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Chuck Clark
06-13-2012, 09:58 AM
I read something recently that brought up a question in my mind.

I've been around for awhile and have heard many different ideas about this... What is your understanding about: "teaching credentials" or something like "teaching certification", "permission to teach" etc.? Of course there are a variety of different ways this is done by different organizations and teachers, and, then there are individuals that just decided to teach others what they know. I'd like to see what others know and think about this subject.

Regards,

Chuck Clark

Chris Parkerson
06-13-2012, 10:51 AM
Greetings Shihan,

I trained in your organization under Russell Waddell in the 1990's. Great memories.

And an interesting question....

Regards,

Chris Parkerson

MM
06-14-2012, 04:29 PM
It seems to vary from organization to organization in the martial arts. I guess for some organizations, it's traditional. For some, they've implemented things like this to appear more traditional. For some, it's just a way of recognizing people for training, achievements, years of service, etc. Course, there's always the McDojo's with all the patches and certifications.

When it matters, I think people ask someone that they know about this kind of stuff. Or they listen to people that they trust. I could be Roppodai Menkyo Great Grandmaster Soke Poobah with a Nijuichidan Hanshi Teacher's Certificate, but it wouldn't mean anything. :D

Personally, I have a shodan certificate signed by you, Stan Connors, Steve Duncan, and a few others and it means a lot to me. It was the quality of the people which made that certificate important, not the titles they held.

IMO,
Mark

Garth Jones
06-14-2012, 04:35 PM
My personal experience has been the 'teach because you have to' credential. My wife and I had to open a dojo in order to keep training. To keep the dojo going, we kind of have to teach the classes. This was all done in consultation with our teacher, who was very encouraging. That being said, we don't have any formal teaching credentials other than our aikido rank.

Cheers,
Garth

PS I think Mark has the right idea. It's time to make myself a certificate proclaiming that I am a 10th Dan Great Uber Grandmaster of All Space Time....:)

Chris Parkerson
06-14-2012, 05:18 PM
The iconoclast that I am, I dream of a day when teaching is a shared thing where the Socratic method allows one individual to assist another in self discovery; where holarchy replaces hierarchy, where we all laugh and smile with authentic recognition of our divine oneness.

Rank and titles are as much a prison as they are a license. If there is a grand pubah, we are it.

Three cheers for Ikkyu

Chris

Benjamin Green
06-14-2012, 07:02 PM
Depends whether you want to teach within an organisation or not. If you are teaching with an organisation, that's the guy running that organisation's reputation on the line; if you turn out to be ill-suited to it, he looks bad. So, in those conditions, it's only polite that you play by his rules; whatever they happen to be.

As for striking out and setting up your own club - you don't need a qualification. However, I would strongly advise you to take an NVQ or something in coaching.

The ability to do a thing really isn't the same as the ability to teach it. If you can't gives examples of different ways of phrasing things, different ways of motivating people, different ways of assessing and giving them feedback on their progress - and most importantly of how those interact with different personality types, different learning styles and different goals that your potential students might have - then I urge you in the strongest possible terms to do what you can to get that knowledge. Read about coaching, read about management, take a vocational qualification.

Unless you're a natural, you will do much better if you have some insight into all that before you try to start teaching, rather than learning it the hard way. Some people never learn it; there are a lot of clubs out there with a handful of members, run by people who have absolutely no idea how to teach effectively and don't know why they're not more successful.

Chuck Clark
06-15-2012, 12:30 AM
Someone mentioned to me that a yudansha certificate means that the holder has the right to teach. Another wrote about a teaching credential at shodan level... this is the sort of thing I'd like to find out if it's real or just assumed by certain people, groups, organizations, etc. I know that various koryu have different levels of instructing that are possible and of course, formal levels of teaching authority. How about other organizations?

Mark, your feelings about your certificate is how I've always felt also. It's the only thing that really gives it any value in my opinion.

Chris, I agree. We kinda have that sort of thing going on in our various dojo now and especially when we get a large group together for gasshuku.

Michael Hackett
06-15-2012, 01:13 AM
The AAA conducts instructor's seminars frequently and awards various certifications, related to rank. As I recall, from 3rd kyu to shodan is "Jyoshu" (Instructor's Assistant), shodan to nidan are awarded "Fukushidoin" (Assistant Instructor), sandan are awarded "Shidoin" (Instructor) and yondan and above are awarded "Sensei" certifications. I don't know if there is some supposed authority conveyed with each level. I know of at least one shodan who opened his own dojo under the umbrella of the AAA. My understanding is that all yudansha ranks are awarded after testing before a Regional Test Committee and that individual dojo cho may not award rank beyond ikkyu.

The instructor's seminars are conducted by the Regional Training Committees and focus on the techniques of teaching. There is considerable emphasis on showing "tricks of the trade" for dealing with specific problems students frequently encounter.

batemanb
06-15-2012, 02:50 AM
In the UK, many individual associations belong to the British Aikido Board. The BAB purpose is to set guidelines intending to create a high standard of Aikido coaching that it's member associations conform to, whilst still remaining autonomous with their own "styles", grading structures, hierarchies etc. There is a three tier level of coaching qualifications, with a number of course modules that have to be completed in order to achieve the qualifications. There's full info in the link below

http://www.bab.org.uk/coaching/coachinginfo.asp

My club has always been part of a BAB member association, so we have always followed these guidelines. From my perspective, I think it's a good idea, the modules are useful and give the individual
ideas and information on how to teach, that they may not be aware of if they were to just rock up and start "teaching" the Aikido that they know. I think it does help prepare you for the steps ahead.

Chris Parkerson
06-15-2012, 06:50 AM
Chuck,

I currently train with Moe Stevens, Son of Merrit Stevens. We are both in our late 50's. The collaboration has no territorial issues. Others in the dojo stand equally in the circle and have the freedom to ask anything, argue a point, and challenge our answers.

We will often reverse engineer a movement, clearly breaking new ground, and obviously all stumped, without fear of losing face. It rarely fails, when everyone's experience joins in, we all enjoy the discovery process. Moe is a very unique man, humble and loving. Definitely Socratic.

We call his backyard 1500 square foot garage dojo "The Mojo". It is a regional locus for Tomiki Aikido. And there is good juju at the Mojo.

Thanks,

Chris

Basia Halliop
06-15-2012, 08:43 AM
I've never seen teaching credentials per se, but in my organization there are certifications allowing people to give tests and award ranks (fukoshidoin and shidoin) - http://usafaikidonews.com/category/usaf-certified-instructors/

As far as I know/see anyone can actually teach though -- it just means your students may need to test in front of someone else to get a USAF rank. And of course junior instructors in a dojo teach under their teacher's supervision and guidance, with no specific rules or requirements except those applied by the head of the dojo.

Dazzler
06-15-2012, 08:54 AM
In the UK, many individual associations belong to the British Aikido Board. The BAB purpose is to set guidelines intending to create a high standard of Aikido coaching that it's member associations conform to, whilst still remaining autonomous with their own "styles", grading structures, hierarchies etc. There is a three tier level of coaching qualifications, with a number of course modules that have to be completed in order to achieve the qualifications. There's full info in the link below

http://www.bab.org.uk/coaching/coachinginfo.asp

My club has always been part of a BAB member association, so we have always followed these guidelines. From my perspective, I think it's a good idea, the modules are useful and give the individual
ideas and information on how to teach, that they may not be aware of if they were to just rock up and start "teaching" the Aikido that they know. I think it does help prepare you for the steps ahead.

Agreed Bryan. While I don't think its essential it certainly never did anyone any harm and there are certainly benefits from picking the brains of others.

Chuck Clark
06-15-2012, 09:36 AM
Chris, I have fond memories of training with and having hands on Moe on many occasions in the early days of summer and winter gasshuku in Houston in the late seventies. Please give him my regards.

To all: I think one of the things that has hurt Japanese budo and martial arts in general is when large organizations pretty much took away the old ways of "promotion"... having large groups once or twice a year have "tests" where often the word would be out that a percentage of them wouldn't pass. A board or committee (that often weren't really connected with their teacher) would judge and award pass or fail decisions. I have seen and heard of more times when it then took months or even years before a certificate was given. Granted certificates aren't that big a deal (especially to Japanese... most of the Japanese budo people I have known never put them in public view, most often stored in some private place. I know a couple of people, graded fairly high dan that never told their friends, family, coworkers, etc. that they even trained in budo, chado, shodo, etc.

The whole bundle of human values, ego, etc. that surrounds any sort of promotion, certification, licensing, etc. certainly is a quagmire of conflicting "stuff" and emotional baggage. The idea of using a rank, a "teaching credential" (especially when assuming it goes along with a shodan certificate) as a marker for quality rather than the person themselves and the quality of their actions and waza seems really bent to me. (that's a technical term, you know...)

It's interesting to me to see how different organizations deal with promotions and certifications. Please, more info ...

Thanks to everyone for sharing.

Chris Parkerson
06-15-2012, 09:54 AM
Chuck,

I will give Moe your regards. To be sure, our environment is quite American in perspective. But, as you know, Moe maintains great respect and honor to his Japanese teachers, father and all who came before him. We stress open hearts, human connections and also tend to keep the rank in the private wall of one's home. We do have regional testing regularly.

Gassho,

Chris

Nicholas Eschenbruch
06-15-2012, 10:37 AM
Chuck,
I am currently sort of familiar with two systems: in one you are actively encouraged to teach, or even start a small group, at shodan - however, the general assumption is that, within a regional network of such groups, you regularly attend both special weekly training sessions for higher grades and lots of seminars with higher ranking instructors, local and visiting. So would your students, the more advanced ones at least. Almost nobody teaches professionally in this system, and groups typically use local public gyms to train. Hierarchy, rights and duties (like who may examine, which teachers get invited for seminars...) are very structured and quite explicit. The basic operating unit is the region. Yudansha are promoted exam style when their teachers feel they are ready, regardless of time spent in the art.

The other is based on dojos run by professional instructors, typically sandan and above, who teach as a personal calling and try to make a living doing so. Dojos have their own rented space and tend to offer complementary activities such as Yoga, kids classes, body work or the like. They also have uchideshi and it seems sort of customary for the professional instructors to have been uchideshi with their teacher for some time. Hierarchy is mostly implicit, along several dimensions (mostly rank and time spent with higher-ranking teachers), but it is quite clear. Dojos are quite independent and dojo-chos have a lot of leeway how they organise teaching in their place. The basic operating unit is the dojo. Not quite sure about Yudansha promotions here, but the aikikai hour requirements seem to play a role amongst other things.

Now of course in both systems there are probably lots of exceptions to this, I just sketch ideal types.

