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Zach Trent
07-19-2008, 03:09 PM
I wonder how people could tell (or if) when they stopped being a beginner at Aikido and moved onto "comfortable" or "intermediate". Was it a belt rank? Was it something internal? Was there a mile-stone involved? Maybe it was such gradual process that you didn't notice!

I ask because I'm beginning to feel a little more comfortable about this martial art, but I still have classes where I leave more puzzled than when I came in! Maybe I can learn from you about your experience in progressing :cool:

Thanks!

Zach, Brattleboro, VT

jennifer paige smith
07-19-2008, 03:29 PM
"Shoshin (beginner/ordinary mind) Is The Way."

Think of training as becoming more comfortable with mysteries than answers. IOW, Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Sounds like you're having fun!
Jen

mathewjgano
07-19-2008, 04:06 PM
"Shoshin (beginner/ordinary mind) Is The Way."

Think of training as becoming more comfortable with mysteries than answers. IOW, Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Sounds like you're having fun!
Jen

WORD! Beginner's luck isn't really luck, in my opinion.

reisler
07-19-2008, 04:15 PM
I have heard frequently that when you reach Shodan, you are just beginning. I am very much a beginner (less than a year) so I don't know anything yet but....:confused:
I think there is much more to advancing past beginner than just a belt level. Aikido goes beyond techniques and belts, it is a way of life, an attitude, a presence. I have the priviledge of practicing with experienced Aikidoka and it is an honour to learn from them. :o

Lyle Bogin
07-19-2008, 05:13 PM
At about 3rd kyu I was able to do a lot of techniques to most people's satisfaction, and could throw newbies pretty well. At 1st kyu I could do very strong throws, convincing pins, etc. My ukemi improved and softened. At shodan, free from the curriculum (no more tests), I actually think my technique is improving while I'm giving "weaker" throws. Most of the major changes I've made on the mat come from wanting my training to reflect my life and personality.

Neal Earhart
07-19-2008, 06:14 PM
This is my 20th year of Aikido...in the grand scheme of things, I consider myself a beginner...

So much to learn...so little time...

crbateman
07-19-2008, 08:21 PM
Never, IMHO...

B.J.M.
07-19-2008, 09:33 PM
Huh?! There is such a thing in Aikido?!

I think I'll always be a "beginner". My sensei is constantly discovering new things in his training and evolving his Aikido, and he is a 7th dan!

Keith Larman
07-19-2008, 10:04 PM
As my sensei likes to say, we're all beginners. Some have just been beginners longer...

jennifer paige smith
07-19-2008, 11:13 PM
Hi All,
A little change of pace.....
Two days ago I sat with my 20+ year old cat as he passed in form from this life. He has been my truest companion and foundation since the y=before I even began my journey in aikido. When he cam tot me he was a young adult cat, distinguished, present and guiding. I knew that he was my friend from the moment I met him and I couldn't have imagined the years that we would travel together. For the most of our years he was the wise guide;pulling me home after class so I could feed him, sit with him and watch "Just Shoot Me". He felt so much more stable than me. As I grew in my life and in my practice he always seemed to be with or ahead of me in some intangible wisdom that he xpressed by 'being'. After 10 years I renamed him "Master Shook", referring to him as "the master" frequently.
As his years went along, he became more frail, childlike, and dependant; often waking me 2 and 3 times a night for a much needed bite of food and a stroke on the head. More chilldlike in his needs and wiser in his presence. I tried everthing I coud to make him comfortable until the end, which came in so many more years than I have any right to expect. On the last day I called my mom in a certain state of pre-grief and expressed to her the guilt I was feeling about his frail condition, I so wished I could have made him happier. My mom told me, as moms can be so good at, the story of a young girl who took on the temporary commitment of a cat that turned into a lifetime commitment of unconditional love that ended when the cat knew the young girl was happy.
And so when my cat took his last breath it was while I was laughing over an episode of M*A*S*H*. I was happy and he could move on. He was returned to the state of a child in his needs and body and I was returned to the state of a child in my innocence and joy. And if there is anything I can say for sure, the beginning mind and the new beginning mind are cycles we must go through over and over again, joyfully, willingly, wisely, humorously, honestly, innocently, and terminally. That is love. That is beginners mind. That is to say there is only now, ever and eternally. So don't forget to remember. Then Forget.
In loving honor of all my friendships new and old,
Let's all begin together, again
Love
Jen

