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Nafis Zahir
11-13-2003, 12:18 AM
I was speaking with a friend of mine who I have trained with for 8 years. We were discussing how some people get pushed thru the ranks quickly, even though their technique is not up to par. This causes alot of jealousy and anomosity in dojos all around the country. I tell people not to worry about it and to just train. Your technique is what really matters. I am a Shodan and have trained with San Dans who could not give me a Nikyo! Does rank really matter? My Instructor wears a white belt! He says that he always wants to maintain a beginners mind. I respect that. He's a 6th Dan by the way. He may wear a white belt, but his technique speaks for itself. I hate the ranking system myself and all the politics behind it. I may put a white belt on! Does it really matter? I'm not talking about testing either, just the level of ones ability. Anyone?

aubrey bannah
11-13-2003, 12:34 AM
Really it's only between you and your teacher.

It can make a difference if your teacher introduce's different aspects of Aikido knowledge at different rank levels & you are expected to abtain a certain rank before you are given or lead into so called higher aspects of Aikido

Aubrey

sanosuke
11-13-2003, 01:00 AM
how some people get pushed thru the ranks quickly, even though their technique is not up to par. This causes alot of jealousy and anomosity in dojos all around the country.

politics...politics.....:grr:
I tell people not to worry about it and to just train.

i did the same, because i feel the higher the rank the more burden you have to carry. For example, being a yudansha you have to be able to take ukemi from shihans, because from there those shihans sees the quality of our techniques. Being or looked bad in front of the shihans may bring bad image not only to yourself, but to your dojo and your sensei as well.
Does it really matter? I'm not talking about testing either, just the level of ones ability. Anyone?

not to me, but for some people it really meant a lot. i even knew someone who tried to lobby a sensei from different dojo to take him as a student after the person being rejected to take shodan test. I feel pity for this person, as i already felt that there's more and more in aikido to explore/pursue besides a black belt and a hakama. Currently i'm a sankyu, and don't know when i get my shodan, but i felt that when the time comes, i'll take it somehow.

Kelly Allen
11-13-2003, 01:06 AM
I'm in it mostly for the exercise and the fun anyway. I'd like to, for sure, rank to be able to wear the Hakama. Sensei tells me that the weight of the hakama sure helps to feel your center as you perform techniques. With me every little bit helps. Not to mention they look cool. He he!

Clayton Drescher
11-13-2003, 02:28 AM
*Does it really matter? I'm not talking about testing either, just the level of ones ability*--Nafis Zahir

Of course I think that level of ability matters when training in general so that you know how "hard" to do a techinque to do with an uke...if that's what you meant Mr. Zahir. Personally I have never met a yudansha that has been incabable of solid aikido, nor anyone ranked above me in general that has not been "better" at aikido than me. But I hear this kind of problem alot in these forums, it makes me curious about the state of some dojos and/or senseis.

I have just been asked to test for a kyu rank a couple above what I thought I was due for if one were to strictly follow the "rules." I don't doubt my ability to actually do any of the techinques, I just don't know if I would have time to learn some of the new ones adequately before the test date, especially since this would be my first aikido testing. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I won't be able to make this round of tests anyway, and will hopefully test later next year.

So maybe this is part of what you're thinking about Mr. Zahir? In addition, I have to think about the feelings of my fellow kyu-rank dojo-mates who I would surpass after just one test, but with equivalent time training in straight aikido, though I've done other martial arts before.

Not a real fun position to be in, kinda thankful I've got a few extra months to practice.

Best,

Clayton

Nafis Zahir
11-13-2003, 03:09 AM
That's part of what I mean. You may do well on your test, but some of your fellow students may be resentful especially if you don't perform up to their level. But if you don't, does it matter that you out rank them? What difference should it make if your not up to their level. Rank now adays is all about money, politics, and favoritism. Just ask Chiba Sensei.

Michael Karmon
11-13-2003, 06:28 AM
There are two miss-ranking options. The one is over-ranking. A person is given a rank that is higher then what he deserves. This issue usually solves itself, the person will hit the glass ceiling and will stay in his current rank until he gets to the required level (or leave in frustration). This of course is bad for moral and order in the dojo.

The other issue is under-ranking. I have in my Dojo two outstanding Aikidoka with ten years of experience at Q level, who had to be literally forced into Shodan tests. This is just a big a problem as over-ranking. Ranks were designed to represent your level of Aikido. When a 3rd Q performs just as well as a Nidan it has a bad effect not only on the Yodansha but also on his peers at Q levels because they think "is this the level I am expected at Q3?" it causes a lack of confidence in ones abilities and expectation.

I find over-rankers to be ambitious and somewhat aggressive types whereas under-rankers to be slightly on the arrogant side.

happysod
11-13-2003, 08:11 AM
Michael, speaking as a "forced" shodan, I feel it behooves me to arrogantly disagree with you on a couple of points:

1. "Ranks were designed to represent your level of Aikido" - I think you may want to read some of the various views on ranking in aikido, beyond teacher/student they're really just an artificial way of dealing with particular organisational problems.

2. "bad effect.. peers at Q levels ", sorry but if you're the type of person to do these types of comparison, you're always going to find something to be upset about. Not all in a single rank (whatever it is) are equal in ability, then there's the wonderful "my dan grades vs your dan grades" across associations...

I have to agree with other posters who intimated rank is only important as you let it be, with one caveat. If your association has any ceilings on the types of training you do dependant on rank, you must be allowed to go for these grades.

philipsmith
11-13-2003, 08:18 AM
Its important to realise that rank and ability are not always directly related.

Sometimes a person may be awarded a higher rank for reasons other than their technical proficiency; for example if they have significantly contributed to the development of an association or are an outstanding teacher.

On the other side some people are "held back" for reasons of attitude or even as a test of charachter.

Michael Karmon
11-13-2003, 09:15 AM
, beyond teacher/student they're really just an artificial way of dealing with particular organisational problems.
Well, I believe that if you are the kind of guy that trains only of the sake of rank then you will be weaded out very quickly from any type of respectable martial art. However, IMHO ranks are an important factor within the dojo. I expect that within the dojo the avarege Q1 will be a better performing, better mannered, assuming more responsabiliteis Aikidoka then the avarege Q2-3. (keyword being "avarege")

You are absoluly right that that Q levels can not be compaiered across Dojos
2. "bad effect.. peers at Q levels ", sorry but if you're the type of person to do these types of comparison, you're always going to find something to be upset about.
I feel that I did not explain myself very well. We all want ot improve ourselves, a legitimate way is by looking around and saying 'Gee what a nifty throw ,and, I would like to be able to highfall like that" and then we go and imitate until we learn. I, in my level, can not imitate (although I would love to) the technique of the SanDans in my dojo. but I can relate to the guys on my level or one or two Q's ahead of me because they are just one year (performance wise) of hard training ahead of me. If I had to give ukemi as a some of the Yodansha give-I would probalby run for dear life but some day I want to be there, Ukemi wise.
I have to agree with other posters who intimated rank is only important as you let it be, with one caveat. If your association has any ceilings on the types of training you do dependant on rank, you must be allowed to go for these grades.
Ranks are checkpoints in order to ensuer that you got all your i's dotted and your t's crossed. It is an oppertunity for teacher and student to figure out weak spots and places to improve. My Q rank is exactly what it means MY rank but I also belive that the ladder should not vary too much.

As for people who completel reject the rank system I can only say that you may be right but as long as it there - lets do it the right way.

Greg Jennings
11-13-2003, 09:41 AM
It's up to the teacher to give rank as he sees fit.

Let me pose a case study.

Let's say we have two people in some dojo.

The first is an excellent technician and has ukemi to die for. OTOH, this person is a total jerk. He/she over-cranks his/her partners, refuses to train with beginners, as uke tries like everything to block everyone's technique, and won't support the dojo with upkeep or maintenance.

The second is a OK technician, but their ukemi isn't up to par. They've got good ikkyo-yonkyo, but shihonage totally escapes them. OTOH, they are respectful to their partners, they are terrific with beginners and go above and beyond to support the dojo. They are the first person in the dojo and the last to leave.

Now, which one do you want to give a shodan to?

Best regards,

Eric Joyce
11-13-2003, 09:59 AM
IMHO, I don't really think rank matters. I remember a similar conversation on e-budo regarding this. Some believed there is a "watering down" effect going on and people are getting promoted rather quickly without fully understanding the basic principles and so forth. Some have argued to get rid of the ranking/dan system and perhaps adopt a menkyo or some sort of licensing system, but the problem could still exist in that type of licensing system. I think the true test is time and how one is measured should be between the student and teacher. It's a tuff call to make and there really is no full proof way to to ensure some sort of quality control to this. But back to the question at hand, no...I don't think that rank matters. Good topic of discussion.

happysod
11-13-2003, 10:08 AM
Greg, I'd make the little beggers just practice with each other (and only each other) for a few months, see if we can't get some osmosis going :D (sorry, hate case studies with such an either-or polarity, they just don't exist in real life)

Michael, "Ranks are checkpoints in order ...", nicely reasoned and I can happily accept this one. However, I've had more experience of the emphasis being placed on the rank itself, rather than it's intended function.

akiy
11-13-2003, 10:55 AM
Here's an article entitled, "Rank, Stinkin' Rank" by Peter Boylan:

http://ejmas.com/tin/tinart_boylan_0901.htm

Also, here's an AikiWeb poll, "Do you think we should get rid of ranks (kyu, dan) in aikido?" taken three years ago:

http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=23

-- Jun

Nafis Zahir
11-13-2003, 11:30 AM
Greg Jennings, you are right, but that situation is the exception to the rule. Just like there are some people who are real jerks to everyone on the mat, but they kiss up to Sensei and still get promoted with bad technique and attitude to match. I say get rid of the ranking system as we know it. I vote for white belt, black belt, and after that, based on knowledge, skill, and dedication to the art, A Shidion/Shihan title and that's it!

