View Full Version : Poll: If a 50 year old person came into your aikido dojo and said that they would like to study to become an aikido shihan, how encouraging would you be?

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07-01-2007, 12:30 AM
AikiWeb Poll for the week of July 1, 2007:

If a 50 year old person came into your aikido dojo and said that they would like to study to become an aikido shihan, how encouraging would you be?

I don't do aikido
Very encouraging
Somewhat encouraging
Not very encouraging
Not at all encouraging

Here are the current results (http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=384).

07-01-2007, 01:29 AM
I'd ask them why they have decided they want to be a shihan.

Jill N
07-01-2007, 06:44 AM
Hi all:

I would definitely be encouraging.

One of my mentors started doing aikido when he was 50 and became an inspiring sensei. Rev. Bill Bickford Sensei started Ki Society dojos in Ontario. If it hadn't been for him, our style would not likely be in Ontario now.

e ya later

Tony Wagstaffe
07-01-2007, 08:08 AM
Well I'll be honest here,
The very very few that have come along I've always asked to stay and watch a few classes before deciding to join in.
Those that have joined in and who have been gently looked after soon realise that maybe it is a little more demanding than at first thought and go off to do taichi or something as an alternative.
The ones that have tried sticking and who are a little more tenacious go on to about 3rd kyu and then fade.....:)
Anyone older than 40 years unless in really good physical shape will definately find it more difficult.... unless one practises in a very very soft way.....:)

Jerry Miller
07-01-2007, 08:26 AM
There are several on these boards over fifty. People leave and stay at all ages.

07-01-2007, 08:56 AM
The age isn't problem. But a newb of any age telling me they want to "train to be a shihan" would likely warrant further discussion.

Nafis Zahir
07-01-2007, 09:14 AM
I would not be encouraging at all, because the idea of studying Aikido is to always be a student and never stop learning. That is an on going goal. To state the one wants to attain a certain rank or status, misses the whole point of studying budo in the first place.

07-01-2007, 11:42 AM
As I have a 76 year old teacher who began training at 40 and is now 4th dan, I don't see why not. They may not reach Shihan but it is possible to reach high rank, even when you begin at the advanced age of 46, which is when I started.

07-01-2007, 12:36 PM
Same thing I would say to a 20 year old who came in and said he wanted to train to be a shihan; one step at a time, one step at a time.

07-01-2007, 01:20 PM
Age per se is certainly a detriement if one wants to attain an arbitrarily high level. Same reason as investing. The more time you have theoretically the more you can gain. It is UNLIKELY but not impossible that a person who starts at 50 will attain the same ultimate level as a person who starts at 20. Of course there are all sorts of things that could influence that. However, I would like to comment on a different previous comment, namely that anyone over 40 will have to practice in a soft way. I started when I was 38 (ok so I took two years of Tomiki in high school....), and was in good shape but no world class athlete. We practiced on thin mats over concrete, so the only way to continue was to learn the right ukemi. I went hard and took big falls just like everyone else. Only serious injuries in 14 years have been a first degree shoulder separation and a dislocated finger during a seminar. I'm now 52 and still can go hard with the youngsters. Of course my ukemi is more informed and I no longer go home and sit down and count the places that aren't sore.....! It's all about stretching and ukemi.

07-01-2007, 05:04 PM
Last year I had a 55 year old student with an artificial leg show up to start class, When he asked if he can take class, the word NO was in my mouth ready to come out. But instead I said, "if you're willing to try it, then so am I".

In this case, I may ask them what they think Shihan is and try to give them realistic expectations. But I would probably not discourage them from taking class.

Mark Uttech
07-01-2007, 06:05 PM
Ageism is not something O Sensei practiced. I learned from Mary Heiny Sensei that encouragement is a better practice. I voted 'very encouraging' because the world is so wide there is plenty of room for all kinds of people to try, try, try.

In gassho,


07-01-2007, 06:55 PM
I started training aikido when I was 40 years old. I was the oldest by far in our dojo. That Summer, we went to gasshuku at Gleason Sensei's dojo in Boston. It was a hard gasshuku for me and I had a difficult time keeping up. I saw one old guy (looked about 60 or 70) on the mat wearing hakama and I found myself training a lot with him. I was amazed by his soft power and I trained with him as much as I could. I mentioned to him that I was worried about starting aikido so late in my life. He told me that he started when he was about 40 also, and suggested I have fun and not worry. Later, people told me how fortunate I had been to have gotten to train with Sekiya Sensei. I had no idea then who he was. His amazing aikido and kind encouragement made a deep impression on me.

That was more than 10 years ago. Of course I'm nowhere near becoming shihan, nor will I ever be, but I keep training and love it more all the time.