Mark Uttech
07-20-2008, 01:53 PM
The beginning keeps changing; but, uh yeah, I remember a time when I began to feel familiar with the dojo. 3rd kyu was another beginning; I was working on my car when I realized techniques flowed into each other. Shodan was a whole new beginning; so was Nidan. Sandan was the beginning of a floating world, with yellow plastic flowers scattered in a cemetery. Yondan was ringing a bell in the crematorium at Birkenau. Yah, it keeps beginning.

In gassho,

Mark

mathewjgano
07-20-2008, 01:59 PM
Hi All,
A little change of pace.....
Two days ago I sat with my 20+ year old cat as he passed in form from this life. He has been my truest companion and foundation since the y=before I even began my journey in aikido. When he cam tot me he was a young adult cat, distinguished, present and guiding. I knew that he was my friend from the moment I met him and I couldn't have imagined the years that we would travel together. For the most of our years he was the wise guide;pulling me home after class so I could feed him, sit with him and watch "Just Shoot Me". He felt so much more stable than me. As I grew in my life and in my practice he always seemed to be with or ahead of me in some intangible wisdom that he xpressed by 'being'. After 10 years I renamed him "Master Shook", referring to him as "the master" frequently.
As his years went along, he became more frail, childlike, and dependant; often waking me 2 and 3 times a night for a much needed bite of food and a stroke on the head. More chilldlike in his needs and wiser in his presence. I tried everthing I coud to make him comfortable until the end, which came in so many more years than I have any right to expect. On the last day I called my mom in a certain state of pre-grief and expressed to her the guilt I was feeling about his frail condition, I so wished I could have made him happier. My mom told me, as moms can be so good at, the story of a young girl who took on the temporary commitment of a cat that turned into a lifetime commitment of unconditional love that ended when the cat knew the young girl was happy.
And so when my cat took his last breath it was while I was laughing over an episode of M*A*S*H*. I was happy and he could move on. He was returned to the state of a child in his needs and body and I was returned to the state of a child in my innocence and joy. And if there is anything I can say for sure, the beginning mind and the new beginning mind are cycles we must go through over and over again, joyfully, willingly, wisely, humorously, honestly, innocently, and terminally. That is love. That is beginners mind. That is to say there is only now, ever and eternally. So don't forget to remember. Then Forget.
In loving honor of all my friendships new and old,
Let's all begin together, again
Love
Jen
Thank you, Jensei (hope you don't mind my borrowing that for the moment...seems appropriate). That was a beautiful exposition on beginner mind! ...And it reminds me of my own 20+ cat (lbs. and years), Gus. From about ages 10 to 30 he was with me and I can honestly say I learned a lot from him. To me, beginner mind means opening yourself to insight in even the most mundane/unassuming of experiences. Hence, sitting and watching TV with your childhood friend can open up worlds of insight.

SeiserL
07-21-2008, 09:27 AM
THree days after I die if I am cremated and 7 days if I am buried.
Shoshin, beginners mind.
Always still a beginner.

Mike James
07-21-2008, 09:52 AM
I'm always a beginner. There is always more to learn from someone. A different way to do a technique.

Stefan Stenudd
07-21-2008, 06:09 PM
Of course we're beginners all our lives. But that's kind of semantics. Although we continue to learn eagerly and humbly, we do progress.
Normally, when the student is allowed to put on a hakama he or she is expected to have reached some kind of intermediary level - being able to practice with reasonable vigor and focus, and so on.

I think of the old proverb: Even on a stone, three years.
Even if it's something as simple as sitting down on a stone, it takes three years to learn.
But after three years, you've got it. You can sit on a stone. After ten years you know it even better, and after thirty you are surely a master of it - but anyway, after three years you have the basic skill.

I think there is a three year thing in aikido: You certainly don't master aikido at that point, but you have become aware of how far aikido can take you, what you can reach by it, in the big perspective. That's the first "satori" of one's aikido path: seeing how far it can lead.

