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Chris Li
08-05-2012, 06:56 PM
New blog post:

Something's Rank - Black Belts in Aikido (http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/archive/2012-08-05/somethings-rank-black-belts-in-aikido) - What was Jigoro Kano thinking, anyway?

Enjoy!

Chris

Demetrio Cereijo
08-05-2012, 07:25 PM
The system of colored junior belts (for example, white → yellow → green → blue → brown → black) wasn't invented in Japan at all - it was introduced in Europe in 1935 by Mikonosuke Kawaishi, who was instrumental in spreading Judo to there and then later brought back to Japan. The color scheme made it easier for the students to re-dye the same belts.

I think awarding colored belts for kyu ranks started around 1927 at the Budokwai by Koizumi Gunji. Kawaishi popularized this when he settled in France some years later.

PS. Nice article, as usual.

Chris Li
08-05-2012, 07:33 PM
The system of colored junior belts (for example, white → yellow → green → blue → brown → black) wasn't invented in Japan at all - it was introduced in Europe in 1935 by Mikonosuke Kawaishi, who was instrumental in spreading Judo to there and then later brought back to Japan. The color scheme made it easier for the students to re-dye the same belts.

I think awarding colored belts for kyu ranks started around 1927 at the Budokwai by Koizumi Gunji. Kawaishi popularized this when he settled in France some years later.

PS. Nice article, as usual.

Thanks Demetrio! I added a note to the article.

Best,

Chris

dps
08-05-2012, 08:51 PM
"Never mind that the third kyu can kick my butt all day long - what could anyone possibly learn from a white belt?"

Humility.

dps

Chris Li
08-05-2012, 09:09 PM
"Never mind that the third kyu can kick my butt all day long - what could anyone possibly learn from a white belt?"

Humility.

dps

A scare commodity - even among those who profess it most :D

Best,

Chris

danj
08-07-2012, 12:35 AM
Some random thoughts,

I remember seeing shamisen and koto players introduced as holding such and such dan grades in their respective arts - which was eye opening at the time. It seems to be an accepted nomenclature for the arts in Japan...think its the same for tea ceremony, brush arts and even mochi making too...why not aikido.

In the quest for codification and structure, and where endeavours involve so many people that implicit understanding of who is sempai and who is kohai doesn't exist. And the inevitable conversation about when were you born when did you start to practice aikido (or anything else) and who is your teacher in order to discover who is the sempai and kohai is time prohibitive. Imagine having this conversation everytime you paired up/ lined up/stood in the food queue with someone new at a seminar in order to discover who gets to attack first, then having a kyu/dan system makes perfect sense.

A few years back I visited Tsukuba University, it is famous for its sports and sports research. Who's who in Japan and sports research seems to be an old boy from there. Wasn't all that surprised to discover that this was the eventual derivative/successor/ amalgamation of Kano's educational institution

Chris Li
08-07-2012, 01:47 AM
Some random thoughts,

I remember seeing shamisen and koto players introduced as holding such and such dan grades in their respective arts - which was eye opening at the time. It seems to be an accepted nomenclature for the arts in Japan...think its the same for tea ceremony, brush arts and even mochi making too...why not aikido.

In the quest for codification and structure, and where endeavours involve so many people that implicit understanding of who is sempai and who is kohai doesn't exist. And the inevitable conversation about when were you born when did you start to practice aikido (or anything else) and who is your teacher in order to discover who is the sempai and kohai is time prohibitive. Imagine having this conversation everytime you paired up/ lined up/stood in the food queue with someone new at a seminar in order to discover who gets to attack first, then having a kyu/dan system makes perfect sense.

A few years back I visited Tsukuba University, it is famous for its sports and sports research. Who's who in Japan and sports research seems to be an old boy from there. Wasn't all that surprised to discover that this was the eventual derivative/successor/ amalgamation of Kano's educational institution

The Kyu-Dan system has spread into all kinds of thing in Japan - I don't see the argument "everybody is doing it" as very compelling, but that's me...

I very rarely have any of those conversations about who is sempai and who is kohai except, perhaps, as part of the general conversation. It very rarely gets you any useful information, and there's so little consistency with ranks that hearing about somebody's rank is virtually meaningless these days.

