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Nafis Zahir
11-03-2009, 01:53 AM
Someone I know had a conversation with an instructor, who on paper, has a very authentic ranking of 7th dan & Shihan. But that instructor has gone out on his own, having gotten tired of all the politics in Aikido and the fact that rank is often just "given out". The person I know has been feeling the same way and thought about going independent and it was suggested to him to leave off ranking all together. The person told the Shihan that people always want to see your credentials before deciding to train under you. The Shihan replied, "Let your technique be your calling card". So my question to everyone here is, would you train under a Sensei who had no "rank". If you went to see this person and could really tell he had skills and you were impressed, would it matter to you that he does not have any ranking from any organization? Would you need to see any ranking he held from a previous organization, or would his technique be enough for you?

justin
11-03-2009, 02:29 AM
In theory I believe what he says is correct, however these days of the internet a lot of people do there research on the internet first then make a check list of who to go and see given there own personal check list and I would bet rank would be on most beginners check list along with times of training, costs, distance to travel and so on, so a lot of good instructors with lots to offer would fail at the first hurdle without being given a chance.

Mark Uttech
11-03-2009, 02:42 AM
Onegaishimasu, I personally believe that most people would want their own rank to be authentic, and would want to be part of a lineage that goes all the way back to the founder of an art; thus, they would something that is true and real.

In gassho,

Mark

Kevin Leavitt
11-03-2009, 05:26 AM
I don't care with rank. My MMA instructor in Germany showed up one day with a Gi and Black Belt on. I said, "hey, I didn't know you were a black belt in BJJ...who'd you get it from".

He said, "no one...I hate BJJ, I figured I'd kicked enough black belts ass in traveling around the world that I probably was a black belt, so I started wearing one, as soon as someone proves me wrong I will take it off."

The dude is pretty good and it was evident...so it made no difference to me...he knows much more than I about what we were working on.

mickeygelum
11-03-2009, 09:04 AM
Would I train under a teacher that had no rank and/or affiliation? Absolutely.

Just my opinion, but too much emphasis is placed on ranking. It particularly annoys me when folks speak of "number of hours" of training until their next promotion. Or individuals that fulfill the minimum requirements for a specific rank, then you have a misleading credential around their waist.

Saturday, I was lightly sparring a black belt that is senior to me, and who I had never seen fight. I know this man's background and who he trained under, thier abilities are quite good. I was amazed that he had no grasp of body mechanics. I used fundemental skills and concepts, he was lost. Had I been a spectator seeking a school, I would have left and not returned.

As it already has been stated, and I concur, "Let your technique be your calling card".

Too many Walter Mittys in this world...:hypno:

Train well,

Mickey

George S. Ledyard
11-03-2009, 09:39 AM
Someone I know had a conversation with an instructor, who on paper, has a very authentic ranking of 7th dan & Shihan. But that instructor has gone out on his own, having gotten tired of all the politics in Aikido and the fact that rank is often just "given out". The person I know has been feeling the same way and thought about going independent and it was suggested to him to leave off ranking all together. The person told the Shihan that people always want to see your credentials before deciding to train under you. The Shihan replied, "Let your technique be your calling card". So my question to everyone here is, would you train under a Sensei who had no "rank". If you went to see this person and could really tell he had skills and you were impressed, would it matter to you that he does not have any ranking from any organization? Would you need to see any ranking he held from a previous organization, or would his technique be enough for you?

There's a difference between No Rank and Independent. I have no problem with Independent. But there are a lot pf folks out there who claim rank that is bogus... wouldn't train with them, for a variety of reasons.

Kevin Leavitt
11-03-2009, 09:54 AM
There's a difference between No Rank and Independent. I have no problem with Independent. But there are a lot pf folks out there who claim rank that is bogus... wouldn't train with them, for a variety of reasons.

This is a problem I think in arts like Aikido, Tai Chi, Yoga etc...things that are somewhat hard to define by the average person.

The Yoga Community has partially solved that problem through a RYT designation.

Martial Arts? well, YMMV, and I think that Affiliation and background kinda account for alot wrt this issue.

One of my big concerns for beginners is safety and prescription.

Even if you have years of experience and lineage I have found that we in the MA community are very poor stewards many times in this area.

It is not a requirement of most systems to study basic kineseology. There are no classes on how to deal with 40 year olds that are out of shape and how to build "prescriptive" developmental plans of study. We are shady at best on risk and assessment.

No, we simply require a waiver be signed and have them join the class at let that person be the judge on what they can and can not do. I believe we are fortunate that most times it works out in our favor...but I think as a "profession" we can do much better than this.

I think what we do in most dojo's is fine for the requirements to be Yudansha, however as a collective society as martial arts professionals that want to supervise and lead programs, dojo, courses etc...that we can do a better job of mentorship and ensuring that standards are codified and maintained.

If we don't, I think eventually that states and local governments in the US at least will do that for us as they have with most areas of "allied professionals".

It is always better to self govern and set your own codes of conduct and ethics etc than to allow someone else to come in and do it.

Okay...way off on tangent I know.....

but damn, anyone can be a black belt, anyone can open a dojo, and Caveat Emptor" applies.