When it comes to my students, I expect them to have that kind of insight after three years of training. And I expect them to reconsider whether they should continue to practice at my dojo, or move on. If they make the decision to leave earlier than that, I am sure that they have not yet grasped what they might be missing - or not. If they remain after three years, I am honored.
They are still students at the dojo, but with another awareness, and therefore I try to be more receptive to their needs as they see them.

aikidoc
07-21-2008, 06:31 PM
A beginner's mindset should always be maintained. To do otherwise means you have stopped learning.

Lyle Bogin
07-21-2008, 08:13 PM
Saying you are always a beginner is cheating, using a philosophical point. Of course we all strive for shoshin.

But it's such a common thing to do among instructors and traditional martial artists that in and of itself it becomes a form of bragging. How did you earn the right to be so modest? If modesty is an indication of mastery, aren't you just saying "hey look how advanced I am"? Rather than modesty, it's just dishonesty.

Keith Larman
07-21-2008, 08:35 PM
Saying you are always a beginner is cheating, using a philosophical point. Of course we all strive for shoshin.

But it's such a common thing to do among instructors and traditional martial artists that in and of itself it becomes a form of bragging. How did you earn the right to be so modest? If modesty is an indication of mastery, aren't you just saying "hey look how advanced I am"? Rather than modesty, it's just dishonesty.

No, I'd argue that in many cases it is an acknowledgment of the complexity and depth of what it is you're trying to learn. Some things are never really mastered. So the expression isn't just about "beginner's mind" but an awareness of the incredible depth of the area of study.

FWIW when I first started polishing I did a few swords and thought "wow, that's not so hard." Then I learned a bit more and looked at what I'd done. Ouch. Then I got more training. Ouch again. Now after a lot of years doing it I realize how much more there is to learn with each and every sword I work on. And I'm not even working on antiques in terms of blade restoration... And while I have people who like my work (which is really nice in many respects) from where I'm sitting I just see how much more I have to figure out. I had a sword polished by a living national treasure for a while in my safe. I studied that over and over again because it literally exponentially expanded my awareness of how very much I have to still improve.

Frankly with this stuff (aikido included) if you think you've got it all figured out you're either the one-in-a-million supremely gifted and magically enlightened "one"

*or*

you've simply missed something.

Smart money is on the latter...

It's not false modesty most of the time IMHO. Just relaxing into a realization that this is a *really* long road... it is a matter of an expanded (and greatly lengthened) perspective...

aikidoc
07-21-2008, 10:37 PM
I disagree about it being dishonest. All I have to do is have a session with my sensei and I realize how little I know and how much I have yet to learn.

Nafis Zahir
07-21-2008, 11:43 PM
Never! Still am and always will be! I've been training since 1994 and still feel like I'm always starting over.

Randy Sexton
07-22-2008, 12:04 AM
Jensei,
Master Shook taught you one of the greatest lessons and gifts of life. "To live in the now giving and receiving love." Your story brought tears to my eyes as I remembered my best friend who taught me the same lesson. A female minature Schnauzer we called "Sugar Bear." She died at 9 years old of lung cancer. Our "pets" sometimes are our greatest teachers. They remind us to stand with our face to the sun and smell the breeze, to roll in the grass with abandon, to love our food no matter how simple and snuggle with our bestest friends.
Doc:)

Stefan Stenudd
07-22-2008, 04:02 AM
I disagree about it being dishonest. All I have to do is have a session with my sensei and I realize how little I know and how much I have yet to learn.
On the other hand, haven't you trained with juniors or equals in the dojo, thinking that you have learned a lot?

Ethan Weisgard
07-22-2008, 05:48 AM
I saw someone at an aikido training camp a long time ago with a T-shirt that said "Aikido - I'm still confused, just at a higher level."

Nice way of putting it, isn't it?

In aiki,

Ethan Weisgard

PeterKang
07-22-2008, 11:09 PM
QUOTE=Ethan Weisgard;211827]I saw someone at an aikido training camp a long time ago with a T-shirt that said "Aikido - I'm still confused, just at a higher level."

Nice way of putting it, isn't it?

