Sensei certainly didn't have anyone teaching him during his years of creating Aikido (after he left Takeda). And look how good he is. It just always amazes me how today we can shoot down dojo's/systems because they may not fit into category X.

I am independant, and I would have it no other way. It is not completly by choice, I moved to an area where I am it, so here I am teaching and training, but I will attend seminars and even visit other schools to keep my own skills up, but by teaching, I think that also helps keep skill levels up!!!

My points might not be taken as valid by all, but these are things to maybe consider before judging any dojo (independnt or affiliated), for what it is worth!

aikidoc
02-01-2007, 11:12 PM
Brandon, I'm not judging indepedent dojos or the concept. Yes, O'Sensei did break out on his own-but had a teaching license. He was obviously talented as his deshi still are trying to figure out what he was doing. Are all these independents as equally talent?

Some are able to figure things out on their own. At a 4th degree? Many shihans don't start taking you seriously until godan.

senshincenter
02-02-2007, 01:30 AM
I think some folks here are confusing independent dojo with dojo that want to form their own organizations (even if it is an organization of one). There is a difference. Many of the "difficulties" being suggested here are only faced by groups of the latter persuasion. In contrast, we are an independent dojo. We don't have "rank" issues because we don't buy into rank (i.e. we don't make an issue of it). If someone from our dojo leaves to train somewhere else (and no one ever has), they go in as they are welcomed in. If that has them at "sixth kyu" - that has them at sixth kyu. No big deal. You train to train - not to travel.

If we want to progress (and we do), we explore outward from the basics, and we practice them harder and harder every opportunity we get, under more intense conditions, with higher degrees of violence at risk, and in environments necessitating higher degrees of awareness, technical prowess, and physical conditioning. You don't need a seminar for that. In fact, there's no way you can do that at a seminar or a summer camp, etc.

If a person doesn't want their training to grow stale, you train every day, as many hours as you can, all the while aiming toward a perfection you can never reach. You don't try to spread yourself out - instead you look to penetrate the art you have. You don't try to stop yourself from becoming complacent or bored because these things have nothing to do with getting on the mat and working your ass off. Complacency and boredom are only issues for the less disciplined, and the less discipline will never NOT grow stale in the art - no matter their teacher or where they train. Depth, not breadth, is key to continuous progress. The idea that one gets better by having lots of teachers is totally false - this is a modern perversion. If you want to penetrate the depths of an art, in the beginning, you get one teacher, and you seek to understand his/her way only. If they are good, the universal is in their way, and that means that all ways are in their way. If you understand, you will not only find their way and all ways, you will come to find your way. The best way of preventing this from happening is to adopt the salad-bar approach to training - so in vogue nowadays. Whenever you add superficiality to superficiality, as one does when they look to breadth for progress, you only get more superficiality. To suggest that insularity is somehow antithetical to progress is to entirely miss this truth. On the contrary, depth, mastery, progress REQUIRES insularity. Additionally, this depth, this mastery, this progress, is gained only through one's own efforts. So even if you are federated, a person better learn how to stop being so dependent - being more independent when it comes to their practice.

Somebody that has been training long enough to gain a base of knowledge, which doesn't (shouldn't) take as long as some here might think, doesn't need anything but hard work and perseverance to grow in their understanding of the art. This is a foundation in all martial arts training. The idea that you are supposed to be spoon-fed for 20, 30, 40 years is also a modern perversion - in my opinion. If you need someone to hand-feed you after five to ten years of practice, to tell you what is right and what is wrong, then, in my opinion, your training environments are not realistic enough - not fast enough, not violent enough, not stressful enough, etc. Now, yeah, if you are within a setting that does not allow for hard, fast, violent training, or that only allows it under anomalous conditions, you're going to need a teacher to tell you things (e.g. "You have no connection with the ground," "That's the wrong angle to control the center from the contact point at the elbow," "Your spirit is too Yin to enter correctly," etc.). However, if your environments are fertile, in the way I mentioned above, they will tell you these things themselves, only they will do so in ways no teacher, no matter how close he/she was to the founder, can ever do - in ways so powerful, transformation and progress becomes inevitable. Again, this is true inside and outside of federations.

I write this not to say that one is better or worse. That decision depends. If you don't have a base - for example, somewhere between 5 years of daily training with several hours a day to ten years of four to six days a week with one to two hours on those days - then you need a teacher to help you get that. Look for the best teacher you can - whether they are inside of outside of aikido federations. If you got your base, you need training environments of a nature that can replace a teacher's wisdom, so that your explorations into the depths of the art remain viable and truthful and come to produce your Aikido (as opposed to your teacher's Aikido). If you can find these training environments inside a federation - go there. If you find them outside a federation - go there.

My opinion,
dmv

happysod
02-02-2007, 03:52 AM
I sometimes read John's posts regarding federation/non-federation with a bit of a wince - sorry John, but all I can say is you must have met some of the worst examples of independant dojos I've heard of at the same time as meeting the best a federated group can be. Unfortunately, I can't say my initial contacts with a federated dojo (long time ago admittedly) was that impressive, in fact mysogenist bastards with a penchant for fraud would be a better description - so perhaps its more indictative of luck and circumstances than anything else. Good people make good dojos, the banner they work under seems less important than this simple point.

However, I can't quite get behind Davids call for insularity with regard to improvement, perhaps it's just my misunderstanding of your point. In particular The idea that one gets better by having lots of teachers is totally false - this is a modern perversion. I find strange. Several of the more legendary martial artists were reputed to have studied several systems under several instructors to form their own synthesis.

Applying the same logic to other spheres of endeavour would suggest that a small research group cloistered away from all others in their field would be the ones to come up with the great ideas. My own experience of cloistered researchers is they end up being strange and dogmatic rather than truely adding anything to the whole or advancing the field of study, so why do you hold martial arts work differently?

