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omyt
05-30-2007, 07:59 PM
I know it shouldn't bother me that my Sensei seems to favor certain students over others. I know it shouldn't bother me that people who joined the dojo after me have passed me in rank for no apparent reason. I know it shouldn't bother me that these students will most likely reach shodan before me even though I have been training longer than they have. I know it shouldn't bother me that one of my sempai has expressed to me that they don't understand why this is the case, based on his judgement of my ability. I know these things shouldn't bother me, but they do. I'm not going to pretend like I'm not concerned about reaching goals in my training(rank) because that would be a lie. I'ts not that I want my ego stroked, I just want feedback from my sensei. I want to know why my training has taken this path. I dare not ask him because I don't think that would be appropriate.(I don't want to sound like a whining baby, which is probably what I sound like right now,huh?) I love my dojo and I love all of my partners, I just needed to vent. comments will be appreciated.

Janet Rosen
05-30-2007, 10:07 PM
If you cannot in a gentle way ask him for feedback in terms of what his perception of your training progress and of your attitude/spirit are, then why are you training with him?

gdandscompserv
05-30-2007, 10:08 PM
I think it would be appropriate to ask your sensei.

Larry Cuvin
05-31-2007, 01:02 AM
omyt,
Are you paying to be trained? Ask for an explanation why this is so. You need to get a feedback from your sensei. It is his job to steer you on the right path, to learn, and part of this is making progress and with it the appropriate ranking. You are spending both your time and money so go ask with the proper respect.

Larry

Amir Krause
05-31-2007, 06:23 AM
Some very simple suggestions:

1/ Ask you Sensei for feedback, talk with him in private and ask for the things you should improve as an Aikidoka. Do not ask him about ranks and promotions, you could ask him to give you more attention and correct your mistakes more often (I always ask this of my sensei, whenever we talk).

2. Forget about rank, and learn to value the knowledge and ability instead. And definitely do not compare yourself to others. Perhaps, you do not know it, but they have a problem making progress much more difficult, and your sensei sees how they practice more diligently then you even though their progress is slower. Ranks are often given also for effort, not only for quality.

3. It is allowed to be human. Feeling some disappointment at various times, and even having petty feelings is normal. Dowloading those emotions somewhere is legitimate, Letting these emotions to take you too far is the only mistake and it seems you are aware of it.

Amir

Dirk Hanss
05-31-2007, 07:55 AM
Dear Omyt,
maybe that is not new, butprobably in other words.

1) While a dojo is not democratic, there is one very important aspect of democracy in: everybody can leave, whenever he wants to.
2) Aikido is more than technique. Obviously there are some lessons, you still have to learn.
a) Care about yourself - not others.
b) Stand up for your rights, if you feel wronged.
c) Talk to your sensei in good mood, if you do not understand him. Probably he can explain it to you.

If you can do all at the same time and your technique is as good as you and your sempai judge it, You wil be ready to get your shodan - in your current dojo or in an other one.

Best regards

Dirk

gdandscompserv
05-31-2007, 08:25 AM
If one of my students asked me that question the answer would be simple:
I don't give rank.
I offer a place to train and learn. If rank happens, it happens depending on the circumstances. That is not to say that I have no regard for rank, because I do. I proudly display my rank certificate on the wall of my dojo as I am am the sensei and owner. It so happens that I am not in a position to offer rank. We train in the techniques required to test for rank because they represent a good foundation in aikido waza and I would like my students to test for rank when given the opportunity, but no rank from me.
IMO, the thing that you must have to learn true budo is a good teacher/student relationship. You don't seem to have that with your current sensei. You can try to nurture that relationship or look elsewhere. If there are other dojos you might try a different one. It is your path and so you probably should enjoy it.

jennifer paige smith
05-31-2007, 09:55 AM
I agree with Mr Woods, above. But It seems that our friend here does belong to a dojo that offers rank and that it is part of the steering process and package of their dojo product (that which they provide). My advice, ask your Sensei. If you are told it is an inappropriate question, get the hell out of there. That gap is where emotional and political abuses fester and the spirit(morale) suffers. Simple guidelines help students advance in the process presented by their particular dojo. In a healthy dojo it is consistent and easily dilineated; i.e. how many hours you train, how proficient you are in demonstrating the principles (a 'ranking' dojo are responsible for defining.) Just as a math teacher in school can't say, "well, you got a 100% on your tests and you've been to all the classes, but I think we're going to hold you back a grade until next year." Say What?

As a Sensei and a high school teacher , this is my perspective.

Murgen
05-31-2007, 10:16 AM
I would ask him where you could most improve in Aikido, on and off the mat. If your fairly young it might be one reason he is holding back on testing you for higher ranks. He may want you to learn to control your ego better. I'd look at this as a test. Show him rank means little to you and that learning Aikido does.

I would study the other people that have passed you in rank and see what their attitude is. Do they give a lot of personal time outside the dojo to studying Aikido and/or help in dojo affairs? Your right it's not a democracy, and showing genuine interest in learning about Aikido outside of technique goes a long way with a Sensei.

If your Sensei is just ignoring you completely, or always pairing you with another student (who isn't progressing and is ignored).....that might be a message that for whatever reason he doesn't really want you as a student and you should look at moving on.

Brian Vickery
05-31-2007, 12:49 PM
I'll respond to this issue from an instructor's perspective. And this is in no way a knock to you, it's just my personal opinion.

You know, there are some students from the very start that you see a special spark in, they already seem to have the attributes to be a shodan from day one. Those students get more of my attention, move along faster than the average student. You just don't want that type of student to get bored & leave.

And there are those students that I just click with on a personal level better than other students ...I like them! They too get more of my attention.