Nafis Zahir
11-13-2003, 11:38 AM
Here's an article entitled, "Rank, Stinkin' Rank" by Peter Boylan:

http://ejmas.com/tin/tinart_boylan_0901.htm

Also, here's an AikiWeb poll, "Do you think we should get rid of ranks (kyu, dan) in aikido?" taken three years ago:

http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=23

-- Jun
Hey Jun,

That was a great article, and he is absolutely right 100%! Everyone on this post should read it!

rachmass
11-13-2003, 11:45 AM
I think ranking is important in many respects, and totally agree with Greg Jennings assessment of a situation that does happen often enough. Actually, any comparision in my mind, is to the individual themself. How far have they come in their practice? What do they contribute on the mat and off? No two people are alike, and no two people will be in exactly the same place for their ranks. There is always someone who has outstanding ukemi, and always someone who suffers from perputally being a bit behind the 8-ball on their ukemi. Also, there will always be someone who is incredibly flashy on the mat (with no real substance), who everyone says "wow, look and JoeBob, isn't his aikido terrific" when at the same time you want to vomit. There will always be the very understated aikidoka whose technique is right on, but have no flash, and no one notices. Who is to say what is what, other than the teachers who are grading these folks.

As to teaching certificates and titles; it can the same effect as the rank issue.

holmesking
11-13-2003, 11:59 AM
It seems to me that pride and competition can stem from any number of sources.

Who has the quietest ukemi?

Who has the best shihonage?

Who spends the most time training?

Who gets the most of sensei's attention?

Without rank there would still be countless ways for us to feel superior or inferior to our dojomates. Countless ways for us to feel either slighted, or proud. Rank does not create this situation. It is the insecurity of individuals that creates this situation.

My limited experience tells me that rank is a measuring tool...not for how I have progressed compared to other aikidoka, but how I have progressed as an individual-and what I need to work on moving forward, so that my training is balanced and sincere.

My sempai have much to teach me. I respect and appreciate all of their input and advice. My kohai also have much to teach me. Believing myself to be "further along" may rob me of an opportunity to learn from them.

What ever rank sensei feels I am deserving of I will accept with humility, and gratefulness for the opportunity to examine myself, my progress, and my shortcomings.

I think that opportunity is helpful.

Enough rambling.

Back to training.

-Holmes

rachmass
11-13-2003, 12:23 PM
Holmes, you said it better than I did! Thanks for writing rather what I was thinking...

...back to work, then training.

Ted Marr
11-13-2003, 12:57 PM
In reply to Greg Jennings' post about which of the two Aikidoka I would prefer gets rank, the nice guy with technical problems, or the *insert nasty expletive here* person with good technique, I can only hope that NEITHER would get to shodan rank before correcting thier problems. After all, these are people who might theoretically go teach somewhere... and you don't really want horribly flawed teachers wandering around out there... it's just no good for the art.

Amassus
11-13-2003, 01:44 PM
Amen to that Ted.

Pity that it still happens!

Oh, what I would give for an ideal world ;)

paw
11-13-2003, 01:53 PM
Here's an article entitled, "Rank, Stinkin' Rank" by Peter Boylan:

I might be mistaken, but I was under the impression that in the US ....

USJI - US Judo, Inc is the National Governing Body to the IJF.

The USJI has two charter members for amateur events, USJA (US Judo Association) and USJF (US Judo Federation).

Participation in individual shiai may require specific USJI, USJA or USJF membership, but rank is, to the best of my understanding, universal, as it is set by the standards of the NGB, in this case USJI. (Which in turn has it's standards monitored ---- ultimately by the IJF)

The "oddball" is the smallest national judo organization in the US, AAU Judo, which awards no rank.

Regards,

Paul

BKimpel
11-13-2003, 02:04 PM
Rank is rank (smelley) as Mr.Boylan said in his article (good read Jun).

As much as I agree with a sensei charging for instruction (unless he’s a millionaire he needs to work, and if he has to perform a job outside of Aikido as well…he will be available less for me to train), rank has very little value to me the serious practitioner but high value for a club that wants more dues.

The very fact that Aikido rank testing is based on a set period of time (considering every individual on the planet learns at different rates), for example 30 hours for a kyu rank, and that set period of time must be concurrent (i.e. you can’t take a year off and then continue where you left off) - what other purpose is there than to garnish regular dojo fees?

Furthermore, most Aikido dojos don’t even “credit” (take note of this word) you for the individual hours you train. It is usually 1-hour credit per class attended regardless of whether that class was 1 hour or 3 hours. Reminds me of how mechanics make their money by charging you the full hour even if they only spend 20 minutes fixing your car.

That’s just the money stink.

While goal setting is certainly helpful, rank craving and status abusing becomes the norm when someone is ranked (think of the caste system) due to greed, envy and all of the other cool factors usually associated with rank attaining (usually, not always).

The best sensei I ever had was a shodan, and his Aikido was more fluid than most sandan (almost all I have encountered to be truthful, but I am trying not to seem impertinent), his instruction was better than most godan I have trained with, and the principles I learned from him have stayed with me for over 10 years.

Also why is that someone cannot determine your rank without asking you? Is it that rank doesn’t really identify anything in particular and just serves as a milestone? I personally have difficulty determining rank when watching Aikidoka if they all wear white belts. That tells me that ranks are simply an arbitrary point in the “I know all the Aikido techniques catalogue”.

I haven’t seen rank benefit me, just the clubs I am in. They get more money and they can identify my level within their organization (making their job easier?).

rachmass
11-13-2003, 02:26 PM
Not to be such a skeptic, but, my guess is that many folks that grumble about rank, haven't got much....

so, question is; what is your rank and how long have you been training, and how many times a week do you train? My guess is that there is a direct correlation with how long and much someone has been practicing with what their rank is.

Just a thought

holmesking
11-13-2003, 02:43 PM
Rachel,

I have been training for 8 months, and rumor has it I am testing for 4th kyu sometime soon.
We have class 2 nights a week and Saturday mornings. My wife and I usually train by ourselves a third night.

Regarding Bruce's post-

Our dojo has no dues, and does not seem to be overly concerned with advancement after x number of hours. We are also a rather small dojo (8 or 10 people that are "always there", and then a few who come and go) so there is not a lot of politics that get into the mix. We also do not line up according to rank.

Maybe these circumstances have colored my view in a different way than yours have.

It would be interesting to know if there is a relationship between people's preference as to ranking, and the amount of emphasis their respective dojos place on rank. (ie colored belts vs just white and black, lining up according to rank, etc.)

Just a point of curiosity.

rachmass
11-13-2003, 02:56 PM
I don't think ranking is to make organizations rich. I have nothing against it and feel there is merit, in particular in testing (that is a whole other issue).

Our dojo dues are extremely low(comparatively) and only other costs are organization dues and test fees (goes to organization). No one in the dojo seems particularly caught up with testing or rank, and all are there because they love to practice. The only rule for lining up is "as quickly as possible". No colored belts.

Personally, I've been training for over 20-years, train now about 5-6 days a week, but has been anywhere from 3 days to 6 days a week, and am a sandan and fukushidoin. I love aikido, and cannot fathom ever leaving it!

Ron Tisdale
11-13-2003, 03:03 PM
My limited experience tells me that rank is a measuring tool...not for how I have progressed compared to other aikidoka, but how I have progressed as an individual-and what I need to work on moving forward, so that my training is balanced and sincere.
This rings true to me. I think a lot of teachers are measuring us against ourselves, more than our peers. I think this is probably the most valuable thing about rank.

Its probably kool to chuck it in some ways, but I really do think the testing/demo process is too important. And some people wear their anti-rank badges much too clearly on their sleeve.

In the end, its about the skills YOU gain. Relative to where YOU started.

Ron

Qatana
11-13-2003, 04:32 PM
"The very fact that Aikido rank testing is based on a set period of time (considering every individual on the planet learns at different rates), for example 30 hours for a kyu rank, and that set period of time must be concurrent (i.e. you can’t take a year off and then continue where you left off) - what other purpose is there than to garnish regular dojo fees?"

As Holmes said, my dojo also does not charge anything for testing, and we line up any old way we can. When i started training there were several kyuless senior to me.Two have vanished, one comes & goes according to his work. Even though this guy has been absent from the dojo for months, and i have since passed my fifth kyu, his aikido is far more advanced than mine, so where is rank/grade in that event?

We also have a 2nd kyu who took ten years off. When she offered to return to white belt status on her return, Sensei said- you Earned the Brown belt and I want you to wear it.

And AFAIK, none of our monthly dues go into Sensei's pocket- we pay $20/hour for our dojo space,we just got brand new mats, hospitality for visiting teachers, etc.

i will test when Sensei asks me to, i will wear whatever belt he feels i deserve and i will continue to be as clueless, and have as much fun and personal growth as i am.

holmesking
11-13-2003, 05:00 PM
As Holmes said, my dojo also does not charge anything for testing,

Just to clarify,

Our dojo does not charge anything for testing, nor is there a monthly/hourly dojo membership fee of any kind.

We are fortunate enough to have a situation with almost no overhead, so there is no overhead to pass on to our members. Those who can contribute to the maintainance and improvement of our dojo (whether donating money for the upkeep of the dojo, or giving of their time and talents where appropriate, or just showing up and training earnestly) do.

Dogis, weapons, and other supplies are available through the dojo-at the dojo's cost.

The brunt of any financial obligation winds up falling on the shoulders of our instructors.

In this situation there can, obviously, be no monetary incentive for our instructors to institute ranks and promotions.

They still find value in the process of testing and grading.

BKimpel
11-13-2003, 06:06 PM
Rachel,

If you are referring to me “grumbling”, you mistakenly assume I care about rank – I do not. I was merely making a counter-argument to those posting that rank is somehow “essential” to Aikido training which I whole-heartedly believe it is not (nor essential to any martial art).

And if “grumblers” bother you so much, why would you take the time to grumble how much grumblers bother you? That seems a bit hypocritical – no? (Just ribbing you).

Holmes,

As for the small dojo dynamics, that is ideal to be sure. With a small amount of students sensei will KNOW where his student’s current development sits and won’t require any belt or certificate to remind him. And it is also true that without dues, one’s rank will not be entwined with money – which dramatically improves the value of that rank (the integrity of ranking itself in fact, since it is based solely on the assessment of the student’s ability and not the amount of cash the student has invested in the club).

We sort of discussed this topic on the “testing method prefered” thread on this forum, and while some agreed it would be ideal if the sensei knew where each student was (development-wise) and just asked them to test ad-hoc (based on their development, not prefixed periods of time and dues), that is just not feasible with larger dojos. One sensei cannot be expected to keep track of every single student, especially if there is a high turnaround.