Keith Larman
06-15-2012, 11:04 AM
FWIW over the last few years there has been a push underway within our organization to implement teacher certification. Up until the attempt to implement certification it was really up to each dojo to decide who could teach what and when. There are a lot of issues in our particular case that muddied the waters, so to speak, so we've had issues. One in particular is the impression many have that somehow being awarded a shodan meant the person is okay to teach. I'm not exactly sure where that impression came from, but some did believe that and believed it quite strongly. Me, coming from a background of testing and skills measurement, well, I find that ludicrous. The reality is that only some people teach well. And getting to a demonstrated skill level doesn't mean one can transmit those skills to others.

Of course the next issue becomes how to go about it. And oddly enough the way we did it before (which essentially left it up to each dojo to decide who among their own was qualified to teach) probably worked fairly well in some sense of the word. What it did was allowed the local ostensibly "most qualified" person to decide who could teach. And they could base that on their impression of their teaching ability, skills, results, etc. Since this is such a "hands-on" IHTBF kinda deal it really does make some sense to do it that way.

The problem, of course, is that as an organization grows and you are trying to keep some standardization as to "what" it is you're teaching from location to location you need to implement something to get a more consistent approach to teaching. Which in many cases means instructor certification. So in our case they implemented checklists for those in charge at each dojo to go through for various levels of certification. The higher the certification the more stringent the requirements, such as having their teaching observed and evaluated by shihan for instance.

My feeling on all of this is actually rather complex. In a small group it really should be up to the top people to simply indicate who should teach. As it grows if the organization wants to keep some degree of consistency they really do need to come up with a certification protocol of some sort as it becomes too difficult for one person to fill that role. I personally think certification should be separate but somewhat related (i.e., a shodan is going to top out as an assistant teacher) to rank.

Teaching ability is sometimes quite different from the skill in the art itself. Sure, there are very talented shodan out there. And I'm sure someone is going to raise the objection that super-duper shodan Bob over hear is an exceptional teacher with amazing abilities and he never pursued higher rank so he should have a higher certification than allowed by his rank. To nip that objection in the bud, that's actually a criticism of the ranking system rather than a criticism of the certification. If everything is done correctly I think it is a good thing as rank and teaching ability, while somewhat related and certainly interdependent in some ways, are actually two different factors.

But underlying assumption to this sort of discussion is that the certification system is itself coherent, well thought out, and implemented consistently. If it is then you have the very best people giving out those teaching "licenses" if you will. The idea is to avoid the idea of the certification as a sort of "collecting pins" but instead have it as a set of high hurdles that are meaningful.

If you look at many koryu arts without ranks many simply have different levels of "teaching permissions" handed down. So someone can teach the first "level" of arts as a first step. The "ranking" of sorts is along these lines and ideally should reflect both the person's mastery of the art as well as their ability to pass it along to the next student, at least at the level they're at.

FWIW.

Abasan
06-15-2012, 11:09 AM
Honestly, I'd prefer a teacher undergo a peer review before being allowed to teach. No matter how well meaning the person maybe, he needs to pass an acid test to teach technical aikido. This by no means assure you that he'll be a good teacher, just that he would be technically correct and his syllabus would be ok.

As far as being a good teacher, only your teacher and your students can tell.

In cases where there are no choices but to teach, then teach with caveats and full disclosure. You are learning as much as you teach. And I subscribe to the fact that 70% of learning comes the student anyhow.

JO
06-15-2012, 12:12 PM
In the Aikikai there are dan requirements for the three levels of instructor. 2 or 3 dan for fukushidoin, 4 or above for shidoin and 6 or above for shihan. Fukushidoin and shidoin are awarded by the local organisation and shihan by the Aikikai hombu. There is a lot of variation in the way that aikikai organizations award the fukushidoin and shidoin titles. Bassia gave the link to a USAF page on the subject. Here is a link to the canadian take on the matter : http://www.canadianaikidofederation.ca/en_technical.php

Personnally I like the idea of having reaching credentials linked to rank but still a seperate issue. The main problem is coming up of a way to maintain standards in a large organization where it is impossible for everyone to know eachother.

A good credentials system from a recognized organization should help people unfamiliar with the subject (such as most new students, who have no clue about the martial arts) identify people worth learning from. The old statements of judging a teacher's skill that get used a lot here are of little to no use to someone without some skill and experience him or herself on which to base judgment. You/we have to find a way to test and maintain standards. Can you imagine choosing a doctor based on your own personal judgment of his work (assuming you're not in the medical feild yourself). You depend on the professional boards and schools to maintain their standards.

Nicholas Eschenbruch
06-15-2012, 01:00 PM
Re: formalised teaching credentials, even teaching training - I do not believe in them very much (and I have formal teaching certificates of some sort in a couple of fields, and teaching is a central part of my job). Of course, there are valid ideas out there that can help to organise teaching, but at the end of the day, I believe its mostly in one's own inspiration (as teacher or student).

One of my crucial teachers (not in aikido) was a man who in a way actively refused to teach. He still inspired me to learn more than anybody else in that field. If he mentioned a book in passing, I'd read it. Again, he would not have inspired other students. There are people who would pass any teacher training with flying colours and who are totally uninspiring.

Another one of my teachers likes to say:
A bad teacher does not give you permission.
A good teacher gives you permission.
An outstanding teacher shows you you do not need permission.

Yet another one sometimes made me fel I had to learn against his formal teaching. Boy did I try hard, and it helped.

Just to put out a strong thesis: formalised teaching credentials encourage mediocrity in teachers and students.

Morihei Ueshiba never quite "taught" in that sense, did he? :)

PeterR
06-15-2012, 09:33 PM
Hi Chuck;

I sort of tried answering your question but deleted the first attempt as it seemed trite. Next try and basically brought out by your comment about Japanese high Dan keeping quiet.

I think within Shodokan (Tomiki) Aikido in Japan there are those that train and move up quietly, there are those that don't even move up beyond a certificate level but just train and then there are those that actively want to move up, to teach, to put themselves out there. I suspect that is true in all budo organizations inside and outside Japan. Perhaps proportions change but I suspect not much.

Soooo within Shodokan there actually is a teaching certification awarded to those at least with a Yondan and generally to those that have spent time as deshi. Yes I know we are all students but I think you know what I mean.

For the rest of us we are not encouraged to go out and teach but if we do decide to do that the encouragement and support is there. In my case, far from unique, I ran a small club in Canada with just a Shodan. I know of at least a couple of cases where there they did not even have a dan grade but it works out since people teach what they know.

I did start a club in Japan at Shodan but the Nidan followed pretty quick. Also not particularily unique I know but at least there were mechanisms in place that allowed students to be exposed and taught by higher level teachers.

Chuck Clark
06-15-2012, 09:39 PM
Thanks to everyone... this is the sort of info I'm looking for. We have had an "informal teachers training" in Jiyushinkai for some years trying to put together a formal teachers training and certification system. We have, as part of our system, a group of kihon no kata that teaches specific lessons in principle. We also have maintained Tomiki sensei's group of koryu no kata that preserve history plus giving different examples of varying ways of using basic principle. Also, one of the main parts of our practice is randori between two and then at times three or four people. Within the randori type practice we also have many drills based on randori situations that explore and practice often very slowly but with as much reality of movement as possible. We learn many different situational solutions to problems from at least four directions to start with. Connection and understanding of proper kuzushi and control of sente is a priority. In my experience, as students learn the basic kata they tend to "do the kata, the waza in ways that are comfortable" for them. Often this ends with straying away from principle by using strength, etc. We also test each other at any time to keep ourselves from falling into habitual bad habits. Everyone is held accountable for being able to go back to and teach basic kihon no kata at all levels. Much like a musician playing scales and exercises instead of just their own style of music that pleases them. Instructors and teachers must be able to do both, basic principle and then incorporating those principles in their own stylistic versions as needed in randori or if ever needed in shinken shobu. We are determined to come up with a usable and valuable system of training instructors who will grow into teachers who can do it all.

Many of you have shown by your posts here that you have similar intent in trying to develop and keep real quality in your practice. Wish we could all get together more easily. Times are hard now but we can continue with quality training for sure.

Thanks again and please more communication about this subject.

Chuck Clark
06-15-2012, 09:45 PM
Hi Peter, your post just popped up as I entered my last one. Great to hear from you. I don't post here much anymore... mostly just read others stuff. However, this subject is very interesting to me.

JO
06-15-2012, 11:07 PM
Just to put out a strong thesis: formalised teaching credentials encourage mediocrity in teachers and students.


If this is the case you are simply giving the credentials to the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Of course, no system will ever be perfect.

My formal schooling is in science. The best scientists are expected to teach and tend to get the highest credentials (though I'll admit to "rankings" I don't agree with). But what does teaching mean? Science classes for non scientists often come down to a bunch of facts and theories to memorize, but science classes for scientists (which usually really starts about half way through your undergrad, at least in my case) is all about how to find things out for yourself. And for those that truly stay in the field the most important teachers are mentors, teaching mostly by example and good advise.

I think that the best results in aikido could follow a similar pattern. Simply showing the basics in a pedagogical manner to those just starting out and then moving on to mostly teaching by example and letting your students figure things out. This also allows you to have less advanced people start getting involved in actively teaching since they should be able, even before shodan, to show some basic elements of the training to those less advanced.

I followed this type of path in aikido, first "helping out" showing beginners as I trained with them, then at about 1st kyu occasionally substituting when my sensei was not around, then starting last year (now at nidan) I was given a regular weekly class to teach. All under the supervision of a sixth dan certified shidoin.

Of course all of this is made tricky in a dojo by having everyone of all ranks train together. But that also makes the training richer and gives everyone the chance to teach and to learn, to show and to watch.

PeterR
06-16-2012, 03:27 AM
Hi Peter, your post just popped up as I entered my last one. Great to hear from you. I don't post here much anymore... mostly just read others stuff. However, this subject is very interesting to me.
Same here - although there has been a slight upsurge recently. Just find that I don't have much to contribute in threads that don't devolve into contention. I avoid the latter like the plague.

Back to teaching.

At Shodokan Honbu at least part of the class has people paired with lower grades for preparation for testing. This happens nearly every class with very structured exams. The end result is that people tend to go through the testing material multiple time - initially to learn - and again to explain. Learning to teach is pretty much a given. One wonders what further qualifications do accomplish.

PeterR
06-16-2012, 03:33 AM
I started really understanding science when I started working as a lab instructor. Started getting more than half decent when I started taking responsibility for others growth.

I see very strong parallels between my science and my aikido.

If this is the case you are simply giving the credentials to the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Of course, no system will ever be perfect.

My formal schooling is in science. The best scientists are expected to teach and tend to get the highest credentials (though I'll admit to "rankings" I don't agree with). But what does teaching mean? Science classes for non scientists often come down to a bunch of facts and theories to memorize, but science classes for scientists (which usually really starts about half way through your undergrad, at least in my case) is all about how to find things out for yourself. And for those that truly stay in the field the most important teachers are mentors, teaching mostly by example and good advise.

I think that the best results in aikido could follow a similar pattern. Simply showing the basics in a pedagogical manner to those just starting out and then moving on to mostly teaching by example and letting your students figure things out. This also allows you to have less advanced people start getting involved in actively teaching since they should be able, even before shodan, to show some basic elements of the training to those less advanced.