I'm not saying that this is fair or that I'm right all the time on my assessment of all these students, in fact I've been wrong many times in both overestimating some students & underestimating others!

Just remember that your instructor is as human as anybody else, having the same weaknesses & prejudices.

Just stick with it & show him that you're one of those worth more of his attention!

Regards,

omyt
05-31-2007, 09:32 PM
Thank you all very much for your insight, I appreciate it. Please understand that I still feel like I am gaining a lot from my training, it's just that lately I've been getting bummed out at keiko. The reason I wouldn't talk to my sensei about this is because he has addressed issues of ego, the importance of rank, comparison to other students, etc. during class many times. His position is clear; get rid of such thoughts! I am trying, but it is difficult for me and I just wanted to express my frustration somewhere. Again, thank you all very much for the thoughtful replies.

Adam Alexander
05-31-2007, 10:44 PM
If I was posting what you were posting, I'd hope that someone would say,"Do what you believe to be right."

If you're following this person because you believe in them, then the lesson you're learning (whether it be to keep your mouth shut or when is the right time to voice your concerns) are lessons that you're seeking.

Then again, maybe you're just posting just to post with no feedback...I don't know.

grondahl
06-01-2007, 07:03 AM
I know it shouldn't bother me that my Sensei seems to favor certain students over others. I know it shouldn't bother me that people who joined the dojo after me have passed me in rank for no apparent reason. I know it shouldn't bother me that these students will most likely reach shodan before me even though I have been training longer than they have.

When I read this the expression "Itīs the miles, not the years that count". Do you average the same hours of training (in and outside of the dojo) as the students that have passed you in rank?
There is for instance a big difference in development between someone who trains 3-5 times a week and goes to seminars and intensive training sessions on regular basis and those that average 2-3 times a week.

Edward
06-04-2007, 02:27 PM
It could also be that some instructors of the old school would intentionally ignore students who seem to be more gifted than others and more eager for rank, as someone very wise told me once, to hammer down the nail that is sticking out. Sometimes it would be wiser to be discrete in showing one's abilities.

Hanna B
06-05-2007, 01:15 PM
And there are those students that I just click with on a personal level better than other students ...I like them! They too get more of my attention.

Most teachers do this unknowlingly. A little of it is normal. But, when teachers allow themself do openly do this very unhealthy things develop.

Hanna B
06-05-2007, 01:21 PM
The anon here might be over estimating his or her abilities, but I will respond assuming xe does not.

I know it shouldn't bother me

Why the heck shouldn't it? Rank is you teacher's way of giving status to his pupils. He offers you lower status than your peers - and tells you you have no right to worry about it?

The reason I wouldn't talk to my sensei about this is because he has addressed issues of ego, the importance of rank, comparison to other students, etc. during class many times. His position is clear; get rid of such thoughts!

I.e., the favoured ones are entitled to their pride, but you are not entitled to yours. You know, people who are not very concerned about rank matters don't have to talk all the time about how unimportant they are...

David Paul
06-05-2007, 02:06 PM
I believe that I am experiencing the same thing in my dojo. Its a little frustrating-but my own personal choice is to forego rank altogether and just train. My thought on that is I refuse to let someone else make decisions for me regarding what rank I am or when I should test. I came to this decision after recently being passed over for a test (5th kyu) for which I had the necessary hours and knew the techniques. This has happened to me before at a different dojo-but under the same governing body (USAF) and therefore I have decided that I will not let rank be important to me-therefore I will not test. Just my decision--dont know if that works for you.

DonMagee
06-11-2007, 06:55 AM
I was talking with my aikido instructor a few days ago. He mentioned in passing that he will never give me rank because I am not his student, I just train with him and his students. This didn't bother me, because I think he is right. I will keep training there though, I have no problem with never getting ranked. Maybe he will change his mind, I doubt it, but a bit of new color has never been a driving factor for me. If it was I'd still be doing TKD and probably be a 8th or 9th degree by now at the rate I was going.

G DiPierro
06-11-2007, 10:14 PM
I believe that I am experiencing the same thing in my dojo. Its a little frustrating-but my own personal choice is to forego rank altogether and just train. My thought on that is I refuse to let someone else make decisions for me regarding what rank I am or when I should test.

Why would you think that you have the right to determine what your rank should be? Rank is a measure of your political status within a particular organization -- nothing less, nothing more. The only person who has the right to make decisions about that is the person who runs the organization.

If you really don't care about rank, then neither ask nor refuse to test, and accept whatever rank your teacher gives you. That doesn't mean you won't have problems associated with rank, because even if you don't care about it (although I suspect you actually do), most other people in the dojo will. It is a natural tendency for humans to be concerned about our status relative to our peer groups.

I've never seen rank have a positive impact on the training within an individual dojo, other than to increase its membership, which could be seen as either positive or negative. More people get into martial arts to have someone else validate them then to actually become skilled martial arts, so those arts that give out ranks tend to attract more people than those that don't, even when there is a significant difference in the quality of practice.

In an ideal world, rank would correspond perfectly to one's skill and development as a martial artist, so there would be no problems with people not having the correct official status for their level. However, in the real world this is frequently not the case, particularly in aikido where the criteria for rank is, even officially, now only very loosely based on skill. Rank in aikido and most other modern martial arts is more than anything else a tool for building and maintaining large and powerful organizations.

What ends up happening in these arts is that the practice adapts to fit the hierarchy rather than hierarchy adapting to fit the practice. The art gets watered down to the level of those who climb the organizational ladder, and any kind of advancement that does not reflect the formal ranking structure is not tolerated. In exchange for having a larger group, the practice is limited by what the hierarchy can accommodate, and in aikido that's often not much.