I think we can do much better than that!

ninjaqutie
11-03-2009, 09:59 AM
I would train under someone if I thought they were good. I didn't go around checking the ranks of sensei's before I went and checked out the class. Turns out, the one I am at has a great sensei and he is one of the higher ranked in the NW with Birankai, but we didn't know that till months after beginning our training. Rank is over-rated I think (though I am not saying there isn't value to it).

Amir Krause
11-03-2009, 09:59 AM
Today - no problem, I know what I am looking at and for.

As a beginner - huge problem - I would have used rank as a criteria sinc eI would not have been able to judge the technique by myself, nor have any idea who is just palying around and who really knows what he is doing.

Amir

Tinyboy344
11-03-2009, 10:10 AM
Today - no problem, I know what I am looking at and for.

As a beginner - huge problem - I would have used rank as a criteria sinc eI would not have been able to judge the technique by myself, nor have any idea who is just palying around and who really knows what he is doing.

Amir

I agree. When I look for a dojo to train, I don't ask for the instructor's rank. I usually check out the instructor's techniques. If he or she is good, I will come back. If not, they'll never see me again. I could care much less who they are affiliated with.

ChrisHein
11-03-2009, 10:10 AM
If a guy has ability and can teach you something, if interested, you should learn. Rank is political.

However if you don't know anything (most people seeking a teacher) and can't tell if the instructor is knowledgeable or not, then rank is a nice to defer too.

Rank is ideally the opinion of someone who knows something about martial arts (Aikido, Judo, Kendo etc.). This person or group of people gives rank as their acknowledgment of a given person's ability.

So if the people giving the rank are not reputable neither is the rank.

If you don't know anything, or are unsure, it's best to do some research. If you are truly interested in studying something specific like Aikido, then find someone in your area who is certified by a known organization.

As you become more informed you can pay less attention to rank, and more to your own judgement.

mathewjgano
11-03-2009, 10:16 AM
Technique would definately be enough for me, although when I was first looking for a dojo to train at, none of the handful I visited let me feel things out first...not that I could have necessarily been able to tell much difference then. Ledyard sensei brings up a good point about people who lie about rank. It certainly would beg the question, though I can see why some people might simply for the sake of business. It would be dubious, but for practicality's sake people do all kinds of odd stuff. I could forgive something like that if it proved beneficial. I'm also at a very early stage of development so I could probably more easily learn something new from a larger number of people than someone with years of consistant training.
As the teacher of the great and eminent Bruce Lee Leroy once said, "belts are for holding your pants up."

ramenboy
11-03-2009, 10:31 AM
Today - no problem, I know what I am looking at and for.

As a beginner - huge problem - I would have used rank as a criteria sinc eI would not have been able to judge the technique by myself, nor have any idea who is just palying around and who really knows what he is doing.

Amir

+1

DonMagee
11-03-2009, 11:17 AM
This is a problem unique to non-competitive martial arts.

In competitive arts, this problem does not exist.

How did I pick a boxing coach? There are no black belts in boxing. There are no teaching certificates that say this man is a master boxing coach.

No I looked at his fight experience. Then I looked at his students fight experience. The guy was producing winning competitors, and was well recommended by locals. Good enough for me.

How did I pick my bjj coach? When I started training with him he was 'only' a brown belt. Coming from traditional martial arts, a brown belt wasn't that impressive. But his students were winning MMA matches and his guys that were 'only' blue belts (hell even most of the white belts) cleaned my clock. There was no question this guy had stuff to teach me.

I recently started teaching a martial arts club (submission grappling) at the college where I work. I'm 'only' a brown belt in judo and a blue belt in bjj. I've given up on judo for political reasons, but I'm still an active practitioner and competitor in bjj. I've seen some guys question my authority the first time they come in. But their experience rolling with me quickly clears up any questions as to my level of experience.

So to bring this back into prospective, how do you really honestly know your instructor is good at a non-competive martial art? Simply put, you can't. All you can have is faith. Having a black belt around your waist will no doubt jump start that faith.

Kevin Leavitt
11-03-2009, 11:23 AM
True Don...however even within the BJJ communities we are concerned with myopic practices. Helio was very concerned about the focus. The big problem I see long term within BJJ is the fact that we have young guys that are winning and have the moves getting promoted and openning schools...in many cases this is definitely warranted...there are some very good prodigies out there.

On the other hand, are these guys really equipped to deal with long term development, transformative issues as people age and mature...what happens after you can no longer compete in BJJ?

Anyway a side subject but relevant too.

I think in Non-compettive arts..as alot of folks have elluded to, after a few years of study...you know who you want to study with, word of mouth, internet, reputation, feel etc.

Which is all fine I think.

I still think we can do a better job though than what we are doing than this process.

crbateman
11-03-2009, 12:16 PM
IMHO, this is a complicated question with a simple solution. First, consider what he can teach you. This is a combination of what he knows, and how well he can transmit that knowledge to you. Remember that what he knows may or may not be a function of rank or affiliation. Second, consider what you need to learn, and whether rank or affiliation needs to be part of your future. If you have a match, problem solved. If not, move on.

SeiserL
11-03-2009, 12:40 PM
Yes, but I would prefer some one with both skill and lineage.

HL1978
11-03-2009, 02:14 PM
I've already done it with several schools.