I followed this type of path in aikido, first "helping out" showing beginners as I trained with them, then at about 1st kyu occasionally substituting when my sensei was not around, then starting last year (now at nidan) I was given a regular weekly class to teach. All under the supervision of a sixth dan certified shidoin.

Of course all of this is made tricky in a dojo by having everyone of all ranks train together. But that also makes the training richer and gives everyone the chance to teach and to learn, to show and to watch.

Chuck Clark
06-16-2012, 09:10 AM
I started really understanding science when I started working as a lab instructor. Started getting more than half decent when I started taking responsibility for others growth.

I see very strong parallels between my science and my aikido.

"Started getting more than half decent when I started taking responsibility for others growth."

I just had to emphasize this statement again... and again.

This made me remember a story.

I'll try to make this brief. Many years ago (about 25+ if I remember correctly), a very talented budoka who had started learning karate as a child came to us as a godan and took to our stuff like a duck to water. After a few years, he moved away and asked permission to start his own dojo. After a couple of years, he invited me and my son, Aaron to visit for a few days. We took a couple of our young turks with us... the more the merrier, always. After about an hour in the dojo, Aaron and I looked at each other and began to laugh. Everyone was doing extremely well for the amount of time they had been training. None of them had done any martial arts before. Problem was... every one of them, male and female.... looked exactly like a carbon copy of their teacher who was 6'4" or so. Short people were taking 6'4" sized steps, etc. Body idiosyncrasies were the same even down to facial expressions. Kiai were the same, etc.

Imitation can be good... that is, imitation of principle is good in the beginning, but not stylistic mannerisms lock, stock, and barrel. When we pointed it out he was astounded. It hadn't occurred to him, but he saw it right away. It took about a year to correct this. A good lesson for us all.

PeterR
06-16-2012, 10:22 AM
ah Chuck.-

Who am I imitating or who is imitating me. :D

PeterR
06-16-2012, 10:36 AM
A high level instructor at Shodokan Honbu once said that it was obvious who were my students. They always graded well but apparently there was something. They varied from 45 Kg to 160 Kg - male and female, Japanese and non-Japanese, gifted and not-so. Was that a good thing or a bad thing. That was never made clear.

Nicholas Eschenbruch
06-16-2012, 11:59 AM
Hi Jonathan,

If this is the case you are simply giving the credentials to the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Of course, no system will ever be perfect.

In a way, I would not even disagree, but then most formalised systems I have experienced tend to end up that way, so I would still claim I am not entirely off track empirically speaking. But as I said, the thesis is mainly to foster discussion, not for me to be right.

In a way, mediocrity was probably the wrong word to use, I am all in favour of aikido for everybody who is willing to learn. I just could not think of a better word.

My formal schooling is in science. The best scientists are expected to teach and tend to get the highest credentials (though I'll admit to "rankings" I don't agree with). But what does teaching mean? Science classes for non scientists often come down to a bunch of facts and theories to memorize, but science classes for scientists (which usually really starts about half way through your undergrad, at least in my case) is all about how to find things out for yourself. And for those that truly stay in the field the most important teachers are mentors, teaching mostly by example and good advise.

I think that the best results in aikido could follow a similar pattern. Simply showing the basics in a pedagogical manner to those just starting out and then moving on to mostly teaching by example and letting your students figure things out. This also allows you to have less advanced people start getting involved in actively teaching since they should be able, even before shodan, to show some basic elements of the training to those less advanced.

(...)



The science point is interesting. Of course we have to consider two points: (1) in which way is the knowledge in a field organised and (2) to which level do we want to educate people.

Science knowledge - without going into too much theory - seems to have a lot of inherent logic to it, and the advanced stuff builds directly on the basics. With aikido I am not so sure. A lot of the kihon I have experienced in aikido (and I have trained in dojos of four respectable traditions for some amount of time) is structured in a way that it will actually, at some point, have to be unlearned again in parts if you want to become what I consider really good.

(Now, granted, for a lot of people in all of these systems being really good at their kihon is identical with being really good in aikido. I would disagree, but let's maybe not go there, cause we may end up in the dungeon and it has been a great conversation so far.)

Now, with kihon of 'limited reach' you can still get ok aikido to a great number of people as a meaningful activity, let's say by training twice a week. I am all in favour. If I would, however, design a curriculum for people who want to get really good, I would start them with grappling, bokken kata, bodywork and meditation, and if you do that regularly plus a little aikido technique you end up with a six-session-a-week curriculum. I am not sure how to reconcile the two at the moment. Maybe that is why I hardly teach these days. (And I realise Peter and Chuck come from lineages that do a lot of things aikikai lineages tend not to do)

So, to come back to you academic comparison: I am from the humanities and social sciences, and I see there what I see in aikido: mediocre teaching of too much standard knowledge and disciplinary convention leads to too few people reaching really high for questions that matter.

Thanks for the conversation!

Adam Huss
06-16-2012, 12:36 PM
I think the "imitating your teacher" idea is worthy of its own thread and could produce some interesting conversation. Anyone want to start one?

jonreading
06-16-2012, 01:18 PM
1. I think it is important to highlight those challenged with the obligation of teaching. I hope most teachers have sought and received permission to instruct from their instructor or organization.

2. I think it is important to support teachers by assisting them to teach better. It sounds funny, but I know many good martial artists who cannot teach for anything; I also know a few martial artists who are not excellent but are excellent teachers.

Given these two points, I boil the issue largely down to competency and transmission. Teachers need to be competent and they need to successfully transmit curriculum. I do not know if credentials are as important to these two issues as identifying and designating teachers. I think right now, we have "teachers" who when put in the spotlight back away from their status, rather than accept they have additional pressure to correctly instruct. "Your footwork was wrong in the video. Well... I wasn't teaching when we made that video..." I think designating instructors and assistant instructors is a good way to begin, rather than a credential process. If you see a teacher who is not competent, you will leave. If you cannot learn anything from a teacher, you will leave. Just because someone has a certificate hanging on the wall does not mean you will learn from her.

Tangental to the question, but I feel appropriate to mention is that I do not believe the role of teaching [in aikido] should exclude spiritual development. I believe spiritual, emotional, and moral leadership falls outside the realm of technical instruction.

In ASU, Saotome Shihan is very encouraging of instructors. We have seniors who will take extra time with younger instructors to help develop teaching styles and point out important issues. We have seminars that focus on proper technique and transmission. Sensei has highlighted a few of his direct students for us to emulate. I think he has talked about a certification for instructors but has not put anything into play yet. Right now his big guys get fancy gis. I feel very encouraged that my peers will help me to be a better teacher and I am empowered to become better.

FWIW

Basia Halliop
06-16-2012, 02:44 PM
Agree that teaching teaches the teacher. It teaches how to teach, and it also helps you understand the content differently. I can't imagine doing no teaching for most of your education, then taking a few courses and suddenly being in charge of a lot of teaching (let alone starting your own dojo or school). From what I've seen and experienced, learning to teach is a longer process to learn, learned best though example and long-term mentorship and frequent practice and continuing attention to improvement.

Maybe it's just the courses I've taken (e.g. to be a teaching assistant in a university) and had people I know take (various people I've known who went to teacher's college), but they tended to be pretty limited in how much you could really learn from them -- and usually those who already had significant teaching experience seemed to get far more out of them. So from that point of view I think ongoing professional development tends to be more valuable than courses before you start teaching. You need a base of experience before you understand what questions you want to discuss with your mentors and peers.

JO
06-16-2012, 07:34 PM
Hi Jonathan,

Science knowledge - without going into too much theory - seems to have a lot of inherent logic to it, and the advanced stuff builds directly on the basics. With aikido I am not so sure. A lot of the kihon I have experienced in aikido (and I have trained in dojos of four respectable traditions for some amount of time) is structured in a way that it will actually, at some point, have to be unlearned again in parts if you want to become what I consider really good.

(Now, granted, for a lot of people in all of these systems being really good at their kihon is identical with being really good in aikido. I would disagree, but let's maybe not go there, cause we may end up in the dungeon and it has been a great conversation so far.)

Thanks for the conversation!

My take is that the kihon are an entry point. They give you a framework in which to learn the important principles and ways of being that are important to learning the art. To stick to the teaching aspect, I would say that as a teacher you have to design your basics in a way that they will never have to be unlearned. Eventually a student should discover that a lot of the little details are not so important, but they should never be in conflict with your vision, as the teacher, of what the students are trying to achieve. Maybe part of your problem is that you have trained in too many traditions in a same art while not acknowledging the huge variation that exists in aikido in terms of what people are trying to become.

PeterR
06-16-2012, 11:14 PM
Chuck and I may come from different lineages true but I do think the points being made got across styles and even budo in general. So a couple of observations.

Shodokan (Tomiki) does differ from Aikikai for instance in both what we call randori and the formalization of the kata but you will also see what we call Ni nin dori or san nin dori which is akin to the Aikikai style randori. By the way more than three opponents really is not much more difficult just less useful - the attackers just get in each others way and therefore tend to come in as two's and three's if you are lucky.

However with respect to teaching I find that those who are really good at kata also tend to be very good at the different forms of randori. You may say that is due to plain athletic ability and there is some truth in that but on the other hand when I look at kihon I look for other aspects beyond hand here, foot there. As the grade goes up those things become more important till the point hopefully where randori and kata converge.

In teaching that is the biggest difference between higher level and lower level. A gokyu helping a nanakyu may not be ready to transmit that knowledge just as the nanakyu might not be ready to receive it. Perhaps the teaching qualification the Chuck is talking about may be about the transmission of the higher level subtleties rather than the basic movements. I would even suggest a Dan specific seminar concentrating on the strategic rather than the tactical with a teaching certificate to follow after let's say san-dan if teaching qualities are demonstrated - look at who trains with them.

Chuck Clark
06-17-2012, 12:47 AM
Good suggestion, Peter... we do that sort of thing regularly. We haven't really issued any formal teaching certificates yet, but we're thinking about it. If we do it, it will not be something that is just given after some number of seminars have been met for sure. The Kodokan issues a "license" I think it's called or used to be in the formal kata of KDK judo. To instruct in a kata you should be licensed showing that you've been through a thorough formal schooling and have a signature that is from a very high dan that is really proficient in both demonstrating the kata and teaching it. Not just a "run of the mill" demo type skill but a very deep understanding and ability to show the subtleties of target, distance, and timing; also thorough understanding of the use of sente and the strategic use of many facets of soft kuzushi, tsukuri, which causes and ends in very powerful kake of the waza by using the aite's intent and power. Kata training is the tool to really learn this so it's very important that we don't lose this by relying on some sort of luck that it gets passed on. I've seen very "special" talent in this sort of thing lost due to an inability to teach the principles and methods of learning it. We owe it to our students and the coming generations not to let this kind of art become lost... or just talked about and ritualized in fake performances.