Much better just to touch hands and see what happens.

Best,

Chris

Basia Halliop
08-07-2012, 07:37 AM
Imagine having this conversation everytime you paired up/ lined up/stood in the food queue with someone new at a seminar in order to discover who gets to attack first, then having a kyu/dan system makes perfect sense.

A lot of people don't follow any particular order for who attacks first anyway, and it doesn't seem to matter... I know at seminars I have almost never had conversations about what rank people are (the one exception is curiosity about who'll be taking tests at the seminar), so basically unless we know each other the only formal distinction that's to be had is white belt vs black belt.

I can see benefits for having more detailed ranks than white/black, but for me that isn't one of them. I can practice perfectly fine with people and we can learn from each other without ever knowing each other's rank.

Chris Li
08-07-2012, 10:16 AM
A lot of people don't follow any particular order for who attacks first anyway, and it doesn't seem to matter...

Actually, I prefer to attack first - it gives me a chance to set the pace and feel things out. But that's just a personal preference, I don't think that it particularly matters either.

Best,

Chris

robin_jet_alt
08-07-2012, 04:52 PM
Actually, I prefer to attack first - it gives me a chance to set the pace and feel things out. But that's just a personal preference, I don't think that it particularly matters either.

Best,

Chris

I agree with you. I don't get a chance to do that as often as I would like though.

Dave Gallagher
08-13-2012, 06:52 PM
A facebook friend posted a link to this blog. The article is excellent. I admit I have had the benefit of training with Dave Lowry as most people is a very old fashioned budoka and ran a dojo as if it were not only in Japan but the Japan of generations long past. The Aikido was fantastic and no one ever wanted a belt rank or ever claimed one. True budo with the modern art of Aikido in an environment of long ago.

Here is the bit about rank written by Christopher Li who is a Aikiweb member.

http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/archive/2012-08-05/somethings-rank-black-belts-in-aikido?weblogmessage=Your+comment+has+been+stored.+Because+comment+moderation+is +enabled%2C+it+is+now+waiting+for+approval+by+an+editor.

Great article Li sensei.

Chris Li
08-13-2012, 07:32 PM
A facebook friend posted a link to this blog. The article is excellent. I admit I have had the benefit of training with Dave Lowry as most people is a very old fashioned budoka and ran a dojo as if it were not only in Japan but the Japan of generations long past. The Aikido was fantastic and no one ever wanted a belt rank or ever claimed one. True budo with the modern art of Aikido in an environment of long ago.

Here is the bit about rank written by Christopher Li who is a Aikiweb member.

http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/archive/2012-08-05/somethings-rank-black-belts-in-aikido.

Great article Li sensei.

Thanks Dave! And thanks for the great anecdote - this is actually the correct url (http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/archive/2012-08-05/somethings-rank-black-belts-in-aikido).

(took out the "comment awaiting moderation" part)

Best,

Chris

JJF
08-14-2012, 04:29 AM
It's an unavoidable topic to pop up more often than not in these forums. However this article is quite enlightened.

Personally I'm a bit fed up with people choosing a 5th dan dojo of one style over mine with a different approach to aikido ONLY due to me being a 2nd dan. It's okay to go somewhere if that shoe fits better - but at least give it a try instead of just choosing based on a number value.

An interesting problem that is omitted is how some types of budo - eg Ninjutsu - use the dan-levels in a substantially different way than what I know from Karate and Aikido. They are free to do so - but it does create some confusion when an 11th dan instructor is mentioned..

My approach is, that It's the system we have right now - so let's just get the best out of it and get back to practice.

JJ

Rupert Atkinson
08-14-2012, 06:20 AM
I can run with that. I spent a fortune grading in various arts in the 1980s and haven't bothered since - it's just too damned expensive!

D-Ring
08-14-2012, 10:38 AM
I wonder how many people would be really inclined to pursue dan rank if it came with a pink belt?

Just a thought.

Dave

Edgecrusher
08-14-2012, 12:03 PM
I wonder how many people would be really inclined to pursue dan rank if it came with a pink belt?

Just a thought.

Dave

I think you may be surprised.

JJF
08-15-2012, 04:32 AM
I wonder how many people would be really inclined to pursue dan rank if it came with a pink belt?