I think you can only sort to evaluate that sort of thing if you already have some experience. If you are brand new its hard to judge as you don't know what to look for.

Buck
11-03-2009, 04:57 PM
For me, rank - which am referring to as a credential - is tricky because I can learn from anyone with or without rank. I have learned stuff from laymen to masters. But, a credible credential (there is something redundant about that- a bit of a Mark Twain flavor there) from a credible school or organization is important.
Geez...no one wants a fly by night, or a fraud, or someone misrepresenting that art and/or giving out the wrong information.

Aikibu
11-03-2009, 05:17 PM
In any Art...Their practice is the only measure...

I have met 35 year old 10th Dans who did not last five minutes with this fat old Aikido Nidan... As for my "rank" I have been a Nidan for a very long time but that does seem to stop higher ranking folks from working with me on occasion...and ditto for dudes below my rank... Some of these 25 year old BJJ Brown Belts are really good at sharing what they know...We all have something to learn from each other most of the time...

William Hazen

aikidoc
11-03-2009, 05:36 PM
If I am training in a traditional art, I want to see a lineage. If I am training with an independent, I want to see a lineage. If I'm training with someone from an art that does not rank I will look at what they have to offer. Yes, rank does not mean someone is either good, or can teach. However, it is a start. If I'm going to spend my money I want to spend it on the real deal, not some inflated ego or some misfit that does not have the discipline to complete a training program. There are way too many frauds out there with lofty ranks they awarded to themselves. They can't hack being part of a disciplined art or they think they have it all "knowed up" and strike out on their own. They set up fancy names and titles., etc., etc. and then make themselves the head honcho who by bylaws is a megadan. But that's just me.

Kevin Leavitt
11-03-2009, 08:35 PM
You know..here's a thought that was a part of a discussion I had with one of my instructors the other night.

I think a measure of success is not so much by his/her rank...but by how many students they have that seem to be pretty decent at whatever they are teaching.

There are alot of guys out there that can do some amazing and really cool stuff that will knock your socks off.

However, when you look at the output of what they produce..i.e their senior students...how good are they? How good are the folks that have been studying 5 years, 1 year?

Are they showing impressive and consistent quality...or is it spotty, non-exisitent...and you are simply geting a dog and pony show every time you train.

Rank means nothing if they cannot deliver and convey teaching.

Buck
11-03-2009, 08:36 PM
A key that everyone is hitting on is skill, but there is just more than skill to rank. Isn't there tradition and stuff that needs to be considered too. Shouldn't linage reflect that too, and be equally important as skill?

Sure, instructor (sensei) X doesn't have a rank or lineage and is good, but is he well schooled in the traditions of the art, and all that? Does he care about it that, or only skill. Does he lack the knowledge of protocol that is practice through out the art, for example. What if one of his student(s) has an exchange with another group or dojo and find themselves embarrassed because they lack knowledge, like protocols, history, and stuff. Isn't important not to be embarrassed among peers?

Yea, someone who has the right schooling in lineage, and rank is very much important. It is adding to the measuring stick against fakers, frauds, and slackers.

I see it no different than any other profession. Skill is important but with out credentials your not going to be taken as seriously. It's like if you never go to boot camp, but are good at fighting it doesn't make you a solider. You may be a knowledgeable person in the field of law, but never went and got a law degree, you ain't going to be able to practice law. Yes, there are good and bad lawyers, but they all have to be licensed to practice. There is a good reason for this. It should be the same way for Aikido/martial arts that lineage and rank (reflecting accurately skill and knowledge) are important it just can't be all about skill.

Don't get me wrong skill is important, it should not be the only criteria of an instructor. Frankly, there is a mine field of people calling themselves martial artist who have no business doing so. Here is the point, both skill and lineage/rank provide assurance that what your are learning is genuine and authentic stuff. That a person isn't learning from someone who is abusing or messing with the art (not saying that everyone does that), or just focused on skill.

*look at the Kohai/Sempei thread in the Anonymous forum where a sensei can impliment that tradition, and not have proper understanding of it and mess other people up. Hopefully, the support of lineage can curb that rather than foster it.

Michael Hackett
11-03-2009, 08:52 PM
To somewhat echo Kevin's last comment, I remember hearing the adage that the true mark of an educational institution is the contribution to society made by it's graduates. Same sort of concept.

Kevin Leavitt
11-03-2009, 09:08 PM
Customs, courtesies, and protocol, and hakama and all that stuff...IMO serve one purpose.

To maintain good order and discipline and to allow us to reflect occassionally on heritage and the roots in order to form a common bond or identification amongst a group.

It is why martial or military organizations do things such as wear uniforms, salute, have ranks and protocols.

It is the only reason we have those things...good order and discipline which facilitate the ability, in the case of aikido, budo, or martial arts...to learn.

without skills, wisdom, and a body of knowledge...all this is complete garbage, a distractor, and a huge waste of everyone's time.

Those things are secondary and support the practice. We don't preserve them in a Gendai martial art for any other reason I believe.

In Koryu...well, I am not a Koryu guy so I can't comment on that a whole lot.

I see Koryu along the lines of a "monastic practice" we need people to preserve Koryu so we can remember the lessons and wisdom of the past as the world moves forward and we deal with distractions. Koryu arts are snapshots in time I think. the wisdom and "memory" archived in these systems are most useful to us.