In aiki,

Ethan Weisgard[/QUOTE]

Spot on. I think that its really true that over many practices, one becomes increasingly aware of the magnitude of learning required for understanding. I've been told that aikido is a lifetime of learning... which really speaks to the need of shoshin.

I think that the learning journey is analogous to approaching a mountain you are attempting to climb. The mountain looks small at a distance, but looks increasing large as you get closer until you get to the base where it seems formidable. ( shodan perhaps?) Then your ascent begins..... as for me I am not even close to being midway to the peak.
I don't think that its necessarily true that saying you're a beginner is an act of false modesty... I would have to look at the person's behavior as a whole to decide if he or she was truly modest or otherwise.
Generally I choose to accept a person's word for what it is, much like I try to accept nage's technique during ukemi, with as open a heart and mind as possible without giving a mindless opening.

I hope that you enjoy your ukemi as much as I enjoy mine.

In aiki,

Peter:)

Basia Halliop
07-24-2008, 04:56 PM
The problem is that beginner and advanced are more relative than absolute terms. So they only really make sense in some kind of context, i.e., compared to who(m). That goes for any field unless there's a theoretical logical ceiling for the skill set,(i.e. a point at which you are literally 'perfect' and it's simply not possible to be better) -- this is true of math or music or most things you can study, as much as of Aikido.

The question of what word you use to define yourself isn't unique to Aikido, either; it happens with anything you study enough to have some sense of how far a person could in theory go. Random example: in my last year of high school I really felt like I was doing 'advanced' math when I took calculus, but pretty soon in university and a couple math courses into my engineering degree I felt more like a beginner, and not because I was doing it that badly, just because I started to see how immense and deep the field truely was and how vastly more advanced it was possible to go than my (now seemingly incredibly piddling) little first and second year calculus, algebra, differential equations, etc courses. People spend decades studying, as a full-time job, just a small subset of just one of those. But on the other hand the math I learned is still advanced compared to high school math or elementary school arithmetic.

phitruong
07-25-2008, 08:18 AM
when I found mushin, as in, no mind, as in duhh :drool: as in, "what is that technique?" uhhh tenshijujiwhatchamacallit. "what is that move?" uhhh epileptic seizure?

When I started out in aikido, I was introduced to this thing called irimi. It took me seven years to get some understanding of it. I can do irimi forward, backward, side to side and even in circle. Recently, I found out that there is a tenkan as well. I lamented on the unfairness of the world, the cruelty of it all that I have to learn another thing. And it's going to take me another seven years. I tell ya! as soon as I found our where this tenkan guy lives, I will go there and show him the irimi with my car.

Once I found out that it just sucks to be a beginner, I just move myself into the mushin master section. It's a lot less to work.

Marc Abrams
07-25-2008, 10:17 AM
Lyle is an excellent martial artist and a person whom I respect and a person whom I call a friend. That being said, I do not necessarily agree entirely with modesty having to be false. Jennifer talked about one of the main philosophical pillars of my school, which is shoshin. An English phrase might be "The more one knows, the more one realizes how little they know." I am always in the process of deconstructing what I do so as to gain knowledge as to all of the mistakes that I am making, so that I can learn to make corrections. The longer that I do Aikido, the more subtle the mistakes are that I realize that I am making and the more profound and powerful my Aikido becomes when I correct those mistakes.

I try and always keep a beginners mind and an open mind. I am always willing to test out my ideas. Things either work or they don't work. Instead of looking at the perspective of being a beginner or something more advanced than that, I think that we should look at this as a life long process/road. I always hope that I have people ahead of me on that road so that I have models to use to improve. I hope to have plenty of people around the same turn in the road as me, so that we can honestly work on where we are. I hope that there will be people behind me on that road that are open to my sharing what knowledge I have gained to date.

Marc Abrams

Tinyboy344
07-25-2008, 10:31 AM
I don't know when one can stop being a beginner but I know one can stop being a noob in about 2, 3 years :D

Mike James
07-25-2008, 10:35 AM
Saying you are always a beginner is cheating, using a philosophical point. Of course we all strive for shoshin.

But it's such a common thing to do among instructors and traditional martial artists that in and of itself it becomes a form of bragging. How did you earn the right to be so modest? If modesty is an indication of mastery, aren't you just saying "hey look how advanced I am"? Rather than modesty, it's just dishonesty.