I totally agree with you regarding the need for a solid foundation with a single teacher or group of teachers within a dojo. However, at some point I think you must expose yourself to more than one teacher and art, even at the superficial level of seminars, just to ensure you have some sort of reality check on your training.

aikidoc
02-02-2007, 07:06 AM
Sorry, but I can't buy the insularity either. All groups have their problems. However, in my experience, having the best teacher possible is to me the important aspect. Just when I thought I was starting to understand a little about the art I met with and joined my instructor (Kato shihan). Now sometimes I feel like I'm a 5th kyu again. Which is good because it pushed me to figure out more of what he is doing. I'm sure he felt like that with O'Sensei as he says he's still trying to figure out everything he did. That's a good mindset to have and a good place to be as it challenges the individual-in spite of what the group is doing. Yes, I've seen bad independents and good federations and the opposite as well. When involved with the bad, I have always used seminars, tapes, DVDs etc to challenge me to keep exploring. I was lucky enough to get a sensei who gave me the tools to teach myself when necessary. A little push helps though, which I have now.

tenshinaikidoka
02-02-2007, 07:53 AM
Maybe what I typed was not put right. Rank is not an issue with me, and it should not be an issue for anyone, really. But, honestly, I could care less if a Shihan doesn't take me seriously because I am not a godan, or higher. I am not here to impress a shihan. I want to train and gain as muchknowledge as possible. Now, my main point was when doing something as an independant, you train and do things on your own. When you are part of the Aikikai or another org. chances are you have a shihan that you train under. The only difference between the two (in theory) is that once and a while, the shihan will train with you and possibly test/issue rank etc. But in both cases your probably teaching and doing things on your own, one just doesn't have the shihan or affiliated recognition.

Honestly, when I go to seminars or other schools, I wear my white belt. If someone asks what rank I am, I tell them and if they should tell me that I should represent my rank by wearing it/hakama etc, then I will. But I respect the enviornments I am in and also that my rank is not recognized by all orginazations.

Now that I have randomly covered the spectrum!!!! HAHAHA!!

senshincenter
02-02-2007, 09:38 AM
Insularity is a part of progress every time you say, "Okay, wait, I think I'm on to something. Everybody shut up and get out," or "Hey, let me try this, come in with tsuki." Etc. In that sense, it is the key to depth. Seeing a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, hearing a little bit of this, and hearing a little bit of that, feeling a little bit of this, and feeling a little bit of that, etc., is nothing more than the accumulation of data. Collecting as much data as you can doesn't mean you are producing anything of depth. At some point, if you want to understand the data you have, you got to stop collecting and researching and you got to start looking toward development. Metaphorically speaking, development always happens behinds close doors. Now before anyone starts getting all upset and frightened of mad scientists locking themselves up and going it alone, before anyone feels threatened by folks that have come to be a little doubtful of the common point of view regarding seminars and camps, etc., you can try to think of a master (of anything) - look and see if you see this. There is a time of exposure and breadth, and then depending on the "genius" of the individual, you will see a time of insularity sooner or later - the time where they really come into their own and achieve the level of mastery that they have become famous for.

This is not to suggest that I'm for folks that stay away from other other folks for reasons of ego or fear. I am not. No mastery of any art, especially Aikido, can come out of ego or fear. What this says for the federation folks that don't cross train with other arts or with other folks from other federations (even with other dojo in the very same town), in fact, speaks volumes. However, I am suggesting that insularity, or a fear of insularity, should not be a justification for federating because of the supposed problem it causes in regards to progress.


I'll try and write more later on insularity.
thanks,
dmv

happysod
02-02-2007, 10:43 AM
Now before anyone starts getting all upset and frightened of mad scientists locking themselves up... Excellent, I always did have a soft spot for pinky, unfortunately I now have a wonderful image of you striding off to a darkened dojo thundering out "tonight sempai we shall conquer ikkyo"... However, I am suggesting that insularity, or a fear of insularity, should not be a justification for federating because of the supposed problem it causes in regards to progress fully support you on this one.

I suppose one of the reasons we're in disagreement is partially because of the word "insular" in itself as I've always found it to be an unhealthy mind-set, bringing to mind duelling banjos. Any alternative we can use as I think we're in agreement regarding the need to focus within your own dojo to improve your training, but I wouldn't think of this as insular, just normal practice.

[warning - anecdotal only]One of the better examples I heard of in-training in aikido was the group who changed hand position when releasing the ikkyo pin before standing. Apparently it came about as the main instructor had an increasingly bad back and needed the extra leverage to stand up. From there it passed into standard technique. [/end anecdote]

While probably not true (unfortunately) I have encountered several students whose instructor you can spot immediately. While this can be good if the instructor is good, I find such imprinting is often a bad idea as the student rarely has the ability to only mimic the good bits without altenative examples.

tenshinaikidoka
02-02-2007, 11:05 AM
Excellent posts, and comments. I can say I agree. It is nice to have a topic of debate and not get all worked up, just good solid debating!!!

anon
02-02-2007, 11:11 AM
Nice to see the thoughtful dialouge. Most who are reading this have probably already read this but just in case...

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?p=167123#post167123

(really don't know if the link will work, in case not it's to the thread on Terry Dobson and Arikawa Sensei) I think Ellis's point about O'Sensei is relevant to this discussion. The point i'm referring to is how all types trained under him and he didn't discriminate- scoundrels to saints. I think this is relevant b/c it is one of the factors in our dojo's potential decision to leave an organization. if this was O'sensei's way of doing things then perhaps it shouldn't be too surprising that his deshi follow suit.

On a totally different subject (yet relevant), does anyone have any information in regards to the current Doshu's use and view on atemi? I've heard that he has specifically stated that atemi will not be a part of aikido, in other words getting rid of the use.

tenshinaikidoka
02-02-2007, 11:14 AM
I have not heard about getting rid of atemi, and I know O'Sensei used it alot!! Seems wierd that you would get rid of something that you need to learn against!!!!! If that is the case, no matter, I will continue on the course that I am on, and I assume many others will too. But that seems shocking to me that this would happen. But stanger things!

anon
02-02-2007, 11:20 AM
just to clarify- i'm not saying this is the case. i don't want to perpetuate this rumour. personally i don't believe it...or maybe i just don't want to. if it is misinformation i want to confront the source.

aikidoc
02-02-2007, 11:57 AM
Sandai doshu's Best Aikido and Best Aikido 2 both seem to put atemi in an improtant role. I don't get the impression anyone is wanting to get rid of it.

David Humm
02-02-2007, 01:42 PM
Experienced with both types of groups - one who switched and an independent from day 1.

