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MrIggy
12-09-2017, 08:49 AM
An interesting article from Aikido Journal:

http://aikidojournal.com/2017/12/07/aikido-confronting-a-crisis/

Opinions?

nikyu62
12-09-2017, 12:50 PM
Seems to be a problem in most places to bring in and keep students. It is not even necessarily a matter of economics, as there is no charge to attend my dojo. Very few adults here are interested in martial arts or physical culture in general; the few young adults who are, tend to gravitate toward MMA style training. A lot of kids are more interested in video games or sports. Some will come and train for a while, then go off to something else. I just teach whoever shows up; the ones who stay realize it is a process involving time and discipline, not an instant gratification thing.
I support the efforts of Aikido Journal to continue sharing knowledge and as a platform for networking.

sorokod
12-10-2017, 12:32 PM
When a student asks you " why should I spend my limited leasure time on practicing Aikido", what do you say?

Demetrio Cereijo
12-10-2017, 12:46 PM
I just teach whoever shows up; the ones who stay realize it is a process involving time and discipline, not an instant gratification thing.

Do you think training in arts like Boxing, Judo, Wrestling, BJJ... require little time, discipline, dedication, et c. and give instant gratification?

nikyu62
12-10-2017, 12:48 PM
I would say something along the lines of "we train to become better human beings and unify our minds, bodies, and spirits to enhance all areas of our lives; we also train in practical self defense skills...if that appeals to you, come and train."

nikyu62
12-10-2017, 12:50 PM
Do you think training in arts like Boxing, Judo, Wrestling, BJJ... require little time, discipline, dedication, et c. and give instant gratification?

No. I hope i did not give you that impression, as it was not stated or implied.

sorokod
12-10-2017, 01:22 PM
I would say something along the lines of "we train to become better human beings and unify our minds, bodies, and spirits to enhance all areas of our lives; we also train in practical self defense skills...if that appeals to you, come and train."

Thats a high target to shoot for, training must be very interesting.

nikyu62
12-11-2017, 12:19 PM
When a target is distant, one must aim high, or will certainly fall short of the mark. :)

mathewjgano
12-11-2017, 03:25 PM
An interesting article from Aikido Journal:

http://aikidojournal.com/2017/12/07/aikido-confronting-a-crisis/

Opinions?

I think the issue of revitalizing "old" things is an important thing to consider. The mark of a master at anything, in my opinion, (beyond having high proficiency) is in constantly evaluating the craft. This means connecting the tried and true of the past with new possibilities. Things grow and change, and often enough, the more things change, the more they stay the same, too.

Groups that wish to remain or to grow, must find ways to sustain themselves. Displaying/proving relevance is probably a necessary way to get more people engaging in the activity. "The traditional martial arts" have not had a great showing in things like MMA/UFC and I do think Aikido in general gets a bad rap, but I've never really been very concerned about that. I believe people will train how they want, and that people will want different things. If they want something that's a gentle, healthful activity, or something more aggressive and combative (not saying "combat"), that's up to the individual. Without getting into the topic of what constitutes "good," I say give me 5 good training partners and I'm personally quite satisfied. But I have very broad and personal goals and while I presume my learning has given me some ability at protecting myself, the need to do so is relatively low on the list compared to things like simply making my body healthier and as physically/mentally balanced as I can muster.

What do you take from the article, Igor?

shuckser
12-12-2017, 05:10 AM
We need a Steven Seagal for the Millennial Generation.

lbb
12-12-2017, 07:09 AM
We need a Steven Seagal for the Millennial Generation.

Meaning what, exactly? Someone who makes action movies in which he pretends to be some kind of tu tu ru?

Michael Hackett
12-12-2017, 03:40 PM
I think what Mr. Theobald was suggesting is what Seagal Sensei did early in his movie career. His first couple of movies demonstrated a form of aikido - along with Matsuoka Sensei. Later of course his movies became really terrible in every aspect, but his early ones triggered quite an interest in aikido. It would be great if there was some cultural behavior that would interest younger people in our art; a series of movies, television shows, perhaps even public safety events shown in the media. I personally haven't seen it, but someone was telling me that the TV series "The Walking Dead" had a segment that showed aikido and that interest in training was increased to some extent.

MrIggy
12-12-2017, 04:45 PM
Do you think training in arts like Boxing, Judo, Wrestling, BJJ... require little time, discipline, dedication, et c. and give instant gratification?

What he meant was that since there isn't competition or at least sparring in general in Aikido young practitioners don't have a measurable way of analyzing their achievements. Too much theory and little usage drives youngsters away.

MrIggy
12-12-2017, 05:07 PM
What do you take from the article, Igor?

My take is that mostly older practitioners go to AJ simply because they are aware of it's (historical) significance. I know many young practitioners of Aikido who have never heard of AJ, Aikiweb etc. and they could care less. Their main instructor is their "Aikido world" as far as they are concerned and that's understandable.

