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Gopher Boy
03-27-2002, 08:42 PM
Hi all,


This is only my second post and I am a little reluctant to start a new thread. I am wondering over peoples' opinions to grades and belts in Aikido. I realise that this is probably a reoccuring topic and some people may be sick of it, but for anyone who is not I would love to hear your opinions. If there is already an existing thread on this topic then that would be great also.

My question is how do people feel about grades being differentiated by different belts or even given at all.

As a beginner, I am not terribly phased either way about it. I was thinking, however that regardless of kyu grades, Dan grades are a good idea. I think that people who do not practice any martial art place too much emphasis on a "black belt". I like the idea of a Shodan being a "beginner" and still having a very long (infinite) path to achieve some kind of "mastery". For me I think that is reassuring and I like the impression it gives me about Aikido being a life-long journey.

I also think that it may deter the hot headed people who's main goal is a "black belt".

Anyway, enough of my rant.


Phill.

nikonl
03-27-2002, 10:45 PM
Those who are meant to stay, will stay

nikonl
03-27-2002, 10:51 PM
You should view grades as How much you have learnt, rather than, i am more skillful than you.

Basically, grades in Aikido are usually used so that during training, they would know who are the beginners and so would know their limits. If there weren't any grades AT ALL, then maybe someone who have learnt aikido for ages wouldn't know the if the person he partnered with is having his/her first lesson. He might eventually injure him/her as his partner might not have really good ukemi.

I hope you understand what i'm trying to explain. i'm not very good with writing what i think. :)

Wayne
03-28-2002, 11:03 AM
I am also quite new to aikido having started with a beginner course in February. I am struggling with my desire to work toward a test with the dojo requirements of 6+ months before 5th kyu. I understand that I will need quite a bit more time before I am as ready for my test as the two dojo mates who recently tested for 5th kyu. That's not a problem.

I have a competitive side to my personality and that is why I want to use a test (or, longer term, a sequence of tests!) to measure my ability.

To summarize a rather disjointed post, I think that the kyu testing can easily serve two purposes. (1) It helps fellow practitioners judge relative skill levels. (2) It helps each individual map their own progress toward whatever goal or goals they want.

As a final comment to (1), in one of my recent classes I was paired with a yudansha acting as uke doing some kind of choke hold while grabbing one of my wrists. I'm sure that this technique has a particular name (starting with ushiro?) but that doesn't really matter. Anyway, he held the choke quite hard so that I couldn't react as we had been shown. His point was that I needed to react sooner and that this was also a matter of timing. Most of the other senior students at the dojo have been quite nice about treating me gently, though.

jimvance
03-28-2002, 11:12 AM
Originally, (I think before WWII) Ueshiba S. didn't give out dan ranking, he used the older koryu certificate and license routine. These are "ranks" like oku iri, mokuroku, menkyo kaiden. The first one, oku iri sho, is normally given after a number of years, and is comparable to 3rd or 4th dan (at least that is how it was explained to me).
Later (perhaps after the war), use of the kyu - dan system went into effect. This was a system instituted by Jigoro Kano for Kodokan Judo. It was designed as a learning gradient, inspired by Western education methods, to be used by anyone in society. Jujutsu and kenjutsu schools had been off limits to non-bushi class members up until this point (with exceptions like Maniwa Nen Ryu). Perhaps Tomiki S. had had some influence over this, as he was dojo cho for a number of years; I am not really sure, purely conjecture.
The name "black belt" is an American term. Higher ranked individuals in Japan wear either a red and white striped belt (6th dan and above) or a red one (9th dan?/10th dan). Every mudansha should want to be a yudansha, being a "black belt" is something entirely different.
As far as mastery is concerned, I don't want to remain a beginner all my life, and I wouldn't train under someone who wanted to teach only beginners all their life. I think that is what the kyu-dan system is aimed at: "mastery" (technical proficiency) can be attained, it is a gradual process, and anyone can do it. Whether or not the kyu-dan system is still true to that is another point altogether. End of my rant.