The group who switched (many years ago, Dave Humm I think was with the same lot) didn't do that well in my opinion as the instructors were not really of a level or temperament to sustain it in terms of dojo longevity - so it is a valid concern.Amazing how my name appears in your reply Ian. I also see your "opinions" as having an agenda, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

Just for your information; I've been a member of a hombu affiliate since 1994 (UKA) And; I can't see how you could hold your opinion considering the UKA is the second largest hombu recognised organisation in the UK, perhaps you have your facts wrong ?

senshincenter
02-02-2007, 04:44 PM
Hi Ian,

yeah - i can see that. no problem with the word change - it's the idea/principle, i'm trying to point to.

thanks for sharing,
d

anon
02-02-2007, 05:27 PM
Ian, what's wrong w/ dueling banjos?!

happysod
02-05-2007, 09:38 AM
Amazing how my name appears in your reply Ian. I also see your "opinions" as having an agenda, but please correct me if I'm wrong. ??? Too much caffeine David? But you're right, I have a really evil agenda... perhaps I'm wrong here but I believe you were around (say about 87/88) when the independant East coast aikikai society formed out of the Hull, Grimsby, Skegness and Scunthorpe dojos (a true NE riviera bunch).

Now from what I gathered at the time, this was not plain sailing and you'd mentioned that you'd later went on to affiliate your own dojo with a hombu federation. So here's my evil agenda, I thought it might be nice to have another viewpoint from someone who'd done the reverse of what was proposed in the thread. So, you've cracked my nefarious scheme to add another viewpoint to the pot, well done.

PS check your PM

anon - have you ever seen deliverance??

David Humm
02-05-2007, 10:39 AM
??? Too much caffeine David? But you're right, I have a really evil agenda... perhaps I'm wrong here but I believe you were around (say about 87/88) when the independant East coast aikikai society formed out of the Hull, Grimsby, Skegness and Scunthorpe dojos (a true NE riviera bunch).

Now from what I gathered at the time, this was not plain sailing and you'd mentioned that you'd later went on to affiliate your own dojo with a hombu federation. So here's my evil agenda, I thought it might be nice to have another viewpoint from someone who'd done the reverse of what was proposed in the thread. So, you've cracked my nefarious scheme to add another viewpoint to the pot, well done.

PS check your PM

anon - have you ever seen deliverance??Ian, you are right I was part of a group of dojo which were independent and I later went on to join a hombu affiliate however; I was no more than a kyu grade at that time. Your comments in your earlier thread read to me and one other person who brought it to my attention as if you were having a dig at me with the negative connotation of your opinion. If that wasn't the case they you have my apologies.

happysod
02-05-2007, 11:17 AM
The Light through yonder window dawns thanks to the sun of PMs...

Just for the record and for those of you still reading this bit of off-topic, I was in no-way linking Dave or his abilities as an instructor to the problems I saw with one of the independent groups I had dealings with - apologies to Dave for the unintentional offense caused and apologies to the English language for my obvious misuse of it. I blame my parents, teachers and all those unable to read my mind at the time of writing.

anon
02-05-2007, 12:58 PM
deliverance....as in, "you sure do have a purty mouth". yeah, i got the reference but having strong family ties to the appalachain area i had to throw a defensive jab even if in half jest.

you guys aren't going to turn this thread into a personal pissing match like a couple guys have done in others are ya? lets not- some good feedback has been provided and i'd hate for that to get lost.

anon
02-05-2007, 01:01 PM
ah, my apologies to you two gents- looks like you've already kissed and made up.
cheers.

Budd
02-09-2007, 10:52 AM
Definitely a good discussion going on here. I've been in both an Aikikai-affiliated and independent dojo and am very happy now in my independent dojo because I think it suits me very well. Not because the dojo is independent necessarily, but because of the people and approach at the dojo.

My own two cents in brief is that it's kind of case-by-case and isn't really based on whether or not the dojo is in an organization or not, but more to do with the legitimacy of the instructor and the honesty with which the material is presented. In other words, what is the training purporting to offer? The biggest problem as I see it is that it can be very difficult to make these determinations when you don't have any experience already . . .

aikidoc
02-09-2007, 11:55 AM
The biggest problem as I see it is that it can be very difficult to make these determinations when you don't have any experience already . . .
I agree. This can be a difficult issue. Although there are legitimate organizations with bad instructors in them, frauds are rare since the rank is controlled from above. Although one of Seagal's former students apparently forged his name and attained Aikikai rank illegally that is rare (this is what was in the letter Seagal wrote not my interpretation). He then used the rank to get additional rank from the Budokai. However, there are more fraudulent instructors or those who attained ranks in questionable ways in independent organizations since they often set up their own organization. There is no check and balance system to stop it. An inexperienced person will not see through the BS and can more easily be duped. If they find out, it's often after pouring good money into a worthless endeavor.

senshincenter
02-09-2007, 09:27 PM
For me, the rank, or the quality of rank, plays a less important role. In fact, maybe it's no role at all for me. So it's not really the kind of fraud issue that is at the heart of the matter for me. The fraud issue that is central for me is character fraud. I don't think I've met many instructors whose character actually turned out to be as good as it appeared on day one of meeting them. Here I am not counting those instructors that I never got to really know. This kind of fraud is not at all limited to independent schools or federated schools. This is a case-by-case process of discovery, and it often deals a lot more damage and risk than some guy who is not as good as his rank might suggest. For me, this is the main reason why folks should look to handle things case-by-case.

aikidoc
02-09-2007, 10:37 PM
When you have some who have to make up their own rank or join questionable soke organizations to get the high ranks they "deserve" wouldn't that constitute character fraud? It would to me. I know it is sometimes hard to find those who walk their talk, but they are out there.

senshincenter
02-10-2007, 12:36 PM
Hi John,

Yes, I would agree. That would qualify indeed. I just thought it would be good to point out that that is not the only kind of character fraud that one faces - in and outside of federations (e.g. drug and alcohol abuse, self-serving, easily threatened, power abuses, power hungry, etc.).

On a side note: For me, my opinion only, interest in rank, any interest at all, represents some kind of character flaw. That's probably why I didn't make such a big distinction between what was mentioned before, and why I felt it necessary to mention these other types of character issues.

thanks, take care,
d

aikidoc
02-10-2007, 04:16 PM
Hi John,

On a side note: For me, my opinion only, interest in rank, any interest at all, represents some kind of character flaw. That's probably why I didn't make such a big distinction between what was mentioned before, and why I felt it necessary to mention these other types of character issues.

thanks, take care,
d
I'm curious. In a society were everything is evaluated and judged and status symbols such as ranks and titles abound, why do you consider an interest in rank a character flaw?

senshincenter
02-10-2007, 10:14 PM
Hi John,

Good question - fair question.

I’ll take a stab...