As for getting young practitioners to the dojo, you have to give them something other than applying a set of patterns over and over again and then just simply giving them kyu after kyu for essentially nothing. Add drills, physical conditioning, mint work. etc. Young people like to be physically challenged not stimulated for over contemplation of "martial principles" they are never gonna use.

shuckser
12-13-2017, 04:43 AM
Meaning what, exactly? Someone who makes action movies in which he pretends to be some kind of tu tu ru?So long as it gets people on the mat, yes, that's exactly what I mean. :D

Also, what Mr Hackett said.

lbb
12-13-2017, 07:40 AM
So long as it gets people on the mat, yes, that's exactly what I mean. :D

Also, what Mr Hackett said.

"Getting them on the mat" is great, but not if it's based on false expectations. When those are disappointed, and the new students find out that aikido isn't about being a posturing goombata wannabee, they'll leave.

Demetrio Cereijo
12-13-2017, 08:23 AM
When those are disappointed, and the new students find out that aikido isn't about being a posturing goombata wannabee, they'll leave.

Unless they find that becoming a cross between a cult leader and a feudal lord is a worth pursuing path.

shuckser
12-13-2017, 09:47 AM
"Getting them on the mat" is great, but not if it's based on false expectations. When those are disappointed, and the new students find out that aikido isn't about being a posturing goombata wannabee, they'll leave.Perfect. At least they will have shored up the numbers for an hour or so, helping to hook-in the real beginner amongst them who would otherwise be welcomed to an emptier (and more exclusive and top-heavy) dojo.

rugwithlegs
12-15-2017, 03:42 PM
The tool Josh provides is interesting.

Do we need competition? Tomiki Aikido and Ki Aikido have competition, and they trend no higher than other Aikido styles. Yoga has no competitive element, and trends higher than Aikido.

Does trending well mean something good? Words like pedophile trended higher than any school,of Aikido. I will not take that as advice.

MMA is an entertainment industry, and some of the trending I think is people streaming events (Judo and Taekwondo jump in the stats during the Olympics too).

Ellis Amdur
12-15-2017, 06:43 PM
Aikido children's classes are actually pretty popular, but there's a huge dropoff at adolescence. First of all is the panoply of recreational options for a teenager. Second, there are few tangible rewards (aka competition, something particularly important to boys) in aikido practice. Third, adolescents transition into adult classes. Here you are, a fourteen or fifteen year old kid and you are suddenly hugely out of your comfort zone, required to make physical contact with forty year old matrons and balding guys with gray ponytails.

Next is the problem that the bloom is off the rose, so to speak. Aikido, at one time, was unspeakably exotic, the only traditional appearing Japanese martial art available. It contrasted with the more mundane judo and karate, much less the star-spangled-banner-Liberace pseudo arts. Now it's just one of many arts. One can join a genuine koryu school - - but one can also join anything from capoeira to Indonesian silat. The next exciting trend is going to be traditional martial arts from Africa - legitimate arts and organizations are starting to arrive in Europe and America. There is a huge menu of choices - at one time, aikido dominated a certain segment of the 'market' - there's no segment any more that it is exclusive - from internal strength training (or ideology), to reconciliation of aggression to strong martial virtue to traditional culture.

Then, as has already been noted - MMA. When I first joined aikido, there was a blatant assertion of it's almighty potential. This can be tested - and despite all the ways one can argue with the testing agency (sportive competition with rules, etc), the 'too deadly for the ring,' claim really doesn't resonate with most young people, who are quite legitimately concerned about whether aikido will teach them self-defense. I recently read a statement from the current Doshu where he denied the importance of aikido as a fighting system, anyway.

The avenue of internal strength training has been rediscovered, but it will always be the interest of a very few, and even less will put in the grueling hours to actually achieve benefit from such training. And repetitive solo training (funa kogu and ikkyo undo for an hour a day, for example) is going to appeal to very few people in their teens and twenties.

Aikido is, among martial arts, one among many. But can - or should it - emulate yoga? That's been tried - Shin Taido, it's called. It had a brief tiny boom and now its a superficial, not very popular activity (not to mention its founder was a Japanese Harvey Weinstein, and that really damaged the organization).

When you suspend any concern for martial virtue, you will lose the appeal for those who do care about aikido as a martial art - it will become contact improv and why, at that point, concern yourself with a keikko gi, with a dojo or Japanese culture at all?

Perhaps quality rather than quantity should be the issue - perhaps one should NOT be concerned about the diminishing numbers, because if the question is mostly how large numbers of people can support themselves, we are talking about aiki-business, not aiki-do. Perhaps a scaling down, and a more severe evaluation of teachers, so that only excellent people are teaching dedicated people. Enrollment less, dojos closing - but something improving, rather than continuing a continuous watering down from the first generation to now. Imagine, therefore, a future with one tenth or one-50th the numbers, but these dojos worthy of respect on their own terms, something continuously developed and honed like the fine steel from iron that Ueshiba Morihei claimed was the purpose of budo training.

Ellis Amdur

Peter Goldsbury
12-15-2017, 06:52 PM
Hello Ellis,

Have you by any chance met Doshu recently? Perhaps he might like to read your post.

Best wishes,

Ellis Amdur
12-15-2017, 07:35 PM
Hello Ellis,

Have you by any chance met Doshu recently? Perhaps he might like to read your post.