However, that is a much different subject than the question at hand for "Lay People" such as myself and others. We simply do enough of this stuff to maintain the structure and promote a good learning environment. Anything more than that is really a distractor.

If these things are important to you...i'd consider going to a Koryu system...or maybe better...Society of Creative Ananhcronsim (SCA) where they really explore and interpret such things.

Of course, for many, they also find a deeper meaning in some of the practices and rituals such as breathing, meditation, etc to ready themselves for practice...or those things are the practice themselves!

However, for learning Gendai Budo...I think we do just enough to provide the correct environment and these things are the means to the end...and not the end.

Buck
11-03-2009, 09:12 PM
... and then make themselves the head honcho who by bylaws is a megadan.

:D :D :D :D :D :uch: -side stench pain from the laughter

Nafis Zahir
11-03-2009, 09:15 PM
There's a difference between No Rank and Independent. I have no problem with Independent. But there are a lot pf folks out there who claim rank that is bogus... wouldn't train with them, for a variety of reasons.

I understand your point Sensei, but there are also many folks who have authentic ranking and lineage, but their technique is not at the level of their "rank".

Kevin Leavitt
11-03-2009, 09:28 PM
In any Art...Their practice is the only measure...

I have met 35 year old 10th Dans who did not last five minutes with this fat old Aikido Nidan... As for my "rank" I have been a Nidan for a very long time but that does seem to stop higher ranking folks from working with me on occasion...and ditto for dudes below my rank... Some of these 25 year old BJJ Brown Belts are really good at sharing what they know...We all have something to learn from each other most of the time...

William Hazen

Our day to talk I guess! lol!

Having just come from BJJ practice a hour ago where a bunch or 20 year old white belts wore my old ass out...this is near and dear to my heart.

I do well for the most part with newbs and guys with less than a couple of years experience. However, going on 45...meh! It ain't so easy to do and I have to constantly work hard and I am constantly reminded that I don't have the strength, speed, stamina or agility that these guys do...nor will I ever gain it as I am on the downhill slide of life! LOL!

So, if you base the value solely on winning or dominating...I am very much screwed and should be working backwards in belts at this point! LOL!

It is frustrating, but my instructor constantly reminds me that there is more progression than this in BJJ. I have years of experience, the ability to communicate, to read people, to teach, and a breadth of experience. I am learning a different type of BJJ now...one that is gentle, subtle, refined...my job is not so much whooping up on the young guys and going toe to toe...but being there, being the last one off the mat, serving as a leader and role model....counseling, helping them develop their games...talking to them, helping them out etc.

Yea...there is alot more to "Rank" than the superficial stuff!

Thanks WIlliam!

jxa127
11-03-2009, 09:49 PM
Personally, I think lineage is much more important in a koryu art than in aikido. After all, a koryu isn't a koryu without proper lineage. In aikido, though, being a student of a student of a student of a student of O Sensei is no guarantee that you're studying the art as O Sensei created it. Several articles by Stan Pranin and more recently, Peter Goldsbury's articles on Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12008), are making it quite clear that O Sensei did not try to formalize his art and pass it down the way koryu arts are passed down.

So I think a focus on lineage is silly in aikido. Organizational affiliation can be important. The major organizations set and maintain certain standards for grading, which at the very least ensures that a minimum level of skill is required for each rank. As far as I know, many (if not most) of the major organizations in the USA are affiliated with the Aikikai.

But organizations have their disadvantages too. When the leader of an organization dies, or political problems arise (or both), people frequently split off and found their own organizations taking several affiliated dojo with them. Where does that leave the "lineage"?

For many people, though, there's not a lot of choice. If they want to study aikido, then they need to train at the only aikido dojo they have nearby. But even if somebody has a choice among several local aikido dojos, the quality of the instruction, the friendliness and skill of the head instructor and senior students, their work ethic, and the overall vibe of the dojo is more important than organizational affiliation or rank.

Respectfully submitted,

Buck
11-03-2009, 10:14 PM
Good point about Aikido, but lineage may not be as strongly observed in Aikido then in Koryu. But, that doesn't mean it isn't as important.

I think only judging someone by their skill as a requirement for Aikido isn't a good thing. Because Aikido does have tradition and stuff. I don't think we can ignore that over skill.

If I said, I studied under Chiba sensei and my rank is from him that says something. If I say I just have skill that says something different.

If I said, I studied under Yamada sensei, and got my next rank from him, but didn't and was good at Aikidoka -regardless- what kind of person does that make me? Because you know no one is going to say they don't have rank in an art that ranks- regardless of skill.

If I go to Japan dojo, and study there lacking proper tradition and protocol and stuff, it could reflect upon me poorly and it presents the wrong impression, regardless of my skill.

There are sorts of other reasons I think of that haven't been mentioned to place equal weight on lineage and skill. :)

Carsten Möllering
11-04-2009, 01:19 AM
I think lineage is much more important in a koryu art than in aikido. Hm, in koryu you don't have to think about lineage because it is well documented and authorized by certificates.
After all, a koryu isn't a koryu without proper lineage.Exactly.