I disagree (at least speaking only for myself). Many of us have seen or at least heard tell of the almost god-like Black Belts who won't won't give mere mortals (mudansha) the time of day. Or some Yondan who doesn't think that a mere Shodan or Nidan has anything they can learn something from. Trying to keep a beginner's mind and/or considering myself as always a beginner is one way that I guard against becoming too full of myself as I continue my training.

grondahl
07-25-2008, 04:46 PM
Well, If you actually still were a beginner you would not have time for concepts like shoshin ;)

Trying to keep a beginner's mind and/or considering myself as always a beginner is one way that I guard against becoming too full of myself as I continue my training.

Lyle Bogin
07-25-2008, 04:55 PM
But considering yourself a beginner and actually being a beginner are two different things.

I appreciate modesty, but I am also aware of the practical value of deceiving others into thinking you are weaker or less experienced than you are. At the very least this form of modesty convinces people of the strength of your mind and character. Aiki bragging.

jennifer paige smith
07-25-2008, 05:20 PM
But considering yourself a beginner and actually being a beginner are two different things.
.

And keeping a clean mind allows you to notice both. In yourself and in others.

rob_liberti
07-25-2008, 05:50 PM
My understanding is that beginner is shodan-sandan.
Intermediate is yondan-rokydan.
Mastery is 7th+

Of course you have to maintain beginner's mind regardless of level.
I've seen a 7th dan who was attending a seminar that someone else was teaching and during lined throwing - the 7th dan checked out his interpretation of the throw with a 1st kyu. That rocks.

To answer the question posed, I think when you are legitamately yondan skill level - which by my way of thinking means you can use your mind and body in both a unfied way and also separately to achieve the desired tasks. Actual rank doesn't mean much - some get it based on loyalty which is fine but doesn't mean your not still beginner level ability.

Rob

Enrique Antonio Reyes
07-25-2008, 07:42 PM
I wonder how people could tell (or if) when they stopped being a beginner at Aikido and moved onto "comfortable" or "intermediate". Was it a belt rank? Was it something internal? Was there a mile-stone involved? Maybe it was such gradual process that you didn't notice!
I ask because I'm beginning to feel a little more comfortable about this martial art, but I still have classes where I leave more puzzled than when I came in! Maybe I can learn from you about your experience in progressing :cool:
Thanks!
Zach, Brattleboro, VT
Hi. I believe I stopped after I became a dedicated "student". Unfortunately being a student of the art has no more limits.:)

One-Aiki,

Iking

Lyle Bogin
07-26-2008, 08:28 AM
I've never met a person with a clean mind. Although I've met many people scrubbing vigorously.

jennifer paige smith
07-27-2008, 11:18 AM
Jensei,
Master Shook taught you one of the greatest lessons and gifts of life. "To live in the now giving and receiving love." Your story brought tears to my eyes as I remembered my best friend who taught me the same lesson. A female minature Schnauzer we called "Sugar Bear." She died at 9 years old of lung cancer. Our "pets" sometimes are our greatest teachers. They remind us to stand with our face to the sun and smell the breeze, to roll in the grass with abandon, to love our food no matter how simple and snuggle with our bestest friends.
Doc:)

Doc,
I missed this post before. Thanks for your awesome understanding and your story. You totally got it.
Thanks,
Jen

Zach Trent
07-28-2008, 02:19 PM
Thank you, everyone, for this thoughtful discussion. I am very appreciative that so many experienced Aikidoka are assembled to share their knowledge and experience with me.

I very much appreciate Jennifer's story- thank you for sharing something so important to you.

I guess I can try to answer my own question, though I know I am still a beginner (and not just in terms of Shoshin). The way that I know that I am making progress is not in a belt rank, but the fact that the instructor doesn't have to correct me as much.

Now, I'm down to only 4 or 5 corrections per class, instead of 8 or 9 like I used to get. :o

I think that, cumulatively, I have learned from this thread that because there is no end to Aikido, it is not a simple matter to plot out your progress.