Just a thought.

Dave

More Bronies in Budo... :)

HL1978
08-15-2012, 09:19 AM
I can run with that. I spent a fortune grading in various arts in the 1980s and haven't bothered since - it's just too damned expensive!

I'm with you there, for a piece of paper its not really worth it. I would rather just recieve an instructors credential.

phitruong
08-15-2012, 11:00 AM
I wonder how many people would be really inclined to pursue dan rank if it came with a pink belt?

Dave

i want a pink belt to go with my pink underwear and other stuffs. why can't they make a washer that sort colors and white? :)

jonreading
08-15-2012, 12:47 PM
Great read.

Ranking is difficult. As i try to wrap my brain and [hopefully] not contradict previous posts I have made. Generally, I am not upset with the kyu/dan system, but:
1. There should be a difference between teaching and practicing. The effort of ranking was to standardize skill groups... which are still not standard. I would like to see more effort to standardize instruction; it seems logical that breaking that group out of the whole is the way to go.
2. There should be Junior belts. I am sorry, but the 12 yo "black belt" is just confusing.
3. Politics needs to leave ranks. Chris mentions this one too. We place a great deal of weight upon our exposure too, and advice from, ranked individuals.

I still thing that what we have works, but eventually these issues will cause problems. Some groups are addressing the very things I mentioned; I am looking forward to how they address the issues and what results they experience.

Conrad Gus
08-15-2012, 03:36 PM
I think it is a red herring to think of ranks as standardizing anything. Obviously they can't be completely arbitrary, but I don't think standardization is really the point. As Yamada Sensei says in the interview, "People know who is good and bad".

My teacher taught me that the purpose (in his mind) of having ranks was to give people a short-term goal to work towards. Additionally, the intensity of performing under pressure during a test is a useful change from the usual way we practice. It doesn't simulate a real-life encounter, but it might give you some feedback as to how well you've integrated the principles of aikido based on how well they come out when you are under pressure.

The process of testing and preparing for tests has helped me focus over the years, and I think there is a value in that. I can see the point about people getting hung up about judging and comparing based on rank (Yamada Sensei's comment in the article), but I honestly think that if you are not working on eliminating that mindset within yourself, you're not actually doing aikido anyway. If you find yourself in an environment where everybody is thinking that way, somebody is not setting the correct tone in the first place.

"If you compete with nobody, nobody can compete with you." -- Can't remember who said it. :p

Conrad Gus
08-15-2012, 03:38 PM
2. There should be Junior belts. I am sorry, but the 12 yo "black belt" is just confusing.


+1 on this.

Rupert Atkinson
08-15-2012, 06:56 PM
If you need a test to motivate you, then you are in the wrong game and should cho0se something you would like to do. Who is better in the long run - someone who trains hard to perfect a skill just to perfect it, or someone trying to impress an examiner at the weekend? Haven't you noticed how people train more before a test and then fail to show up for a week or two afterwards. It's riduculous. Think - soccer. Do people train to be good? Or are they after some kinda certificate? The answers are obvious. Tests are here to stay, but you can figure out just as much from the way people react to the test as you can from the test itself.

Basia Halliop
08-15-2012, 09:21 PM
Think - soccer. Do people train to be good? Or are they after some kinda certificate?

I don't know that that's the best example. People in soccer train to win soccer games. Whatever their long-term deeper personal motivations for going to practice and trying to perfect their skills, they have a very concrete short term goal to test themselves against and push themselves towards -- can their team win that upcoming soccer game.

And that's even at recreational levels where there may not be any real tangible reward in winning the next game -- it's mostly just exciting to succeed at a goal you had.

Chris Li
07-05-2014, 02:19 PM
Part 1 of a Spanish translation (http://www.aikidoenlinea.com/blog/origen-cinturon-negro-aikido/) of "Something’s Rank - Black Belts in Aikido", courtesy of Aikido en línea. The original English version is available here. (http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/somethings-rank-black-belts-aikido/)

Best,

Chris

JP3
07-06-2014, 12:44 PM
Well, I happen to know for a fact that some Korean guys with the last name of Lee invented the Camoflague rank belt for a youth student with perhaps 6 - 9 months of experience in their version of Tae Kwon Do they brought to the American content with the beginning of their Association, deciding that they could speed up the "apparent" rank progression of kids so as to salvage their attendance by the challenge of attention-deficit kiddos in the USA in the late 1980s.. So there.