In aikido, though, being a student of a student of a student of a student of O Sensei is no guarantee that you're studying the art as O Sensei created it.No, it isn't. And there is noone studying the art exactly as O Sensei created it. Can't be and needn't to.

But exactly for that reason it is important to know the lineage of your teacher. So you can know and judge the development the art has gone through until coming up to you.

And that isn't to difficult yet:
For example in my case it is just three steps:
O Sensei > Yamaguchi > Endo (who himself studied a little under O Sensei) and Tissier > my teacher (who himself also studied under Yamaguchi)
That isn't too far away and one can easily follow that line.

Isn't that true for most of our teachers?

Sure, it is different from the formalized tradition of koryu but that's exactly why it is so important to know the lineage of a teacher.

Organizations like aikikai have a spectrum too broad (thank god!) too extrapolate something just from belonging to them.

Again my case: Our aikikai dojo and the aikikai dojo in the next town, which is influenced by another shihan, teach quite different waza.

Greetings,
Carsten

gdandscompserv
11-04-2009, 06:19 AM
As long as I'm learning the right stuff, I'll train under anybody!:D

Kevin Leavitt
11-04-2009, 06:40 AM
yeah Ricky...but how to WE KNOW...you are training the "right stuff"?

Maybe your stuff is fake stuff, or a cheap knock off.

I fought a guy once that had counterfeit skills and you could tell...it was all so obvious.

George S. Ledyard
11-04-2009, 09:39 AM
I understand your point Sensei, but there are also many folks who have authentic ranking and lineage, but their technique is not at the level of their "rank".

Absolutely true... Caveat Emptor!
But I have yet to see someone who is really good who has not had a lengthy direct teacher / student relationship with with a top teacher for many years. They may not have rank but they have that history.

I have never met anyone in Aikido who is really good at Aikido who had bounced from teacher to teacher, who never had some substantial period of time with a top teacher, who did it from videos or in his garage (shades of Tennenhouse for those that remember).

If you go to Japan and train , they don't ask what rank you are... they ask who is your teacher and how long have you trained?

If a guy says he is a 7th Dan, there are only two ways he did that. He either trained a long time under one or more legitimate teachers, or he promoted himself (or joined one of those BS organizations that cross promote).

Your chance of finding a solid teacher who doesn't have verifiable credentials is about zero, I think. And I don't mean rank. I have a friend who has trained directly under a top Shihan for many years and has simply refused promotion. He is one of the best people in the country. But the only way you will find out about him is to go to that Shihans dojo because he doesn't teach outside, doesn't travel and is almost unknown. However, if he were to leave and start his own place... I am sure that some way to give him the rank he deserves would be made. Anyway, his is an exceptional situation.

George S. Ledyard
11-04-2009, 09:43 AM
As long as I'm learning the right stuff, I'll train under anybody!:D
Ricky,
The problem is knowing what the "right stuff" is. There is a teacher of "kenjutsu" who is widely known. People spent decades under him only to find that he had literally made up the style from watching chambarra movies.

When they finally got to see what real sword work looked like, it was crushing for them. They re-affiliated with a legitimate teacher but had to virtually start over.

When they had started , they didn't know what the real goods were.

Lyle Laizure
11-04-2009, 07:29 PM
You know, I have never had a student or potential student ask me for credentials.

Buck
11-04-2009, 10:08 PM
Absolutely true... Caveat Emptor!
But I have yet to see someone who is really good who has not had a lengthy direct teacher / student relationship with with a top teacher for many years. They may not have rank but they have that history.

I have never met anyone in Aikido who is really good at Aikido who had bounced from teacher to teacher, who never had some substantial period of time with a top teacher, who did it from videos or in his garage (shades of Tennenhouse for those that remember).

If you go to Japan and train , they don't ask what rank you are... they ask who is your teacher and how long have you trained?

If a guy says he is a 7th Dan, there are only two ways he did that. He either trained a long time under one or more legitimate teachers, or he promoted himself (or joined one of those BS organizations that cross promote).

Your chance of finding a solid teacher who doesn't have verifiable credentials is about zero, I think. And I don't mean rank. I have a friend who has trained directly under a top Shihan for many years and has simply refused promotion. He is one of the best people in the country. But the only way you will find out about him is to go to that Shihans dojo because he doesn't teach outside, doesn't travel and is almost unknown. However, if he were to leave and start his own place... I am sure that some way to give him the rank he deserves would be made. Anyway, his is an exceptional situation.

I agree.

We don't have to stick with Aikido to prove it. I am using MMA and BJJ because there are posters who take it. It isn't just subject to MMA/BJJ, but many arts other than Koryu arts weigh lineage. Take BJJ (Gracies). Take MMA as well. Who you study with does make a difference in lots of ways. Do you study MMA under a UFC xxx Champion, or the guy who you think is good out of his garage? Do you really what to say you are learning from the guy who lost in the Ultimate Fighter and was sent home; despite his wicked fast hands.

When your in that bar throwing a few brews down and talking MMA do you care about who is teaching you? When it comes bragging on your S**T you going to say, I was trained by a guy out of his garage because he kicks my A**. He's got a wicked abrazo. He comes up with some sick Fantasia. Or do you say, yea I rolled with Renzo. I train under Matt Hughes. Neither of which guarantee everyone they train will be MMA champions. If you want to have a shot at being a champion you have to be trained by the best. Like George said, what is "right?"