Could not one ask, “In a society were everything is evaluated and judged and status symbols such as ranks and titles abound, why do you consider an interest in rank to NOT be a character flaw?”

That is too easy, too simplistic – not much investment or commitment on my part.

Let me try again…

Let’s try this – a question:

Is a man more virtuous if he knows his skill, his accomplishments, who and what he is, what he can and cannot do, or is he more virtuous if he requires someone else, or worse, some institution, to tell him these things?

If it is the former, then the man that chooses the latter is flawed in character as any man that sees the more virtuous path before him but opts to walk the less virtuous one instead.

Or,

Is a man more virtuous if he chooses to relate to what is universal, real, and/or lasting, or is he more virtuous if chooses to relate to what is fleeting, superficial, and relative?

If it is the former, then the man that chooses the latter is flawed in character as any man that sees the more virtuous path before him but opts to walk the less virtuous one instead.

Now, for me, an interest in rank is of the latter choices in both questions (others may disagree). Having no interest in rank, training just to train, training for oneself, training without reliance upon the visible, the relative, and the superficial, is where virtue lies. To choose otherwise reveals a flawed character, as only a flawed character would veer away from virtue.

d

aikidoc
02-10-2007, 10:36 PM
Not totally, fair. You characterized it. Your initial statement was more definitive: "any interest" in rank represents a character flaw. Now you say, well it depends on why. Training for the virtue of training and rank will come of its own accord. The reason I was curious on your view was the fact you are in a very rank conscious system: academia. With a bachelors, masters and doctorate in process it would seem you are punching rank tickets with consistency and effort. From your statement, I would have to assume your pursuits are for the knowledge and the rank falls where it may.. Unfortunately, in the system you are in and for that matter, martial arts as well to be able to pursue certain interests punching the rank tickets is necessary. For example, if your path is to want to be able to contribute at the academic level by teaching and doing research the rank of Ph'd becomes essential for credibility. I had a similar discussion a while back with a shodan wanting to do seminars and advertising such. Granted he had a well known instructor, however, credibility wise I think he is going to have a tough time getting anyone to take him seriously at shodan.

Jorge Garcia
02-11-2007, 12:12 AM
Hi John,

Good question - fair question.

I'll take a stab...

Could not one ask, "In a society were everything is evaluated and judged and status symbols such as ranks and titles abound, why do you consider an interest in rank to NOT be a character flaw?"

That is too easy, too simplistic -- not much investment or commitment on my part.

Let me try again…

Let's try this -- a question:

Is a man more virtuous if he knows his skill, his accomplishments, who and what he is, what he can and cannot do, or is he more virtuous if he requires someone else, or worse, some institution, to tell him these things?

If it is the former, then the man that chooses the latter is flawed in character as any man that sees the more virtuous path before him but opts to walk the less virtuous one instead.

Or,

Is a man more virtuous if he chooses to relate to what is universal, real, and/or lasting, or is he more virtuous if chooses to relate to what is fleeting, superficial, and relative?

If it is the former, then the man that chooses the latter is flawed in character as any man that sees the more virtuous path before him but opts to walk the less virtuous one instead.

Now, for me, an interest in rank is of the latter choices in both questions (others may disagree). Having no interest in rank, training just to train, training for oneself, training without reliance upon the visible, the relative, and the superficial, is where virtue lies. To choose otherwise reveals a flawed character, as only a flawed character would veer away from virtue.

d

I once heard a teacher tell a student that rank only matters if you want to teach. I thought that was insightful because we live in a world that communicates through the use of symbols. Rank is a symbol. The question is - of what? Is it a symbol of ability, time in the art or the ability to pass an exam? Maybe it is any of the three or all of the three. In a very few cases, it is none of the three but the point is, it communicates something of that nature that is advantageous to he who wants to teach. In a world where we are distant epidemiological form one another, it sends a message without which we lack credibility. That gains us an entrance but after that, it is up to us. The symbol doesn't always communicate a reality but it gives the receptor some idea of what he is looking at though it could also be deceptive. I am a third degree back belt. Let's say that we also have a sixth degree black belt locally. Ability wise, I think he is much better technically than I am. Teaching wise, I think I could be as good as he is and maybe better but I have less knowledge than he does. The symbol of rank doesn't explain all that. It does assure the observer that he has been in longer than me. It also demonstrates that he has managed to persevere in this art and I have not pr oven that yet. All that is valuable communication for the novice. This is one example.

Another may be not one of character but of wisdom.In our world, if you recognize how the world uses symbols, it could be folly to reject all ranking along the way for purity sake while all others do not. Again, locally, we have an instructor who won't tell anyone his rank. A novice has no indication of who he is dealing with. While rank wouldn't answer all of those questions, it is a marker of sorts of some things. If the whole world is using rank, it may be expedient to use it also. Academic degrees granted by institutions are not necessarily symbols of what is real but again, they indicate some things. That a person has persevered in some respects. That he might be intelligent. Maybe that he might know what he is talking about. Once you are in the professors classroom, you will find out which one if any it is but without the degree, you will never find out because that man will never be hired to teach in a university.

Is rank a necessary evil for those who want to teach be taken with some credibility so potential students will give them a chance until they can find out for themselves?

Best wishes,
Jorge

G DiPierro
02-11-2007, 12:12 AM
In some ways academics are similar to martial arts, and in some ways they are different. Certainly in academics there are credentialed people who are driven more by their own egos than by knowledge. There are professors who have bet their careers on an idea that turned out to be wrong, and who naturally enough keep holding onto that idea no matter what evidence arises to the contrary. Similarly there are grad students who get off on the power trip of having control of undergrads rather than on actually teaching. Both phenomenons are quite common in martial arts as well.

But in academics there are somewhat universal standards of achievement, and these are typically considered minimums rather than full qualifications. If you want to get tenure from a major university a PhD is necessary but not sufficient. Much more important than your degree is the original research you have published. In martial arts, rank is not in any way a minimum universal standard requirement for teaching, and original research is not rewarded but usually discouraged by large organizations. For example, if you want to teach a regular class at an affiliated dojo you almost always need to be a long-time student of that dojo and have your rank from that organization. You can¡Çt go get your shodan (or sandan or godan) from the ASU then go join a USAF dojo to teach in the same way you can get a PhD from Harvard then go join the faculty at Princeton. Actually, if martial arts organizations were more like universities in these ways it would be a very positive change.