Even good teachers in aikido who don't care about rank themselves are still handicapped by the system in which they operate. The attachments to rank held by so many others in their organizations constrain who and what they can teach in very real yet often unseen ways. Compared to my experience in aikido, training in disciplines that have no formal ranking systems has been both liberating and refreshing, and I would have a hard time going back to an art with such an artificial structure at this point. But, to the original poster, if you really like the practice you are getting there, then just accept the problems that the ranking system is causing you as one of the prices you have to pay in order to train there. If the practice there is not worth dealing with that, then look elsewhere.

-G DiPierro

DonMagee
06-12-2007, 06:58 AM
Rank can be a good thing. Used properly it can allow you to find partners who can train at the level you wish to train. I have not found this to be true outside of sport based arts however. But in judo and bjj I can find training partners with skills very close to my own by looking at their rank. I know if I want to be worked over to look for a bjj purple belt for example. I know bjj blue belts are usually at my level. Performance based rankings are very useful. Political based rankings are useless.

Hanna B
06-12-2007, 09:47 AM
Rank is a measure of your political status within a particular organization -- nothing less, nothing more. The only person who has the right to make decisions about that is the person who runs the organization.

If you really don't care about rank, then neither ask nor refuse to test, and accept whatever rank your teacher gives you. That doesn't mean you won't have problems associated with rank, because even if you don't care about it (although I suspect you actually do), most other people in the dojo will. It is a natural tendency for humans to be concerned about our status relative to our peer groups.

Very well put! I will probably quote you sometimes, regarding the "political status".

G DiPierro
06-12-2007, 10:10 AM
Rank can be a good thing. Used properly it can allow you to find partners who can train at the level you wish to train. I have not found this to be true outside of sport based arts however. But in judo and bjj I can find training partners with skills very close to my own by looking at their rank. I know if I want to be worked over to look for a bjj purple belt for example. I know bjj blue belts are usually at my level. Performance based rankings are very useful. Political based rankings are useless.

This is exactly the reason that Kano decided to use the numerical kyu-dan ranking system for judo. He did not invent the system himself; it had already been in use for hundreds of years in the board game go, where it was a very quantifiable measure of strength derived from the outcome of games against other players of known ranks. In an even (non-handicapped) game, the odds of a lower-ranked go player defeating one of higher rank, particularly if the gap is more than a couple of levels, are low.

Kano's vision was a martial art where jujutsu skill could be similarly measured through competition. The numerical ranking system he used was never intended for a non-competitive martial art like aikido, and using it in such arts is a corruption of his idea, but martial arts organizations have discovered that it is a very effective political and marketing tool for the type of person who is attracted to martial arts. To compete with judo's success, they all want to use it, even if they have no sound basis for doing so.

-G DiPierro

Drew Mailman
06-12-2007, 11:06 AM
Keep in mind that, in some schools, rank comes with responsibility. Senior students at the school I attend are called on for a lot more than the junior students (our bottom three ranks, including white). Seniors have to know technique, but also need to be able to teach new students the basics, tell visitors about aikido, keep up on class changes (and inform other students!), and anticipate the needs of the school, including water, cups, cleaning, etc.

Our Sensei is a very busy man; he spends most of his days performing therapeutic treatments on clients and students. He isn't too busy to teach every class, but he does require his seniors to be dedicated, knowledgeable, and generous, and maybe your teacher needs to see those qualities from you.

Lambdadragon
06-12-2007, 07:18 PM
At a seminar a few years back the instructor (who is a high ranked dan) related a story about a seminar he had once participated in. The first day he showed up in his hakama and many wanted to train with him. The morning of the second day he arrived only to discover he had left his uniform back at the hotel. A newbie leant him an extra uniform and belt that was still in the package. The same people who clamored to practice with him the day before, now ignored him. The third day he returned with his hakama. Once again many wanted to train with him. One even commented that "yesterday there was a newbie here that looked just like you." The instructor made no public conclusion from the story other than to summarize how interesting that some in aikido rate the value of a person's aikido by their rank.

Kevin Wilbanks
06-13-2007, 01:48 AM
I guess I've never understood the drive toward status. The only status I ever desired was independence - the state of being free to choose.

Reading about someone's greed and attitude of entitlement for rank, really makes rank and Aikido practice appear silly to me right now. I show up somewhere, put on pajamas, roll around on comfy cushiony mats with other people and get all nitpicky about a ritualized activity that is only obliquely applicable to my life outside. So far it sounds like exactly the kind of kooky thing I might enjoy doing. But, if I were to get all worked up and political about who has been assigned what number, been given what piece of paper or colored belt it wouldn't be very enjoyable any more. It seems like that would be an expression of letting my own mental hangups cause me to lose perspective. If I think the game is unfair, why do I continue to play and continue to care about whether I succeed and how fair it is? Grinding this kind of axe seems almost like the definition of irrationality.

I could see getting something worthwhile out of rank, if I stayed somewhere long enough. For me it would be more about doing it cooperatively along with people there whom I respected and liked, not about 'Gimme one of those! I deserve it.'

Hanna B
06-13-2007, 03:57 AM
I could see getting something worthwhile out of rank, if I stayed somewhere long enough.

You have explained yourself why you are not concerned with your status within the group; you have chosen not to belong to it.


For me it would be more about doing it cooperatively along with people there whom I respected and liked, not about 'Gimme one of those! I deserve it.'

Then what about if yoiu tried to do it very cooperative along with the people you respected and liked, but after a while somehow realised you were left behind? You are making assumptions as to with whom the guilt lies. You may be right, but you may be wrong.

Kevin Wilbanks
06-13-2007, 01:40 PM
Then what about if yoiu tried to do it very cooperative along with the people you respected and liked, but after a while somehow realised you were left behind? You are making assumptions as to with whom the guilt lies. You may be right, but you may be wrong.