In taking that lesson further, why should it even matter if I am not a "beginner" any longer? As long as I am learning, I am moving forward. It is only for my ego and desire to impress others that I want to be more than a beginner-

These are things I need to let go of.

So- Shoshin it is. Now- maybe I should get that tattooed on my forearm so I can read it everytime I take ukemi :)

Lyle Bogin
07-29-2008, 02:49 PM
The challenge will be keeping soshin when some newbie starts correcting you. There's nothing else quite like it.

My favorite is this exchange: New person is on the mat so I'm taking it easy. They get annoyed that I am not being serious or strong enough or whatever. So I throw them vigorously. Then they say something like "well now you're just using strength and no technique".

Sava
08-21-2008, 03:38 PM
What a topic! Raises so many questions. It really got me to thinking, (always a frightening prospect), and mulling over all your posts. Here's what I've gotten from all of you so far- please be gentle. These are just the meanderings of a feeble but inquisitive mind.

I can't help but wonder here if what we're really trying to figure out is how to every day show the art of Aikido and those on the same path the respect and honor they deserve while always recognizing that there will be something to learn, be it the first day on the mat or the first day tying on a black belt. Humility must be necessary, but also confidence, and with practice, each must, by default, grow and evolve, but perhaps not in contradiction of one another. There's no need to ever feel badly about one's self for having someone with less experience correct you- that is based on this false idea that because you've been at something longer than someone else, you should have more answers than do they, and if not, you must be failing somehow. But everyone has a singular vision, and where those visions collide is where enlightenment can happen. Appreciate a newbie's input as much as you would appreciate the input of your instructor. That is not to say you should necessarily take a newbie's advice over that of your instructor, as certainly one's scope increases with time and experience, but what I'm trying to say is be open to input and feedback from anyone, without prejudice, as the view from infinite and unique vantage points can yield infinite possibilites.

It doesn't make sense in some way that we should always strive to be "beginners". Why else train if not to note
our progess and grow? Why start anything if only to never leave the stage of "beginner"? Certainly, it's not a good idea to give oneself the idea of having nothing to learn, but I think it's probably also not a good idea to try to keep oneself in a state of beginning.

The word itself may be the problem, and our stubborn inclination to use it. You can only begin once, and then begin anew elsewhere, but a beginning is a beginning. Once you've begun, you can never go back in time to begin the same beginning. So maybe what we're looking for is a better way to describe the perfect and beautiful moments, often right in line, that have us feeling comfortable with a certain technique, for instance, then completely baffled by it in the next moment when someone shows you something about it you've never before seen. I think the idea of beginning here really means to never abandon the idea that you always and forever have something to learn, from anyone at any given time, regarding anything. I really like how some of you talk about "shoshin" and having an empty mind. I'm finding myself more comfortable, however, thinking of it as an "unhindered" mind, or "unburdened"; free of the need to compete, compare, impress, etc. I certainly wouldn't want my mind to be empty! To do so would be putting myself in denial of what progress I have made, and that seems somewhat dangerous to me, and self-defeating, not to mention it sort-of countermands all the time and patience and effort my fellow-aikidoka/Senseis have put into teaching me!

Maybe the goal is just to recognize balance? In one breath, you may help someone, and in another, someone may help you. How much fruit will get thrown at me if I make a "circular" reference, here? :o (No groaning, please, unless in the form of a kiai. :p )

Anyway, maybe one way to consider this is to always strive to be "learners" or students, but to always be a beginner is to take away the meaning of beginning! The first step in anything deserves its own recognition, as does then staying with something. There shouldn't be a need for false modesty or egotism, just a genuine desire to show yourself and fellows respect, and to train in appreciation of the things you do know, and the things you know are yet to come. Always let yourself give, and always let yourself receive, and the need to classify yourself or anyone else as "beginner", "intermediate", "advanced", etc., will disappear.

So, I guess I'd say that I stopped being a beginner the moment after I began. But it was the beginning of a beautiful journey, with a few mile markers along the way so that if I try to travel too far on what fuel I have, there's something I can look back on in order to find my way again, and start from where once I was, but never start over.

David Maidment
08-21-2008, 04:16 PM
In something such as Aikido, I'm very much of the opinion that you should always consider yourself a beginner to keep an open mind towards learning, so that you actually can continue learning, modestly and completely.