SeiserL
11-13-2003, 10:35 PM
IMHO, rank is useful by not to be taken too seriously.

Nafis Zahir
11-13-2003, 11:49 PM
Hey Lynn, is it really useful? I was once at a seminar doing weapons. At the time I was a nikyu. I was working with a Sensei who was a 5th Dan and he didn't know any weapons! What is that? As Chiba Sensei said in an article I read once, that it all comes down to money. You want rank, you pay a fee. I once saw someone taking a San Dan test. He didn't know his weapons, his technique was poor, and he couldn't (at all) control his uke during his juri waza. But why was he even testing? If everyone there could see he wasn't ready, why didn't his instructor? Because of time and money! If I had gotten up there as an nikyu and taken that test and done better than him (and I would have. not to brag, but I really could have) would I have been promoted to San Dan? No! But why not? Because I needed more time? Obviously, he needed more time. If I had taken that test and worn a hakama and said I was nidan, they would have passed me. So, Does rank really matter? Most of the time it doesn't.

Andy
11-14-2003, 12:39 AM
If I had gotten up there as an nikyu and taken that test and done better than him (and I would have. not to brag, but I really could have)
http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=4638

Thalib
11-14-2003, 12:58 AM
Nice one, Russo-san...

paw
11-14-2003, 05:53 AM
FWIW, I know a number of people who have eoched Bruce's "grumbling" nearly word for word. None of them had trained for less than 3 years, averaging 3 times a week.

I know first hand of people who felt so strongly that rank, rank requirements and rank exams were so strongly linked to money that they would politely duck or refuse grading.

While a number of people claim that rank has no meaning for them, I don't know of anyone who has returned their ranking certificates back to Hombu (myself included). In this, I suspect we are all a bit hypocritical....or to really get myself in trouble.... "let the one without rank cast the first stone".

One last (albeit unfair) thought. You see two seminar announcements, both on the same day at the same time. The agenda/topic of the seminar is not listed. While your instructor recommends both, because of time, location, cost, etc, you will only be able to attend one. You are unfamilar with both seminar instructors, but one is a verified 6th dan. The other is a verified 2nd dan.

See where I'm going with this?

Regards,

Paul

rachmass
11-14-2003, 06:01 AM
Thanks for clarifying that Paul, my point was, that for the most part, people I know who "grumble" about rank are newer. Haven't met too many people who've been training a long time who do.

Anyway, just an aside to Nafis, there are quite a few folks who don't do weapons practice, so running into a fifth dan without much weapons experience is not that uncommon. Chiba Sensei is very much an advocate of weapons practice, but not all shihan stress much emphasis on it.

Bruce, I know you were ribbing me, but you are also correct; I have been guilty of "grumbling" myself. Consider me humbled ;-)

ian
11-14-2003, 08:27 AM
Rank serves a different purpose to different people. Since the simple teaching certificate qualification and dojo challanges tends not to occur now, rank has a different role; to help people improve. For some people this means promoting them slightly above their ability, for others it is holding them back slightly. Obviously for shihan it is very different because higher grades mean more students and more money.

Ian

rachmass
11-14-2003, 10:07 AM
Been giving further thought to this, and can only express feelings from a personal level, not from a detached analytical level. With that in mind, I do think that rank matters. I think it does for the very reason that Paul alludes to, as well as other reasons.

Having just recently tested, I can say without a doubt, that having tested and passed has helped me in many ways. It has helped to increase my confidence, which has been notoriously poor, and has helped me feel legitimate as a teacher with a small dojo. My aikido has probably gotten better too. It seems we always come up to our rank over time. Just this little test has made a big difference for me, and has made me less apologetic for having trained for so long and not having much rank, now I feel I am where I should be (weapons proficency or not).

Also, I can see it making a difference in my students once they test. I can see them move up to their levels, can see an increase in confidence, even if it means they just were able to get the guts up to go in front of the class and test. It has been a positive experience for me altogether.

Now, that said, of course if you start comparing people to each other, you are going to have problems and see inequities. Really, our ranks are measures of our own progress, not comparisons with other people.

Again, this is from my own experience, and I am sure other folks have different experiences....

happysod
11-14-2003, 10:22 AM
Thanks Rachael, this makes more sense now. I agree, rank always is important on a personal level, even if it's just your favorite "love to hate".

My objections are to over-emphasis placed on rank. The misconceptions it can give on experience and/or ability of a "newbie" to your dojo/seminar etc. and the misconceptions some make about their own ability to defend themselves based on a bit of cloth.

The first I must plead guilty to, a long time ago thankfully, (forgot to ask previous experience). The second is not applicable being a devout coward.

kung fu hamster
11-14-2003, 11:24 AM
My understanding was that ‘we’ don’t care much about that piece of paper, it’s everyone else who does. If you want to teach aikido at a college or university or even a continuing ed MA class, they want to know who it is that’s teaching the class, not only for liability purposes but also because they wouldn’t want a situation equaling ‘the blind leading the blind’. If you approach an institution such as that with a 5th kyu belt looking to start teaching an aikido class, do you think you would be taken seriously? It’s an exaggeration but still, aside from money considerations or ‘did I really earn this belt?’ angst, how is quality aikido spread if not through the teachings of people who have been ‘certified’ by someone in the know, with a traceable past history and lineage – committed people who can attract ‘new blood’ to train...? Just some thoughts (or musings on things previously told to me...)

BKimpel
11-14-2003, 02:57 PM
Don’t misunderstand me either folks. I am not saying I don’t agree with testing one’s ability, and I certainly value sensei’s judgement and assessment as a development tool.

All I am saying is that I dislike the fact that that recognition process is tied so closely to money. It cheapens it. It degrades the value down to the age-old seniority vs. ability argument, that someone with 20 years “experience” (i.e. they showed up) should be valued more than someone with useful ability. I have seen that model fail time and time again.

Paul,

I too know of individuals that duck testing/grading because they have real problems with the money issue as well and none of them are newbies.

And you got me there with the 6th dan vs. 2nd dan seminar (I would be guilty of that kind of prejudice too certainly), but that comparison is too black and white.

The difference between 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th dan is not easily recognizable. Once an individual gets to 5th, 6th and 7th dan there is a noticeable difference, certainly. But on the whole, if someone had 20 years of experience, or they had studied with the founder, etc. I would be more inclined to train with them than anyone else (irregardless of rank).

Linda,

Yes I agree a certificate of some sort is required to teach. That level of “rank” is essential (IMO). But like others have said, two ranks – “allowed to teach”, and “not allowed to teach” covers that off just fine. I also suspect that that would weed out a lot of inferior teachers that are currently teaching as well.

Michael Karmon
11-14-2003, 03:15 PM
It's up to the teacher to give rank as he sees fit.

Let's say we have two people in some dojo.

The first is an excellent technician and has ukemi to die for. OTOH, this person is a total jerk. He/she over-cranks his/her partners, refuses to train with beginners, as uke tries like everything to block everyone's technique, and won't support the dojo with upkeep or maintenance.
Sadly, no dojo is completly jerk-free and during our life we sometimes assume that role (self-included). A live healthy dojo has a way dealing with these guys. The seniors give the jerk that extra twist that hurst when he doen't cooporate and he will get the back of people when he needs help.

Aikido and Dojo life either "Un-Jerk" you or reject you, this is the power of Aikido as a way to better society. Either way a good Sensei does not rank Jerks.
The second is a OK technician, but their ukemi isn't up to par. They've got good ikkyo-yonkyo, but shihonage totally escapes them. OTOH, they are respectful to their partners, they are terrific with beginners and go above and beyond to support the dojo. They are the first person in the dojo and the last to leave.
There is a line to be drawn in the sand technique wise as well as attitude wise. I would not rank even Mother Terasa if the Shihonage is not up-to-level, OTOH I would not rank anyone that does not go on his knees and mop that floore on a regular basis.

Personally speeking, Jerkness is contageous but bad technique can be corrected

rachmass
11-14-2003, 03:42 PM
There are so many judgements floating around here as to peoples abilities. If a teacher thinks a student is ready to test, or to promote, then it is the teachers decision. Although I acknowledge there can be giving rank for "time in", I don't think for the most part that is the case. Those folks who were promoted by recommendation typically know it, and do not go around with big jerk attitudes.

On the otherhand, I really question whether we all know what other peoples abilities and levels are. Leave that up to the shihan who grade us! I had given the example earlier of a flashy aikidoka with no substance, or perhaps with a lot of upper body strength and muscle. Constantly I see people say, "ooh, so and so has such nice aikido" when in fact this person may not. There is so much variety out there. What may look bad to you, might feel completely different when you are on the receiving end! I've met folks who don't look sharp, but when I train with them they flatten me into the mat, and with such ease and grace, without effort. I've seen the flashy ones who I think would be great to train with, that when I get to, they are harsh and have all sorts of sharp and rough edges. I have a personal preference for the strong yet understated aikido versus the flashy stuff, but that is my preference.

I would prefer not to try to judge whether someone deserves their rank or not, and just figure if they were given it, they deserve it. Isn't that the gist of this thread?

aikidoc
11-14-2003, 03:51 PM
I agree on the certification issue. This is why we have ranks or teaching certificates. Public education venues pretty much demand it-the school of hard knocks is great but when you have a teacher of your children you probably prefer they have the appropriate credentials.

I disagree with the lack of difference between a 1st through 4th dan. There is considerable refinement (or should be) between 1st and 3rd. Fourth dan should be moving into the next level of refinement (probably less difference between 4th and 5th in my opinion). A distinct difference exists between a 1st and 4th dan IMHO. Technical knowledge particularly. The refinement in skill and understanding will continue with each rank.

Everyone I have ever talked to following a promotion feels they have raised their level of aikido. This may be psychological but I believe anyone wanting to document their rank will generally attempt to elevate their skills to not only justify their rank but to challenge themselves to excel. There are always those who will not deserve their ranks and I don't know what the answer is to such situations-other than the observation that they usually don't go beyond where they are either through frustration or a sensible testing committee. We all have our level of incompetence.