You still don't get it. If you've done everything to please these people and they have snubbed you, it is time to reevaluate your assumptions. They weren't who you thought they were, and therefore the rank doesn't mean what you thought it did. You need to either change your perspective on the whole subject of rank or go find some people with whom you can get a meaningful one. Sticking around and being all whiny and covetous about it is not only a poor option, it's self-contradictory.

G DiPierro
06-13-2007, 02:13 PM
It's not hard to see why rank is so important to people when dojos and organizations make such a big deal out of it. Consider things like prominently displayed nafudakake (ranking boards), dress codes based on rank (including colored belts and hakama to differentiate ranks), protocols such as lining up before and after class according to rank, formal ceremonies for presentation of rank certificates, classes devoted to those preparing for testing for rank, seminars where rank tests are an important part of the schedule of events, etc.

All of this might be tolerable if rank were an objective and accurate measure of skill, as it is in the game of go and as it was meant to be in competitive arts like judo. In fact, rank by its very nature implies competition, since anytime you rank things you are comparing them according to certain criteria, and they are essentially in a competing to determine how well each meets those criteria. In aikido, the criteria for rank are mostly hidden. The only explicit criterion is the requirement for having trained a certain number of days, which reduces rank to a competition for who has shown up to the dojo the most: a glorified award for perfect attendance. Although not an entirely trivial matter, this is hardly worth the kind of attention rank receives, and sometimes meeting this criterion is not even enough.

There is also a nominal criterion of techniques which must be demonstrated, but just having the ability to perform the techniques listed on the rank requirements in no way qualifies someone for promotion. In addition to having the necessary days, the techniques must (theoretically) be performed with a certain level of skill commensurate with rank in question, however the details of this are not spelled out but left up to the discretion of the examiner. Most importantly, though, it is usually necessary to first get "permission" to test, and increasingly this permission is equivalent to the promotion itself as many organizations no longer fail people once they have have been allowed to test, rendering the test itself not a test at all but merely a demonstration. Obviously, permission can be granted or withheld on virtually any grounds at all, without explanation, making political elements the controlling ones in any promotion. At the higher ranks (above 3 or 4-dan) even the illusion of objectivity is dispensed with as all promotions are done at the whim of those who run the various organizations.

Given how hard dojos and organizations try to get people to believe that rank is an important measure of success in aikido, I can't fault beginners for believing this and then feeling slighted when they get passed over for rank for arbitrary reasons. They weren't told that this was going to be part of the bargain, and now they feel cheated. The people I would fault are the ones who have been training for 10 or 20 or 30 years, long enough to know that rank is mainly a political game that does not necessarily have any relevance to the actual goals of aikido training. Sadly, many of these teachers and leaders have ideas about rank that are barely more sophisticated than those of the average beginner. Little wonder then that such ideas keep being perpetuated in arts like aikido.

Marie Noelle Fequiere
06-13-2007, 03:12 PM
One important information is missing here: how long exactly have you been training? Not everybody improves at the same pace.
Now, instructors are human beings, and sometimes, they do not realize that some of their actions are not being driven by the right motivations.
I also suggest that you go back to those senpais who told you that you deserve to be tested. Ask them now to tell you honestly what they think of your attitude and your discipline in class. A senpai has to be a model for the kohais, and a Sensei sometimes refuses to promote somebody who is technically able, but whose attitude is a problem.
Since I trained in shotokan for thirteen years before switching to AÔkido, I can share some experience with you. The desire to be promoted is human, and even healthy for begginers. It's what motivates them throughout the boring process of learning the basic steps. But, after a few months, it becomes obvious that being a good kohai is better than being a clumsy senpai. During my shotokan training, a realized that after I was promoted to purple belt. After my black belt promotion, after five years of training, I was fed up with exams, and the stress they brought on me. I refused to test for nidan. Meanwhile, another student was so convinced that she deserved to be promoted that she started designing her own training methods and stopped listening to corrections. Her performances declined miserably. Was I glad I was not imitating her.
I am now a white belt in AÔkido. I tested once, and I failed. I just did not want to test. Still, I know that Sensei is not done with me, and he will make me test again. I do not know when, I do not ask. I just love my new school, the people I meet, and the new stuff I am learning.
My advice to you is to enjoy your training, be humble and disciplined, and this promotion will come your way when you will not expect it.

Hanna B
06-13-2007, 03:30 PM
You still don't get it.

I take it you think you understand the lot.

If you've done everything to please these people and they have snubbed you, it is time to reevaluate your assumptions. They weren't who you thought they were, and therefore the rank doesn't mean what you thought it did.

Or, rank means exactly what you believed (such as your teacher hands out rank in whatever way he pleases just because he likes it), but you can not accept the outcome.

You need to either change your perspective on the whole subject of rank or go find some people with whom you can get a meaningful one. Sticking around and being all whiny and covetous about it is not only a poor option, it's self-contradictory.

Yes, then it is time to decide if you accept being sidestepped and stay, or move on. I have personally left a teacher and a dojo because I understood he would never give me a position I was happy about (not rank related), in an art that constituted the major part of my direction in life. That was a very good and healthy decision. I have never regretted it.

The fact that the threadstarter is posting here, shows that xe is trying to work out how xe should handle the situation. IMHO that is a very good thing. Who the h**l are you assuming is sticking around being all whiny and covetous? Maybe you have something to learn about making fast conclusions based on little information.

Hanna B
06-13-2007, 03:35 PM
One important information is missing here: how long exactly have you been training?

That is a very good point. If you have been training for less than two years, I suggest you try and talk to the teacher if you feel you can do that comfortably (or try and get you seniors to do it for you), and if that is not an option decide to let it go. If you have trained more than five years and you feel sidestepped what rank concerns, then that is another issue. If your teacher does not give you rank there must be a reason for it, and if you want to remain your teacher's student I see no way it could be good that you don't try and find out, why so you can decide on improvement in the area where you are lacking - or leave, if your teacher's reasons are not compatible with you.