Universities serve a very different and much larger purpose than martial arts schools, and hence they have much more rigorous and standardized requirements. Martial arts are basically a hobby for most people, and the organizations exist not to bring people up to minimum universal standards but to build and maintain a large paying student base for a few charismatic leaders. In this way, martial arts organizations are more like religious groups than universities. They tend to have mutually exclusive doctrines and hierarchies rather than universal standards and qualifications. If you want to be a Catholic priest, you have to have training within that lineage. Having credentials as a member of the Lutheran clergy won¡Çt qualify you, even though both religions are ostensibly ¡ÈChristian.¡É In either case, you will have to adhere to the doctrine sent down from above rather than coming up with your own ideas, just as you would in a large martial arts organization. Of course if you want to open a church that is not a member of some larger group, you don¡Çt need any formal qualifications at all and you can follow whatever doctrine you like.

To me it is quite obvious why excessive concern with rank in martial arts is a character flaw. Ultimately, rank means nothing other than where you are in one particular organization. It doesn¡Çt make you a strong martial artist, an effective teacher, or a good person. My experience has been that people who manifest these qualities don¡Çt care much about rank, regardless of whether they have it, while people who are lacking in these areas cling to rank as a way to avoid or hide their deficiencies. This is more obvious when someone is not part of a major organization, since it is much easier to get rank by promoting yourself, having your students promote you, or joining an organization that sells rank than it is to get it from a mainstream group. With people from major "legitimate" organizations, you often have to spend some time on the mat with them to find out whether they have real skills or just a fancy piece of paper.

-G DiPierro

senshincenter
02-11-2007, 09:56 AM
Not totally, fair. You characterized it. Your initial statement was more definitive: "any interest" in rank represents a character flaw. Now you say, well it depends on why.

Hi John,

I'm not sure I am seeing what you are saying above. I thought I sort of stuck with the description of "any interest." Perhaps you could sort of explain it - like for dummies. I'm missing it. :blush:

Additionally, let's not say I'm without character flaws here. I have them - plenty. I wasn't trying to speak from above as much as I was trying to explain something I'm working on and why. That said, I did approach my studies from the point of view of just gaining the knowledge - letting the degrees, titles, awards, reputations, etc., just come as they came. In the end, I feel, looking at it now, that that has played a big part in why recently I've opted not to finish my dissertation and to pursue a career in law enforcement. Over the years I just became less and less interested in those things. I have the knowledge my education gave me - it's already mine. i don't need the degree to use it or to share it. This is how I feel now. I only needed the degree to use it or share it within a certain environment - which is not all environments. And up till I changed my mind, it seemed fine to have the degree be an incidental of my education rather than a goal of my education. In fact, it seemed better.

okay - I await your explanation. Looking forward to it - thanks.
dmv

senshincenter
02-11-2007, 10:26 AM
Is rank a necessary evil for those who want to teach be taken with some credibility so potential students will give them a chance until they can find out for themselves?

Hi Jorge,

First, can I say that I was not trying to discuss the usability of rank. I was trying to discuss having an interest in rank. True, this does include having an interest in using rank, but my points are not really questions on whether rank can be used or how it can be used. I agree, rank can be used, but I was trying to talk about something a bit different. On that note, I would define rank differently than you - a bit. I would say rank is the institution marking the individual as part of itself. Thus, if we are to discuss the uses of rank, the main uses for rank have to do with the institution and its needs and desires - which always have to do with its own prolonged existence, first and foremost.

Relative to your mention of an instructor that will not mention his rank, and as an example of how someone might get around having to be used by the institution in order to use rank...

As an independent, in light of how I understand rank, I always say I have no rank. While my students might be connected to the institution of our dojo, I as dojocho am not connected to any such institution in the way they are. When I left the USAF-WR, I separated myself from that institution, and, as such, I was no longer a delegate of it. Thus, currently, I have no rank. This is what I say to anyone that walks in my door with the question, “What is your rank?”

I do not use rank to inform potential students. However, this is not something I do because I have to. I do not use rank to inform potential students for the very reasons you mentioned. Because I want a potential student to know what he/she's getting into - because only such a person makes for a good dojo member – I require potential students to train with us for at least a month with no commitment, at any level, before they even ask about joining the dojo. Additionally, I always encourage them to visit all of the other three local dojo in town – where rank and institution are both present. From my point of view, I wouldn’t want to keep a student from gaining a relationship with an institution if he/she so desired one, and I tend to think that such a person might not fit in with what we do at our dojo (since we have defined such interest as a path of less virtue). I see someone leaving or not joining for reasons of interest in rank as a win-win situation. A person can read more about how membership works at our dojo at our website (under “dojo information” then under “membership”). One can also see the other three local dojo urls under our “links” page under the same “dojo information” page.

I think, even if one does belong to an institution, that this is a better way of doing things – for many reasons. I do not think that a dojo has to be an independent to have no interest in rank, to allow for a month-long trial period, and to encourage folks to seek out the other dojo in town before committing to yours. So I would not say that rank has to be a necessary evil of running a dojo.


david

senshincenter
02-11-2007, 10:29 AM
In some ways academics are similar to martial arts, and in some ways they are different. Certainly in academics there are credentialed people who are driven more by their own egos than by knowledge. There are professors who have bet their careers on an idea that turned out to be wrong, and who naturally enough keep holding onto that idea no matter what evidence arises to the contrary. Similarly there are grad students who get off on the power trip of having control of undergrads rather than on actually teaching. Both phenomenons are quite common in martial arts as well.

But in academics there are somewhat universal standards of achievement, and these are typically considered minimums rather than full qualifications. If you want to get tenure from a major university a PhD is necessary but not sufficient. Much more important than your degree is the original research you have published. In martial arts, rank is not in any way a minimum universal standard requirement for teaching, and original research is not rewarded but usually discouraged by large organizations. For example, if you want to teach a regular class at an affiliated dojo you almost always need to be a long-time student of that dojo and have your rank from that organization. You can¡Çt go get your shodan (or sandan or godan) from the ASU then go join a USAF dojo to teach in the same way you can get a PhD from Harvard then go join the faculty at Princeton. Actually, if martial arts organizations were more like universities in these ways it would be a very positive change.