LOL! Sorry. Old ATA memories. I am so glad I had ranked up so I didn't have to wear one of those things.

Chris Li
07-09-2014, 01:17 AM
And here's Part 2 of the Spanish translation (http://www.aikidoenlinea.com/blog/grados-dan-aikido/) of "Something’s Rank - Black Belts in Aikido", courtesy of Aikido en línea. The original English version is also available here (http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/somethings-rank-black-belts-aikido/).

Best,

Chris

Chris Li
07-09-2014, 10:59 AM
Now available in Romanian (http://spiritul-aikido.blogspot.sk/2014/07/despre-gradatii-in-genere-centurile.html?view=classic), courtesy of Daniel Forga. The original English version is available on the Aikido Sangenkai blog (http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/somethings-rank-black-belts-aikido/).

Best,

Chris

sakumeikan
07-09-2014, 08:53 PM
I wonder how many people would be really inclined to pursue dan rank if it came with a pink belt?

Just a thought.

Dave

Dear Dave,
i have no problems with a natty pink belt.Looks very fetching aleeong with a matching gi and hakama.
Do you not feel the Aikido community needs a bit of colour?All these dull black .navy blue hakamas and white gi is lacking in the trend setting fashion dept.Maybe someone could start up a profitable sideline/home business?O Senseis spiritual leader I believe was rather daring in his Dress code.
Cheers, Joe.

Chris Li
06-06-2017, 03:51 PM
Now available in Spanish (http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/el-grado-importa-cinturones-negros-en-aikido-spanish-version/), courtesy of Juantxo Ruiz. The original English version is available on the Aikido Sangenkai blog (http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/somethings-rank-black-belts-aikido/).

Best,

Chris

MattMiddleton
06-07-2017, 08:28 AM
An interesting discussion! I've been thinking a lot about gradings lately, since I just did my 1st kyu test ;) Anyhoo, here's what's been rattling around in my brain.

Gradings may have been invented for children originally, but that doesn't necessarily negate their androgogic value. The Menkyo system made a ton of sense for the environment it was in - people who were involved in a particular martial art were spending a lot of their daily life training, and the schools were generally small in comparison to the organizations we see today. It was likely that those with certificates received them directly from the current head of their art, after a relatively short but intense training period.

I suspect that many, if not most, people training in a martial art are doing so on a part-time basis - a few hours a week, maybe a bit more. Further, how many of us are likely to have been observed practicing by the Doshu for any length of time, such that he would be able to make a judgement on our skill? I suspect that number would be quite low. The Menkyo model simply wouldn't have scaled to handle the number of students, or their geographic distribution. At best, you'd have hundreds of splintered arts, probably all practicing something similar, but everyone claiming to be the head of their art.

Now, one point I do agree with is the problem of coloured belts. As someone who has yet to test for Shodan, I find it helpful not to know what grade someone is. I tend to be pretty conscious of my own biases, and I still fall in to the trap of seeing a yellow belt and thinking "this person is just starting, I know more than they do". It may be true, it may not, but it doesn't matter. - I should be there to train with them, with an empty cup as it were I'm not suggesting this isn't my own problem, but rather that having an excess of visible grade indicators could be exacerbating the problem in myself, and I suspect others as well. Most of the dojos I've been to, only use white and black belts, but a couple do use the coloured ones. That's certainly their prerogative, and I'm sure they have solid reasons for using them, it's just not my preference.

As for the tests, while I don't need them for motivation for training overall, I do find them helpful in my training. Just as we should practice both hard and soft, I think it is useful to practice with minimal pressure, as well as with a great deal of pressure, at different times. Under significant pressure, it can be difficult (if not impossible) to work on analyzing or refining a particular piece of a technique or ukemi. Likewise, one cannot know if their practice is being truly internalized without having to demonstrate it "in a pinch". Since we shouldn't be out picking fights, testing in the dojo seems like the next logical way to artificially generate this pressure.