Best wishes,

Hi Peter -My reference to Doshu's statement. for what its worth, was a statement I read it in an Aikido Journal account of his presentation during a ceremony at the Iwama Dojo several years ago. Why do you think Doshu might find what I've written of interest?

As for contact, I've had no contact with the current Doshu since 1978.

Best
Ellis

Peter Goldsbury
12-15-2017, 09:12 PM
Hello Ellis,

My tongue was definitely in my cheek when I wrote the last post.

Your Post #20 gave a good summary of current aikido demographics etc and I wondered aloud whether this was an issue for the Aikikai. During my last conversation with Doshu, last year, he stressed that he could show and teach only what he considered mainstream aikido and had to leave individual explorations of the art to others. In another thread I called this a dilemma, since it applies the iemoto model to a non-koryu art like aikido.

Best wishes,

Ellis Amdur
12-16-2017, 02:48 PM
Just checking - I was imagining translating that post to Doshu.

I do remember a conversation with him after practice, back in 1977,where we compared birthdays and found I was a few months older than him. I threw my hakama at him and, deadpan, ordered him to fold it, because I was born first. He held it, looking at me, nonplussed . . . it took him about thirty seconds to realize it was a joke. :cool:

SeiserL
12-17-2017, 09:48 AM
IMHO, perhaps a crisis is feedback and an opportunity.
I remember a long time ago reading a book on positioning/marketing where we were asked to define our uniqueness and utilize it to position ourselves in a market niche/population.
While the general public may compare all martial arts, its what they intend/want to get out of its that is different. By comparing/competing with all other martial arts we lose our uniqueness in the marketplace. Perhaps Aikido appeals more to what parents want their children to get out of training and to the older marital artist looking for something different/deeper.
Besides an art, we are a business. From what I see, too many dojos fail to have a business/marketing plan that is implemented on a daily bases.
Perhaps individually and collectively we need to rethink what we have to offer, where/who are the people who want it, and how to connect the dots.
Just some initial thoughts.

Rupert Atkinson
12-18-2017, 03:00 PM
Do you think training in arts like Boxing, Judo, Wrestling, BJJ... require little time, discipline, dedication, et c. and give instant gratification?

The above arts - you can get a high degree of skill in a couple of years if you train hard. It should be the same for Aikido. Instructors need to be able to get people to BB level within a year or two. The idea that it takes ten or twenty years is ridiculous. The problem is, many believe that long-term is the only Way and adjust their training systems and syllabi accordingly. Aikido teaches too slowly and has no cohesive 'theory' between the waza that is taught 'as a system'. All too often it is random, from the eyes of low level students (even high level ones). I could go on and on. In fact ...

For example, I studied shiatsu/acupuncture when younger. I accepted all the theory as it seemed to make sense - as crazy as it was. But then, I visited a seminar run by another organisation and the theory was ALL different. After further investigation I decided not to waste my brain cells on studying junk science and quit. If there is no unifying theory - it is just garbage. But Aikido is physical movement with an aim. Does Aikido have a unified theory? Heck, irimi and tankan, the most basic concepts, are different in different schools. I think in my book I come up with seven different rationale I have come across that entire styles are based on. It is ridiculous, even if each one makes sense. But for myself, thinking through the process, I have my own rationale - what I think is best for me. No one else has done that. No one is even interested. No one studies. Wake up sheeple!

MrIggy
12-19-2017, 07:55 PM
The problem is, many believe that long-term is the only Way and adjust their training systems and syllabi accordingly. Aikido teaches too slowly and has no cohesive 'theory' between the waza that is taught 'as a system'. All too often it is random, from the eyes of low level students (even high level ones). I could go on and on.


I agree with this, especially the bold part.


The above arts - you can get a high degree of skill in a couple of years if you train hard. It should be the same for Aikido. Instructors need to be able to get people to BB level within a year or two.


I highly disagree with the bold part. A black belt with only two years of training, unless he is some sort of metaphysical clone of O'Sensei or just a talented freak of nature, would be a laughing stock just like a 20 year training master that gets defeated by some random guy who knows how to throw a punch. With the current curriculum(s), despite of affiliation, an average rate of obtaining a black belt should be no less then 6 years. And when I say black belt I don't mean somebody who can "find his way out of a situation" I mean somebody who can completely control an untrained person to the point that he represents no threat whatsoever, under the right circumstances of course. If he can do that without severely hurting them, then he would truly earn the title of Aikido Shodan. Of course in my opinion you should be able to achieve this to a certain degree at the level of third kyu but giving somebody at that level a black belt is ridiculous.

As for "high degree of skill in a couple of years" as compared to whom and under what conditions? An acquaintance on mine trained in boxing a year or a little bit more, three times a week and did weight lifting in the days between, besides sparring I'm not sure if he competed. He said that he was considered good by other trainees. Anyway one day he enters a coffee shop (although here they also serve alcoholic beverages) and sees his ex girlfriend siting and talking to a guy for whom he knew was a ballet dancer. He approaches them and in a jealous manner asks her "What are you doing here with this fagot?". The ballet guy stood up from his chair and moped the floor with him (by the words of the acquaintance). He just couldn't get out of his grip. I know other examples of guys who had more years of training and got handled by people who were more athletic than them or simply more resourceful (knowing your surroundings does wonders in a fight). Not everybody who trains, be it hard or not, is gonna be Tyson, Yamashita or on their level, especially after just a few years. They should be able to handle an untrained person but even that under certain circumstances isn't always possible or easy as people in general might think.