I realize there are those who have good skills and chose not to document their rank-a personal choice and well within their rights. However, that may work to their disadvantage if they change schools or someday change their minds and want to contribute to the art through teaching. As we get older, getting thrown to the ground becomes less and less appealing and teaching more appealing (hurts less). Without credentials, such people are generally not going to be allowed to convey or pass on their knowledge in legitimate organizations where certification is the norm. Certification at a minimum shows a person has achieved a certain level of organized skill and has demonstrated it in front of a test committee.

rachmass
11-14-2003, 03:58 PM
Good post Mr. Riggs,

One thing I would like to add is a comment I heard from a teacher I know, who said that the last set of Dan tests he had seen were a really good clear deliniation as to what was expected between shodan, nidan and sandan. He said that the shodans were rather rough and full of muscle still, while the nidans were refining and much clearer in their technique than the shodans, and that the sandans really took care of all their partners (all juyi waza) and were calm and collected and a definate notch up from the nidans. So, yes, there should be a clear deliniation between ranks as they go up the scale.

Jim ashby
11-14-2003, 07:14 PM
"Does rank really matter?"

No.

paw
11-14-2003, 07:31 PM
Bruce,

I confess the seminar example is contrived, but that was part of the point. Rank does influence our decisions, despite our objections to the contrary.
The difference between 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th dan is not easily recognizable. Once an individual gets to 5th, 6th and 7th dan there is a noticeable difference, certainly.

I disagree. I'll explain in a bit.....
There is considerable refinement (or should be) between 1st and 3rd. Fourth dan should be moving into the next level of refinement (probably less difference between 4th and 5th in my opinion). A distinct difference exists between a 1st and 4th dan IMHO. Technical knowledge particularly. The refinement in skill and understanding will continue with each rank.

I strongly disagree with this, particularly for certain organizations. Rank exams are subjective demonstrations based on the opinion of one or more people. They can be as objective as a bodybuilding contest or beauty pagent.

Further, not all organizations have grading exams for all ranks. At some point ranks become honorary, based on time in previous rank or recommendation.

The point is simply that there is a wide variation within a specific organization, much less across aikido as a whole that I don't believe any general statements as to teaching ability, technical ability or general understanding can be made in regards to rank.

Regards,

Paul

Nafis Zahir
11-14-2003, 10:09 PM
[QUOTE="John Riggs"]I agree on the certification issue. This is why we have ranks or teaching certificates. Public education venues pretty much demand it-the school of hard knocks is great but when you have a teacher of your children you probably prefer they have the appropriate credentials.

I agree with certification for teaching purposes. As I stated before, I believe in white belt and black belt. Other than that, a teaching certification (Shidion) and Shihan, honorably given by someone of authority to do so, such as Chiba, Yamada, and the like. If you can't raise your level of training or motivate yourself to a higher level of aikido, then you have inadvertantly succumbed to the whole rank/money/piece of paper conglomerate! As for giving certificates back to Hombu, maybe we would if we could a refund of that big fat check they received!

John Longford
11-15-2003, 09:00 AM
Rank is important in that it gives us a goal to aim at. Who has not trained that bit harder when they have a grading approaching?

It also gives us some measure of whether we are improving or not. After all we are just human beings who need encouragement now and again.

Having said that, rank should not become your only reason for training nor should it be an excuse to lord it over lower grades, never forget you were once that unco-ordinated beginner with two left feet.

So keep training and striving to better yourself but do not forget, holding a rank at any level will not automatically command you respect, only you and the way you conduct yourself can do that.

kung fu hamster
11-15-2003, 10:10 AM
"Other than that, a teaching certification (Shidion) and Shihan, honorably given by someone of authority to do so, such as Chiba, Yamada, and the like."

These eminent teachers have dojos all over the country, how are they going to 'honorably' give a teaching certificate to someone they don't know well or possibly have never met? Just on the say-so of the dojo cho? Without testing or the opinion of a test committee? I think that would open up a more controversial can of worms than any complaints I've heard yet on this forum. At least the testing system that currently exists has some way to measure a students progress so that there's some 'quality control' when it comes to knowing who is capable of what. The office work must be terrible when it comes to keeping track of that sort of thing, how do you expect these teachers to be able to keep it all straight in their head without some documentation and hard proof of each and every student's level of progress?

rachmass
11-15-2003, 10:20 AM
These eminent teachers have dojos all over the country, how are they going to 'honorably' give a teaching certificate to someone they don't know well or possibly have never met?

Actually, Chiba Sensei has test requirements for fukushidoin and shidoin, and folks who have these certificates are required to re-test every few years. It is his way of insuring a level of teaching competence, and that the teachers themselves are continuing to improve. My understanding is that the requirements are different from the dan rankings, in that he is looking for a clarity and standard that he wants imparted to all the folks within the WR.

Shibata Sensei knows all the students under him, and anyone who has their fukushidoin or shidoin certificate through him is known to him.

I think this is the same thing within the ER, and these certficates are conferred by Yamada Sensei, although I think very often through recommendation of a dojocho. Yamada Sensei has an amazing memory, and he knows the students who are under him (through various teachers) as long as they come to seminars.

Nafis Zahir
11-15-2003, 10:33 AM
Excellent point Rachel. And that's what I'm talking about. You see, Chiba Sensei gives these "exmas" to look for certain things to see if you qualify to teach. And they are not regular test. This is not about dan ranking. And that is my point. If you want to teach, you shouldn't be given that priviledge based on just the word of a dojo cho. You should have to stand before someone like Chiba or Yamada and prove that you know what your doing. I wish I could take Chiba's course. Now that's away to check your progress!

BKimpel
11-15-2003, 10:36 AM
William,

“Who has not trained that bit harder when they have a grading approaching?”

That simply points out that people are not training hard enough regularly, and nobody should be training “extra hard” right before a test (“cramming”) in any kind of school (let alone a martial art). Cramming means you were lazy and try to “just get by”. Is that the kind of training you want to promote? And yes that IS what happens when people are more concerned with the goals (rank) than the subject they are learning. They leave it to the last minute, and then learn “just enough to get by” and then relax again after they have achieved that milestone (rank).

Rachel,

What more do you need than that, and retesting a teacher is awesome. If only they would that with driver’s licenses ;)

kung fu hamster
11-15-2003, 10:40 AM
Ok, I misunderstood. Thank you for the clarification. I'll crawl back into my troll-hut now. Where's my Midol?

rachmass
11-15-2003, 10:49 AM
What more do you need than that, and retesting a teacher is awesome. If only they would that with driver’s licenses

I totally agree with this point. What someone is looking for in a teacher (generally) is clarity and preciseness. Something that can be seen and followed. A teacher needs to keep progressing as a student as well as a teacher, and that is why the re-test is such a good idea.

On the other hand, I don't think that Yamada Sensei or Shibata Sensei hand out certificates lightly, and are pretty well assured that these teachers are qualified. If someone out there in cyberland knows differently, then please correct me, but this is my understanding.
You see, Chiba Sensei gives these "exmas" to look for certain things to see if you qualify to teach. And they are not regular test

Yes, that is the point. On a dan test, the person testing can be very flashy and gregarious, but when it comes to teaching, I think (just my $0.02) that clarity and form win out.

aikidoc
11-15-2003, 11:00 AM
Paul: I agree there are issues with favoritism and subjectivity. However, a lot of organization test up to yondan and most to sandan. I did train once with a sensei that did not believe in testing for dan ranks at all and in fact left the organization over that issue. There were some definite disagreements on the quality of black belts when tested by committee vs his observation (he would just hand you the belt when he thought you were ready). In large organizations, the testing can be pretty stringent with higher ranks. When you get a committee of people that don't know your aikido then you are subjected to their impressions of what the rank should represent.

However, to not test to some standard is to have poor quality in my opinion. Testing to a standard and what that standard should be (time in grade, techniques, etc.) is most likely the reason we have so many organizations (that and power issues).

Undoubtedly there will be variations in the minimum standards in each rank-not all people in all levels are equal (different physical capabilities etc). However, in spite of different teaching styles, organizational expectations, and other elements, I have only ran across "bad" quality intermittently (and I used to participate in a lot of seminars).

Fortunately, the "bad quality" black belts usually will not progress beyond their rank until they raise their skill level. It's not a perfect system but to have no system would be chaotic at best (it's chaotic enough with a system). Opinions on the quality of yudansha is like the old saying (cleaned up version)-they are like fannies-we all have them and they all stink.

John Longford
11-15-2003, 11:24 AM
Bruce,

I was not talking about last minute cramming!

If you can train flat out at all times you are a better person than me.

Even top athletes can only put in that extra effort over short periods.

Please do not misunderstand me, I have no time for 'grade chasing', but I have always found that the additional pressure of a grade looming up certainly focuses my students.

P.S. Please call me John

BKimpel
11-15-2003, 03:30 PM
Ha ha, sorry John,

I agree “partially” in that pressure vs. no pressure CAN give some people a little push where they might not have pushed themselves to grow otherwise.

But the type of “cramming” I was talking about was knowledge-based, not physical. So while no I personally cannot keep up a consistent level of physical training for long periods of time (lately I can’t even do it for short periods of time – too much beer I think), I can always keep a consistent level of learning – not spurts of learning all the techniques needed for 4th kyu 3 weeks before the test, etc. which IS cramming. And while people might not even be chasing the grade as you say, they will still end up with that cramming habit if they concentrate on those milestones and not the entire journey.

indomaresa
11-15-2003, 06:22 PM
there's another aspect

what about responsibility to your dojo and juniors? they need to see their sempais advance, so they can cheer them on, and then strive to train harder.

My dojo grows with a major gap between the shodans and the Qs because early on there's no regeneration, just five people who kept training. The first and second generation students has a 3-4 years gap.

After the shodan test, suddenly there's five black belts in the dojo, and I heard the juniors telling it to everyone they know with pride.

(-insert relative here-, this is my senior, he's a black belt and we have five in the dojo)

This experience taught me that gaining rank isn't necessarily only for yourself.

Kelly Allen
11-16-2003, 04:57 AM
Rank relative to ability is affected by so many variables. The vast majority of those variables seem to come back to money issues.

In most organizations the higher rank you test for the more you have to pay. It is for those, who either can't afford it or just prefer to spend their money on other things, an incentive not to rank. Hence you get those who are ranked below there abilities.