If we humans have been able to pass on the principles of music for hundreds and hundreds of years and are still producing world class, incredible musicians, we should be able to do it in our budo. Granted it's easier to tell when it's good or not because we can hear the difference in music, but it can be done. Oh yeah.. there's more motivation in music too because lots of money can be made through a larger audience too. So what... art isn't always about money...

I just read this... I apologize for the "speech." It's important to me and a few others I know. Kudos to all of you around the world that have feelings of a similar nature. We should all recognize each other and share more maybe.

PeterR
06-17-2012, 12:59 AM
Good suggestion, Peter... we do that sort of thing regularly. We haven't really issued any formal teaching certificates yet, but we're thinking about it. If we do it, it will not be something that is just given after some number of seminars have been met for sure. The Kodokan issues a "license" I think it's called or used to be i......

I just read this... I apologize for the "speech." It's important to me and a few others I know. Kudos to all of you around the world that have feelings of a similar nature. We should all recognize each other and share more maybe.
Preaching to the choir. :D

Of course it would not be just a series a seminars but I do think that they would be an important part in the formalization. I would think it would be necessary to limit attendees to those who have past of previous level and achieved a certain ranking. I say this simply because seminars devolve into just that if the group is too broad. They tend to teach toward the lowest denominator.

Also - after a certain level - those who wish to teach will be actively teaching. It should be entirely possible to evaluate the results of the teaching (ie. their students) and to give positive, correctable, feedback if they have not demonstrated an ability to pass on the ideas.

Nicholas Eschenbruch
06-17-2012, 03:13 AM
My take is that the kihon are an entry point. They give you a framework in which to learn the important principles and ways of being that are important to learning the art. To stick to the teaching aspect, I would say that as a teacher you have to design your basics in a way that they will never have to be unlearned. Eventually a student should discover that a lot of the little details are not so important, but they should never be in conflict with your vision, as the teacher, of what the students are trying to achieve. Maybe part of your problem is that you have trained in too many traditions in a same art while not acknowledging the huge variation that exists in aikido in terms of what people are trying to become.

Jonathan,
as I said, I agree in principle, I just do not see it done in many places, and I do not se the results - briliant young teachers who will surpass theirs - happening in too many places either. But maybe I just miss it. To me, you are talking theory, but if it is your reality, I have no right or intention to contest it.

As for my affiliation, dont worry, in terms of grading it has always been the same teachers, for more than 15 years. Let's not make it a "your problem is" conversation.

I suppose my goals in aikido and observations about aikido are just different from yours. But no need to repeat myself what they are. Have a nice day!

Carsten Möllering
06-17-2012, 04:37 AM
A lot of the kihon I have experienced in aikido (and I have trained in dojos of four respectable traditions for some amount of time) is structured in a way that it will actually, at some point, have to be unlearned again in parts if you want to become what I consider really good.
Isn't this part of the "classical way" to teach and learn certain arts like aikido using the method of kata?
Isn't this described in parts by the development modell of shu ha ri?
Isn't this due to teaching things first in the omote version and later (often very much later) in the ura version? (I don't mean the use of "omote/ura" like in ikkyo omote and ikkyo ura.)

I practice for over 18 years under the same teacher/s now. I had to unlearn and relearn the (very same!) kihon two times now.

Nicholas Eschenbruch
06-17-2012, 05:05 AM
So I realise I may have been too globally pessimistic instead of locally constructive...

First, I do see great teaching happening, but more as a one-on-one relation in a very intensive context: wonderful and encouraging to see, but limited to very few.

Second, even outside the context of kata I really like Chucks's take here:

To instruct in a kata you should be licensed showing that you've been through a thorough formal schooling and have a signature that is from a very high dan that is really proficient in both demonstrating the kata and teaching it. Not just a "run of the mill" demo type skill but a very deep understanding and ability to show the subtleties of target, distance, and timing; also thorough understanding of the use of sente and the strategic use of many facets of soft kuzushi, tsukuri, which causes and ends in very powerful kake of the waza by using the aite's intent and power.

So, somebody would then be certified to teach a certain part of the curriculum they have understood deeply. However, it seems to me that teachers would have to be quite experienced (sandan?) to be able to make anything of this intensive instruction? I am not against that at all, but it certainly was not the model how aikido spread in Europe.

Carsten,
I am not sure "aikikai" (as opposed to Tomiki) aikido uses kata in a classical sense, are you? Also, I do not mean to be adversarial but I think the shu-ha-ri model, while it certainly has truth to it, has also been used too often to glorify shu and mystify ha and ri, justifying mediocre teaching in the context.

Finally, to throw in a new idea: In terms of teaching and transmission, I like the idea of having a web of dojos with one in the middle where uchideshi training with a high ranking teacher is possible in a time frame ranging from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. This can make sure that whoever feels they need to make a new step as a student or teacher and is dedicated enough to take time out will have the opportunity of focused instruction.

I may be off until Wednesday, thanks all!

Carsten Möllering
06-18-2012, 02:26 AM
First, I do see great teaching happening, but more as a one-on-one relation in a very intensive context: wonderful and encouraging to see, but limited to very few.
Yes. From heart to heart ...?

However, it seems to me that teachers would have to be quite experienced (sandan?) to be able to make anything of this intensive instruction?
In my context shodan - yondan are considered to be student-grades. First teacher-grade is godan.
You are right: There have been a lot of shodan, opening their own dōjō and teaching. Do you know Christians comments on this ...?

I am not sure "aikikai" (as opposed to Tomiki) aikido uses kata in a classical sense, are you?
What is this "classical sense"? Endo calls his teaching "kata" (see also "kihon no kata"). And he is very strict about the "correct forms". You have to show this most basic forms - kata - in every examination.

... has also been used too often to glorify shu and mystify ha and ri, justifying mediocre teaching in the context.
Yes, true.
But again, Endo sensei often talks about how important it is to master the stade of shu and go one step further. He does not talk about ri. But speaks of himself having created new forms to teach aiki, to teach movement and stillness as one, to get a certain body structure.
He clearly expects the student practicing with him to leave the shu-stage behind.

Finally, to throw in a new idea: In terms of teaching and transmission, I like the idea of having a web of dojos with one in the middle where ...
But this exists?!
This is the model of AFD. Having three "centers": One in Tokyo - which may only be a formal centerpoint. But there are two "substantila focusses of qualified teaching": One in Saku, one in Vincennes. Our teachers got there.
Anita K., Bodo R. practiced in Paris once a week over years and years ...
The students of Endo go to saku for his seminar or only for some time. And saku is well knwon as a place where people not only practice, but also live together. It seems it was very important for Endo to create such a place. He often emphasizes how important it is to just be with one's teacher.

(... Ulf also offers the possibility to stay with him, sleep in the dōjō and practice. ... )

And the students (and just "followers" like me) of Endo form a net, a web over Europe, know each other, invite onen another for seminars, "share" keiko.

It exists.

I may be off until Wednesday, thanks all![/QUOTE]

Nicholas Eschenbruch
06-19-2012, 12:45 PM
Hi Carsten,

I am aware the model I mentioned exists, I outlined it earlier on myself.

However, what you describe then is certainly great, but not what I mean, I meant living in the dojo, training at least twice a day at least five day a week and having a chance for regular personal exchange with the teacher. Its different from all sorts of networks and exchange opportunities that exist in many places and are certainly helpful, I have experienced them too.

Misunderstanding about "classical", for me that has a koryu sound to it.

Best

JO
06-19-2012, 09:11 PM
Hi Carsten,

I meant living in the dojo, training at least twice a day at least five day a week and having a chance for regular personal exchange with the teacher. Its different from all sorts of networks and exchange opportunities that exist in many places and are certainly helpful, I have experienced them too.

Best

This also still exists, but you have to go out and find it as it is fairly rare. I never lived it, though I once trained five days a week (oh to be young) with chances for regular personal exchanges with my teachers though I never really took advantage of them (oh the foolishness of youth). Back then, I was in a dojo where the scenario you described was/is possible. The living at the dojo part is tricky since there are no real living spaces, but a few have done it for stretches of various lengths.

I don't think this is necessary in order to become worthy of teaching, though it can speed up the process, as any real high intensity training should.

Different levels of teacher status are important I think, as one should be given the chance of being recognized as a teacher while still at a a stage that requires more supervision. I also think that no teacher, no matter how good, should ever isolate himself from his peers. This is the main benefit of seminar requirements for instructors, as in the USAF, it forces them to get out and interact with people who aren't their students.

Carsten Möllering
06-20-2012, 05:46 AM
... I meant living in the dojo, training at least twice a day at least five day a week and having a chance for regular personal exchange with the teacher.
As I tried to say: This ist possible.
There are kind of uchi deshi modells with different teachers I know.

There is even one dōjō where one of the uchi deshi doesn't have to have the money to afford this time. On the conrtrary he get's paid because the time as uchi deshi is designed as "Lehre zum Sport und Fitnesskaufmann".

George S. Ledyard
06-20-2012, 11:06 AM
I read something recently that brought up a question in my mind.

I've been around for awhile and have heard many different ideas about this... What is your understanding about: "teaching credentials" or something like "teaching certification", "permission to teach" etc.? Of course there are a variety of different ways this is done by different organizations and teachers, and, then there are individuals that just decided to teach others what they know. I'd like to see what others know and think about this subject.

Regards,

Chuck Clark

Hi Chuck,
This is perhaps a sensitive issue to discuss on a public forum.... What I observe, in general, is that most of the Japanese teachers wished to grow their organizations after they arrived on these shores. They trained various folks, some for longer and some for shorter periods. Then, since we are such a mobile society, students moved away (this was my own case) and these students were encouraged to set up their own dojos affiliated with the teacher's organization regardless of the qualifications of that student to teach. The priority was keeping folks within the organization, not having the student pursue his or her own training at the highest level.

My own case was fairly unique... when I moved away from DC I was a Nidan. That was relatively senior back in those days. Seattle had no dojos affiliated with Saotome Sensei but Sensei told me to train with Mary Heiny who he knew from the days back in Japan. In other words, rather than have me open a dojo to grow the ASU, he told me to train with the best available teacher even though Heiny Sensei was at the time affiliated with Chiba Sensei and the Federation.

The result of letting Aikido grow this way was the proliferation of dojos run by fairly junior instructors. Then, as has been discussed on many occasions on the forums, folks were promoted over the years, not based on any set of technical criteria but rather the perception of their ability to create a solid dojo community and their ability to stay loyal to the given teacher for years and years. What I see is folks running dojos who are often not terribly well trained in the technical repertoire they are responsible for teaching for their own students to test on Shodan through San Dan.

So, finding a dojo is basically a case of "caveat emptor" for a new student. Most newbies have no idea what a good teacher or a mediocre teacher looks like. Many folks running dojos are actually good "teachers" in the sense that they can effectively pass on what they know, it's just that what they know isn't very deep or broad.