However, on face-value I think there's a lot to this question too; for me, I stopped feeling like a beginner after my first lesson after a ten year break from Aikido. Suddenly, all of these things that I didn't understand as a youngster became clear, and I thought, "yes, I get this". But I'll always be a learner with inexperiences to overcome and to learn, and I'll forever have further to travel on the Aikido path, probably never seeing the horizon.

If I humble myself too much with the 'always a beginner' mindset there's the risk I'll have too little confidence to truly learn and advance. It's all about keeping yourself genuinely modest.

But, of course, from a 'beginner in the grand scheme of things' point of view, Sandan does sound like a reasonable level.

lbb
08-21-2008, 08:21 PM
If I humble myself too much with the 'always a beginner' mindset there's the risk I'll have too little confidence to truly learn and advance. It's all about keeping yourself genuinely modest.

But, of course, from a 'beginner in the grand scheme of things' point of view, Sandan does sound like a reasonable level.

But is that a helpful and meaningful definition of "beginner"? Seems to me that OP's original question was asking something analogous to, "When did you start to feel that you were getting your 'sea legs'?" To respond to that saying that you're a nth dan and you still consider yourself the lowliest beginner strikes me as faux humility -- or, who knows, maybe it's genuine humility, but it's not helpful in telling OP what I think he wants to know, which is when (and how) do the pieces start to fall into place.

Ron Tisdale
08-22-2008, 01:16 PM
But is that a helpful and meaningful definition of "beginner"? Seems to me that OP's original question was asking something analogous to, "When did you start to feel that you were getting your 'sea legs'?" To respond to that saying that you're a nth dan and you still consider yourself the lowliest beginner strikes me as faux humility -- or, who knows, maybe it's genuine humility, but it's not helpful in telling OP what I think he wants to know, which is when (and how) do the pieces start to fall into place.

Ah, so, you understand the question! Care to proffer an answer yourself?

Mostly kidding, but just a little serious...

I myself think "sea legs" are going to vary from person to person. I also have found over the years that everytime I think I'm getting somewhere, I find out I'm not where I thought I was. I had this great german uke the other day at a seminar, I was doing this really relaxed, beautiful heaven and earth throw, and he was FLYING.

Then I took a look at his wrists...they were MASSIVE...so I asked him to REALLY hold me. I couldn't budge. Glad I checked myself...I could have walked away thinking myself a re-incarnation of some Kami... :(

Sides, I tend to get sea sick anyway...what do I want with sea legs?!? :D
Best,
Ron (his ukemi really was fantastic...too bad I couldn't really throw him)

MM
08-22-2008, 01:56 PM
The answer is many times and never. Both at the same time.

It's a loaded question. A trick question, if you will.

I think that in budo, one will find themselves a beginner over and over again. Without having faux humility.

For example, just starting out in Aikido, I had trouble learning to roll. It took me awhile but at one point, I stopped being a beginner because I could roll from any direction. But, then (much, much later), I found that there are levels of rolling and I had to start the learning process over again. Not that I forgot the initial training at all, but the layer underneath would never have been found if not for that.

Who hasn't trained in something and later it just came out of the blue ... "Oh, that's what sensei meant!" And another level opened wide and you just felt like you had something brand new to work on -- at a beginner's level.

In training, you have to learn A before you get to B before you get to C. Well, sometimes around stage D, you realize that stage A had another level to it that you'd never have been able to work on if you hadn't progressed to D. Why do you think sometimes that the seniors always are quoted as saying they go back to the basics? It isn't because they've forgotten them. They've just opened up another level to them.

Do you think the higher level people just get what they are working on correct every time? They fail quite a bit, too. Just like us. But, they're working levels we haven't reached. And they're working them like we do -- try, fail, try, fail, try, succeed, try, fail, try, fail, etc, etc, etc.