Walter Martindale
12-19-2017, 10:01 PM
The above arts - you can get a high degree of skill in a couple of years if you train hard. It should be the same for Aikido. Instructors need to be able to get people to BB level within a year or two. The idea that it takes ten or twenty years is ridiculous. The problem is, many believe that long-term is the only Way and adjust their training systems and syllabi accordingly. Aikido teaches too slowly and has no cohesive 'theory' between the waza that is taught 'as a system'. All too often it is random, from the eyes of low level students (even high level ones). I could go on and on. In fact ...

For example, I studied shiatsu/acupuncture when younger. I accepted all the theory as it seemed to make sense - as crazy as it was. But then, I visited a seminar run by another organisation and the theory was ALL different. After further investigation I decided not to waste my brain cells on studying junk science and quit. If there is no unifying theory - it is just garbage. But Aikido is physical movement with an aim. Does Aikido have a unified theory? Heck, irimi and tankan, the most basic concepts, are different in different schools. I think in my book I come up with seven different rationale I have come across that entire styles are based on. It is ridiculous, even if each one makes sense. But for myself, thinking through the process, I have my own rationale - what I think is best for me. No one else has done that. No one is even interested. No one studies. Wake up sheeple!

I guess you don't subscribe to the concept that it takes on average about 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to attain mastery in nearly anything - be it sports, music, art, or industry. An apprenticeship in some industries is 8,000 hours.

I've met (and coached) people who mastered a sport in about 6000 hours (and attained the first two of three Olympic Gold Medals after only 7 years in the sport). I've also known (and coached) people who haven't mastered a sport after 15 years of training 2 hours/day, 6 days a week - one in particular asked me if he was wasting his time - I replied "do you like what you're doing? if so, no." That was a decade ago, and he's still plugging along. I know ONE person who was graded shodan in aikido after only two years - but I'd consider him a six-sigma aikido sponge.

People learn at different rates, and there was a lot of research in the late 90s and early 00s that suggested that the "random" form of learning was actually better in the long run than highly structured. (read up on Rich Masters' work, for example).

Peter Goldsbury
12-20-2017, 01:30 AM
In terms of time taken to obtain dan rank in aikido, perhaps I should mention the system common in Japanese university aikido clubs affiliated to the Aikikai. In my own university, during the first three years of the four-year undergraduate course, students trained every day for five days per week, with two hours of athletic, training each time, coupled with a gasshuku (intensive training session) in the spring vacation and summer vacation. They took only two kyu grades: 3rd kyu - (blue belt) and 1st kyu (brown belt) and then shodan. Shodan was obtained during the summer intensive training during the second year and these young shodan became the new kanbu (managers) in time for the opening of the following academic year (in April). The 4th year students obtained 2nd dan in the summer training session before they graduated.

In the local central dojo, where we followed the usual period of five years for a shodan and three for a nidan, in accordance with the Hombu guidelines, the athletic ukemi of the students -- and their very poor knowledge of waza, was a common topic of conversation.

Best wishes,

Rupert Atkinson
12-20-2017, 03:17 AM
I highly disagree with the bold part. A black belt with only two years of training...

I stand by what I said above. Igor - your shodan standard is too high. Shodan in Japan is being able to reel off the waza when asked. Being able to defend yourself has no part of it. it is just a list of waza. I was kinda shocked when I first saw that ... but it makes a lot of sense to me now. Shodan - it really is - the beginning, literally. You have just learned all the main waza. That's it. Now, you spend the rest of your life sussing them out. In Japan, most shodan couldn't punch their way out of the proverbial paper bag. 3rd dans are where you see a larger improvement in skill amongst a certain few. But the majority are time-served social hobby practitioners. That is just the reality. Back in the day I met more than a few foreigners in Japan who quit martial arts as this simple reality shocked them so badly - their dream got shattered. Me - I stopped grading altogether (25 years ago) as I realised the farce - but I still train (and people just don't understand me - to me, a grade is like a boy scout badge, they lost their relevance, I grew up). Not grading has allowed me to step back and take a more honest look at what goes on around me. Aikido remains popular in Japan, as does Judo. Most dojos are run as a business and grading is just routine.

We are talking about getting Aikido popular again are we not? Teach efficiently (Aikido fails to do this), get people fit (Aikido fails to do this), get people to BB level in two years (Aikido fails to do this) etc. The two year thing might not be for everyone, but having an option to go for - some would see it and jump at it. The option does not exist - but is the norm in Japan. I have seen some good people after two years training - it is possible.

Oh, and focus the learning on Aiki as soon as practical. Aikido is: The Way of Aiki. No one, or practically no one here, will respond to that. It scares them. Aikido is not self-defence. In Japan, they have another name for self-defence, they say, Goshi-jutsu. So if the Aikido teacher wants to do a bit of self-defence he says, let's do some Goshin-jutsu today. So they don't say, Aikido for self-defence like is common in the West. Aikido is Aikido. And usually, they just do, Aikido.