Then you get those who are pressured to rank because the Sensei wishes his dojo to have black belts to give the dojo the image of success to help attracked new members (read new dojo fees). Hence you get those who are ranked above their abilities.

The point being that as long as there is money associated with rank there will be incentives for and against being graded, and thus Martial artists who are ranked above and below their abilities.

I'm not a belt chaser, but I some day would like to be able to have enough rank to help our dojo grow. (read teach a class once or twice a week). I know, however, that due to my age and the situation I train in I may never see a BB, which is still fine with me. So long as I still get to train.

Kelly

Michael Karmon
11-16-2003, 07:09 AM
Then you get those who are pressured to rank because the Sensei wishes his dojo to have black belts to give the dojo the image of success to help attracked new members (read new dojo fees). Hence you get those who are ranked above their abilities.

Kelly
With 13 or so yodansha at our dojo its a "More chiefs then indians" thing:D

Jeanne Shepard
11-16-2003, 09:44 PM
My recent 2nd Kyu test ( yes, i passed or you wouldn't be hearing about it)was not just an opportunity for me to push the envelope, but it gave one of my sempais a chance to show his teaching ability, as he had taken that test last, and he coached me through it, at the same time he trained for HIS 1st Kyu test. It was a great experience in supporting and being supported I wouldn't have missed for anything. Reminds me why I like belonging to my dojo.

Jeanne

Michael Karmon
11-17-2003, 01:46 AM
My recent 2nd Kyu test ( yes, i passed or you wouldn't be hearing about it)was not just an opportunity for me to push the envelope, but it gave one of my sempais a chance to show his teaching ability...
I was lucky to have a Q2 train me for my Q5 (first exam in dojo, 4 month in). During training he did these soft, relaxed falls. Comes the test, I go for the Kotegaeshi, WAM-Highfall, BAM-Backroll. I nearly fell over and forgot what the heck I was trying to do (Shomenuchy Ikkyo)

Being a test-uke is a vote of confidence by the juniors and a way of showing yourself to the Senseis not only as a good uke but as a good teacher.

paw
11-17-2003, 06:37 AM
John,
Paul: I agree there are issues with favoritism and subjectivity. However, a lot of organization test up to yondan and most to sandan.
Frequency or duration of testing is secondary to the method itself in my mind. A subjective testing method will yield subjective results, regardless of how many times an individual is tested.

William,
If you can train flat out at all times you are a better person than me. Even top athletes can only put in that extra effort over short periods.

An incorrect generalization. Some sports have no "off" season, and increasingly competition is forcing athletes to train intensely year round. Of course the training varies depending on the sport and what's upcoming, but the idea that high-level athletes "slack" for most of their training cycle is not true.

Maresa,
what about responsibility to your dojo and juniors? they need to see their sempais advance, so they can cheer them on, and then strive to train harder.

I'm not sure it's healthy for someone to live so vicarisously through another. Also it seems that there is the assumption here that advancement in rank = advancement in skill, which I do not believe to be necessarily true.

Kelly,
I'm not a belt chaser, but I some day would like to be able to have enough rank to help our dojo grow. (read teach a class once or twice a week).
Why is rank necessary for this? I know of several shodans who IMO are better instructors than 5th dans. The point is, rank exams are a subjective measurement of technical ability, not teaching ability, are they not? Being able to do something and being able to coach another are different skill sets.

Regards,

Paul

MaylandL
11-17-2003, 07:36 AM
... I think a lot of teachers are measuring us against ourselves, more than our peers. I think this is probably the most valuable thing about rank.

... I really do think the testing/demo process is too important. ...

In the end, its about the skills YOU gain. Relative to where YOU started.
I wholeheatedly agree with this. IMHO its not the rank that you achieve that is important but the process that you go through - the grading process (dan or kyu). For me it gives me some sense of where I am in relation to a standard. I don't want to get into the discussions and debates about consistency in standards; that's a whole other debate.

From my personal experience, I can say that I have got the most out of the grading process in terms of what I have learnt and what else I need to learn.

I can certainly support Ms Massey's following comments (apologies if I have taken this out of context)
... Having just recently tested, I can say without a doubt, ...It has helped to increase my confidence, which has been notoriously poor, and has helped me feel legitimate as a teacher with a small dojo. My aikido has probably gotten better too. It seems we always come up to our rank over time. Just this little test has made a big difference for me, and has made me less apologetic for having trained for so long and not having much rank, now I feel I am where I should be (weapons proficency or not).

Also, I can see it making a difference in my students once they test. I can see them move up to their levels, can see an increase in confidence, even if it means they just were able to get the guts up to go in front of the class and test. It has been a positive experience for me altogether.

Now, that said, of course if you start comparing people to each other, you are going to have problems and see inequities. Really, our ranks are measures of our own progress, not comparisons with other people.
I have been with my primary dojo for 10 years, since it started and I have seen those that have progressed to Shodan and beyond improve and learn, especially one Aikidoka. She has gone forwards in leaps and bounds since she has acheived her shodan. Its very inspiring and motivating to see how much she and others have improved.

Another case in point, one new student, never done aikido before, middle aged with a background in karate and never done ukemis, infact its a total anathema to him. After his 5th Kyu grading his ukemis have improved considerably.

For me being a senior student in the dojo, its wonderful to see others improve and doing things that they could not have done before. It doesnt get any better than this.

As for me, I train at two dojos with two different senseis. The sensei at the second dojo had the generosity to accept my dan grading from my main dojo after about 3 years consistent training. I think training at two different dojos has been very beneficial in terms of understanding where I am at.

For me its not the rank that's achieved but how you get there. IMHO, its more about the journey and the little pitstops I make along the way to see where I am than the destination.

Happy training all :)

PS Congrats on the grading Ms Massey and all the best for your Dojo.

justinm
11-17-2003, 09:09 AM
A year ago I tested for and was awarded my nidan by my Sensei. At the moment I am not registered with Hombu as I have not paid the fee, and am reluctant to do so.

So within my organisation I am a nidan, but as far as the Yoshinkan hombu is concerned, I am shodan as my grade has not been registered with them.

So what are the benefits of sending some money other than a nice certificate to put on my wall, which I don't need? I suppose I'd be registered in the IYAF records, in case my Sensei left us or I wanted to change clubs. But if I ever needed to be registered under a new organisation, I could take the test again - in fact this is often a requirement anyway when joining a new organisation.

So I can choose to just train, or to send Japan some money and then just train.

At the moment, I'm doing the former.

As for being a good instructor, my students are tested by my Sensei, not me, so he judges me by them. This is a better test of my teaching skills than any exam I could take.

Justin

Nafis Zahir
11-17-2003, 10:02 AM
Hey Justin! That's exactly my point and why I started this thread! Not to knock any of the good points people have made, but let everyone look at Justin's situation. He took a test. His Sensei, whom I'm sure is qualified and authorized, basically saw that his technique, his understanding of what his Sensei wanted to see, and his "aikido", warranted Justin the level of nidan. But it can't be authentic if he doesn't pay his fee? Does rank really matter I ask again? If he doesn't pay the fee, does that diminish the level he attained? No! And as he stated, even if he pays the fee, if he goes to train somewhere else, they may honor his nidan per say, but still make him test for nidan in the new style/organization. If no one ever gives Justin a piece of paper with nidan on it, so what. If I trained with him at a seminar, I could tell by his technique and his attitude that he was at a level of shodan or above. Now what difference would it really make if a ni or san or yon was before his dan title? If you pay the money Justin, I'll know it's strictly because of the politics and you want to be hassle free in the future. If you don't, I respect that and say good for you!

John Longford
11-17-2003, 11:43 AM
Paul,

Who said anything about slacking!

Regards, John

paw
11-17-2003, 12:46 PM
John,
Who said anything about slacking!

I did. Slacking as in "To evade work; shirk" is something top athletes do not do as a general rule. While there may be a "rest period" or the occasional "easy day" scheduled, such things tend to be a necessity to prevent injury ---- because the athlete is on the edge.

While most aikidoists aren't standing around doing nothing during training, neither are they actively seeking to train in a manner that pushes them to the edge of their physical abilities. In that sense, we (yes, I'm including myself in this) do "slack" because we evade and avoid work we could be doing by training within our comfort zone for the majority of our training time.

Does that clarify things?

Regards,

Paul

aikidoc
11-17-2003, 01:28 PM
I agree teaching and technical skills are not the same-much like a worker and manager-the best worker does not always make the best manager.

Justin-I'm surprised you were able to test without the fees. Most organizations require member dojos to only test under their auspices-i.e., can't issue rank without the fees and testing must be done under organizational rules. So, if your sensei is a member of the organization and is not authorized to issue rank certicates then you could have a problem with validating your rank certificate.

rachmass
11-17-2003, 01:37 PM
PS Congrats on the grading Ms Massey and all the best for your Dojo.

Thanks Mayland! Remember that thread I started a year plus back about opening a dojo? Well, things are moving along. I started with one student (my husband), and am now up to 9 students who practice regularly! I am thrilled with the way people have come along, and the energy they bring with them to the mat. Anyway, this was completely off topic, but just wanted to say thank you and update you. Best, Rachel

BKimpel
11-17-2003, 10:31 PM
I know of several shodans who IMO are better instructors than 5th dans.
The best sensei I ever had was a shodan, and his Aikido was more fluid than most sandan (almost all I have encountered to be truthful, but I am trying not to seem impertinent), his instruction was better than most godan I have trained with
Do we know the same shodans!?!

If not (I suspect not), then we better find out where these shodan's hail from, or what makes them tick so we can bottle it as "Aiki-Juice"! We can sell it to some of the "over-ranked" sandans (heh heh, just kidding - now I AM being impertinent).

Seriously though, the diversity in ability across ranks in the same organization, let alone across different organization's demonstrates that there is very little "standard" anything. It is all subjective, and thus worth less (he he).

I would also agree with Paul that frequent testing would produce better results than timed milestones that you can cram for.