Hanna B
06-13-2007, 03:40 PM
The desire to be promoted is human, and even healthy for begginers. It's what motivates them throughout the boring process of learning the basic steps.

Ouch! If I was a teacher, I would not want to have students whose motivation for traning was rank - not the beginners, and not the yudansha. I think that is a very very poor motivation for traning, and the student whose motivation is rank will always be disappointed in the end - even if, and maybe especially, if xe gets all the ranks xe thinks xe deservs.

Kevin Wilbanks
06-13-2007, 03:42 PM
Who the h**l are you assuming is sticking around being all whiny and covetous? Maybe you have something to learn about making fast conclusions based on little information.

This is a loaded, fallacious question on the order of "Are you still an alcoholic?" I am not assuming anything. I think there is plenty of information in what this person has posted to conclude this person is whiny and covetous. The whole thing drips with lack of perspective and a sense of entitlement. Given that you don't get this, and also seem to be having trouble interpreting what I have written, I'd say it is you who has something to learn - both about interpreting written English and controlling your temper.

Hanna B
06-13-2007, 03:49 PM
ROTFL

I rest my case.

Marie Noelle Fequiere
06-14-2007, 12:01 PM
Ouch! If I was a teacher, I would not want to have students whose motivation for traning was rank - not the beginners, and not the yudansha. I think that is a very very poor motivation for traning, and the student whose motivation is rank will always be disappointed in the end - even if, and maybe especially, if xe gets all the ranks xe thinks xe deservs.

I stick to my point. This is an unescapable reality. A student new - I said new - to the martial arts is embarking on a brand new adventure, and usually has no idea of what's ahead. Another unescapable reality is that the basic steps are just plain boring to practice, but absolutely unavoidable. The new, and immature student will need a motivation to go throught this stage, and the promotion will mean that he or she will have improved thanks to their perseverance. In the following months, as the student matures - that is as he or she accumulates experience - they will grow out of the promotion obsession.

Hanna B
06-14-2007, 02:43 PM
We are going off topic, but well well. Why don't students of music or football need ranks in order to motivate them? Why has nobody started to had out black belts in violin playing?

From my experience, people don't grow out of the belt obsession. They plan their training according to it, all the way to shodan - then most of them stop training.

Bronson
06-14-2007, 04:00 PM
Why don't students of music or football need ranks in order to motivate them?

Just to be fair in music they have first, second, third, etc. chair and of course there are first string players and second string players in sports.

Not exactly the same thing but still a place of recognition is being given for demonstration of superior skill.

Bronson

G DiPierro
06-15-2007, 10:20 AM
Just to be fair in music they have first, second, third, etc. chair and of course there are first string players and second string players in sports.

Not exactly the same thing but still a place of recognition is being given for demonstration of superior skill.


These levels of accomplishment are not motivational carrots that everyone receives to keep them interested but the natural rewards that only go to those who are have demonstrated, in a competitive setting, superior skill relative to their peers. This is how rank in go (and in chess) also works: you only get promoted if you defeat players ranked higher than you. It doesn't matter how long you have been playing or how many games you have played, if you can't beat someone at the 1-kyu level you will never get promoted to 1-dan, period.

Giving rank to everyone an incentive and reward for just being persistent enough not to quit is a corruption of what it was meant to be and renders it meaningless as a useful measure of skill. Not everyone can be first chair in the orchestra or the starting quarterback of the football team or 1-dan in go, no matter how much they practice, but everyone can get to be a shodan in aikido as long as they stick around long enough and keep paying dues.

The fact that it is accepted in martial arts to use rank in this manner, and the fact that many people at all levels confuse this everybody-plays type of ranking with one that actually measures skill is a reflection of just how much delusion and fantasy exists in the martial arts today.

Marie Noelle Fequiere
06-15-2007, 11:17 AM
We are going off topic, but well well. Why don't students of music or football need ranks in order to motivate them? Why has nobody started to had out black belts in violin playing?

From my experience, people don't grow out of the belt obsession. They plan their training according to it, all the way to shodan - then most of them stop training.

I sincerly think that what motivates a student to be or not to be promoted is definitly in-topic. My experience is that people drop out of martial arts at every level. When I was training in Shotokan, I decided not to test again after being promoted to black belt, and I did keep training as a shoden for eight more years, until our instructor decided to relocate in the U.S., and the school was closed. I just do not think that I may be an exception.
I switched to AÔkido because I could not find another Shotokan school that I liked. Otherwise, I would still be training as a shodan, a good ten years after my last test.

Edward
06-15-2007, 12:23 PM
Completely agreed!

That's why black belts in Judo for instance have really earned their rank and are under no illusion about their real abilities while in aikido you find so many delusional people who believe they are masters of the art just because they wear a hakama.

I've seen many given rank as a reward for personal services given to the head instructor, for being nice and obedient, for being old and unable to test....etc. Martial skills seem to be the last criteria to be considered for rank advancement in aikido.

These levels of accomplishment are not motivational carrots that everyone receives to keep them interested but the natural rewards that only go to those who are have demonstrated, in a competitive setting, superior skill relative to their peers. This is how rank in go (and in chess) also works: you only get promoted if you defeat players ranked higher than you. It doesn't matter how long you have been playing or how many games you have played, if you can't beat someone at the 1-kyu level you will never get promoted to 1-dan, period.