And weapons - don't get me started on weapons! Only teach stuff that you can instantly relate to Aikido waza - so it has meaning and a positive learning intent. 13 or 31 katas take a lot of time and generate many bad habits that are hard to get rid of. Focus on posture, footwork, cutting, thrusting, avoidance etc. That is a lot to focus on - before complicated partner routines where all the basics are suddenly thrown 'out the window'.

I am a high school English teacher. I have to teach writing to boys who can't or don't want to write. There are real fights, and swearing and cursing, between students in the classroom. I have worked in a top school, a bottom school, and an average school. We start with chaos and emerge from the mire. I find a way, I start with 'reason to write', and, after many battles, I can get many of them to pass the national exams. It is a real battle but fun to fight. I like to win but know it is not always possible. Logic is power. Belief is farce, it can be powerful, but farce.

Peter Goldsbury
12-20-2017, 06:48 AM
Hello Rupert,

I am very happy that I trained for ten years in the UK before setting foot here. I came here as a shodan after nine years (from Yamada/New York & Kanetsuka) and found myself seriously under-graded. In other words, I beat the proverbial s**t out of my Japanese dojo colleagues and the dojo-cho found this mildly embarrassing. So I caught up quite quickly.

Best wishes,

Rupert Atkinson
12-20-2017, 12:33 PM
Hello Rupert,

I am very happy that I trained for ten years in the UK before setting foot here. I came here as a shodan after nine years (from Yamada/New York & Kanetsuka) and found myself seriously under-graded. In other words, I beat the proverbial s**t out of my Japanese dojo colleagues and the dojo-cho found this mildly embarrassing. So I caught up quite quickly.

Best wishes,

Like you - I did 10 years in the UK too, before Japan, and was shodan (Aikido and another Jujutsu - back, then, 80s, BBs in more than one art was rare). So, it was enlightening. But for the future of Aikido, perhaps people need to wake up to the fact that shodan is more of the beginner. Basically, a shodan knows the syllabus ... and can then start to mess with it.

nikyu62
12-20-2017, 01:38 PM
Tohei Koichi Sensei said he learned the core arts in 6 months and didn't see why it should take a long time to learn basic competency (or words to that effect.) After 6 months he was sent out to teach at military academies, and was not even graded for a number of years. As the first 10th dan in aikido, it could be said he was unique. It does seem that different teachers and associations have different standards for advancement; sometimes it is even political, financial, social, racial, etc. (gasp).
Not everyone learns at the same rate, so one size does not fit all. Practitioners of any given grade will not be equal in ability, regardless of how "ability" is perceived.

MrIggy
12-20-2017, 07:01 PM
I stand by what I said above. Igor - your shodan standard is too high. Shodan in Japan is being able to reel off the waza when asked. Being able to defend yourself has no part of it. it is just a list of waza. I was kinda shocked when I first saw that ... but it makes a lot of sense to me now.

And because it's like that in Japan doesn't mean that we have to blindly follow. Many organisations that are officially affiliated with the Aikikai have their own ways of doing things. That's one of the good things about the Aikikai, you can do your own thing while you are still considered a member. Many people don't seem to exercise this in the right manner though. Also, by what I've seen, that standard isn't to high, it's necessary.

Shodan - it really is - the beginning, literally.

Where I'm from, back in the day (even today by many opinions), a black belt wasn't somebody who was "at the beginning" he was considered a master of the art. He was supposed to be the embodiment of the art's principles, techniques, strategies etc. You would learn almost all the waza at 3rd kyu and when you were proficient in it's use, as with everything else I mentioned, only then would you be considered eligible for a black belt or 1.Dan. Every higher rank was considered a higher level of proficiency. That's why it took between 10 and 15 years for people to get black belts in Judo and Shotokan Karate. Back then they trained Shotokan as hard as Kyokushin, competitions where another thing. Even with the lack of Aikido instructors they would get certificates for teaching in about 3-4 years but not official black belts until later.

Most dojos are run as a business and grading is just routine.

This is unfortunately become more present here as well, people getting black belts in Judo in about 5 years without even counting results from competitions. Not to mention Karate and Aikido. However, there are dojos (most in the case of Judo) that still keep their integrity high.

We are talking about getting Aikido popular again are we not?

This isn't just about popularity, it's also about creating a larger talent pool among younger athletic people who would be good candidates for replacing aging masters. I know people who left Aikido because they were awarded ranks they themselves knew they didn't deserve.

Teach efficiently (Aikido fails to do this), get people fit (Aikido fails to do this), get people to BB level in two years (Aikido fails to do this) etc.

The first one would be the major problem, the second one depends on the instructor, in most dojos that I've seen people are generally fit, now if you mean are they in high level physical condition, that would be another story.

As for the third, the Aikikai and Yoshinkan actually have programs that give out 1.Dan ranks in less than a year. The later one would be the infamous Senshusei Course.

http://www.yoshinkan.net/03contentsE/course-sensyuE.html

The Aikikai 1.Dan requisites: http://www.aikikai.or.jp/eng/information/review.html .