Nafis Zahir
11-04-2009, 10:27 PM
Absolutely true... Caveat Emptor!
Your chance of finding a solid teacher who doesn't have verifiable credentials is about zero, I think. And I don't mean rank. I have a friend who has trained directly under a top Shihan for many years and has simply refused promotion. He is one of the best people in the country. But the only way you will find out about him is to go to that Shihans dojo because he doesn't teach outside, doesn't travel and is almost unknown. However, if he were to leave and start his own place... I am sure that some way to give him the rank he deserves would be made. Anyway, his is an exceptional situation.

This is what I am saying. If your friend, who seems to love Aikido, went out and started a dojo, but still refused rank or to belong to an organization, couldn't he still have students? If he is as good as you make him seem and I go an observe him and agree with you, then why does he have to have a rank or a title? Bruce Lee didn't have a rank or a title, but after seeing him, many people wanted to train under him.

Kevin Leavitt
11-04-2009, 10:37 PM
I think for most of us we train with the best we have available to us based on location, time, money and access.

Based on my location right now in Wash DC area and the fact that I get to travel to some good places, it has been a great two years for me, and I have made it a point to seek out the best teachers I can find that are willing to work with me.

I have rolled with some world class MMAer and BJJers and some of them either can't teach or are not really willing to teach me at least. It was fun, but it just wasn't gonna happen.

So, that guy that kicks your ass in the garage may be all you got and you have to make the best of it and take from him what you can learn and move on.

I have spent a few years developing my decision making criteria and "formula" for what I want and need to learn (and it evolves as my perspective and experiences improve).

So for me it is not so hard to evaluate what someone can teach me and what I can learn from them. I learn from white belts in BJJ. Just last night a guy with little experience was putting a hurt on me in a particular way that I could not deal with. So I went to work trying to figure that out...so he was my teacher last night.

In my Aikido practice it is the same. I have senior instructors and sensei that are great mentors to me and they see stuff I don't and "suggest" that I step outside my defaults and habits and try something different and I do. So, this mentorship is a little more intentional and based on a long term relationship and investment of time and energy.

I think in the beginning it is hard to figure this out and folks will struggle to develop their evaluation critieria. Heck you have no basis for it.

So, you get what you get and what you have access to.

When I first started Karate years ago...it was all pretty simple to me. Some guy wearing a black belt in a health club had legitimacy simply because he was there and had a class. I didn't look around nor really care...it is what I had access to. It seemed reasonable that he knew more than me...I tested that theory and it was true.

It could have been some guy in a garage, or that got his black belt from a spotty organization...and I also look back now on what we were doing then, and while okay...it was at a much lower skill level than where I am today!

But, as time goes, you get exposed to more and more I think and you grow if you want to and then things change.

In order for me to advance at this point I have to dump alot of time, money, and effort in my commitment. Going to seminars, plane airfare, lots of time in the dojo, teaching when asked to...

I would not recommend what I am doing to a beginner, it would be a waste of time and money since they simply cannot make use of this level of training yet. (Not that mine is earth shatteringly high mind you!).

Again, I think for most out there, lineage is not that important, because you don't have alot of choice starting out....If you live in my hometown in central VA you don't have alot of options. No aikido options that I am aware of, unless you drive 1.5 hours each way! So, you will go down to the local MMA school..that guy may have learned in the garage...and as long as he is one step ahead of you...then he is what you have for lineage and he is the expert!

Lots of good clubs have been started this way.

Heck when I started in BJJ in Germany it was literally two of us with youtube, some books, and alot of enthusiasm! I'd lead the classes and was the head instructor! Big Fish in a small pond.

Now that I am back in DC area..well I am a student. If and when I return to another assignment with no one there...well, I become the instructor again!

So, yeah I agree with George of course, but in the end...you get what you get and you make the best of it until something better comes along and that is just the way it is, unless you have lots of money and time to do what you want!

Ketsan
11-05-2009, 06:00 AM
Someone I know had a conversation with an instructor, who on paper, has a very authentic ranking of 7th dan & Shihan. But that instructor has gone out on his own, having gotten tired of all the politics in Aikido and the fact that rank is often just "given out". The person I know has been feeling the same way and thought about going independent and it was suggested to him to leave off ranking all together. The person told the Shihan that people always want to see your credentials before deciding to train under you. The Shihan replied, "Let your technique be your calling card". So my question to everyone here is, would you train under a Sensei who had no "rank". If you went to see this person and could really tell he had skills and you were impressed, would it matter to you that he does not have any ranking from any organization? Would you need to see any ranking he held from a previous organization, or would his technique be enough for you?

I joined my instructor because he can kick my ass and he can teach me how he does it.

gdandscompserv
11-05-2009, 06:05 AM
Ricky,
The problem is knowing what the "right stuff" is. There is a teacher of "kenjutsu" who is widely known. People spent decades under him only to find that he had literally made up the style from watching chambarra movies.

When they finally got to see what real sword work looked like, it was crushing for them. They re-affiliated with a legitimate teacher but had to virtually start over.

When they had started , they didn't know what the real goods were.
Good point George. One has to get around and feel alot of folks. If they have something you want to learn, go back, otherwise, keep looking, neh?