Giving rank to everyone an incentive and reward for just being persistent enough not to quit is a corruption of what it was meant to be and renders it meaningless as a useful measure of skill. Not everyone can be first chair in the orchestra or the starting quarterback of the football team or 1-dan in go, no matter how much they practice, but everyone can get to be a shodan in aikido as long as they stick around long enough and keep paying dues.

The fact that it is accepted in martial arts to use rank in this manner, and the fact that many people at all levels confuse this everybody-plays type of ranking with one that actually measures skill is a reflection of just how much delusion and fantasy exists in the martial arts today.

raul rodrigo
06-15-2007, 01:53 PM
The great thing about judo is that there is no room for delusion.

DonMagee
06-15-2007, 02:20 PM
The great thing about judo is that there is no room for delusion.

Someone should of told that to my first judo instructor. :D

omyt
06-15-2007, 02:55 PM
I think there is plenty of information in what this person has posted to conclude this person is whiny and covetous. The whole thing drips with lack of perspective and a sense of entitlement.

If you are referring to me, the original poster, I would just like to say that I am NOT a whiner, and I don't feel as though I'm some sort of 3rd kyu shihan I think my posts were pretty clear. Other guys have passed me up for no reason that I am aware of and it bugs me. simple.

omyt
06-15-2007, 02:59 PM
.

I've seen many given rank as a reward for personal services given to the head instructor, for being nice and obedient, for being old and unable to test....etc. Martial skills seem to be the last criteria to be considered for rank advancement in aikido.

This is kind of whats going on in my dojo

David Paul
06-15-2007, 03:34 PM
I am with Giancarlo. Rank in Aikido--and perhaps other "non-competitive" martial arts tends to ultimately become a popularity contest or an award for best attendance. I'm not sure how else it can be done at this point since I think we have travelled to far down that road already. As for me personally-my only answer is to train and not test.

G DiPierro
06-15-2007, 04:57 PM
In any human endeavor, there is always some room for delusion. In games like chess and go, you could delude yourself into thinking you are a good player because you always beat your little brother, but any play at a sanctioned event against officially ranked players should clear that up. Although Kano's idea was a martial art where skill could be quantified as objectively through competition as it is in go, the reality falls a little short. Rank in these competitive arts is usually not based exclusively on competitive results, as it is in board games. Yet the fact that there is a competitive element goes a long way to dispel widespread delusions of grandeur in such arts.

In aikido, there is much more room for mass delusion. The only reason rank in aikido ever manages to approximate anyone's actual relative skill level is because that the leaders of the art know that they must make it seem like the ranking system is a good representation of skill level and accomplishment in aikido in order to get the students to buy into it. Rank is a huge source of political, financial, and other kinds of power for them, and if they were to award it completely based on arbitrary political preferences then too many people would lose respect for it. A lot of thought and effort goes into maintaining the illusion that rank represents skill and achievement in aikido, including all of the ways that dojos and organizations place a great deal of importance on rank, which I mentioned earlier. Although instructors do use their discretion to occasionally hold back an under-performing student or (less frequently) quickly advance an over-performing one to keep people close to where they should be, the primary means of ensuring that rank often approximates actual skill level is the requirement for training a certain number of days in order to qualify to test.

For students of equal ability, training the same number of days will, all other things being equal, usually result in them reaching similar levels of skill, at least close enough to call them the same rank. However, all students are not equal (nor are all teachers, although that's another discussion). For average students, the practice of awarding rank by practice days will result in them being more or less ranked where they should be by an objective measure of skill, but above-average students will tend to be under-ranked while below-average students will tend to be over-ranked.* (see below) This gives the above-average students a disincentive to remain in arts in like aikido, leaving it populated mostly by average and below-average students. While the (even slightly) above-average students who do stay and play the political game will not face as much competition for the higher ranks and accompanying leadership roles when they reach that point, the target audience for the art tends to become the below-average student, who can advance in ways that would be impossible in an art with objective standards of skill. This is one factor in the art becoming increasingly watered-down over time and also one of the reasons why it has such a poor reputation in many martial arts circles.

* To get an idea of how many people would end up properly ranked according to skill using only the training days requirement, let us assume that the gap between each rank as an objective measure of skill is equivalent to one standard deviation in a normal distribution. Only just over 1/3 of all people would have a skill level within half a rank of what their training days qualify them for. Although nearly 70% (two standard deviations) of people who have the days for shodan would be, nominally speaking, properly ranked at level, many of them would be either almost at the nidan level or only barely above the 1-kyu level (by an objective measure of skill). Almost 16% would be at the 2-dan level or above, with an equal number at 1-kyu or below. 2% each would be at 3-dan and 2-kyu, and one person in one thousand would be at the 4-dan level or above and another at the 3-kyu level or below. This does not take into account differences in the requirements of different organizations, but assumes a normal distribution of students within one organization.

raul rodrigo
06-15-2007, 07:39 PM
Someone should of told that to my first judo instructor. :D

How exactly was he deluded, if you dont mind telling?

R

Edward
06-15-2007, 11:02 PM
Again, I agree with Giancarlo 100%.

Add to that the extreme cases when the rank advancement of some outstanding aikidoka has been blocked in order to keep the "harmony" in the dojo as the lesser "gifted" members were struck with jealousy and started to complain. It is very important in aikido to keep all the nails levelled, and the one sticking out should be hammered down. This contributes to the mediocrity of the standard at certain training places, but keeps the majority of the customers happy.

DonMagee
06-16-2007, 07:31 PM
How exactly was he deluded, if you dont mind telling?

R

That's a topic that could fill a whole thread. Sufficed to say he thought judo could defeat anything under the sun and was the only art you would ever need in any situation. Plus he could never deal with the fact that he was getting old and his students were young and developing skills he no longer had. After a few of us went to bjj and came back stronger grapplers, he made a point to show us how judo can beat bjj.He claimed to have never been choked out in his entire history (including almost making it into the olympics), after getting choked a few times, he switched to lecturing us on how that would not work on a good black belt our age (I was a 5th kyu at the time.) He just could not believe something we didn't learn in judo could defeat judo. Anyways, I'll stop now. But I could go on for hours about the stuff he did. My current judo instructor is much much better. I'm actually learning judo now.