Anyway, were I to do my own thing... I would do two things. First, I would do what the Systema folks do. You want to have a certified "study group" at your dojo, fine. They'll put you up on the website. Then, they need to see you. You need to have the senior folks to your dojo and you need to show up in Toronto or around the country for training with Vlad or Michael. Your status as an "approved" instructor needs to be re-certified YEARLY. They don't see you actively training and getting better, they take you off the website!

Second, I would not only fail students testing who do not measure up to a standard, but if and when someone failed a test, I would make it clear that it was a failure of his or her teacher, not a failure of the student. I can guarantee that if, for instance, a student showed up for a Shodan test and he or she failed because their sword work was incompetent, and the teacher was chewed out for allowing someone to show up for a test looking that bad, you'd have a whole bunch of instructors falling all over themselves to get better at those skills themselves. Right now one encounters teachers who will actually admit they are not comfortable with whole portions of the curriculum which they are responsible for teaching yet they do nothing to solve the issue. They don't show up at camps, they don't invite teachers that are expert in these problem areas, they just show up each year at those events they do attend, if any, and look just the same each year. Then, predictably, their students look mediocre, at best, when they test.

I think a system of teacher certification and dojo certification would be the way to go. A dojo that was run by non-certified teacher would be a designated as being provisionally affiliated. Then, when the Chief Instructor received his or her teacher certification, the dojo would receive full membership certification. As far as I am concerned, part of the requirements for full teacher certification would be having a couple of students do their Shodan tests at a solid level.

Anyway, that's how I'd do it if I was doing my own thing... but I suspect that if I did something like that, I'd have a very small organization with a small number of excellent people. I do not think it likely that very many people would want to step up and meet such standards when they could affiliate with other groups that didn't have these requirements or go independent where no one would tell you what to do. I admire the fact that the Systema folks are attempting to do this. They already have a problem with folks not meeting their standards, being de-certified as approved study groups but continuing to teach some watered down version of their interpretation of what they learned in their brief exposure to the senior teachers. They get taken off the website but, short of visiting these schools and challenging these bogus teachers, there isn't much that anyone can do about these folks. Aikido is full of folks just like this who run dojos but do not do anything to increase their skills, do not get out and train and who, if pushed on the issue, would simply go independent so they could continue to do their own thing without interference.

Chuck Clark
06-20-2012, 12:23 PM
Thanks George. This is a subject that's difficult to discuss without making comparisons for sure. Your input is valuable to me as usual.

Nicholas Eschenbruch
06-20-2012, 12:35 PM
There is even one dōjō where one of the uchi deshi doesn't have to have the money to afford this time. On the conrtrary he get's paid because the time as uchi deshi is designed as "Lehre zum Sport und Fitnesskaufmann".

Brilliant! :D

Mary Eastland
06-20-2012, 01:31 PM
As an independent dojo...I would like to add my 3 and 1/2 cents. Excellence is achieved in the individual. It can't be conveyed or taken. My understanding of what Aikido is, is training for the sake of training. After 3rd Dan, testing is irrelevant because the real test comes from diligent and frequent practice. The outer trappings of testing and what things look like to other people don't matter as much as what is revealed to each individual in their own practice.

Nicholas Eschenbruch
06-20-2012, 02:15 PM
As an independent dojo...I would like to add my 3 and 1/2 cents. Excellence is achieved in the individual. It can't be conveyed or taken. My understanding of what Aikido is, is training for the sake of training. After 3rd Dan, testing is irrelevant because the real test comes from diligent and frequent practice. The outer trappings of testing and what things look like to other people don't matter as much as what is revealed to each individual in their own practice.

Hi Mary,
again, I would not disagree in principle, but I think the key situation is when, let's say, one of your shodans moves away - just far enough not to be able to drive to training maybe - but he really wants to stick with the aikido you and Ron do. He would like to start a dojo. Or, let's say, there is a nearby university and one of the exchange students from Germany, during his year with you, loves your approach so much he wants to continue it in Germany. He is willing to form a study group at ikkyu. Ho would you and Ron go about it?

Mary Eastland
06-20-2012, 02:48 PM
We do encourage people to teach and train and come back for seminars.

Rupert Atkinson
06-21-2012, 05:28 AM
In the 1980s when I went through my learning phase anyone who got to 1st kyu in many orgs was almost forced to teach, and/or open a club. Many failed, of course, but many perservered. I think anyone who has got themselves to shodan is able to have a go, though not all will succeed. I mean, think about it. People study mechanics for a year, maybe two, get a piece of paper, and now they can fix your car that hurtles at 100km/h towards oncoming traffic down the highway. Likewise many vocational professions. Most people that get to shodan have probably studied for five years, sometimes less, often more, in their own time with their own sweat and for no financial gain. For many, they don't even begin to reflect and relearn until they try teaching. I have no problem with a shodan being a teacher. Having some kind of formalised teaching system to me is just a modern PC approach, and not that useful. The cert a good teacher does not make. It satisfies the bureaucracy rather than the teaching, in my opinion, and is more designed to inflate the egos of those that give the certs than those who receive them.

Andy Kazama
06-21-2012, 11:17 AM
To reverse-engineer this somewhat…From what I have experienced as a student, the best classes have had a logical within-class progression (e.g. going from footwork all the way up to advanced timing and distance). The top level instructors can push the progression to a very advanced level – AND get their students to at least temporarily perform at that high level. In my opinion, the kicker is that some (but not all) of the advanced aikido technicians have difficulty teaching the complete progression and lose students in the process because they have skipped teaching the more basic/intermediate steps. So, in these cases rank does not equal teaching ability.
As far as I am aware, “certification”, typically does not reflect teaching ability, but rather technical ability. (Even in Systema, yes?) I think a formal teaching credential is great so long as one can provide evidence that those instructors are in fact creating better practitioners. Personally, I really like the Federation of Fly Fishers Casting Instructor Program (http://www.fedflyfishers.org/Casting/StudyMaterials/CertifiedInstructor/CITestingProtocol.aspx) as a model. In this multi-level system, you have to take a year-long casting instructor course, demonstrate technical proficiency on advanced casting, AND be able to demonstrate common mistakes that fly casters make (recreating them, and showing several ways to correct). Obviously, the main caveat is that fly fishing is more concerned with functionality (do my flies catch fish). For better or worse, aikido as a whole tends to argue about how to define “functionality”, so a certification program such as the FFF would likely be limited to an organization.

JO
06-21-2012, 12:03 PM
Hi Chuck,

Anyway, were I to do my own thing... I would do two things. First, I would do what the Systema folks do. You want to have a certified "study group" at your dojo, fine. They'll put you up on the website. Then, they need to see you. You need to have the senior folks to your dojo and you need to show up in Toronto or around the country for training with Vlad or Michael. Your status as an "approved" instructor needs to be re-certified YEARLY. They don't see you actively training and getting better, they take you off the website!

Second, I would not only fail students testing who do not measure up to a standard, but if and when someone failed a test, I would make it clear that it was a failure of his or her teacher, not a failure of the student. I can guarantee that if, for instance, a student showed up for a Shodan test and he or she failed because their sword work was incompetent, and the teacher was chewed out for allowing someone to show up for a test looking that bad, you'd have a whole bunch of instructors falling all over themselves to get better at those skills themselves. Right now one encounters teachers who will actually admit they are not comfortable with whole portions of the curriculum which they are responsible for teaching yet they do nothing to solve the issue. They don't show up at camps, they don't invite teachers that are expert in these problem areas, they just show up each year at those events they do attend, if any, and look just the same each year. Then, predictably, their students look mediocre, at best, when they test.

I think a system of teacher certification and dojo certification would be the way to go. A dojo that was run by non-certified teacher would be a designated as being provisionally affiliated. Then, when the Chief Instructor received his or her teacher certification, the dojo would receive full membership certification. As far as I am concerned, part of the requirements for full teacher certification would be having a couple of students do their Shodan tests at a solid level.

Anyway, that's how I'd do it if I was doing my own thing... but I suspect that if I did something like that, I'd have a very small organization with a small number of excellent people. I do not think it likely that very many people would want to step up and meet such standards when they could affiliate with other groups that didn't have these requirements or go independent where no one would tell you what to do. I admire the fact that the Systema folks are attempting to do this. They already have a problem with folks not meeting their standards, being de-certified as approved study groups but continuing to teach some watered down version of their interpretation of what they learned in their brief exposure to the senior teachers. They get taken off the website but, short of visiting these schools and challenging these bogus teachers, there isn't much that anyone can do about these folks. Aikido is full of folks just like this who run dojos but do not do anything to increase their skills, do not get out and train and who, if pushed on the issue, would simply go independent so they could continue to do their own thing without interference.

What my federation, the USAF, has put into place in the last few years goes somewhat in this direction in that the teaching certificates are renewd yearly and you are required to show up to seminars taught by the shihans of the technical comittee. There is no dojo certification, but a dojo without a certified instructor is not authorized to grade it's own students, even for the lowest kyu grades.

The real test though will be quality control. Will those in charge be willing to deny the certificate to people they judge unworthy or to take it away from those that do not live up the commitments. There is no way of doing this without pissing people off and making a stink. I've seen people get failed for horrible dan tests complain how it was all politics, that they only failed because they didn't go to the "right" seminars (i.e. those taught by the shihans on the testing panel).

RED
06-21-2012, 12:59 PM
What my federation, the USAF, has put into place in the last few years goes somewhat in this direction in that the teaching certificates are renewd yearly and you are required to show up to seminars taught by the shihans of the technical comittee. There is no dojo certification, but a dojo without a certified instructor is not authorized to grade it's own students, even for the lowest kyu grades.

The real test though will be quality control. Will those in charge be willing to deny the certificate to people they judge unworthy or to take it away from those that do not live up the commitments. There is no way of doing this without pissing people off and making a stink. I've seen people get failed for horrible dan tests complain how it was all politics, that they only failed because they didn't go to the "right" seminars (i.e. those taught by the shihan on the testing panel).

Yamada Sensei from what I've seen doesn't fail people easily and gives a lot of consideration to many different things when testing people. When he does have to fail some one it definitely is very disappointing for him. So for people to say it is politics are being very disrespectful. When Yamada Sensei has to fail some one it is definitely upsetting his evening... at least from what I've seen. And the Sensei's of failing students definitely hear about it.
As for the Technical committee... where Yamada Sensei runs a 10 minute Dan test, I've been seeing a trend of the Technical committee running 25-45 minute test these past few years.
The shihan are the ones who've received full transmission in the art. I think it is a good move to require fukishidoin and shidoin to attend regular instruction from their shihan to maintain their instructor's rank. It is good for all Aikidoka in my opinion to get out there and see the broader world of Aikido in general. Sometimes you can spend so much time in your own little dojo that you start to believe your own hype, and you forget there are giants out there. A reality check is important for all Aikidoka from time to time in my opinion. I think the USAF understands this, so much so officially 1st kyu and higher are also required to attend these seminars if they plan on gaining rank.
Also I've seen lately these instructor's classes Yamada Sensei has been holding at seminars.. Teachers only. I sat in to watch a few. He's become very strict on what he expects people to be teaching at their dojo. And very strict on what he expects students to look like when they come up to test for a dan test. I think this is a very good step.