I have seen some good people after two years training - it is possible.

Again I ask good compared to whom? Yourself? You trained in Aikido and Judo as i recall, would you in all honesty give them black belts after two years?

Oh, and focus the learning on Aiki as soon as practical.

Learning is one thing, teaching it to be practical is another by all accounts. Although I second the notion that it should be added to the general curriculum as a specific subset that should be personally introspected by all students.

In Japan, they have another name for self-defence, they say, Goshi-jutsu. So if the Aikido teacher wants to do a bit of self-defence he says, let's do some Goshin-jutsu today. So they don't say, Aikido for self-defence like is common in the West. Aikido is Aikido. And usually, they just do, Aikido.

As in the Goshin jutsu kata created by Kenji Tomiki?

And weapons - don't get me started on weapons! Only teach stuff that you can instantly relate to Aikido waza - so it has meaning and a positive learning intent. 13 or 31 katas take a lot of time and generate many bad habits that are hard to get rid of. Focus on posture, footwork, cutting, thrusting, avoidance etc. That is a lot to focus on - before complicated partner routines where all the basics are suddenly thrown 'out the window'.


I would recommend that "stuff" being taught first, mandatory with Tachi waza then the katas. I agree with the rest.

MrIggy
12-20-2017, 07:22 PM
In terms of time taken to obtain dan rank in aikido, perhaps I should mention the system common in Japanese university aikido clubs affiliated to the Aikikai. In my own university, during the first three years of the four-year undergraduate course, students trained every day for five days per week, with two hours of athletic, training each time, coupled with a gasshuku (intensive training session) in the spring vacation and summer vacation. They took only two kyu grades: 3rd kyu - (blue belt) and 1st kyu (brown belt) and then shodan. Shodan was obtained during the summer intensive training during the second year and these young shodan became the new kanbu (managers) in time for the opening of the following academic year (in April). The 4th year students obtained 2nd dan in the summer training session before they graduated.


Any videos of them online perhaps?

Peter Goldsbury
12-20-2017, 10:14 PM
Any videos of them online perhaps?

I am not aware of any, but I was there at a time before videotaping became popular. If you search YouTube, or the home page of Hiroshima University aikido club, you might find some.

Like many other events in Japanese universities, student dan examinations were really a rite of passage, not a test of real ability, and I suspect that the Aikikai were / are well aware of this.

University clubs were among the first to restart after World War II and Hiroshima University had the additional distinction of being restarted from scratch, due to the atomic bombing.

The result was that students never failed their tests, but it was very clear, to everybody who saw the tests, who did well and who did not do so well. What you saw was something close to a kind of aikido ballet, with very athletic displays of ukemi, but very little awareness of distance, the use of atemi, and the possibility of realistic attacks. They even tried to cover up the bad knife attacks by suggesting that attacks with a knife were quite different from real punches. This is probably true, but could not disguise the fact that both were done badly.

In my own dojo, I use the dan testing syllabus I also use in the Netherlands, with minimum limits for the time a test has to take. At present I am conducting shodan tests and some of the students were preparing by using the Hombu syllabus. With a smile, I substituted my own syllabus and this caused the outbreak of a wave of shock and horror, since it was just before the test was due to begin. On the other hand, one student was very happy to have survived his 45-minute test.

Peter Goldsbury
12-20-2017, 10:51 PM
I should add that I agree with the others that in Japan shodan merely marks a beginning. But since students have to get up and perform in front of the others, I have simply added an element of greater drama: a performance more closely meriting the title of a tragedy, or even a comedy.

MRoh
12-21-2017, 03:54 AM
Where I'm from, back in the day (even today by many opinions), a black belt wasn't somebody who was "at the beginning" he was considered a master of the art.

That is what people in the western world are usually thinking about black belts, but it was never the case in Japan.
But I agree that two or even three years are much too short for average students.
I know only one person who reached shodan Level after 3 and a half year,

A high ranked teacher of a german non aikikai recognized organization told me he could bring students to shodan level in two years, but this level that is now commonly accepted in this federation does not hold the standards of japanese shihan. I think it must be embarassing for this poeple, when the attend seminars where they compare themselves with others and see that generally shodan level is much higher.
My teacher asked a hakama wearing women, who attended one of his seminars, which rank she holds and wanted to see her yudansha-card, he was a little bit shocked to see that she was nidan.
In his eyes she had the level of a san kyu.
The level my teacher wants to be garanteed in the german Aikikai was always rather high, because when he came to Germany he was the youngest amongst the japanese teachers in Europe, so it was impossible for him to "produce" yudansha with a lower level than that of the other teachers, and so even Chiba Sensei acknoledged his effort.

But even this level was always compared with a driving license, the ability to come home safe, but not real driving skills that represents a mastery. So you can see many yudansha who wouldn't stand the ground in a real fight, but that is really not what is accessible on that level and mostly not tought.
The question which abilitys should represent a shodan level can be answered in a multitude of ways and from many perspectives, but it shouldn't be mixed up with real mastery, that is maybe shihan level.

lbb
12-21-2017, 08:28 AM
All the adult students in my dojo are working or full-time students or both -- still, a number manage to train five days a week most weeks. It's still probably eight years or more to shodan.