Hanna B
06-17-2007, 05:34 AM
For average students, the practice of awarding rank by practice days will result in them being more or less ranked where they should be by an objective measure of skill, but above-average students will tend to be under-ranked while below-average students will tend to be over-ranked.* (see below) This gives the above-average students a disincentive to remain in arts in like aikido, leaving it populated mostly by average and below-average students. While the (even slightly) above-average students who do stay and play the political game will not face as much competition for the higher ranks and accompanying leadership roles when they reach that point, the target audience for the art tends to become the below-average student, who can advance in ways that would be impossible in an art with objective standards of skill. This is one factor in the art becoming increasingly watered-down over time and also one of the reasons why it has such a poor reputation in many martial arts circles.

This is the first time Giancarlo has written something in this thread, that I don't agree with. I have never seen that talented students leave because they feel under-ranked. Possibly what you say is true in the US, I wouldn't know.

In my aikido world, ranking is mostly "one rank per term" for the first three terms or so but after that there is a lot more variation. Also, unlike I completely misjudge my surroundings most people here don't have ranks as there major motivation for training. I never cease to be amazed by the importance American aikido people tend to give ranks, preparations for tests etc, as judged by the amount of activity on the subject on discussion boards like this. However, I can never know if this is the picture in most American aikido, or if it rather is typical of a small but loud minority.

G DiPierro
06-17-2007, 10:57 AM
I'm not sure that feeling under-ranked is ever the sole reason why an above-average student quits, however when rank is made out to be an important measure of success, a student who is feels like he is making good progress but that this is not being recognized while the lesser progress being made by others is getting equal or more recognition has an incentive to find another art where he will be more appreciated. By granting official status to people as if they were all of equal ability, aikido tends to disproportionately reward, and thus attract, below-average students.

It also results in the practice being watered-down to meet the level of the this student. Because the below-average student is ranked as high as or higher than his more competent peers, and because he has been convinced that rank is a good measure of skill, this student erroneously believes that he is equally or more competent to those or the same or lower rank who are actually more skilled than him. Since aikido has no competition, this type of delusion persists on a widespread basis and often becomes entrenched the culture or a dojo or organization. Students of all ranks and abilities are, in most groups, expected to practice in different ways with people who are ranked higher, lower, and equally to them, regardless of the actual relative level of skill.

In many places, there is an unsaid but obvious expectation that lower-ranked students should never make higher-ranked students look bad in any way, and this is particularly true for the teacher. The entire dojo is required to support the myth that rank equals skill by taking ukemi in a way that always makes higher ranks appear more skillful than lower ones. Deviations from this rule are met with sanctions, ranging from violent retribution to political measures, including the threat or reality of withholding further rank or even expulsion from the dojo.

Because most people will never use the art in a real situation, and because they practice mainly for social and entertainment reasons, they do not care that the development of real skill has been replaced by a role-playing practice where people with rank get to pretend that they have skill. Once they make their rank, they expect their lower-ranked partners to make them look good just as they were expected to do (and still are) for their seniors. The notion of skill as a measure of what would actually work on a resisting opponent is completely foreign to them, and they have no interest in learning about such things.

More than anything else, it is this type of degradation of the practice of aikido that leads above-average students to quit in favor of other arts and activities. The days of a young, skilled martial artist joining aikido to train with a leader of uncommon skill and quickly getting advanced in rank and being sent to teach are over, and aikido will likely never attract these types of students again. The skill level seen in the generation of direct students of Morihei Ueshiba is disappearing from aikido not because there are no longer people like that in the world, but because today they have little interest in training in an art like aikido. If aikido continues down its current path, it will eventually become nothing more than LARPing for students who can't make the grade in other arts. Many believe that it has already become this.

Hanna B
06-17-2007, 11:12 AM
I'm not sure that feeling under-ranked is ever the sole reason why an above-average student quits

That talents usually don't stay in aikido is a common observation. I believed it was pretty aikido-specific, but usually discovered this phenomenon is equally common in taekwondo. IMHO the reason why talents quit and us clumsy bastards stay, is the same as the answer to the question why I don't do music, in which I am fairly talented, but martial arts, in which I am not.

In music, I don't have to fight for progress and so I get lazy. When I realise I have been too lazy and not really gotten anywhere, I drop out. In martial arts, I had to fight for progress from day one. When I eventually got progress, it was rewarding. I stayed.

raul rodrigo
06-17-2007, 11:17 AM
Unfortunately, much of Giancarlo says about the current state of aikido is true. I can see many manifestations of this in my own country.

G DiPierro
06-17-2007, 03:08 PM
IMHO the reason why talents quit and us clumsy bastards stay, is the same as the answer to the question why I don't do music, in which I am fairly talented, but martial arts, in which I am not. In music, I don't have to fight for progress and so I get lazy. When I realise I have been too lazy and not really gotten anywhere, I drop out. In martial arts, I had to fight for progress from day one. When I eventually got progress, it was rewarding. I stayed.

I would say it has more to do with the fact that you enjoy practicing aikido but do not truly enjoy playing music, regardless of your relative talents for the two. Just because somebody is good at something, it does not mean that they will love doing it, and without that, they won't have enough motivation to stay with it and seek out the kind of challenges they need to progress.