Chuck Clark
06-21-2012, 07:13 PM
... Personally, I really like the Federation of Fly Fishers Casting Instructor Program (http://www.fedflyfishers.org/Casting/StudyMaterials/CertifiedInstructor/CITestingProtocol.aspx) as a model. In this multi-level system, you have to take a year-long casting instructor course, demonstrate technical proficiency on advanced casting, AND be able to demonstrate common mistakes that fly casters make (recreating them, and showing several ways to correct). Obviously, the main caveat is that fly fishing is more concerned with functionality (do my flies catch fish). For better or worse, aikido as a whole tends to argue about how to define “functionality”, so a certification program such as the FFF would likely be limited to an organization.

As a long-time fly-fisherman, Andy, this makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. My relatively small group, being independent for the past 28+ years, really has no problem to speak of defining and recognizing functionality. As George Ledyard said, "Anyway, that's how I'd do it if I was doing my own thing... but I suspect that if I did something like that, I'd have a very small organization with a small number of excellent people. I do not think it likely that very many people would want to step up and meet such standards when they could affiliate with other groups that didn't have these requirements or go independent where no one would tell you what to do." ... this pretty closely matches what I did almost 30 years ago now and we have a very close group of dojo spread over the U.S. and one small group possibly starting up soon in Japan.

We have been looking at putting together a simple but well defined system of instruction, testing, and maintaining skills for our instructors and teachers. Lots of good info in this thread to ponder...

Looking forward to more information from those contributing to this thread. Thanks again to all.

JO
06-21-2012, 09:29 PM
Yamada Sensei from what I've seen doesn't fail people easily and gives a lot of consideration to many different things when testing people. When he does have to fail some one it definitely is very disappointing for him. So for people to say it is politics are being very disrespectful. When Yamada Sensei has to fail some one it is definitely upsetting his evening... at least from what I've seen. And the Sensei's of failing students definitely hear about it.

This is sort of the problem. I've watched Yamada pass a group of tests and then give a 5 minute speach on how he was being generous, and how his own student embarassed him. Would you want to get your grade under such conditions. I'd rather fail and do it over right.

As for the Technical committee... where Yamada Sensei runs a 10 minute Dan test, I've been seeing a trend of the Technical committee running 25-45 minute test these past few years.
The shihan are the ones who've received full transmission in the art. I think it is a good move to require fukishidoin and shidoin to attend regular instruction from their shihan to maintain their instructor's rank. It is good for all Aikidoka in my opinion to get out there and see the broader world of Aikido in general. Sometimes you can spend so much time in your own little dojo that you start to believe your own hype, and you forget there are giants out there. A reality check is important for all Aikidoka from time to time in my opinion. I think the USAF understands this, so much so officially 1st kyu and higher are also required to attend these seminars if they plan on gaining rank.

I tested for shodan at one of the first big seminars where there was a panel of shihan from the technical committee (Yamada, Berthiaume, Waite and Bernath). More than half failed (including the guys I had mentioned in my previous post. They hadn't reaqlized that I had passed at the same seminar when they made their comments, until I told them). Standards seem to have been tightened, but my impression is that they seem to vary somewhat from seminar to seminar.

As far as seminar attendance is concerned, you don't have to convince me. I've more than met the seminar requirements for instructors every year I have trained, even as an unranked beginner thirteen years ago. However, I'm not a certified instructor and for the moment there is no need since we have two senior shidoin at our dojo, but I do think about all this now that I meet the minimum requirements for fukushidoin, including having had a regular class to teach on our schedule all of last year.

Also I've seen lately these instructor's classes Yamada Sensei has been holding at seminars.. Teachers only. I sat in to watch a few. He's become very strict on what he expects people to be teaching at their dojo. And very strict on what he expects students to look like when they come up to test for a dan test. I think this is a very good step.

The official big seminar with Yamada that I go to is the May seminar in Montreal and I haven't seen any mention of an instructor class there. I've been kind of curious as to what is taught. Please give details if you can.

RED
06-21-2012, 10:05 PM
This is sort of the problem. I've watched Yamada pass a group of tests and then give a 5 minute speach on how he was being generous, and how his own student embarassed him. Would you want to get your grade under such conditions. I'd rather fail and do it over right.

I tested for shodan at one of the first big seminars where there was a panel of shihan from the technical committee (Yamada, Berthiaume, Waite and Bernath). More than half failed (including the guys I had mentioned in my previous post. They hadn't reaqlized that I had passed at the same seminar when they made their comments, until I told them). Standards seem to have been tightened, but my impression is that they seem to vary somewhat from seminar to seminar.

As far as seminar attendance is concerned, you don't have to convince me. I've more than met the seminar requirements for instructors every year I have trained, even as an unranked beginner thirteen years ago. However, I'm not a certified instructor and for the moment there is no need since we have two senior shidoin at our dojo, but I do think about all this now that I meet the minimum requirements for fukushidoin, including having had a regular class to teach on our schedule all of last year.

The official big seminar with Yamada that I go to is the May seminar in Montreal and I haven't seen any mention of an instructor class there. I've been kind of curious as to what is taught. Please give details if you can.

Yamada Sensei is a generous man in my opinion. I saw a group of testers he out rightly failed. It sort of pained him to do so. You can read the disappointment.

The instructor's classes I watched were pin pointing it seemed a lot of pet peeves that Yamada Sensei seemed to have with black belt exams. He discussed attitudes about training. He covered a lot of finer points to techniques. He had Donovan Waite Sensei demonstrate a technique for the class in one of these classes, then proceeded to correct Waite sensei's technique in front of the class. Was sort of priceless. No one is beyond correction. I hope he does do a lot more of these classes. They were very inspiring to watch.

PeterR
06-21-2012, 10:59 PM
The attending seminar requirement has been mentioned several times along with the supposition that Shihan have the full transmission. Not sure I can agree with that last point - or maybe that it is not a given.

Attending a certain number of seminars by itself is only useful in that it keeps a connection and as your rank (ability?) increases helps provide an example for the other attendees making the Shihan's job easier.

The aikido equivalent of the "Master Class" where attendance is limited to a certain dan grade on up and the intention is to teach what normally gets lost when teaching a mass seminar. How to teach should not be part of this at all.

Instructor seminar - dedicated to instruction and defining what the standard is.

Too often all three types are mixed (ie. general seminar, advanced techniques, instructional) with the end result being the latter two less useful than they could be.

Andy Kazama
06-22-2012, 12:14 AM
Rehse Sensei, I agree that it may be difficult for instructors to dissociate advanced techniques, from pedagogy. However, I think many of us are concerned with transmission due to issues like keeping training/work/family balance (Our current dojo model is: happy wife, happy life). Thus, many are limited in the number of seminars they are able to attend. However, I actually really like the idea of a strictly pedagogy-themed seminar. This seminar could be for those who occasionally are forced to lead class, even though they may not have advanced technical skill (I’m speaking of myself here…). The content would be limited to teaching strong basics, and how to create a solid class outline (e.g. defining within-class goals; structuring an entire class that will result in students reaching that goal). How many people do you know who have taken a chemistry class, taught by a professor who – despite being a fantastic chemist, can’t explain what a mole is? Believe me, there are plenty out there. These instructors exist in aikido, too. Teaching is an art.

One really useful tool Emory University implements for all of its instructors is video analysis. I think aikido instructors could greatly benefit from not only watching themselves teach, but receiving constructive feedback on their teaching. Master instructors like Clark Sensei would then be able to view a class and give honest feedback. We do this in our dojo off and on, mainly for the purposes of analyzing one’s own technique, and I can say that once I got past the realization that I am much slower in “real life” than I am in my own head, it was a highly useful tool! I don’t think we need to come up with anything highly original for Aikido, just apply already proven pedagogical principles. Thank you all for an interesting thread! I look forward to hearing other’s ideas.

Andy Kazama
06-22-2012, 12:32 AM
Clark Sensei, just to clarify - I do not mean that individual organizations have difficulty defining functionality or that there is not cross-over from one organization to the next. Rather, the branches of aikido are spread so wide that for some, functional means aligning your ki to better one’s health; for others it may be disarming an attacker. To briefly go back to fly fishing, imagine going to a website to hire a guide only to find that there is not one single picture of said guide (or clients) holding a fish in his/her hand? With nothing so tangible as a large rainbow, aikido is going to have a difficult time with generalized certification. As an aside, everyone I have talked to that is familiar with your art says it is amazing. I hope to experience it one day.

George S. Ledyard
06-22-2012, 12:12 PM
Clark Sensei, just to clarify - I do not mean that individual organizations have difficulty defining functionality or that there is not cross-over from one organization to the next. Rather, the branches of aikido are spread so wide that for some, functional means aligning your ki to better one’s health; for others it may be disarming an attacker. To briefly go back to fly fishing, imagine going to a website to hire a guide only to find that there is not one single picture of said guide (or clients) holding a fish in his/her hand? With nothing so tangible as a large rainbow, aikido is going to have a difficult time with generalized certification. As an aside, everyone I have talked to that is familiar with your art says it is amazing. I hope to experience it one day.

There was a time when, if you had a dojo, you had to be able to handle yourself with anyone who came through the front door. Those days are long gone... probably for the better but it creates problems.

Often a given organization or teacher has standards that are really about passing on a certain physical form or style. As I have stated elsewhere, Aikido as an art, has developed a kind of ukemi which is designed to make their teacher's technique work. So, when you see even an excellent test, you are still seeing application of technique against attacks that are designed for that those techniques to work. This is fine and even necessary for testing. But a solid transmission of basic skills has very little to do with the ability to apply technique outside of the Aikido paradigm.

Arts with competition solve some of this issue. For instance, my wife Genie is a former national champion fencer. She finds the lack of real verification of skills in Aikido to be quite frustrating. In fencing, it didn't matter that her teacher, who was a French fencing master, bemoaned the Russian reworking of the art and loss of style he loved. In competition it was simple. If you depressed the little switch on the tip of your epee by striking your opponent before the other guy did, then you scored. If you did that more times than the other guy, you won your match. Period. Folks who wanted to pretend to be better than they really are had to stay away from competition because their technical deficiencies become instantly obvious because they can't score.

Now I am not saying that we should institute a system with competition in Aikido generally. As in Western fencing, Judo, or Tae Kwon Do you can see a loss of form in favor of the tricks that can score based on how the rules shape what works and does not work in competition. The form of Aikido is important, in fact it is precisely the form of Aikido that makes it Aikido and not just Aiki. You can see how someone like Dan Harden, whose "aiki" is at a very high level, moves and manifests his technique. His focus is very much on what works, and works against opponents who might be from any given style of martial art. So his "aiki" doesn't have the form that would make it Aiki-do.