Sort of off topic, but related to frequent testing of one's ability:

I would love to take a mini-poll to see how many yudansha actually do randori (multiple attackers) on a regular basis. I know for a fact most do it once for their test and a few times before the test - that's it (in some dojos I have been in, not all). Then again I would love to see how many instructors do randori on a regular basis too ;)

Nafis Zahir
11-18-2003, 02:14 AM
Hey Bruce! That reminds me of a story related to the favoritsm aspect of this thread. At my old dojo, 5 of us were preparing to test. A couple of months before testing, my old Sensei would send 3 of the students in the back to work on there test, and then at the end of class let them do randori. As for me and the other student, which neither one of us was a "made member", we were forced to take semi private lessons at a reasonable cost to get the attention we needed and never got a chance to do randori after class. Rank today is not what it started out to be. I'm not saying it's that way in each and every dojo, but for the most part it has permeated the majority of the aikido organizations.

Tim Griffiths
11-18-2003, 05:35 AM
Hi Nafis,

I just had the same thing, but in a good way.

A group of us were taking various dan grades, and I was taking a nidan (OK, I already did it 10 years ago in a different organisation). At the end of every class all the others got to do randori, and often were put on one end of the mat to practice together. I didn't get to do any randori practice before the test (and its not something we normally do, so I had at least a year of rust on it).

A week before the grading I asked the sensei if I too could have a go at the randori practice - he looked at me, shrugged, and said "do you think you need it?"

Tim

Amelia Smith
11-18-2003, 07:05 AM
Today, my opinion of rank is that it's a great way of keeping new, athletically talented students with over-blown egos from assuming they are the best aikidoka around. They might assume it, but they still (theoretically) need to stick it out and pass the milestones.

As for cramming, it's not nescessarily such a bad thing, if you're already ready to test. Of course you can't learn all those techniques in the last 3 weeks before the test, but if you already have the techniques, it helps to go over them again and again until you are doing them as well as you possibly can. Also, the people I know who have had good tests have really worked hard on them for a couple of months beforehand, and also worked on their stamina and endurance for the test.

--Amelia

Congratulations, Rachel, on your promotion!

rachmass
11-18-2003, 07:30 AM
Thanks Amelia!

Bruce wrote:
I would love to take a mini-poll to see how many yudansha actually do randori (multiple attackers) on a regular basis. I know for a fact most do it once for their test and a few times before the test - that's it (in some dojos I have been in, not all).

Actually, I know quite a few dojos that work on randori a lot. I have a friend whose dojo does randori once a week in advanced class. In my dojo we do juyi waza 3-4 times a week, and will start working on randori weekly once I've got a couple of 3rd kyus (the bulk of my students are 5th kyu or unranked).

My old teacher worked on randori once every couple of years, and consequently whenever he did, people would get hurt. People got hurt because they were so nervous and attacked so eratically. Bloody noses, black eyes, torn muscles; scary stuff. He didn't like to work on randori because he felt if you knew your basics thoroughly, that the randori would just come. It doesn't in my experience. Juyi waza is a great way to build up to it in a less frightening and more controlled manner.

So, anyway, to your poll; I do juyi waza 3-4 times a week now, and I'll do randori whenever I go to visit my friends dojo.

Amelia wrote:
Today, my opinion of rank is that it's a great way of keeping new, athletically talented students with over-blown egos from assuming they are the best aikidoka around. They might assume it, but they still (theoretically) need to stick it out and pass the milestones.

oh so right you are!! ;)

justinm
11-18-2003, 08:00 AM
Justin-I'm surprised you were able to test without the fees. Most organizations require member dojos to only test under their auspices-i.e., can't issue rank without the fees and testing must be done under organizational rules. So, if your sensei is a member of the organization and is not authorized to issue rank certicates then you could have a problem with validating your rank certificate.
It may be a special case - my sensei is the head of the organisation which is registered with the IYAF and he is authorised to grade under the IYAF. He issues organisation certificates, and I paid the (small) grading fee my organisation requires. However there is a larger fee due to the IYAF if I want to have a IYAF certificate that is only available from Hombu. As far as my organisation is concerned, I am nidan and a dojo instructor. However my grade is not registered with Hombu - to do this I must pay for a Hombu certificate. So if anyone were to check with Hombu, I'd be registered as Shodan.

Not sure how this works in other organisations - for instance Aikikai? Do all dan grades have to send money to aikikai hombu for their grade to be registered there, and if not are they still valid grades if issued by the local shihan?

Justin

MaylandL
11-18-2003, 08:12 AM
...

My old teacher worked on randori once every couple of years, and consequently whenever he did, people would get hurt. People got hurt because they were so nervous and attacked so eratically. Bloody noses, black eyes, torn muscles; scary stuff.

...
:eek:

That's a real surprise. We do randori occassionally but with experienced students - third kyu and above. By occassionally I mean once a month. Sensei starts us off by demonstrating what key principle or lesson he would like us to focus on. To my knowledge, no one's ever been hurt to the same extent that you've mentioned.
...He didn't like to work on randori because he felt if you knew your basics thoroughly, that the randori would just come. It doesn't in my experience. Juyi waza is a great way to build up to it in a less frightening and more controlled manner.

...
I think you need to be an experience aikidoka to do randori (at least 2 years of consistent and regular training). I agree that Juyi Waza is an excellent learning environment and Sensei uses that at the end of the class sometimes to pull together the key lessons he has illustrated during the class.

Just on a side note, doing randori, has anyone had this particular experience. I've noticed that when I am doing randori, its more about movement, position and posture than doing techniques. The techniques become very much secondary because there is just so little time to do a technique before the next attack is on you. I find myself just moving, being in the spaces where ukes are not and keeping my posture. In this way I find myself doing a whole bunch of "stuff" that might be termed kokyunage or kokyunage type "techniques".

Anyone have any comments?

Nafis Zahir
11-18-2003, 08:25 AM
Hey Everyone! Why can't you be tested and then told you are ready to move on to the next level or not be told but just instructed in higher echelon techniques without be ranked? It wouldn't diminish your ability or your understanding. If you really love the art, why do you have to get rank or look forward to it in order to get motivated or strive harder? Do you believe if there was no ranking system that there would be nothing to gain? If so, then you've fallen victim to the system!

happysod
11-18-2003, 08:38 AM
Hi Nafis, "just instructed in higher echelon techniques without be ranked" - you're basically taking the same route the Chinese army took rather than getting rid of rank here (no outward displays of rank, but look at all my pens...). If you truely want a rankless dojo, everyone would have to be taught the same at the same time, or even better, everyone teaches...

As for falling for the system, a trifle harsh here I think, I look at it more as common courtesy. It's not my association, so I'll play by their rules as long as as it suits me. What my rank means is really up to them, I just like aikido.

paw
11-18-2003, 08:43 AM
Why can't you be tested and then told you are ready to move on to the next level or not be told but just instructed in higher echelon techniques without be ranked?

No reason absolute reason why not. However, since the kyu/dan ranking system is so common in aikido that would be somewhat irregular.

I suspect that in the long run, those without rank would have a difficult time having students attend their dojo, attend their seminars, purchase their books or instructional videos, advance "politically" in their aikido organization or be considered legit by the community at large.

Regards,

Paul

Chuck Clark
11-18-2003, 09:04 AM
Rank surely does "matter", if it didn't, this powerful discussion wouldn't be happening.

Great stuff, thanks for all the different viewpoints.

kung fu hamster
11-18-2003, 10:34 AM
I’m trying to imagine how things were before the current testing system made martial arts accessible to people at large. Before the current situation, you had to get an introduction and travel to the teacher, you had to jump through hoops to be accepted as his student and be allowed to be humbly shown whatever aspects of that art that he was willing to show you. He didn’t show it to just anybody, and not lightly, he looked for loyalty and commitment. I’ve noticed that by the time 3rd kyu rank rolls around, at least 70% of the beginners have dropped out. It that because they decided they didn’t like it or what? If we didn’t have ranking, how could we tell just on physical ability who is committed to the art of aikido, enough to really stick it out? In the ‘before’ years, the martial arts teacher could personally monitor the development of his all students and see for himself how committed and loyal they were, if there were transgressions I’m sure he didn’t hesitate to boot them out of there. Only a chosen few were shown the highest aspects of the art and ‘secret’ techniques handed down through generations, not an across-the-board transmission such as people seem to expect now. There was documentation involved, something formal which stated that such-and-such person was now at whatever level of attainment in the art that the sensei decreed. It’s a privilege to be able to train in aikido, a privilege made possible to huge numbers of people by the introduction of the current ranking/documentation system. If you are accepted by your sensei as his/her student, the old conditions haven’t changed that much, they still look for loyalty and commitment to the art, and at least a ‘groping in the direction’ of high standards, and if you aren’t an ‘accepted’ student of said teacher, he is by no means obligated to show you the more advanced aspects of his art, even if you did pay the same fee for the seminar or exposition (or whatever) as his own students. Don’t get me wrong, if a qualified sensei wants to give a student rank without testing and he feels confident that he knows the student well enough to do so, that’s his prerogative and I have nothing to say about it. That’s great that the student had that close enough of a relationship to the teacher that he could do that. But for the masses, people who are not fortunate enough to have that day-to-day contact or even sporadic contact, the ranking system (flawed though it may be) does tend to weed out the uncommitted students. It’s a long process, a long road, and teachers can’t afford to waste their time and substance on people who can’t be committed, so I feel the testing process at least is an indicator of who made it through the gauntlet and who didn’t. If you don’t have rank but still have ability, that’s great, it doesn’t matter to you after all. But to a teacher, it may make a difference, I don’t know. Some teacher’s just won’t work with junior students on advanced techniques, why should they reveal their good stuff to someone they may not consider ‘worthy’? My teachers teach advanced techniques to all the students, we’re so lucky that way, I’ve known even white belts to have had a chance to do randori practice (half speed or even slower if necessary, just so they can learn to move). When testing time rolls around, he says his classes are like gardens, and testing time is when he gets a chance to look at the prospective ‘harvest’ and see how the seeds he planted are doing. Anyway, these are just my thoughts, rambling and disjointed, but intended to help people appreciate (I hope) what the ranking system has done for aikido. If I'm wrong on any of these points, I'm sure people won't hesitate to let me know!

:)

paw
11-18-2003, 01:11 PM
Linda,
If I'm wrong on any of these points, I'm sure people won't hesitate to let me know!