Buck
11-05-2009, 06:16 AM
All I am saying is you can't discount lineage. Yea, it is more important to some than others, but you can't say it isn't important. And Koryu might treat it differently than other arts, but you really can't say it isn't important when so much of the world we live in values lineage of some sort.

Even those who come out of obscurity and become well known in what they do, start a lineage (by default or intentionally) that becomes valued. His reputation itself is the start of lineage when anyone says, I learned from this or that guy, giving credit for their skill. Lineage more often than not comes out of reputation of skill.

I think if someone says lineage (just as skill) isn't important they haven't seen the importance lineage plays in the arts and in the world.

I understand what some are saying about lineage. I think what we really are talking about is how much weight a person, personally, put on lineage. That is an individual choice and we should respect the views and traditions of others- generally speaking. :)

George S. Ledyard
11-05-2009, 09:39 AM
This is what I am saying. If your friend, who seems to love Aikido, went out and started a dojo, but still refused rank or to belong to an organization, couldn't he still have students? If he is as good as you make him seem and I go an observe him and agree with you, then why does he have to have a rank or a title? Bruce Lee didn't have a rank or a title, but after seeing him, many people wanted to train under him.

Of course he would still have students but it would be difficult for him to build on that. Rank and or lineage give you "access". That's why everyone goes to such lengths to make it up. There is certainly a point at which the people who know, can see that you have the goods without needing to ask.

But you start at a disadvantage. Most folks who are teaching but say they aren't into rank and don't have a verifiable training history are bogus. There might be a small minority who are exceptional but like I said, I've trained for 33 years and I know ONE person like this, and he hasn't chosen to go out and teach.

As for Bruce Lee, he had years under Yip Man, an extremely well known Wing Chun teacher in Hong Kong. He was not coming out of some murky background, everyone knew exactly who his teacher had been and that it had been top notch.

In Bruce's case, he sped up the process of establishing himself by competing and winning in a number of high profile matches (except for my good friend choking him out - long before the UFC). Aikido generally doesn't have that option. So the art attracts a whole range of self styled teachers with vague training histories. Beginners don't know what to look for so they get away with it.

It's not really common, I think, for people to completely falsify their lineage (you only get a Tennenhouse once in a while). It is more common for a third or fourth Dan to feel that his talents haven't been sufficiently rewarded by his teacher and the next thing you know he has his own style and is a Shihan, or some such. All mention of his training history disappears off the website and he starts joining those bogus martial arts organizations that exist to give people like this credibility.

One person I know even has a Phd now from a martial arts "University" for whom he wrote a thesis. He calls himself "Doctor" in addition to being a "Shihan". His prior affiliations have been expunged and he's paid for one of those "Hall of Fame" awards we all gets the ads for... Would you train with someone like that?

Asiatic Budoka
11-05-2009, 09:49 AM
I suppose if he has no "rank" he could give out kaiden scrolls to his students instead of kyu and dan ranks huh?

Buck
11-05-2009, 04:05 PM
I will add also that lineage is about (but not always) keeping a history, and tradition, a continuity of a thing. In martial arts, skill/reputation does play a part of lineage, and we see that with O'Sensei and his lineage.

Martial arts skill isn't limited to just a contest fight. When we talk about martial arts skill it should be talked about in a full scope and breath, and treated as the dynamic it is. For example, Yabusame takes a variety of honed skills to be accomplished at it. It is made up of difficult and complexed skill sets. It is not as easy to learn as throwing punches or using a choke to win a contest.

Most important is that skill isn't only about about defeating someone else in a violent way. Skill can also be about not hurting someone and still defeating them in a non-violent way.

Being part of a lineage doesn't mean you aren't or are skilled. It means you are part of a chain, a link, of people, who learned from someone considered to be the founder of the line. And it doesn't really have to be about skill, but usually it is in martial arts. But, that doesn't have to be. Lineage has value and shouln't be discounted. Or it should be reduced to a measurement of contest skill.

. :)

gdandscompserv
11-05-2009, 07:17 PM
yeah Ricky...but how to WE KNOW...you are training the "right stuff"?

Maybe your stuff is fake stuff, or a cheap knock off.

I fought a guy once that had counterfeit skills and you could tell...it was all so obvious.
I wouldn't recommend anyone train under me.:rolleyes:
My stuff may indeed be fake. Hell, I might not even have stuff.
I don't fight much anymore, but I like to train pretty hard. Whether or not I'm wasting my time is anyone's guess.:D

osaya
11-05-2009, 08:48 PM
Currently armed with *some* aikido experience, and having a better idea of what to look out for, I'd be quite happy to train with a "no rank" sensei if 1) the sensei was good, 2) there's something i can/want to learn from him/her and 3) s/he was able to transmit that knowledge.
Fees, location and all that other stuff would obviously be factors in making my decision, but in regard to rank vs. no rank, that's a minimal concern for me at this stage of my aikido career.

That said, if I was a complete beginner, I doubt I would have gone for a 'no rank sensei' because I wouldn't know what the heck I was looking at/for. I'd probably take a safer bet and go for something that sounded a bit more secure/credible.