Amelia Smith
07-01-2007, 07:05 PM
I might encourage them to train, but my sense is that in our organization it takes something like 30-40 years for those who train most intensely (uchideshi, etc.) to be promoted to shihan, if politics are in their favor. It's not a realistic goal for a 50 year old. Sensei? Maybe. Shihan? Probably not.

07-01-2007, 09:58 PM
Much is being made of the fact that the beginner has stated he wants to aim for becoming a Shihan.
If one was not yet a Shihan himself it would be somewhat precocious to suggest it impossible. If one were very close to Shihan rank he could explain what is involved.
If one were already a Shihan he could give a good belly laugh, and then say, by all means, but one step at a time.

And then you go to shake the newcomer's hand and he drops to one knee and throws you across the dojo with a Shihokuzushi... Muhahahaha! I am actually Yoda Zatoichi Shihan, and I was just testing you!!! Your advice was good but you are not a Shihan yet...

07-02-2007, 07:23 AM
What would you do if a 50 year old Shihan came into you dojo and wanted to take part in a beginners class?

Mark Uttech
07-02-2007, 08:12 AM
First I would ask them to teach it.

In gassdho,


Mary Eastland
07-02-2007, 09:18 AM
I would be really surprised 'cause I don't know what a shihan means....but I would be really welcoming.

Ron Tisdale
07-02-2007, 09:34 AM
Does anybody know what age the founder of the Roppokai was when he started training? :D

Ron (I remember telling my instructor that I hoped to be an instructor one day. Makes me blush just thinking about it... :blush: )

07-02-2007, 09:36 AM
. I saw one old guy (looked about 60 or 70) on the mat wearing hakama and I found myself training a lot with him. I was amazed by his soft power . Later, people told me how fortunate I had been to have gotten to train with Sekiya Sensei. .

I like this story...thanks for telling it. It's an encouraging one and I think it'll only get more encouraging as I get older.

07-02-2007, 11:06 AM
If the person in who came in would like to become a Shihan appointed by the Aikikai, I would inform him/her of the following regulations: (http://www.aikidoeast.com/aikidoeast/greetings/rules_for_appointment_of_shihan.html)
"Rules for Appointment of Shihan

1. Rules for Appointment of Shihan

These Rules for Appointment of Shihan have been developed based on the provisions of Paragraph 15 and 16 of the Aikido World Headquarters' International Regulations, and are intended to supplement the said International Regulations.

2. Shihan

Shihan is the title of Aikido instructor defined in Paragraph 15 and 16 of the International Regulations.

3. Appointment of Shihan

The Hombu appoints Shihan at its discretion pursuant to Paragraph 16 of the International Regulations.

4. Recommendation for Title Shihan

(1) An Aikido organization which has been given Official Recognition by the Hombu can recommend any of its instructors who meets the qualifications as a candidate for Shihan.
(2) To be qualified as a candidate for Shihan, he or she must fulfill the following conditions.
- In principle, have more than six years of experience teaching Aikido in his or her organization after obtaining 6th dan.
- Be proficient in the practice and instruction of Aikido.
- Be of good personal character.
(3) An individual person cannot recommend himself or herself. The recommendation should come from the person responsible for the relevant organization and be in written form. Recommendations can be submitted at any time of the year.
(4) For recommendation of a candidate, the form attached to these Rules must be used.
(5) The Hombu shall notify the relevant organization upon receipt of the recommendation, and inform the organization of the schedule for the examination of the document submitted. Upon immediate review of the submitted documents, the Hombu may judge a candidate as not qualified at this time for being considered for the title of Shihan, and in this case will notify the relevant organization accordingly.

5. Examination and Examination Committee for Appointment of the Title of Shihan.

(1) The examination of candidates based on the document submitted shall be conducted once every year at the Hombu. The date of the examination will be determined by the Hombu. The examination shall be comprised of a review of the submitted documents and a personal interview, if necessary.
(2) The Examination Committee for Appointment of Shihan shall be established by the Hombu.

6. Notification and Certificate of Appointment

After the examination, the Hombu shall notify, in written form, the relevant organization of the result of the examination. To the person appointed as Shihan, the Hombu will send a Certificate of Appointment.

Now if that person meets all of the requirements stated above, I would be very encouraging.

07-02-2007, 01:39 PM
I would say good luck.:D

07-02-2007, 03:00 PM
What would you do if a 50 year old Shihan came into you dojo and wanted to take part in a beginners class?

Doing things like this would have a lot to do with how he got to be Shihan. I probably would ask him to teach it also.

07-03-2007, 04:53 AM
I don't see why saying s/he wants to be a Shihan is an issue? After all, people start Aikido for many reasons, and usually stay for completely different ones.