Jim Vance

Edward
03-28-2002, 11:35 AM
Originally posted by Wayne
As a final comment to (1), in one of my recent classes I was paired with a yudansha acting as uke doing some kind of choke hold while grabbing one of my wrists. I'm sure that this technique has a particular name (starting with ushiro?) but that doesn't really matter. Anyway, he held the choke quite hard so that I couldn't react as we had been shown. His point was that I needed to react sooner and that this was also a matter of timing. Most of the other senior students at the dojo have been quite nice about treating me gently, though.

No matter what his point was, if I were you, I will try to practice more often with this Yudansha. I don't like the guys who want to treat me gently and expect me to do the same in return. I think this guy gave you an idea about what would really happen outside. He was just being honest.

Cheers,
Edward

Carl Simard
03-28-2002, 12:07 PM
The importance of the grade system is also a matter of personnal feelings. For some peoples, the rank and hierarchy is very important, for others it don't matter at all, and for most peoples it's somewhere between the two...

Now, my personnal opinion on that is that grades are useful, not to put a hierarchy in the dojo, but to give each and every one some concrete goals to achieve... For example, if you are in for your 5th kyu, you would not concentrate on the same details or techniques than someone going for his 2nd kyu, even if you are together in the same classes... If not for the grade, you may try to learn everything at the same time and it can simply slow you down, because you end up trying things that you don't have the basis to do instead on working on this basis... So it helps people focus on what it's important for them to learn at their actual level. Not that the rest isn't important, but, for example, if you're a beginner, you're probably better to first learn and concentrate on how to roll and fall than concentrate on doing an ushiro shio nage... When I get a grade, it means for me that I have at least the necessary basis, understanding and skills to begin working on other, more advanced techniques...

Erik
03-28-2002, 02:53 PM
I thought this page did a nice job on the history of ranking and belts.

http://www.concentric.net/~Budokai/articles/belts.htm

Chris Li
03-28-2002, 05:34 PM
Originally posted by jimvance
Originally, (I think before WWII) Ueshiba S. didn't give out dan ranking, he used the older koryu certificate and license routine. These are "ranks" like oku iri, mokuroku, menkyo kaiden. The first one, oku iri sho, is normally given after a number of years, and is comparable to 3rd or 4th dan (at least that is how it was explained to me).

He issued a few dan certificates (most notably, and 8th dan to Kenji Tomiki) before the war, but the system didn't go into general use until later.


The name "black belt" is an American term. Higher ranked individuals in Japan wear either a red and white striped belt (6th dan and above) or a red one (9th dan?/10th dan). Every mudansha should want to be a yudansha, being a "black belt" is something entirely different.


Actually, "black belt" ("kuro obi") is fairly common in normal Japanese speech. Some arts use striped belts and so forth, but just plain black is probably the most common, even for high ranking individuals. I've never seen a striped or red belt in Aikido in Japan.

Best,

Chris

deepsoup
03-28-2002, 06:37 PM
Originally posted by Chris Li
He issued a few dan certificates (most notably, and 8th dan to Kenji Tomiki) before the war, but the system didn't go into general use until later.


I read that Tomiki K. was the first of several of O Sensei's students to be awarded a Menkyo Kaiden before the war, and that those Menkyo Kaidens were later declared to be equivalent to 8th dan. Is that not the case?

Sean
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Chris Li
03-28-2002, 09:06 PM
Originally posted by deepsoup


I read that Tomiki K. was the first of several of O Sensei's students to be awarded a Menkyo Kaiden before the war, and that those Menkyo Kaidens were later declared to be equivalent to 8th dan. Is that not the case?

Sean
x

As I understand it, dan rankings were introduced in order to conform with Butokukai regulations before the war (which is also one of the reasons that the name changed to "Aikido"). As I recall (if I'm not wrong...) Kenji Tomiki got his 8th dan in 1940 under the new system.

Best,

Chris

Jenesis
03-29-2002, 12:41 AM
I remember that someone mentioned that seniors wear coloured belts so that any sensei visiting dojo will have an easier time recognizing who the more advanced students are. Also, the new students who are not familiar with the dojo will know who to approach for help since they can recognize the seniors at a glance.

erikmenzel
03-29-2002, 04:02 AM
I remember that someone mentioned that seniors wear coloured belts so that any sensei visiting dojo will have an easier time recognizing who the more advanced students are. Also, the new students who are not familiar with the dojo will know who to approach for help since they can recognize the seniors at a glance.