Well, since you asked.....
I’m trying to imagine how things were before the current testing system made martial arts accessible to people at large.
Unless I'm mistaken, rank was Kano's creation. As Kano was an educator, it would seem there were reasons as to why he would not only establish rank, but group techniques in the manner that he did. In short, it was for the benefit of the student so the entire art could be learned in an efficient manner.
If we didn’t have ranking, how could we tell just on physical ability who is committed to the art of aikido, enough to really stick it out?

I don't see how higher rank indicates a higher level of committment. I personally know a number of people who were uncoordinated, had little free time, lacked money for training, or could not make most training times, yet nevertheless trained as often as they could come hell or high-water. They were often had a relatively low rank compared to others who did not have such obsticals. They were certainly not less committed.
In the ‘before’ years, the martial arts teacher could personally monitor the development of his all students and see for himself how committed and loyal they were, if there were transgressions I’m sure he didn’t hesitate to boot them out of there.

Instructors now should do the same thing. If they do not, I certainly won't train with them. Loyalty goes both ways in my book.
If you are accepted by your sensei as his/her student, the old conditions haven’t changed that much, they still look for loyalty and commitment to the art, and at least a ‘groping in the direction’ of high standards, and if you aren’t an ‘accepted’ student of said teacher, he is by no means obligated to show you the more advanced aspects of his art, even if you did pay the same fee for the seminar or exposition (or whatever) as his own students

The worst thing one can say about a bjj instructor, worse even than they are abusive, is that they "hold back". That is to say they deliberately choose not to show all aspects of the art. Loyalty and committment go both ways. If an instructor ever "holds back" from me, I will not give them my loyalty or my money. An instructor is still flesh and blood, not an exaulted entity, there's no reason to treat them as such.
But for the masses, people who are not fortunate enough to have that day-to-day contact or even sporadic contact, the ranking system (flawed though it may be) does tend to weed out the uncommitted students. It’s a long process, a long road, and teachers can’t afford to waste their time and substance on people who can’t be committed, so I feel the testing process at least is an indicator of who made it through the gauntlet and who didn’t.

Again, I submit there is no relationship between rank and committment. Further, you seem to be suggesting that instructors only have an obligation to the talented and the gifted....or those willing to submit entirely to the beliefs of the instructor. I'm not sure either is healthy.

Regards,

Paul

kung fu hamster
11-18-2003, 03:56 PM
Hi Paul,

Yes, I do remember reading somewhere that Kano sensei developed the ranking system, I was talking ‘before’ in the sense of a couple hundred years ago or even further back. In fact, in thinking about what I posted I do agree with you that rank and commitment are not always related, I guess I was talking more generally from the standpoint that someone could look at a nidan or sandan and infer that there had been some certain level of commitment to training, enough to get to this point anyway, as opposed to the junior kyu ranks. I certainly think there are blackbelts who simply quit after they get the rank, so yes, higher rank and commitment don’t go hand in hand as I hastily wrote. If you look at many people who are my junior in rank at our dojo, their aikido technique and ukemi is far superior to mine, they may show a greater level of commitment than me, yeah, you’re right there, rank and level of commitment may not always correspond, but generally speaking I think that I am going to get a level of aikido instruction from a yondan that I wouldn’t expect from a shodan. Could be an erroneous expectation, like you said, I’m not exactly talking in absolutes here.

“The worst thing one can say about a bjj instructor, worse even than they are abusive, is that they "hold back". That is to say they deliberately choose not to show all aspects of the art. Loyalty and committment go both ways. If an instructor ever "holds back" from me, I will not give them my loyalty or my money. An instructor is still flesh and blood, not an exaulted entity, there's no reason to treat them as such.”

Well ok, if you say so, but even though a teacher may give the students all he’s got, I’m pretty sure a regular student does not get the same level of instruction that the uchi deshi’s are getting. I’m not resentful about it, I understand in my own limited way, why a teacher structures things that way, and if a student didn’t offer that level of commitment to the teacher, why should the student expect that level of commitment from the teacher?

“Further, you seem to be suggesting that instructors only have an obligation to the talented and the gifted....or those willing to submit entirely to the beliefs of the instructor. I'm not sure either is healthy.”

I don’t think teachers have obligations only to the talented and the gifted, I was thinking more along the lines of ‘committed and loyal to the art’, as in possible inheritors of the system that the teacher is trying to impart, hopefully for future generations to enjoy and improve on. Why does a teacher teach? Just to make money? Some do. Ego? There’s some of that too. I’m very thankful that the Ueshiba family decided to spread aikido to the West, if it weren’t for the teaching system that was used I’m not so sure I would be able to train today with the teachers that I have. My teacher explained about the word ‘keiko’ – the kanji have some meaning of reflections of the past in the sense that we practice today with the same spirit, intensity, integrity, etc. that practitioners did hundreds of years ago (or whatever time frame, I hope you can tell what I’m saying). I realize that I speak from my point of view with the ‘ideal’ situation I have, I do understand that there are some teachers out there who charge inordinate amounts of money and some who are not entirely on the up-and-up, in such case, where does one point the finger? Sometimes even a great teacher is mistaken too, they are human, if a student they promote has character flaws that they overlooked, it isn’t always a problem of the ranking system. It takes a long time to get to know someone and some of the ways how they are (traits), that’s what I ultimately think. Anyway, these are just more ramblings, thinking out loud. A couple of months ago my teacher said to me (really harshly!), “Linda, I know you have a lot on your mind, but do you have to VOMIT it all over everybody else?!” Don’t you pity my poor teacher?

;)

Kensho Furuya
11-18-2003, 05:12 PM
I hate to respond in this segment but I have been following it and so finally I thought I would ad my opinion for what it's worth (not much!) with the hopes that I don't get into too much trouble here.

First of all, I should like to say that I don't like to emphasize rank or acquiring rank in my dojo and teach the attitude that it comes when it comes or when you are ready. Rank obsessed students generally turn me off.

In an ideal world, we could probably do without ranks. Many years ago, about 30-35 years ago, we knew each other and all the teachers around and most all of the black belts. We also knew what everyone taught, weak and strong points, relaxed or intense classes, weapons or no, etc., so it was easy to evauate a student just by hearing the name of his teacher.

Nowadays, there are so many groups and so many teachers and students moving around that one cannot possible keep track of everyone. Nowadays, when a student visits and I ask the name of his dojo or teacher - it is usually someone I never heard of before - this is common today, but not like many years ago.

I think we have to realize that rank is very subjective and is really a matter between the student and his teacher. It is much like a college degree - in some ways, as many argue in this thread, that it may be useless in the real world, but, at the same time, we hope that our dentist or neuro-surgeon or car repair man has some kind of credentials from somewhere to indicate that he has had some kind of training. I heard that even hair dressers and gardeners need credentials nowadays because of all the chemicals they use. Even a barber has some credentials to hang on his wall to indicate that he has had some training - whether, in your own opinion, he is good or not.

Although one should get a good idea of what level a person is at just by the way he moves and executes the techniques, often this is not the case. I have seen many students come to the dojo and have wondered about their rank or how they received their ranking. . . .

I once studied under a very famous concert pianist who was trained in Europe and had performed all over the world. However when she played, it was not very good and she only taught young people like me at the time to make a modest living for herself. In her senior years, she was suffering from severe arthiritis in her fingers - a condition quite beyond her control. She was a totally qualified and experienced artist of great prestige. In this case, I relied on her experience and mastery, not her immediate or present ability. . . . . I think this case can apply to many senior instructors - you body doesn't function the same when your are 20 and when you are 60 - at least not mine. . . .

Finally, I have seen very high ranking, skillful instructors who do not make good teachers. And I have seen some 1st Dan assistants who are not well-experienced in technique but know how to handle and deal with people and can communicate ideas very well. It is not a case of rank here and not even skill -

Each teacher and organization has different goals and standards - some are much lower or much higher than others. . . . . . some are much tougher and some more relaxed. Some organizations emphasize "killer" type Aikido which is strong and brutal. Some teachers emphasize a more "personal development" approach. Who can say which is better? Again, it depends on the teacher and student. . . . .

At least, if they say they have a rank from Aikikai, it is easy to verify. I have had 5th Dan and even one 7th Dan whose rank could not be verified - I had to verify it because I thought their level of training and expertise was questionable. In this case, a verifiable Dan grade is necessary, especially when they request to teach . . . . . . There was a person who used my name without my permission and was going around in another country giving seminars and issuing dan grades but had no experience at all. Somehow he was able to fool hundreds of black belts, teachers and students that he was a 6th Dan black belt claiming to be my student. . . . . . very troublesome and very dangerous and very terrible. Very embarrassing for me when a magazine called me to ask me questions about this "famous" teacher who used to be my student. Fortunately I can remember every black belt I have ever trained over the last 40 years. . . . .

I think many people chatting here are, for the most part, "students" of Aikido. I think as the years go by and one becomes a teacher, you will find that rank is important for yourself - as you represent the prestige and authority of your organization and have a position as teacher. At the same time, you will find it important for your students as well to show that you approve of their progress and recognize their hard work, efforts and support of your dojo over the years.

I once had a student, 73 years old, who came into my dojo and said that he only wanted to practice mildly at the side of the mat for medical and health purposes, he said he could not keep up with the normal students nor was he interested in rank at all. . . . . He came everyday for several years and I was happy that his physical condition improved immensely. One day, a visiting teacher came and saw him and asked what rank he was - because he was only wearing a white belt. I told him "3rd kyu" which he was. He was immediately promoted to 2nd Dan! I was so surprised!

Even for the most diligent and committed of students, it will be hard to practice for 20, 30, 40 years without any type of recognization at all. . . . . It can also be difficult to say, "I have been practicing for 30 years and I am a 6th kyu" - hahahaah! (sorry, just kidding here). But eventually, even if you are only a student, you will take on some teaching, guidance or management duties in your dojo. The rank creates a heirarchy - which is not good, but it also creates an order within the dojo. My students in my own dojo know who to turn to for any problem if they don't want to approach me directly because assistant instructors, senior advisors are clearly designated. . . . Also, the ranks of the assistant instructors give new students an approachable ideal or goal to work for and or least aspire to. . . In this sense, rank has a positive energy to encourage new students.