It's why there's a love/hate relationship with Budo. There's always, always, always something new to learn but at the same time, you're always failing more than you're succeeding. In the overall scheme, you're going forward but it never seems all that quickly. Until you stop and realize that ten years have zipped by and you're ten years older. And the thoughts about not starting sooner creep in while you look ahead to all the massive amounts of progress you know you could make ... if you had the time. But, the funny thing is that no matter how young you start, it will always be like that. There is no end to Budo. There's only you and what you do today. Even if I was 89 and knew I'd die at 90, I'd still jump at a chance given to me to practice some martial arts. It isn't about gaining that judan or menkyo kaiden but about me and that day I'm training. Budo creeps into the bones and no amount of failure will dislodge it.

jennifer paige smith
08-22-2008, 09:31 PM
I've never met a person with a clean mind. Although I've met many people scrubbing vigorously.

;) Plants need a little dirt to grow.

jennifer paige smith
08-22-2008, 09:32 PM
The answer is many times and never. Both at the same time.

It's a loaded question. A trick question, if you will.

I think that in budo, one will find themselves a beginner over and over again. Without having faux humility.

For example, just starting out in Aikido, I had trouble learning to roll. It took me awhile but at one point, I stopped being a beginner because I could roll from any direction. But, then (much, much later), I found that there are levels of rolling and I had to start the learning process over again. Not that I forgot the initial training at all, but the layer underneath would never have been found if not for that.

Who hasn't trained in something and later it just came out of the blue ... "Oh, that's what sensei meant!" And another level opened wide and you just felt like you had something brand new to work on -- at a beginner's level.

In training, you have to learn A before you get to B before you get to C. Well, sometimes around stage D, you realize that stage A had another level to it that you'd never have been able to work on if you hadn't progressed to D. Why do you think sometimes that the seniors always are quoted as saying they go back to the basics? It isn't because they've forgotten them. They've just opened up another level to them.

Do you think the higher level people just get what they are working on correct every time? They fail quite a bit, too. Just like us. But, they're working levels we haven't reached. And they're working them like we do -- try, fail, try, fail, try, succeed, try, fail, try, fail, etc, etc, etc.

It's why there's a love/hate relationship with Budo. There's always, always, always something new to learn but at the same time, you're always failing more than you're succeeding. In the overall scheme, you're going forward but it never seems all that quickly. Until you stop and realize that ten years have zipped by and you're ten years older. And the thoughts about not starting sooner creep in while you look ahead to all the massive amounts of progress you know you could make ... if you had the time. But, the funny thing is that no matter how young you start, it will always be like that. There is no end to Budo. There's only you and what you do today. Even if I was 89 and knew I'd die at 90, I'd still jump at a chance given to me to practice some martial arts. It isn't about gaining that judan or menkyo kaiden but about me and that day I'm training. Budo creeps into the bones and no amount of failure will dislodge it.

Dynamic spiral, neh?

barry.clemons
08-29-2008, 10:16 AM
I wonder how people could tell (or if) when they stopped being a beginner at Aikido and moved onto "comfortable" or "intermediate". Was it a belt rank? Was it something internal? Was there a mile-stone involved? Maybe it was such gradual process that you didn't notice!

I ask because I'm beginning to feel a little more comfortable about this martial art, but I still have classes where I leave more puzzled than when I came in! Maybe I can learn from you about your experience in progressing :cool:

Thanks!

Zach, Brattleboro, VT

(Without going past post #2) IMHO I will never stop being a beginner in Aikido because to get 'comfortable' is to get complacent.

Part of that is my own personal discovery of something new every time I train. Part of that is my instructors never-ending job, reminding me that I have more to learn.

I remember my first test, my first promotion. The very next class, I'm lined up in my new position, proudly in seiza. My instructor for the day sees me; see's my new position, and my pride (but no crime in that, of course). Went to work on me, having me do forward and backward rolls. For some reason, I was not rolling right for him, even though it was right two days ago... Needless to say, 50 rolls later, he explains to me that my exam was pretty much a snapshot of my peformance, to a certain level or standard; now began a new evolution of training.

I understand what you mean, about things becoming easier for you to do (tenkan, irimi, ukemi). Here's how I test myself; I make it a point to train most of the time with someone who has less experience than me so I can have the opportunity express what I've learned with them in training. For me, that's be best measurement of my training; how well I can convey it to someone else on the mat.

Shane Mokry
08-30-2008, 01:12 AM
Keith,

I like your teacher.