Universities serve a very different and much larger purpose than martial arts schools, and hence they have much more rigorous and standardized requirements. Martial arts are basically a hobby for most people, and the organizations exist not to bring people up to minimum universal standards but to build and maintain a large paying student base for a few charismatic leaders. In this way, martial arts organizations are more like religious groups than universities. They tend to have mutually exclusive doctrines and hierarchies rather than universal standards and qualifications. If you want to be a Catholic priest, you have to have training within that lineage. Having credentials as a member of the Lutheran clergy won¡Çt qualify you, even though both religions are ostensibly ¡ÈChristian.¡É In either case, you will have to adhere to the doctrine sent down from above rather than coming up with your own ideas, just as you would in a large martial arts organization. Of course if you want to open a church that is not a member of some larger group, you don¡Çt need any formal qualifications at all and you can follow whatever doctrine you like.

To me it is quite obvious why excessive concern with rank in martial arts is a character flaw. Ultimately, rank means nothing other than where you are in one particular organization. It doesn¡Çt make you a strong martial artist, an effective teacher, or a good person. My experience has been that people who manifest these qualities don¡Çt care much about rank, regardless of whether they have it, while people who are lacking in these areas cling to rank as a way to avoid or hide their deficiencies. This is more obvious when someone is not part of a major organization, since it is much easier to get rank by promoting yourself, having your students promote you, or joining an organization that sells rank than it is to get it from a mainstream group. With people from major "legitimate" organizations, you often have to spend some time on the mat with them to find out whether they have real skills or just a fancy piece of paper.

-G DiPierro

Hi Giancarlo,

Nice post. Good to hear from you.

d

aikidoc
02-11-2007, 05:48 PM
David, I hope I did not misinterpret you. My impression was that you were saying it depends on how its viewed whether its a character flaw or not. If one is truly not interested in rank at all, then no matter how many years they have trained they would simply refuse to test or accept rank. They would be honest up front and not take money for teaching anyone else and would not present themselves as instructors or hold themselves out to be anything other than a student. In fact, I would think if they tried to teach, by virtue of that act alone they would be establishing an intention or impression of rank. By characterizing it, I meant that it appeared you had conditions on whether it was somewhat of a character flaw or not based on intent.

Giancarlo, you make it sound sinister in my opinion. How about people who simple train for the sake of training in an organization and accept rank as a consequence of that dedication. Granted one's rank does not make them a good martial artist, or good teacher for that matter. However, as in a Ph'd program, it does establish a level of knowledge-whether it can be executed or taught or not is another matter. As to finding out whether they have real skills, that may be a reflection of their teachers more than whether they are legitimately trying to learn the art. That also may be an issue of interpretation since you are the one judging the skills and hold a bias in that regard-i.e., you are measuring them against what you have determined to be "real skills" based on your training which may also be flawed.

aikidoc
02-11-2007, 05:54 PM
David, I'm sorry to hear you have decided to not finish your dissertation. To go so far and change your mind must have been a tough decision. FWIW even though you may not right now think it is important, if you punch the ticket and have a change of mind later at least you will not have to start over. I've seen brown belts do this-drop out right before the shodan and then later rue the decision.

senshincenter
02-11-2007, 07:06 PM
David, I hope I did not misinterpret you. My impression was that you were saying it depends on how its viewed whether its a character flaw or not. If one is truly not interested in rank at all, then no matter how many years they have trained they would simply refuse to test or accept rank. They would be honest up front and not take money for teaching anyone else and would not present themselves as instructors or hold themselves out to be anything other than a student. In fact, I would think if they tried to teach, by virtue of that act alone they would be establishing an intention or impression of rank. By characterizing it, I meant that it appeared you had conditions on whether it was somewhat of a character flaw or not based on intent.

Giancarlo, you make it sound sinister in my opinion. How about people who simple train for the sake of training in an organization and accept rank as a consequence of that dedication. Granted one's rank does not make them a good martial artist, or good teacher for that matter. However, as in a Ph'd program, it does establish a level of knowledge-whether it can be executed or taught or not is another matter. As to finding out whether they have real skills, that may be a reflection of their teachers more than whether they are legitimately trying to learn the art. That also may be an issue of interpretation since you are the one judging the skills and hold a bias in that regard-i.e., you are measuring them against what you have determined to be "real skills" based on your training which may also be flawed.


Hi John,

Thanks for the reply.

Perhaps I didn't make sense then - since you seem to be saying both something I've been trying to say and something totally different from what I'm saying. For me, when you write "If one is truly not interested in rank at all, then no matter how many years they have trained they would simply refuse to test or accept rank. They would be honest up front and not take money for teaching anyone else and would not present themselves as instructors or hold themselves out to be anything other than a student. In fact, I would think if they tried to teach, by virtue of that act alone they would be establishing an intention or impression of rank," this would all be from the point of view of being stuck in rank (via an interest in regards to rank). This view, for me, sounds like something one would adopt if he/she just couldn't think outside of the box of rank. I'm trying to talk about what is outside of this box. Please see my other reply of what this might look like in a real-life setting. Perhaps that will lend a hand regarding my meaning.

However, when you write, "How about people who simple train for the sake of training in an organization and accept rank as a consequence of that dedication," you are talking about exactly what I would propose to be the more virtuous path. So, I'm not sure how to respond to this, as part of your reply seems to not note what I wrote but another part of it is exactly on the money (though you offer that part as a supposed contrast - yikes!). Perhaps someone else can chime in and make sense of what I was trying to say. I'm sorry I'm unable to be more clear.

I'll try more later,
d

senshincenter
02-11-2007, 07:07 PM
David, I'm sorry to hear you have decided to not finish your dissertation. To go so far and change your mind must have been a tough decision. FWIW even though you may not right now think it is important, if you punch the ticket and have a change of mind later at least you will not have to start over. I've seen brown belts do this-drop out right before the shodan and then later rue the decision.

Yeah, I guess one never knows. It's there if I want it. That's not so bad. :-) Thanks. d

G DiPierro
02-11-2007, 11:00 PM
If one is truly not interested in rank at all, then no matter how many years they have trained they would simply refuse to test or accept rank.
Actually, I would say that refusing to test or accept rank from an organization that you belong to is a form of excessive concern with rank.
They would be honest up front and not take money for teaching anyone else and would not present themselves as instructors or hold themselves out to be anything other than a student. In fact, I would think if they tried to teach, by virtue of that act alone they would be establishing an intention or impression of rank.
Not sure what money or teaching has to do with rank. Again, rank is only a measure of your position within an organization. To suggest that teaching necessitates or implies rank is to suggest that teaching requires membership in some organization that awards rank. To me, such a belief also reflects an excessive concern with rank.
How about people who simple train for the sake of training in an organization and accept rank as a consequence of that dedication.
No problem at all with that.
Granted one's rank does not make them a good martial artist, or good teacher for that matter. However, as in a Ph'd program, it does establish a level of knowledge-whether it can be executed or taught or not is another matter.
Not really. In academics, people are constantly tested and their performance is graded in comparison to their peers. To get a Bachelor¡Çs degree, you will be evaluated by dozens of teachers acting independently of each other, and your GPA will reflect your performance relative to other students. We can say with a good amount of certainty that someone who graduates summa cum laude from Harvard is a better student than someone who squeaks through Podunk State College with a C average because we know that the requirements of the former are much more challenging than the latter. Now the guy who drops out of college after his freshman year to start a computer company might end up more successful financially than either of them, but in terms of further academic study it is obvious which of the two would be more likely to succeed.