I was lucky enough to be presented my shodan certificate by Didier Boyet, who was visiting us for a seminar at the time. It took me by surprise -- I'd tested some months previous, and I guess the official certificate had been wending its way through the bureaucracy and had just arrived. He said to me at the time, "This means that you're now ready for us to teach you." I get that. It's not mastery of aikido. But maybe it's mastery of how to learn aikido.

Walter Martindale
12-21-2017, 03:41 PM
Further to my remarks above about the number of hours' training required to "master" something, my experience with the "shodan" system is similar to those in Japan. I was trained by people who have also trained for significant periods in Japan, and when I "advanced" to shodan in BOTH judo and aikido, the "higher mucky-mucks" of both arts remarked that now I knew enough to start really learning. As well, visiting Japan as a 24-year-old, 85 kg ikkyu in judo, I found that I was much stronger than most Japanese shodans, about the same as most nidan, and any sandan in the room could mop the floor with me.

Robert Cowham
12-21-2017, 04:53 PM
It might be of interest re Japanese University gradings:

https://www.facebook.com/1496265443949496/videos/1889970777912292/?hc_ref=ARQ62aIpIARxHSJIvVKg8NRP5xX0tJUoEbw7ZthjjqYOHnkh0HqvXjzwarLHhGFotmk

The University of Tokyo Aikido Club Gogatsusai Enbukai @Hongo Campus
May 21st, 2017 (short version)

As you can see, most of demos are 3rd and 4th year students.

It includes teachers from the Shiseikan such as Yamada sensei (7th dan) and Tanaka sensei (9th dan and 89 years old!) who Peter may know.

I have trained occasionally at the Shiseikan at Inaba sensei's Monday evening class for university students - very keen and enthusiastic, and most of them make excellent progress in the few years they are there. For most of them, the post-university world of work means little to no aikido - at best weekends.

I remember being told that Japanese treat grades up to and including sandan as amateur grades - yondan is where it becomes serious. One of my favourite people from the Shiseikan was a guy in his 70s who was ex-MITI and wore a deerstalker hat - he was sandan and aspired to be a gentleman amateur (even if he could show the "young buck" yondans a thing or two when he chose!).

jamesf
12-21-2017, 05:03 PM
Getting back closer to the original topic, I wonder how much the decline is simply due to increased business competition. At last check, my mostly rural/suburban county of about 251,000 people has the following martial arts dojos/clubs/schools/gyms:

(Note: this is only a count of the schools by "sign on the door", it doesn't count other arts hosted by the same dojo, or clubs/programs hosted by larger gyms or academic schools.)

Aikido: 2
Boxing (western): at least 3
Bujinkan: 1
BJJ: 3
Hapkido: 1
Judo: 1
Karate/Kempo: 4
Kickboxing (nonspecific): 1
Muay Thai: 1
Shaolin Kung Fu: 1
TKD: 3

The dojo I'm a part of is currently in the strongest growth cycle I've seen since I began a mere five years ago or so. We recently relocated (due to landlord issues), but the new dojo is in a much better location, clearly visible from a main road (as a drawback, our rent doubled). The old dojo was hidden down a back street. Probably half of our new students are simply walk-ins who were interested in starting a martial art, and saw our sign as they were driving down the street. Most other Aikido dojos I've run across so far are in some not-so-obvious location (like we were), just to keep the rent modest. I wonder how that alone affects things.

Demographically, we have mostly kyu-ranks, with rarely more than 3 yudansha (not counting sensei) at any given practice session. Our chief instructor is in his mid-40's and is in top physical condition. Our only other regular instructor is his junior by a bare few years.

All that being said, our chief instructor tells me that we are still under our peak numbers, but most of the drop happened all at once (personality conflicts followed by our founding instructor having a stroke), so we are still "rebuilding", so to speak.

I, myself, am optimistic about our dojo's future. As for the greater future of Aikido, as a whole, I think one key is to lay to rest the leftover animosity of past schisms. When I hear about that sort of history, it disheartens me, as it seems to be a hypocritical violation of the spirit of "no competition", but by some of the leaders of the highest level. Fortunately, I haven't run into too much of this "in real life", so I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and keep hoping others feel the same.

Currawong
12-21-2017, 07:51 PM
My teacher asked a hakama wearing women, who attended one of his seminars, which rank she holds and wanted to see her yudansha-card, he was a little bit shocked to see that she was nidan.
In his eyes she had the level of a san kyu.

There's a huge difference here between whether one's grade is connected to teaching or not. Most yudansha I train with here wouldn't even remotely consider teaching a class, let alone make anything of their grade, which is often given as a mark of respect towards time trained. Everyone knows who is "shidoin" and who is not, so there is no confusion. But it does mean that you can get discrepancies between grade and ability far more extreme than the example given.

To me, it makes more sense that the connection between grade and ability is more strict outside Japan. Here, there's a whole lot of underlying culture that doesn't exist in the West.

I think the contrast between what people consider dedicated commitment to their practice and what that meant in the past is too great and the art is reaping the consequences.