Because everyone seems to agree that various factors contribute to ones suitability for promotion and even to teach, it is simply a fact that the vast majority of Aikido dojos are not run by folks who could fare very well if a practitioner of another art such as karate, judo, kung fu, or whatever came through the door and offered a challenge. Most of the folks I know excuse this lack of practical ability, if they are willing to admit it, by saying that Aikido isn't about fighting. I think one is hearing just that, an "excuse". But I do not see the art doing an "about face" and focusing on martial application. So, when I teach, I am focusing on trying to make our ukemi better. I point out those things that Aikido ukes routinely do that no one in any other martial art would ever do. I try to insist that the uke be aware of and point out to nage where the "openings" are in his or her technique. We stay within the Aikido form paradigm but try not to lose an awareness of the larger body of knowledge that exists cross martially. I think that any hope for getting better quality Aikido requires that we completely redo our Aikido ukemi. We need better striking, we need to understand the function of grabbing, we need to insist that our ukes strike us anywhere in a technique where we are open.

What I am talking about is "pan-style". I care not a wit for ones foot position or the particulars of the hand grip on a kotegaeshi. What I do care about is the ability of the practitioner to do a particular kotegaeshi without uke being able to knock them cold with his off hand before or even during the throw. Ukes have not been trained to look for that opening... the result has been a group of practitioners at all levels, even instructors, whose technique is totally open for counter strike. Most folks practicing do not have a precise idea what the lines of force or the lines of attack are in their kihon waza. The ukes have been taught to take the ukemi. not to perceive and exploit the openings in the partner's technique.

I think if we can change the ukemi paradigm, we can start making Aikido martially more effective without losing the form that makes it Aikido or the form that makes a certain teacher's Aikido specific to that teacher. Testing would then be what it should be, namely a demonstration of mastery of the form but, because daily training was done differently, the form would have content. That's the issue we have now and testing isn't the place to fix it... we have form without content. This has nothing to do with any style or organization. There is no group I have seen that is immune to this issue. It is largely left to the individual teacher as to whether he or she thinks this is an important issue to resolve or even that it is an issue.

And it is up to the students to decide if it is important to them and look for teachers who are capable and not settle for the wishful thinking that currently exists on an endemic level.

Conrad Gus
06-22-2012, 12:28 PM
There was a time when, if you had a dojo, you had to be able to handle yourself with anyone who came through the front door. Those days are long gone... probably for the better but it creates problems.

Often a given organization or teacher has standards that are really about passing on a certain physical form or style. As I have stated elsewhere, Aikido as an art, has developed a kind of ukemi which is designed to make their teacher's technique work. So, when you see even an excellent test, you are still seeing application of technique against attacks that are designed for that those techniques to work. This is fine and even necessary for testing. But a solid transmission of basic skills has very little to do with the ability to apply technique outside of the Aikido paradigm.

Arts with competition solve some of this issue. For instance, my wife Genie is a former national champion fencer. She finds the lack of real verification of skills in Aikido to be quite frustrating. In fencing, it didn't matter that her teacher, who was a French fencing master, bemoaned the Russian reworking of the art and loss of style he loved. In competition it was simple. If you depressed the little switch on the tip of your epee by striking your opponent before the other guy did, then you scored. If you did that more times than the other guy, you won your match. Period. Folks who wanted to pretend to be better than they really are had to stay away from competition because their technical deficiencies become instantly obvious because they can't score.

Now I am not saying that we should institute a system with competition in Aikido generally. As in Western fencing, Judo, or Tae Kwon Do you can see a loss of form in favor of the tricks that can score based on how the rules shape what works and does not work in competition. The form of Aikido is important, in fact it is precisely the form of Aikido that makes it Aikido and not just Aiki. You can see how someone like Dan Harden, whose "aiki" is at a very high level, moves and manifests his technique. His focus is very much on what works, and works against opponents who might be from any given style of martial art. So his "aiki" doesn't have the form that would make it Aiki-do.

Because everyone seems to agree that various factors contribute to ones suitability for promotion and even to teach, it is simply a fact that the vast majority of Aikido dojos are not run by folks who could fare very well if a practitioner of another art such as karate, judo, kung fu, or whatever came through the door and offered a challenge. Most of the folks I know excuse this lack of practical ability, if they are willing to admit it, by saying that Aikido isn't about fighting. I think one is hearing just that, an "excuse". But I do not see the art doing an "about face" and focusing on martial application. So, when I teach, I am focusing on trying to make our ukemi better. I point out those things that Aikido ukes routinely do that no one in any other martial art would ever do. I try to insist that the uke be aware of and point out to nage where the "openings" are in his or her technique. We stay within the Aikido form paradigm but try not to lose an awareness of the larger body of knowledge that exists cross martially. I think that any hope for getting better quality Aikido requires that we completely redo our Aikido ukemi. We need better striking, we need to understand the function of grabbing, we need to insist that our ukes strike us anywhere in a technique where we are open.

What I am talking about is "pan-style". I care not a wit for ones foot position or the particulars of the hand grip on a kotegaeshi. What I do care about is the ability of the practitioner to do a particular kotegaeshi without uke being able to knock them cold with his off hand before or even during the throw. Ukes have not been trained to look for that opening... the result has been a group of practitioners at all levels, even instructors, whose technique is totally open for counter strike. Most folks practicing do not have a precise idea what the lines of force or the lines of attack are in their kihon waza. The ukes have been taught to take the ukemi. not to perceive and exploit the openings in the partner's technique.

I think if we can change the ukemi paradigm, we can start making Aikido martially more effective without losing the form that makes it Aikido or the form that makes a certain teacher's Aikido specific to that teacher. Testing would then be what it should be, namely a demonstration of mastery of the form but, because daily training was done differently, the form would have content. That's the issue we have now and testing isn't the place to fix it... we have form without content. This has nothing to do with any style or organization. There is no group I have seen that is immune to this issue. It is largely left to the individual teacher as to whether he or she thinks this is an important issue to resolve or even that it is an issue.

And it is up to the students to decide if it is important to them and look for teachers who are capable and not settle for the wishful thinking that currently exists on an endemic level.

I like the way you describe good ukemi training, but I think you might be over-generalizing when you say most people don't train that way. It doesn't sound different from the way I am used to being taught ukemi.

That's just my personal experience.

Andy Kazama
06-22-2012, 02:22 PM
There was a time when, if you had a dojo, you had to be able to handle yourself with anyone who came through the front door. Those days are long gone... probably for the better but it creates problems.

Often a given organization or teacher has standards that are really about passing on a certain physical form or style. As I have stated elsewhere, Aikido as an art, has developed a kind of ukemi which is designed to make their teacher's technique work. So, when you see even an excellent test, you are still seeing application of technique against attacks that are designed for that those techniques to work. This is fine and even necessary for testing. But a solid transmission of basic skills has very little to do with the ability to apply technique outside of the Aikido paradigm.

I wholeheartedly agree. If you watch judo exams, you will notice beautiful effortless throws with uke whose sole purpose is to make the throw look outstanding. Collusion at its finest! However, unless you watch a really mismatched pairing (e.g. Koga vs anybody (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6i3WaVNpGM)), it will look like tussling. In my opinion, aikido could use a little more regular "tussling". Following your lead (and others) we have been really focusing on ukewaza, lately. We joke that we are aiming for a 100% failure rate. Morale was a little low until one of us brought up the point that if both uke and nage are practicing "aikido" that means that one of you (uke) is achieving 100% success! Glass half full! It is humbling to get brought all the way back to a 6th kyu level, but we are slowly getting the techniques back and when we do get them back we know they are functional with resistance. Bringing it back to teaching/transmission, I wonder if anyone feels like it would be beneficial for higher dan grades to "test" their lower grades for functionality, and what this might look like? When my father was testing for his shodan in Hongwanji-style kodokan judo, in addition to demonstration throws (collusive), he had to throw his instructor three times (competition). This meant having to train at other dojos in the hopes of picking up a technique his instructor wouldn't be expecting. I think aikido would be well-served to adopt this mentality.

Chuck Clark
06-22-2012, 05:45 PM
I wholeheartedly agree. If you watch judo exams, you will notice beautiful effortless throws with uke whose sole purpose is to make the throw look outstanding. Collusion at its finest!

This is a common experience in all martial practices in my experience. If what we're trying to learn is "problem solving" while at the same time we may be also "practicing for the sake of the practice", then we should also make sure that we have a problem to solve. In my understanding that's uke's primary job description. Delivering an "attack" with the intent of disrupting the tori's posture/balance enough that they must make a recovery. Of course, this must be appropriate to the situation. The inherent danger that's possible in this attack is understood. Within proper maai tori takes control (sente) of uke with waza. Going slow, fast, soft, hard makes no difference. Of course, during this practice, the goal is to also take care of each other while we take part in the practice.

We, in my practice, should always be "testing" each other to keep it "real." This is difficult to be sure. If my uke isn't really motivated to do this all the time and recovering postural integrity, balance, etc. in order to keep the ability to continue attacking if possible, then we will be doing some sort of dance routine of a martial flavor, or what Noro sensei developed in France which he calls Ki no Michi. (pairs yoga) I have lots of respect for that, but it isn't budo.

This is, of course, my attitude about the uke/tori relationship in my ideal budo practice. Everyone has a choice about their own practice.

George S. Ledyard
06-22-2012, 05:50 PM
I like the way you describe good ukemi training, but I think you might be over-generalizing when you say most people don't train that way. It doesn't sound different from the way I am used to being taught ukemi.

That's just my personal experience.

I get around a lot... between Bridge Seminars etc it isn't any single teacher or organization or country. And often, even when it is in an organization like my own, in which I know how I personally was trained, it isn't necessarily what is done out there in the hinterlands. I don't think I am over generalizing... you might just be fortunate to have some excellent training.

George S. Ledyard
06-22-2012, 06:21 PM
Following your lead (and others) we have been really focusing on ukewaza, lately. We joke that we are aiming for a 100% failure rate. Morale was a little low until one of us brought up the point that if both uke and nage are practicing "aikido" that means that one of you (uke) is achieving 100% success! Glass half full! It is humbling to get brought all the way back to a 6th kyu level, but we are slowly getting the techniques back and when we do get them back we know they are functional with resistance.

I think what you are referring to is different than what I actually mean. "Training" is entirely different from "Testing" and both are totally different from "Fighting".

Training is about learning, about developing skills. You only develop proper skills by "succeeding". I have talked at length in other places about "resistance" in training and how it is most often a detriment to developing proper skills.

The uke's job is to facilitate the learning of the nage. That is a) providing an attack that is appropriate to the technique or principle being taught. b) the uke doesn't do anything that is martially inappropriate in his own attack (i.e. being stupidly strong and resistant) c) takes the proper ukemi when nage's technique is correct and doesn't take the ukemi when it isn't (that means not changing up on your partner, not actively trying to counter them).