Well, at our dojo this is not the way it works.
Everybody just wears a white belt.
Visiting sensei can find more advanced students sitting at the left side of the line up.
New students can easily recognize more advanced students because advanced students will approach the new and unknown students.
Furthermore we tell newbies that they can ask anyone: the person asked should know the answer or know someone who knows the answer.

Jenesis
03-29-2002, 10:10 PM
Well, at our dojo this is not the way it works. Everybody just wears a white belt.


Does that mean that you don't change your belt until you reach dan grade? In our dojo we will change a new belt nearly after every grading.

I suppose different rules apply to different dojos. :straightf

jimvance
03-30-2002, 11:03 AM
Originally posted by Chris Li
Actually, "black belt" ("kuro obi") is fairly common in normal Japanese speech. Some arts use striped belts and so forth, but just plain black is probably the most common, even for high ranking individuals. I've never seen a striped or red belt in Aikido in Japan.
I don't doubt kuro obi is common Japanese vernacular, but I have yet to see it used on certificates. I do some calligraphy as a side business and an American group of karate practitioners wanted the name "black belt" on their certificates. I told them that was inappropriate. My point is that most Americans are really focused on that particular piece of cloth and the colors it bears. We even have the magazine "Black Belt" and everyone knows before they see the cover that they aren't talking about a fashion magazine.
I never have seen a striped or red belt in Japan, being as I've never been to Japan. But my teachers have them. Guess what? They wear black belts most of the time. I was referring mainly to the Kodokan Judo ranking guidelines. To me it seems that (much the way Carl spoke of it) they were created to show objective criteria and an educational gradient rather than hierarchy, which was one of the uses of the older system. Kind of like being in elementary school, "I'm in 4th grade now!" But over the years, the idea of hierarchy overtook education (or maybe just blurred it a lot). In other words, the kyu - dan system wasn't trying to simply replace the older system, it was trying to create a different environment within Budo educationally.

Jim Vance

Chris Li
03-30-2002, 04:19 PM
Originally posted by jimvance
I don't doubt kuro obi is common Japanese vernacular, but I have yet to see it used on certificates. I do some calligraphy as a side business and an American group of karate practitioners wanted the name "black belt" on their certificates. I told them that was inappropriate.

Well, since they probably didn't speak Japanese (and would therefore know better) I don't think that it's such a hard to understand request (even though it is linguistically inappropriate), especially as "black belt" is also the most common English equivalent for "yudansha".


To me it seems that (much the way Carl spoke of it) they were created to show objective criteria and an educational gradient rather than hierarchy, which was one of the uses of the older system. Kind of like being in elementary school, "I'm in 4th grade now!" But over the years, the idea of hierarchy overtook education (or maybe just blurred it a lot). In other words, the kyu - dan system wasn't trying to simply replace the older system, it was trying to create a different environment within Budo educationally.

You mean the traditional menkyo systems? They really weren't hierarchically based at all..

Best,

Chris

deepsoup
04-01-2002, 02:50 PM
Originally posted by Chris Li
As I understand it, dan rankings were introduced in order to conform with Butokukai regulations before the war (which is also one of the reasons that the name changed to "Aikido"). As I recall (if I'm not wrong...) Kenji Tomiki got his 8th dan in 1940 under the new system.


Thanks.

It seems I got the wrong end of the stick. Maybe the people I've read who refer to Tomiki K. receiving the first Menkyo Kaiden issued by O Sensei were actually referring to that 8th Dan.

I've seen references to others among O Sensei's students receiving Menkyo Kaiden (Minoru Mochizuki is the only one I can remember at the moment) but now I wonder whether they actually were awarded 8th dan under the new system too. (ie: Did Ueshiba M. ever award a Menkyo Kaiden to anyone, or did he adopt the Kyu/Dan system from the start?)

regards
Sean
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