View Full Version : Avoiding Brown Belt Syndrome

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Carrie Campbell
10-15-2009, 11:47 AM
Hello. I recently passed my 2nd kyu test, and so was interested in John Riggs’ July 2006 post on “brown belt syndrome.” While I would like to develop the characteristically high endurance levels of aikido students with brown belts (and some with black belts) ;) , I would like to avoid or lessen the negative characteristics mentioned in Riggs sensei’s post and subsequent replies including training gaps, ego, and safety issues.

Training gaps: “Life” seems like the biggest culprit at our dojo.
• Let’s say a female student will have a baby. What would you recommend for her to avoid training gaps before the baby is born?
• Whether male of female, if a baby in the family is born, time and financial resources are more restricted. What would you recommend for him/her to avoid training gaps after the baby is born?
• A student has finally graduated and he/she gets a job in a new city that does not have aikido. What would you recommend for him/her to continue practicing aikido?
• A regular student who practices nearly every day finds he/she must have at least a decrease in training and perhaps will not longer be able to practice at that dojo due to moving or whatever the reason may be. How should he/she break the news to his/her instructor(s) and dojo community?

• Where to you draw the line between building enough confidence to practice well with others, but not “too” confident? [Perhaps someone could define "ego" better.]

Safety issues:
• How do you ensure the safety of yourself and your partners as you learn new techniques and falls and explore new levels of understanding?

Adam Huss
10-15-2009, 12:13 PM
Does your school offer instructor meetings? This would be something done maybe every month, every other month, a few times a year, etc. These issues would be something addressed at such a meeting. The international HQ of my organization has instructor meetings every other month (which I go to, its about 2 hour drive)...they are about two hours long, and about 70% "cerebral" with only like a half hour to go over finer points/teaching points of technique. At my school, the black belts all get together every once in awhile and discuss the goings on in the dojo.

Carrie Campbell
10-15-2009, 12:25 PM
Hi, Adam. Our dojo has "coffee" after Saturday morning classes. Business is sometimes discussed. I'm afraid if I started asking questions about training gaps, my group would get worried. I'd rather ask elsewhere or wait until there is something real to discuss at home.

10-15-2009, 05:25 PM
Since I was the originator of that commentary, I'll throw in a few thoughts.
Training gaps: if you are pregnant, your training involvement should be between you and your ob/gyn-in any event training modification is necessary. The financial issue is difficult as a dojo has to pay its overhead. Perhaps a mat fee approach for the times you do train.
New job/no aikido. That's a challenge. Depending on the rank of the student, they could perhaps get a study group together with either periodic visits from the sensei, video taping for feedback etc.
Decreased training. Personally, and it is just my opinion, it would be nice for the student to let the instructor know that things have changed in their life and they have to back off some. If moving the same applies and the sensei may have contacts or knowledge to help you steer away from a McDojo with questionable credentials.
Ego: ah, that does happen to brown belts and shodans doesn't it. Keep in mind humility says more about the person than does bravado. There is nothing wrong being confident as long as it is not cocky and you can no longer be taught. Speaking of teaching, getting a shodan or brown belt does not suddenly elevate you to sensei in most cases. That is not to say some are not good instructors. It is to say that it depends on your dojo role. To me, "ego" is where your perception of your skills far exceeds your actual skills.

Safety issues: Everyone is responsible for the safety of their partners. Discussion on limits and issues should always precede taking on something that may challenge someone beyond their abilities.

Adam Huss
10-15-2009, 09:50 PM
Yes John...in our school we consider shodan to mean 'serious student' not necessarily synonymous with 'teacher'. Personally, due to some of my history, I prefer not to be called Sensei until I am Sandan and have a Shidoin licensee...but that is mostly just me.

You obviously have the pulse of your instructor group if you feel training gaps are something that would give them cause for concern. Do you think your dojo cho may take to you doing some extra work at the dojo in return for lessened monthly dues? This is something that is done once in a great while at our dojo...particularly when there is no uchideshi to clean!

It's very wise that you have coffee after Saturday class. I should probably start doing that rather than before...my kidney's would thank me!

Carrie Campbell
10-16-2009, 02:26 PM
John, thank you so much for responding! Your suggestions are very much appreciated. If anyone as further suggestions, please share.

Adam, if someone has financial constraints, I agree speaking with sensei (or a senior student who then directs the question to the appropriate person) to work something out is best. [Do you really have uchideschi?!!]

The possibilities mentioned are the ones that would most likely challenge me at some future date. :( They also happen to be some of the most common in our dojo. So I continue to be interested in thoughts and options for coping when faced with them.

I'm still digesting the idea that if I have a family some day, I will need to spend some time with them...meaning nights and weekends when I'm not working...and normally at aikido. But, enough of that. There's a 99% probability I have a whole full year of aikido before dealing with any of these issues, and then maybe they won't come up.:p