The problem I see now can be exemplified by 6th and 7th dan shihans I'm aware of who don't train more than 2-4 times a week, and going to class is the only training they do. How many black belts you grade seems to be the standard for getting high ranks nowadays, and it seems every other 6th dan is holding seminars now.

My original teacher, who is now 80, practices every day at home, and has done so for decades, and that is before one even adds teaching classes, which he does (or did) 6 days a week.

I'm reminded of an interview with Tetsuzan Kuroda (possibly on Aikido Journal, or it might have been a quote via Ellis Amdur) whom when asked about his development of internal power exercises, replied that in the past, people would practice the katas (of his martial arts) until they became the kata. Nowadays, however, they have jobs and families and don't have the time.

I think until the focus is brought back on the true masters, and developing genuine mastery, the art will continue to flounder.

Peter Goldsbury
12-22-2017, 02:46 AM
Hello Amos,

I received my shodan because Kanetsuka Shihan needed some junior instructors to cover in his dojo when he was away on seminars. The benefit was that he occasionally appeared in class, but as a student, while the young yudansha taught. So, in a way, we were taught how to teach.
However, when I came here, I never taught a class again until I became 6th dan, over 20 years later. That meant that I trained, every day, sometimes twice, for over 20 years.
My only job was to sit with the shihan at dan examinations and choose the waza--and then teach the remainder of the class. I think he found the way that I ignored the Hombu guidelines mildly entertaining.

All good wishes for 2018

Currawong
12-27-2017, 03:32 AM
Hi Peter,

I hope I didn't give the impression that I was attacking anyone who participates on this forum, but of particular people elsewhere who were very clearly more concerned about their status and the perks that come with it than their actual ability.

Where I am, the serious practitioners train daily, sometimes going to 2 or 3 classes, and training also after each class for another hour. As well as, of course, our dojo-cho who lives the art, we have a super-serious shihan who lives budo as well, whose classes demand intense concentration. I have much regret that I have been too lazy to get up early and attend more of his classes.

What I miss are teachers such as Sugano Sensei, who could be profoundly terrifying and capable of things I cannot describe. I gathered he would, as an uchi-deshi, get up at 4am and practice weapons, well before breakfast, and practiced with a bokken until the weapon moved itself. It was the ferocious reputation of O'Sensei's students that captured peoples' interests and inspired serious pratice. Now it is the Gracie Brothers who have taken the lead in that.

Peter Goldsbury
12-27-2017, 06:14 AM
Hello Amos,

Hi Peter,
I hope I didn't give the impression that I was attacking anyone who participates on this forum, but of particular people elsewhere who were very clearly more concerned about their status and the perks that come with it than their actual ability.
I did not interpret your mail as an attack on participants in AikiWeb. However, I have found in my 'aikido life' that status and perks can indeed be an issue, despite protestations to the contrary. This is especially the case when you have organizations like the IAF, over an above the sum total of individual dojos. That is why I am glad to have been able to keep my dojo life in aikido and my organization life in aikido as separate as possible.

Where I am, the serious practitioners train daily, sometimes going to 2 or 3 classes, and training also after each class for another hour. As well as, of course, our dojo-cho who lives the art, we have a super-serious shihan who lives budo as well, whose classes demand intense concentration. I have much regret that I have been too lazy to get up early and attend more of his classes.
As I implied in my earlier post, the dojo where you train is probably one of the best in Japan for very serious aikido training. M Suganuma was a very notable deshi. My own teacher shunned any limelight, but one of his virtues was the agreement he made, when he took over the dojo, to have regular seminars with H Tada, S Yamaguchi, M Fujita and S Arikawa. I got to know these shihans well enough to be able to attend their own classes in the Hombu and I was a regular participant in Italy at Tada Sensei's summer schools. (Previously, the dojo was in the Iwama orbit, but was actually a front for a yakuza organization--which led to its closure.)
However, there are very few aikido dojos in Japan that are wholly owned. They are usually owned by the relevant city and prefecture and then hired out. I found this out when I attempted to open an aikido club in the local sports centre, which had a huge dojo with mats permanently laid. There was no problem with my being a foreigner: in fact, to have a foreigner teaching a Japanese martial art to Japanese was considered a major plus. But we were competing with many other groups who wanted to use the same space.

What I miss are teachers such as Sugano Sensei, who could be profoundly terrifying and capable of things I cannot describe. I gathered he would, as an uchi-deshi, get up at 4am and practice weapons, well before breakfast, and practiced with a bokken until the weapon moved itself. It was the ferocious reputation of O'Sensei's students that captured peoples' interests and inspired serious pratice. Now it is the Gracie Brothers who have taken the lead in that.
Yes. I knew him, but not as well as I knew K Chiba, who was very similar.

Chiba S was profoundly worried about the 'dumbing down' of aikido, as it moved to being a more established postwar art and less of an art where individual quirks were allowed to blossom. He returned here, but was not made especially welcome. My most memorable times of him were training with him in his house in Shizuoka Pref., just the two of us. I would borrow one of his keikogi and belts. What was remarkable to me was that the training would be done virtually in silence. It really was a kind of moving Zen.

Best wishes,

PAG