07-03-2007, 06:23 AM
I would say good luck too.

People are so keen to knock anyone else dreams...why is that?

If someone aims high and falls a little short then so what? They'll still achieve an awful lot.

I'd also be very flattered that they thought we were the people that could take them to this level !

07-03-2007, 06:57 AM
At almost 57, I would have to say, "Welcome youngster, let me show you how to bow in."

07-03-2007, 07:52 AM
At almost 57, I would have to say, "Welcome youngster, let me show you how to bow in."
Nice Lynn.:)

07-03-2007, 12:49 PM
And note the actual wording of the questin. It is not "Become a shihan" ,it's "Study to become a shihan" and essentially, we are all doing that, whether we ever chose to even become Instructors.

07-03-2007, 01:08 PM
So long as their goal wasn't to take Aikido and use it to oppress others, I would be encouraging regardless of a person's age. I would be even more so in that they are 50 and have set such high goals for themselves (no matter how seemingly unrealistic they might seem to some) --- if they are highly determined and willing to put in the effort and practice that it takes to work towards that goal, even if they don't quite get there, I would be behind them one hundred percent every step of the way. "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."

It might also be worth quoting something I have posted on my office wall at work:

"We must not allow other people's limited perceptions to define us." --- Virginia Satir

Far be it from me to discourage another from their dream if they're willing to work for it.

Conrad Gus
11-16-2007, 10:34 AM
Inaba Shihan told me a story once of a man who joined Kobayashi Dojo in Japan when he was in his 60s. He was up to 7 dan 20 years later.

I could have the details wrong, but the point of the story was that age is not a barrier if you have the motivation.

11-16-2007, 01:58 PM
Well, Norio "Mike" Mamura Sensei from the Milwaukee Aikido Club started aikido at the age of 47 and advanced to 6th dan well before he passed away at the age of 82 in 2000. By today's standards he would most likely have been named a Shihan within the USAF.

Sy Labthavikul
11-16-2007, 04:19 PM
One of the 5th dan at my dojo is now 69 and started aikido in 1986 at the age of 48ish. When I discovered this fact my jaw hit the floor, since he moves like a man half his age and his aikido is particularly swift and powerful (he's always in our blind spots like a ninja; when he teaches he always says "you have to disappear"). I seriously thought he was in his late forties or early fifties.

11-16-2007, 06:00 PM
Well, as we don't have Shihan in among any of the wonderful non-Japanese senior teachers I have trained with over the years, I would firstly explain that I couldn't see the Yoshinkan bestowing that title in a hurry as there are quite a few ahead in the queue!

Actually, I would have to add to the cries that this is the wrong reason to train, as to train to a goal, usually means that people give up when they get there - mind you they wouldn't get there (so maybe they would give up when they realise?)!!!!!

It is that old story:

"Sensei, how long will it take me to get to Black Belt?"

"10 Years!"

"How about if I work twice as hard?"

"20 Years!"

"Sensei, I say I will work harder and you say it will take longer?"

"With one eye on the goal there can be only one eye on the path!"

Or something like that! :freaky: :D :) :crazy: :freaky: :) :D

11-16-2007, 06:01 PM
What is a Shihan anyway?


Travis Johnson
11-17-2007, 03:00 PM
From the sources I have read, shihan means "master instructor."

11-18-2007, 11:24 AM
Teacher of teachers is the one that I've heard mostly, but whar does it really mean? It isn't to do wih rank, but people are awarded the title in some organisations.

Marc Kupper
11-19-2007, 12:25 AM
What would you do if a 50 year old Shihan came into you dojo and wanted to take part in a beginners class? We say "of course" and ask he he or she would like to teach. Friday night is our Introduction to Aikido class and on one occasion a shihan flew in for a weekend seminar, dropped by the dojo to say hello, and ended up teaching. It seemed he really enjoyed showing people how to do their first low forward roll and it was a great class.

I don't think we have had an official shihan on the mat as a student in the beginners' class though we have had 5th dan students including one that was shortly afterwards promoted to 6th dan meaning that we must have taught the right stuff. ;)

Ron Tisdale
11-19-2007, 02:06 PM
There are shihan in the Yoshinkan, including non-japanese. Amos Parker has a shihan certificate from Shioda Kancho.

I think the Yoshinkan is similar to Aikikai, in that for a while the title was kind of associated with the hombu dojo...the only people who really spoke of it were those who were of high rank and who taught at the hombu, or had their own major dojo in Japan.

I think the usage has drifted back and forth over the years...maybe Spike Kimeda can fill us in on the "true" usage. He spent many years at hombu.


Ron (the above are just my impressions...not statements of fact, except for Amos Parker's cert)