FWIW, sy

PeterR
11-05-2009, 10:47 PM
Are we talking about someone who never had rank or someone who does not advertise it or gave it up.

A huge difference.

Nafis Zahir
11-05-2009, 11:46 PM
Are we talking about someone who never had rank or someone who does not advertise it or gave it up.

A huge difference.

Could be both. What if the person just trained and never wanted to test? What if the person was 3rd dan or above and just got tired of all of the politics and just decided to teach what they knew? Would it make that much of a difference? What about reputation?

Nafis Zahir
11-05-2009, 11:48 PM
In Bruce's case, he sped up the process of establishing himself by competing and winning in a number of high profile matches (except for my good friend choking him out - long before the UFC).



Sensei, I would really like to hear that story!

phitruong
11-06-2009, 06:01 AM
in the old days in Asia, when you setup martial art shop, you have folks come and ask to "teach them", i.e. a polite way of asking for a fight. those darn Asians were pretty polite up until they kicked your ass. methink, Ueshiba had experienced this sort of things many times.
personally, those who can kick my ass, i'd learn from them; those who can't, i'd learn from them too. :)
on the other hand, whichever other hand, those who can kick my nuts, that would just be war! :D

Amassus
11-06-2009, 06:34 PM
There's a difference between No Rank and Independent. I have no problem with Independent. But there are a lot pf folks out there who claim rank that is bogus... wouldn't train with them, for a variety of reasons.

I agree.

I have been trained and ranked by a man who is independent. He holds a rank which may or may not be recognised by large aikido organisations. Yet I still train with him. Why?

He has personal integrity, is sincere and I can leave, when I want, if I choose. Money is not a big driver for this guy either. Those characterisitics tell me a lot more about this person than his belt colour.

I do know the lineage of this club and I agree with those that say aikido traditions do hold some importance. I have also trained at other clubs that are affilitated with other groups. This is important for a bigger view of things.

It's a tough one. As others have said, in a martial art that does not include competition, assessing quality of an instructor is tricky.

Be cautious newbies.:D

piyush.kumar
11-25-2009, 02:04 PM
If i may,
I thought a student had to beg the teacher to be his student. At least that was so in the olden days. The student would have to prove his/her worth to the teacher before being accepted. That humblness and humility opened up the student to the learning even if it is very little from the teacher. One can always learn something from everyone, even a bad teacher. If one has the attitude that i am only going to join him if he meets my expectations on the technique that he does, one would be surprised how untrained eyes cannot fathom all the lil details that go into making one. For a master, every movement is measured and as a beginner, we do not even know what to look for. Leastways i didnt :).

piyush.kumar
11-25-2009, 02:07 PM
And if one does happen to end up in a place with no lineage, heck, perhaps that is telling you that you about to make a new one and even if you cudnt, one at least tried :)

Nestor Cubas
11-25-2009, 02:59 PM
Yes, I think I would. I am a "no rank" Kendo sensee. And when there was an examination in Guatemala form the CLAK (latin american Kendo confederation) led by Kogima Kyoshi from Brazil, my two students who assisted get their Ikkyu, that proved them I teached the true kendo. Now my students has kendo Kyu and I am still "no rank", but i remain the Dojo leader.
So my actual Aikido sensee has "no rank" too, but I feel that he transmit the spirit needed in Budo.
In Karate I have a Sandan recognized by world karate federation.

aikidoc
11-25-2009, 03:00 PM
Although one can learn from a bad instructor, even if it is what not to do, as one becomes more experienced with years of training good and bad kihon become apparent. My wife just being around it for so many years can pick out bad Aikido.

Cynrod
11-26-2009, 09:55 PM
Sensei, I would really like to hear that story!

Maybe you also want to check on Trovador Ramos the founder of TRACMA.

Phil Van Treese
11-27-2009, 02:30 PM
I love it when people say a "no rank" sensei. I had that comment made to me once from a group of people watching me teach. I simply stopped the class and sat the class down. Then I walked on over to the big mouth and invited the big mouth to get on the mat and do his best. They left and never returned. If you have doubt about a certain person and his rank, try him out. You can tell. Then you make your decision.

crickel
11-27-2009, 04:31 PM
I can understand why some people choose to use rank. The various Aikido associations need some way to keep track of which people have been where for how long, and ranks are a convenient tradition everyone is familiar with.

That said, even between just three different schools, I have seen wildly different definitions of what the belts meant, the skill levels involved, and whether or not they use the Japanese ranks or colored belts.

I've always felt you can get a pretty good feel for what kind of an aikidoka someone is from taking a few falls with them. More to the point, you don't just pick up how long they've been doing this, but you pick up some of what kind of a person they are and what kind of attitude they approach the mat and their partner with. Those things are just as important as someone's rank.

--- Craig

Anjisan
11-27-2009, 05:17 PM
I love it when people say a "no rank" sensei. I had that comment made to me once from a group of people watching me teach. I simply stopped the class and sat the class down. Then I walked on over to the big mouth and invited the big mouth to get on the mat and do his best. They left and never returned. If you have doubt about a certain person and his rank, try him out. You can tell. Then you make your decision.

I loved that response! The guy was probably expecting you to walk over and ask the he grab your wrist. It makes me smile every time that the Aikido stereotype is broken. Kudos to you!