The people who I was talking about are the ones who love martial arts and who are good at it. A good example is someone like Ellis Amdur, who occasionally posts here. He's obviously good at martial arts, since he reached the shihan level in two separate koryu, and although he started out in aikido he quit for some of the same reasons I mentioned, including that the techniques and training method were not sufficiently realistic. He found other similar arts where he could enjoy the same inherent pleasure of movement at a higher and more challenging level of practice, and this was only after he went to Japan to seek out the highest level aikido training he could at the Aikikai hombu. And there's many more like him: look at any of the big Western names in Japanese koryu and you will find most of them explored aikido to some degree or another and were not that impressed. Today in the US this type of talented and motivated person is likely to end up doing BJJ or one of several other arts now available here rather than aikido.

Fact is none of this matters to the people running the aikikai (and, I suspect, other aikido organizations) right now. Catering to the LARPers is good business, and if it results in the art deteriorating, that's not a big deal since the senior people already have their skills and they will only keep looking better relative to future generations. Aikido has already built its reputation on the backs of people like Morihei Ueshiba and his direct students, and they can continue to milk that money machine for many years to come even if the current training method will never again produce anyone near that level.

Hanna B
06-18-2007, 01:40 AM
I would say it has more to do with the fact that you enjoy practicing aikido but do not truly enjoy playing music, regardless of your relative talents for the two.

Well, of course you know better than myself regarding me, and regarding how much I like music :D :p

I took myself as an example of the explanation I've heard the biggest number of times, and that I believe a lot in. So do a big number of aikido people and aikido teachers around... of course, you don't have to agree.

This thread has strayn far off topic, and I think I've added what I have to add. Peace.

G DiPierro
06-18-2007, 11:54 AM
Well, of course you know better than myself regarding me, and regarding how much I like music :D :p

I took myself as an example of the explanation I've heard the biggest number of times, and that I believe a lot in. So do a big number of aikido people and aikido teachers around... of course, you don't have to agree.

Of course I don't know anything about you other than what you have posted here, but I've read the same explanation before for why talented people quit aikido, and I think it misses a key point, which is that if someone really loves doing something, they don't need an external motivation to keep them challenged and interested. Their internal motivation will be so strong that they will seek out these challenges wherever they must.

While I don't know your level of achievement in music, I find it hard to believe you could have exhausted all of the possible challenges in the field. Perhaps if you were at the highest level in the world in your specialty, then you could claim there was no more challenges left, but otherwise it is just matter of you deciding that you don't care about music enough to seek out a higher level of performance that will maintain your interest.

When talented people quit aikido, I suspect that it is usually in favor of another similar practice that is more challenging and fulfilling for them. I think a lot of people in aikido would like to believe that these people have quit martial arts entirely so they don't have to look at why aikido is losing these people to other arts, but the idea of someone quitting something that they enjoy doing just because they are too good at it just doesn't make sense. It seems a lot more reasonable to conclude that they have just taken their talents to another art that offers more a challenging and interesting practice for the above-average student. And, as I pointed out, it is not hard to find examples of this.

DonMagee
06-18-2007, 12:37 PM
I don't feel I've left aikido entirely. But my reasons for abandoning most of my aikido classes in favor of bjj and judo were because of the method of practice.

I love martial arts in general. However, the method of practice in aikido is not one that I can wrap my head around. I have much more success with the method of practice used by judo/bjj. In my first year of aikido, I struggled and was unable to really do much of anything without constant hand holding. In my first year of bjj I became a very strong grappler.

I don't feel this has anything to do with one being to complicated or harder then the other. It simply has to do with how I learn. I've seen people (although rarely) who can not adpot to the method of practice for bjj and suffer horribly. I sometimes wonder how they would do in aikido.

Marie Noelle Fequiere
06-18-2007, 12:54 PM
My Shotokan Sensei sometimes promoted a lazy student on purpose, when they failed to improve decently after the required number of training hours, to make them discover what it's like to be beaten by a lower ranked student.

bitterly anonymous
06-26-2007, 11:45 PM
One criticism of the vertical hierarchy of Japanese martial arts is that it is undemocratic. I think that in the West, we sometimes donít really understand the nature and function of the sempai/kohai relationship. However, in a good dojo, this system works. Itís not just a case of senior/junior. It doesn't mean "I'm the king and can do as I like because I'm sempai." Itís a partnership and being sempai can be hard work. Our teacher takes responsibility for our training. In my anonymous opinion, the original posterís teacher was being irresponsible.

Iíve also had a similar experience to this. I was fifth kyuu for six years and I only got that because I went independently to a seminar with an instructor higher up in the organisation. I was never officially allowed to grade. The senseiís mates and a few pretty girls were groomed for gradings, but I was training far more than they were. People who started three years after me got shodan within three years because they were mates with the sensei. I was fifth kyuu when they started learning ukemi and I was fifth kyuu when they were getting cut (and cutting other people) with live blades when getting their shodanís three years later. I wasnít so stupid as to stick with the same biased instructor, but sometimes beggars canít be choosers. I trained with others, but this guy was the only option for grading in the area. Aikido isnít always freely available on your doorstep. When I moved, I had some excellent tuition, but every time I came back I would find my old club had got worse. Eventually, I moved away on a permanent basis.

One thing I would like to say that might make anyone who has experienced this problem feel better is that it all works out in the end. I eventually found some good dojos and my second ever grading was for second kyuu. Quite a leap, and I realised I hadnít been wasting my time. It felt like an appropriate level after six years of training that included many years with a dodgy instructor. I got through the 2kyuu grading mainly using the stuff I had learned from other instructors too. The dodgy guy had basically only been teaching how to pass gradings Ė for one particular organisation. So getting 2kyuu also made me feel sorry for those people who were given shodan from their local club. WellÖ actually, not much, but thatís my own internal enemy. :)

My advice is to just train for yourself, for when you find a real aikido instructor.