Testing is much the same but the purpose is to allow the person testing to execute technique under pressure with speed and power. The ukes are still not actively trying to screw you up but if you miss a move they'll hit you or counter throw you.

Fighting skills are the end point of the whole process and shouldn't be the focus of training until a fairly high level, perhaps above 3rd or 4th Dan. I am assuming that training has been excellent up to that point and ones skills are fairly deeply imprinted. Focusing on fighting, i.e. performing technique against people who are actively trying to hurt you and will beat any technique attempted before one has really imprinted proper skills will only cause one to imprint the wrong habits in ones training. Too much mental tension, which in turn produces physical tension, will virtually guarantee that one will not develop anything beyond strong muscular technique and will not develop technique with "aiki". One will simply get good at forcing technique against partners who aren't good enough or strong enough to know how to counter that kind of strength.

It's like learning to drive... imagine that you are taking driver ed. Each time you put the car in gear, the teacher steps on the brakes or turns off the ignition. You will never learn to drive by not driving. You have to drive and do so for some time in order to be a good driver. Engaging in racing is absolutely the last thing one would do, would involve a lot of advanced training, and lots of practice under controlled conditions before one would even consider doing a real race.

So, I do not advocate "resistant" training in the way that most folks mean it. Most folks folks who are "resistant" thinking they are being "martial" in their attacks are simply quite open, unable to move or respond freely due to their tension. I know people like this and after many decades of training they are very good at showing other people they can't do their technique but are completely unable to do anything worth while themselves. If and when an uke is being stupid in this fashion, I expect the nage to show them how they are open and I do not expect my students to manhandle their partners into some form I demonstrated when their partner is giving them an attack that makes it impossible for that technique to be appropriate.

Darren Shaver
06-23-2012, 03:33 AM
Guys - My question here goes back to the colored belt issue (Sorry about that). But basically I know that in Aikido there are no ranks, traditionally that is. And I'll be just starting Aikido next month, (new to everything. so please bear with me a moment)… Anyway my question is this: Does the ASU (Aikido Schools of Ueshiba) organization in Aikido have a belt ranking system and if so. could you tell me what they are. My soon to be instructor- will be Mike Pollak with the ASU here in Tulsa Okla. And I was wondering, because I'm going to order a belt wall display from Century Martial Arts come next month when I order my uniform. I am now 47 and really don't care what they are really, but figured it would be a great incentive to continue my training once I get started outside of the mat. And by the way, I really can't wait to started in August, mainly for 3 reasons. For 1: I like how Aikido is set up. (that its a non violent martial art system designed for multiple attackers, 2: I think it will be a fantastic experience. Because right now I now nothing if even that, of the japanese traditions pertaining to this art and the traditions surrounding the Bushido Code, and Budo in general. Any help would be extremely welcomed. Thanks, --Darren. (darren.shaver09@gmail.com)

George S. Ledyard
06-23-2012, 11:27 AM
Guys - My question here goes back to the colored belt issue (Sorry about that). But basically I know that in Aikido there are no ranks, traditionally that is. And I'll be just starting Aikido next month, (new to everything. so please bear with me a moment)… Anyway my question is this: Does the ASU (Aikido Schools of Ueshiba) organization in Aikido have a belt ranking system and if so. could you tell me what they are. My soon to be instructor- will be Mike Pollak with the ASU here in Tulsa Okla. And I was wondering, because I'm going to order a belt wall display from Century Martial Arts come next month when I order my uniform. I am now 47 and really don't care what they are really, but figured it would be a great incentive to continue my training once I get started outside of the mat. And by the way, I really can't wait to started in August, mainly for 3 reasons. For 1: I like how Aikido is set up. (that its a non violent martial art system designed for multiple attackers, 2: I think it will be a fantastic experience. Because right now I now nothing if even that, of the japanese traditions pertaining to this art and the traditions surrounding the Bushido Code, and Budo in general. Any help would be extremely welcomed. Thanks, --Darren. (darren.shaver09@gmail.com)

Darren,
I'd recommend skipping the Belt Display... The ASU doesn't use colored belts. It has the standard Kyu rank / Dan Rank system. Somewhere around 3rd or 2nd kyu you can wear a Brown Belt. Then it's that until Black Belt. So you'll have an empty display for a few years and then you'll have a white Belt on your display rack until Black Belt.

- George Ledyard

Adam Huss
06-23-2012, 11:49 AM
Speaking of testing regulations and QC; do any of you have specific set guidelines for passing students? As in a grading sheet with all the requirements listed, broken down aspects of the requirements, and either a pass/fail per requirement (with passing the grading requiring a certain ration) or an A/B/C or percentage rating system with a required passing grade?

Chuck Clark
06-23-2012, 12:56 PM
Years and years ago a group I was with had a promotion board of examiners who had a list of skills and a grading scale with 3.0 to 5 passing criteria. I always felt it was wrong because the examiners, of course, had different values. I prefer having instructors and teachers having the responsibility of promoting to within two levels of their own. Mistakes show themselves for sure, and then learning takes place relatively quickly in our small group. I've understood for a long time that the only way we learn is by doing it and paying attention. The "right and wrong" of it will work itself out. If not, it's hopeless anyway.

PeterR
06-23-2012, 11:37 PM
That is a really good system and even better when there is a clearly defined curriculum along with an outline of what is being looked for at each level. This of course brings the discussion around full circle to teaching qualifications. Are they necessary under those conditions where the qualification is instilled by default.

It was made clear to me to what level as a Shodan in isolation (ie Quebec City) I was allowed to promote whereas in Japan we all travelled to Honbu for testing so the point was moot. The Honbu testing of my students was in fact my own testing (also made very clear). Generally the two levels below is the rough guideline but not hard and fast.

Years and years ago a group I was with had a promotion board of examiners who had a list of skills and a grading scale with 3.0 to 5 passing criteria. I always felt it was wrong because the examiners, of course, had different values. I prefer having instructors and teachers having the responsibility of promoting to within two levels of their own. Mistakes show themselves for sure, and then learning takes place relatively quickly in our small group. I've understood for a long time that the only way we learn is by doing it and paying attention. The "right and wrong" of it will work itself out. If not, it's hopeless anyway.

Rupert Atkinson
06-30-2012, 08:44 PM
I prefer having instructors and teachers having the responsibility of promoting to within two levels of their own.

I can agree with that and it was they way most people used to do it when I started. Sometimes, it was even one grade below the teacher, though commonly, his teacher would be there anyway. It works because if you promote someone too easily, your own instructor will later criticise you, which in the end, means you'll be pretty tough on grading.

davoravo
07-09-2012, 03:39 AM
i would like to follow on from Sensei Ledyard's excellent (as always) post. I am a student rather than a teacher but I am hoping i can contribute positively. :) I was also a semi-competitive fencer and I can appreciate the analogy. In comparison, with aikido I sometimes feel like a golfer hitting invisible balls. I can feel that I am hitting the ball but I don't know in what direction or how far. To improve I can try to imitate my sensei's swing, and aim to copy the sound he makes when he strikes the ball. And then, there's a sensei down the road whose swing is different and whose club-strikes sound different. They both can't have a perfect swing can they? And if one of them is wrong, are they both wrong because I don't know how far each of them hits the ball!

Through a troublesome back I have become interested in what sports science may have to say in providing some objective assessment of form and posture. Sports science has come a long way in the last 15-18 years - i was hoping to say 'last decade' there, but turns out I am getting old :( :confused: :sorry:

There is now some useful research and techniques used in athletics that can help us assess form, and I am not talking form for form's sake. This is form that prevents injury and improves function, at least for competitive athletes.

Stuart McGill has done some interesting work with athletes and martial artists. He has some really interesting ideas on spine and posture and on "super-stiffness". This pdf summarises his work, which is also in his book Ultimate back Fitness

www.backfitpro.com/pdf/selecting_back_exercises.pdf

I have been trying to interpret Stuart McGill's work through a heaven-earth posture paradigm and it seems consistent to me (I am not an IP practitioner but seek improved performance through imitating the good posture described by IP and Tai chi practicioners)

I think Stuart McGill's work is the introduction and starting point. the FitsToronto website has some excellent discussions on assessing movement patterns. This is an excellent simplified system for assessing posture and form by looking at 5 points on the body and how they are aligned. If you are interested, have a look at the pdf link as it contains two simple tests but be sure to read the common movement dysfunctions as it is a more in depth head-to-toe assessment of problem areas.

Common movement problems
http://www.fitstoronto.com/2010/03/common-movement-dysfunctions/
http://www.fitstoronto.com/2011/01/posture-the-fantastic-four/
http://www.fitstoronto.com/2011/01/posture-the-fantastic-four-revealed/

short pdf of movement screen and description of how to test
http://www.fitstoronto.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/AOAFitnessTestingResults2009analized1.pdf

some extra stuff on core testing for interest's sake
http://www.fitstoronto.com/2010/02/the-core-2/
http://www.fitstoronto.com/2010/02/the-core-part-two-2/
http://www.fitstoronto.com/2010/02/the-core-part-three-2/
http://www.fitstoronto.com/2010/02/the-core-part-four-classification-of-trunk-exercises/

Although many of my teachers have commented occasionally on form and posture they haven't made it a huge focus, or it has been something that one is supposed to improve oneself with time and practice. It would be fairly easy to integrate working on form in every class and periodic testing of good form/function (see Fit-5 from Fitstoronto). A few individual activities may need to be added but most of this could be reiterated and reinforced during warm-up, tai sabaki and kata practice. Students could pair up and assess each other for solo practice or work in 3s for paired practice. The use of video could be used then teachers could assess their own form

The advantages I see to such a system
at the very least, would reduce risk of muscuolskeletal injury for students in the dojo and in their life outside the dojo
educates students (and sensei) about their body and how to look after it
could form the basis of teaching how to teach (or at least how to "coach")
the above system is quite simple with only 5 areas to assess
it is consistent with what my sensei have told me about posture
is the source of an individualised "prescription" for improvement
provides objective assessment of a student's progress and for them to measure their own progress
an objective means of analysis of some components of form for examination
an objective means for assessment of video footage of technique
a means by which sensei could assess their own form on video footage
training in this area could form part of certification for teaching

possible disadvantages;
western scientific paradigm which may not appeal to some
its the boring bits of training (not throwing people around)
may require some additional posture tests and training exercises to be added to class
teachers may need to learn a range of exercises to teach students, most of the remedies involve strenthening and endurance exercises.

davoravo
07-09-2012, 04:05 AM
edit - oops, forgot some links on stiffness which i think are also important and not (as they may seem at first glance) to be in conflict with our usual ideas of needing to relax

http://www.fitstoronto.com/2010/11/stiffness-and-reactivenes-the-series/
http://www.fitstoronto.com/2010/11/stiffness-and-reactivness-part-two-measuring-stiffness/
http://www.fitstoronto.com/2010/11/stiffness-and-reactiveness-part-three-methods-to-improve-stiffness-cues-and-a-sample-program/