Contrast this with someone who joins an Aikikai-affiliated dojo in the US and trains 3 days a week. If this person is an exceptional student and tests on time, he might get his shodan in 7 or 8 years. Usually, he will not be permitted test ahead of schedule no matter how good he is. If this person is a poor student, he might take a little longer and get shodan in 9 or 10 years. No matter how unskillful this person is he will still get promoted as long he shows up and pays his dues since organizations don¡Çt want people to get discouraged and drop out. A third person, an average student living in Japan, will get shodan after 2 or 3 years of training with the same frequency. All three will get the exact same piece of paper from the exact same organization signed by the exact same person. So what do these pieces of paper tell use about these people¡Çs relative level of knowledge, ability, or likelihood of future success as a martial artist? Nothing, because the requirements to receive them are not competitive in any way, and are completely arbitrary even according to the primary factor, time on the mat.

This type of rank, the most common in aikido, doesn¡Çt represent any kind of minimum standard of knowledge, nor does it have to, because martial arts are just a hobby, and it really doesn¡Çt matter if people doing them (or teaching them) have any actual skill. All that is important is that students get to dress up in funny uniforms and feel like they are doing something exotic. They are very unlikely to have to ever have to use what they are learning defend themselves, and major decisions like admissions to medical school or law school certainly do not depend on properly evaluating their performance.

All of the major martial arts organizations know this, and that is why they are moving away from effective technique in favor of a fun practice that is appealing to the masses. And because, as you pointed out, so many people in our society are dependent upon external symbols and measures of status, the ranking system is a great way to let people feel like they are making progress and keep them loyal to the organization. Problems only arise when people start thinking that such rank has some kind of universal meaning. As I suggested in my last post, usually this belief is a means to avoid having to confront one¡Çs flaws as a martial artist or person within the context of the dojo or organization.

-G DiPierro

aikidoc
02-11-2007, 11:22 PM
Comparing Japan and American ranks are apples and oranges-they get regular exposure to shihans, we don't. Shodan in 7-8 years-that's quite long by most standards. It's normally about 4 at that rate.

As for the rest of your comments, you seem to be focused on defining the quality of an aikidoka by their street effectiveness. I would content that is only one measure and perhaps in a modern society an irrelevant one. No everyone trains with the interest of doing MMA or kicking someone's ass on the street. Perhaps they are trying to elevate their lives to a higher plan as O'Sensei attempted in developing an art of peace. If that is all your measure is then aikido is not the art. BJJ or mixed martial arts is likely a better choice and it doesn't trouble one with philosophy .

G DiPierro
02-12-2007, 01:20 AM
I think your understanding of the differences between Japanese and American practice is not based in reality, but I¡Çll let people who have actually trained in both environments comment on that. 7-8 years would be fairly quick for shodan with 3 day a week practice in the USAF, the largest Aikikai-affiliated organization in the US. The minimum cumulative requirement is 1140 days, which at 3 days per week, 50 weeks per year, would be just under 8 years. This assumes you always test immediately after you are eligible, which is usually not the case.

I never mentioned anything about street effectiveness. You put forward the notion that rank in aikido is a similar qualification to an academic degree, specifically in regard to teaching. I gave a detailed case for why this is not the case by explaining some fundamental differences between the two. If you wish to suggest that aikido is not a martial art but a means of ¡Èelevating one¡Çs life to higher plane¡É (whatever that means) and that rank in aikido is a good reflection of accomplishment in and qualification to teach this, then perhaps you could explain how the ranking system in aikido evaluates something like this.

In nearly all of the Aikikai dojos I have been to, the only two requirements for promotion were time on the mat, which is always by far the most important requirement, and the performance of certain techniques on command, although some dojos also require other things like a written essay. Which of these requirements is the one that measures whether and to what extent students have elevated their lives to higher planes and are qualified to teach others how to do this?

-G DiPierro

happysod
02-12-2007, 03:44 AM
Which of these requirements is the one that measures whether and to what extent students have elevated their lives to higher planes and are qualified to teach others how to do this? I'm going to chose to go with neither on your two options and also ask for an additional clarification of "what level are they teaching?". The needs of a beginner are often quite different from someone experienced.

I've always found martial arts quite strange in it's view of teaching as it's one of the few areas of physical activity where the teachers ability is often surpassed by their ability to impart the knowledge to the student (see all the "stealing techniques" threads etc.).

I know several groups have attempted to address this with coaching certificates and different titles for teaching, but teaching in martial arts is still quite poorly recognized as a skill - compare this with coaches in activities such as sports where it's the skill of the student which is used to determine the reputation of the teacher.

With regard to using of academia as a model for martial arts (which I'm also guilty of) I agree it's a tempting allegory, what with the secretiveness, egos and sense of disconnect with the real world (TM) . However, I think there's a danger of taking this too far, sometimes it strikes me as a slightly vainglorious way of defending why we've all spent so much time on something the vast majority couldn't care less about.

Jorge Garcia
02-12-2007, 08:36 AM
I think there's a danger of taking this too far, sometimes it strikes me as a slightly vainglorious way of defending why we've all spent so much time on something the vast majority couldn't care less about.

As small aside-
I could have spent the last 12 years on a thread-mill over at a gym but instead I spent them doing Aikido. I got vigorous exercise, met hundreds of great people, had wonderful times and have been richly rewarded in learning some things I didn't know and never would have learned otherwise. If the vast majority "couldn't care less about it" maybe they should. :)
Best wishes,
Jorge

senshincenter
02-12-2007, 10:55 AM
Hi All,

Well, these are all very good points – all open to further discussion/debate. Perhaps we can and should, however, return to the main points of John’s original question and my original response – before we wander off a bit more than we might want.

Let me come to my original answer from another point of view:

Rather than debate all that rank symbolizes (or not), please allow me to grant any and all things it might stand for. Additionally, please let me grant it all of its uses. I do not think my point requires that it not stand for “x” or “y” or that it cannot be used to achieve “z,” etc. My point, is that rank is symbolic in nature. My position does not rest upon what rank stands for or not but that rank is that which stands for something else. That is to say, for example, rank is the map that is not the territory.

Across the globe and across history, folly has always been connected to Man’s tendency to be captured by a representation over that that is being represented. Equally, virtue has always been connected by Man’s capacity to not be taken in by his/her tendency toward representations. This, in essence, is my position concerning an interest in rank and its relation to what I am calling a character flaw. An interest in rank, for whatever ends, regardless of what rank stands for, is an attachment to that which stands for what is real but that is itself only symbolic. It is an attachment then to that which is not real – which, for me, is folly.


d

happysod
02-12-2007, 11:13 AM
I really want whatever Davids having...My point, is that rank is symbolic in nature totally agree, which by extension also ties nicely into the independent/federated route - good one.

[rest removed when I realised I'd misread Davids post]

aikidoc
02-12-2007, 05:12 PM
Hi All,


It is an attachment then to that which is not real -- which, for me, is folly.


d
Ahh! Spoken like a Buddhist. Is your concern with rank then that we tend to become attached to it as if it really had some meaning?

G DiPierro
02-12-2007, 07:00 PM
David,

I agree with your point. For me the experience of attending college and learning the things I learned in and out of the classroom means far more than the degree I received, which is just a piece a paper that represents that I met a certain limited set of academic requirements. However, within a certain context having met these requirements has some importance. My position is that it is not an interest in rank or any other symbol that is a problem, but the excessive interest in rank, so common in aikido and other martial arts, that far outweighs any real importance that rank can be demonstrated to have.

To draw another comparison, most of us have an interest in money, which, like rank, is also a symbolic piece of paper. Because almost everyone has a strong interest in this symbol, that piece of paper can be universally exchanged for things that are quite real. Of course if you are a renunciate and have taken a vow of poverty, then you can make the argument that you have no interest in such things and that they are not, in fact, real to you, but for those of who are not we must acknowledge money has some inherent value to us even though it is just a symbol. Here too we could discuss an excessive interest in money, which also afflicts many people in our society.

In the case of rank in martial arts, I would say that it has value in two ways. The first is that it has some political meaning within the organization that issued it. That is, it reflects the opinion of that organization¡Çs leaders about where the person who received it stands in that organization. For this reason, I see rank as an intimate part of membership in such an organization. I understand why large organizations structure themselves in this way, but I think the decision to do so primarily serves the organization and its leaders rather than its students. When individual members of these organizations buy into the rank system and invest it with more meaning than it should have, they are essentially giving their power away to the organization, which is exactly what the organization and its leaders want.

The second value that rank has comes from the fact that many people both in and out of martial arts often think that rank has some universal meaning. This type of meaning exists simply because people believe it does, just like the value of money exists because people will almost always accept it in exchange for real and valuable goods. However, money is issued and backed (usually) by governments, while rank can be issued by any organization that wishes to issue it. Awarding rank is essentially a license to print money, both literally and figuratively, for martial arts organizations. Although large organizations like the Aikikai have a tighter rank policy than McDojos and rank mills, both because they can afford to and to preserve their reputations, it is a difference only of degree. When you actually look at the requirements that these organizations have, as I have done in previous posts, it is easy to see that the requirements are mostly arbitrary and not based on the factors that I and others would consider important, such as real martial skill or one's attainment of a ¡Èhigher plane¡É personally.

I can accept the belief that martial arts rank has some universal meaning from people who are not experienced in martial arts, since I myself thought that rank had some great importance when I was a novice in aikido. Luckily, I had a teacher who disabused me of this notion very early on in my career. The problem I see is when experienced martial artists, and particularly teachers, hold rank in such regard, despite being intimately familiar with how rank is issued. Again, my experience is that they usually do so because they need to use their rank and their ability to control their students' access to rank as a way to make up for or hide their deficiencies as teachers, martial artists, and people.

-G DiPierro

aikidoc
02-12-2007, 08:14 PM
David,

My position is that it is not an interest in rank or any other symbol that is a problem, but the excessive interest in rank, so common in aikido and other martial arts, that far outweighs any real importance that rank can be demonstrated to have.

Hence all of the 10th dan sokey dokeys popping up.


Again, my experience is that they usually do so because they need to use their rank and their ability to control their students' access to rank as a way to make up for or hide their deficiencies as teachers, martial artists, and people.

-G DiPierro You must have had some bad experiences. Perhaps, they just want the knowledge attained by raising their level of training so they can pass it on to their students and continue to help them grow..

G DiPierro
02-12-2007, 09:54 PM
You must have had some bad experiences. Perhaps, they just want the knowledge attained by raising their level of training so they can pass it on to their students and continue to help them grow..
Yes, I've had some bad experiences, but none of them have been with people who want to raise their level of training. Rather, they have been with people who want to limit their training only to the type of rigid interactions that can be defined within a rank hierarchy. They are only open to learning from people who are above them in the hierarchy and only open to teaching those who submit to being below them in the hierarchy. They won't risk letting go of the trappings of rank to have the kind of direct person-to-person interactions that are the essence of martial arts. They have been believing and convincing others to believe that their value as martial artists derives from and is defined by rank for so long that they are afraid there might not be anything else under there. Usually, they are partially correct in this belief.

The large organizations tend to support people in maintaining and even strengthening these attachments to rank since that increases the power of the organization and keeps people loyal to it. Although there are some good people in organizations who don't care about rank, I'm discouraged enough with the state of modern mainstream aikido that I'm pretty close to leaving it entirely. There's still a few teachers I haven't given up on yet, but dealing with the egos and politics of their students and others who attend the seminars where these people teach almost isn't worth it for me anymore. Now if I could get some one-on-one freestyle training with these guys that would be a different story entirely.

-G DiPierro

senshincenter
02-12-2007, 09:54 PM
Is your concern with rank then that we tend to become attached to it as if it really had some meaning?

Bingo! :D

JLRonin
02-17-2007, 11:06 PM
To Jason@southlakeaikikai. Please contact me at your leasure.
JLRonin2@yahoo.com, julioronin@hotmail.com