As a priest, I carry a blood-line - it is a piece of paper written to me by my teacher and it is a lineage which show me as a student of my teacher with all the names of his teachers going back to the Buddha himself. Wherever I go, whether I look or act like a priest or not, this is my proof that I am a priest and that I am my teacher's student. My poor teacher is long gone so there is no one but this paper and my name registered in the main temple to show my proof of ordination. . . . . I think rank can be a mixed blessing but it depends on whether we use it correctly or abuse this practice. Because there is always someone around to distort or take advantage of this, we probably need rank more than we can do without it.

I would also like to point out and I think this is shared my many veteran teachers - I don't hold back anything in teaching but I do notice very much that students have different absorption levels. As far as what I teach is concerned, I hope, beyond hope, that all my students would pay more attention, watch for the finer details of my instructions, follow them correctly and practice them until I don't have to go back and repeat myself over, and over, and over, and over again, and over again. . . . !

I have one student, over 35 years of training, and somewhere he picked up a bad habit with his back leg and always puts his foot down automatically shifting his center of gravity to his backside. I have been correcting him for years. . . . I refused to be defeated and told him that I will correct him until I die and still come back and haunt him as a ghost until he gets it. I certainly hope he reads this - because now you are all my witnesses! If this imput does any good at all - I hope he will correct his d*mn back foot! Thanks for your patience. . . . now back to "silly poems!"

paw
11-18-2003, 09:04 PM
Linda,
Well ok, if you say so, but even though a teacher may give the students all he’s got, I’m pretty sure a regular student does not get the same level of instruction that the uchi deshi’s are getting.

I'm not sure what your point is.

I submit the fundamental role of an instructor is to improve the performance of their students. Period. An instructor that arbitrarily determines that a student doesn't have the proper "level of committment" and therefore withholds details is not concerned about the student as a person. Do you disagree?
I don’t think teachers have obligations only to the talented and the gifted, I was thinking more along the lines of ‘committed and loyal to the art’, as in possible inheritors of the system that the teacher is trying to impart, hopefully for future generations to enjoy and improve on.

As an instructor, my students must be at least as good as I am, otherwise the art will decline. That's a rough paraphrase of a bjj instuctor who just won the World Championship (Mundials). To my mind, that is the responsibility of the instructor.

Regards,

Paul

Nafis Zahir
11-18-2003, 11:18 PM
Sensei Furuya, how was it back when you were training? Was there a ranking system? Was there and organization? Do you know how O'Sensei promoted people? Your input is very valuable for this thread. Thank You Sensei!

kung fu hamster
11-19-2003, 08:37 AM
Hi Paul,

Sorry, I don’t have the experience or expertise to disagree with you on these points, although I do question the feasibility of the logistics. If you hold to these ideals then I think you must be an amazing teacher.

Cheers,

Linda

indomaresa
11-19-2003, 09:43 AM
i agree wholeheartedly to sensei furuya's standing. Rank is necessary to make a dojo grow, since a sensei can only handle so much students. Sempais are there to help kohais.

there won't be any sempais without exams though.

Nafis,

it's different for every person. The system's necessary, but many people dislike the ranking system too.

I personally will only test if my sensei wants me to and I won't test if my fellow shodans aren't testing.

No hurry. the tests are expensive anyway.

happysod
11-19-2003, 10:01 AM
Maresa, "there won't be any sempais without exams though". Sorry, totally false. We've had threads mention grades awarded (even at kyu) rather than tested and many organistions don't grade at all above 3rd/4th dan, again they're awarded.

"No hurry. the tests are expensive anyway" - why are they so expensive? Does your dojo fly in a sensei or something? I can just about understand paying for the tester's time and a reasonable admin cost, but I've been horrified when reading some organisations testing costs...

Thalib
11-19-2003, 10:08 AM
Funny that Ian...

I'm in the same dojo with Maresa. Our dojo is under a foundation which also arranges the yudansha testings. We don't have a high enough ranking yudansha to test someone to a shodan.

And the answer is yes, we do fly in a shihan once a year from Aikikai Honbu for yudansha testing. I can't remember exactly, but it costs us like U$200 for a yudansha test.

happysod
11-19-2003, 10:21 AM
thalib, thanks for the info, all I can say is eek - although with the air fare/accomodation taken into account I can understand the cost and even (though it grates me to say this) feel it's probably quite reasonable

indomaresa
11-19-2003, 10:21 AM
well ian,

There's no rank awarded here in indonesia, ever. Except maybe kyu grades at secluded dojos. The National organization frown upon such practice.

So, it's still "no exam - no sempais" for me.

And frankly, I agree because self-testing dojos here can sometimes create a mess. The organization here try to let the dojos take exams together to ensure a standard.

The expensive test I mentioned are dan tests, where you're supposed to pay 20.000 yen. How many dollars is that? Here in indonesia it's equal to my one month pay. Or.... 240 bowls of noodle. ^_^

The kyu test fee is... probably 5-6$

How much do u pay for tests there?

Nafis Zahir
11-19-2003, 10:36 AM
My shodan test was $300.00! That's not a typo! I got a really nice certificate from Japan with the only english on it being my name. (So I don't know what it really says!) And my old instructor who is a control freak, keeps all the blue books of the yudansha. I did get it once I finally decided to leave. See my thoughts on the "Why Test" thread. Can you say rebate anyone?

indomaresa
11-19-2003, 10:50 AM
nafis,

I know some japanese, and if the certificate is from honbu, it'll translate to;

Date dd/mm/yyyy

We, the collective mind hereby states that you, -insert your name here- should not resist, for resistance is futile.

surrender and be assimilated

signed;

the borg

^0^

Nafis Zahir
11-19-2003, 10:54 AM
[QUOTE="Maresa Sumardi (indomaresa)"]nafis,

I know some japanese, and if the certificate is from honbu, it'll translate to;

Date dd/mm/yyyy

We, the collective mind hereby states that you, -insert your name here- should not resist, for resistance is futile.

surrender and be assimilated

signed;

the borg

^0^



Ha-Ha-Ha! But you know what Maresa? You're probably right! But I've decided to just walk the earth. You know, like Kane in Kung Fu!

Michael Karmon
11-19-2003, 10:59 AM
My shodan test was $300.00! That's not a typo! I got a really nice certificate from Japan with the only english on it being my name..... See my thoughts on the "Why Test" thread. Can you say rebate anyone?

Well perhaps the theread should be "Why do tests cost so much?"

In our dojo our sensei tests and rank us up to Kyu 1. My Sensei does not charge for Kyu tests.

Dan test are given by a Shihan who is flown in from overseas. In October Seki Sensei awarded two Shodan, two Nidan and a Sandan ranks to members of my Dojo. The ranks were given during an open seminar Seki Sensei was giving in Israel. Tested persons were required to participate in the entire seminar (some 200$) and pay for the certificat from Humbo Dojo some 300$. Not too cheap - amounts to half of an avarege salary here.

My sensei does not charge for Kyu test because no one is making his living from Aikido and because he is a true idealist who believes money should not come in the way of someone who thrives to learn Aikido.

Open question: does you sensei makes his/her living of Aikido?

Nafis Zahir
11-19-2003, 11:07 AM
Michael - my old instructor does make his living off of aikido and we had to pay for kyu testing. The higher the rank, the more the cost. i don't have a problem supporting the dojo, but then again, not all certificates are accepted at all dojos. YOu know what I mean!?

happysod
11-19-2003, 11:09 AM
Maresa, Thalib, I'm now back up to "how much". Maresa, I'm assuming you're about average in the pay scales for your country (apologies if not), so you and Thalib would pay the equivalent of 1 months wages for a dan grading?? Trying to picture the scene, partner's voice.. "ok, where's the rent money gone... ", gradee - "but look at the fancy writing". I think in Indonesia I'd never get a black belt (ok, if rank = skill, its a moot point, but you get my drift?).

As to our costs Maresa, it's 20-40 GBP which is 1/2-1 days average wages (or a round in a London city-centre pub)

Michael, please start this new thread, but could you ask for costs in buying power/ wages terms, Maresa now has me gobsmacked...

Totally off topic, do these organisations charging these amounts ever publish their accounts so you know who gets what?

paw
11-19-2003, 11:10 AM
Linda,
Sorry, I don’t have the experience or expertise to disagree with you on these points, although I do question the feasibility of the logistics. If you hold to these ideals then I think you must be an amazing teacher.

I think you are ascribing something to me that isn't true. I spoke only of the responsibilites of an instructor as I see them. I never claimed that I was an instructor myself.

Frankly, this "ideal" is not that difficult. Any compentant, caring individual is quite capable of living up to it, in my experience at least.

Regards,

Paul

akiy
11-19-2003, 11:23 AM
Just some quick thoughts on a couple of things.

As far as the term "sempai" goes, the term is not tied into someone's rank. In fact, they could have started aikido one day ahead of you, quit after a month, then came back after an absence of ten years. You might then be fourth dan and he the lowest kyu rank, but in the Japanese scheme of things, he'd still be your sempai.

On the subject of rankings and the founder of aikido, from what I understand, the founder was pretty (to put it a bit flippantly) willy nilly about giving people their dan rankings. When "aikido" was first established with the Dai Nippon Butotukai, he basically gave out dan rankings. I wrote a while back in 1999 on this subject on Aikido-L:
Interestingly enough, I was just reading about the Butokukai and the dan ranking system in an article that was written by Kisshomaru Ueshiba sensei in Aikido Tankyo #15. Part of it went like this (my loose translation from the Japanese article):

"The aikido division of the All Japan Botokukai was established in the 17th year of the Showa period (1942). [snip]

"The Japan Butokukai was established in the 28th year of the Meiji era (1895) and had within it Judo and Kendo.

"Kaiso was not very fond of joining these kinds of organizations or groups, and he did not like getting in contact with other budo. For that, it seemed as though he did not care to join the Butokukai. [snip]

"The dan ranking system of aikido was created at the time aikido joined the Botokukai. Until then, it did not seem as though Kaiso was thinking about the dan ranking system. Because judo and kendo were both in the Butokukai and they both had the dan ranking system, there arose a need for aikido to do likewise.

"Although I was thinking about what to do [as far as giving out dan rankings] in the case of aikido, because it was so sudden, Kaiso pretty much devised them himself. 'Tomiki and Inoue are probably around eighth dan. Hirai is still young, so he'll be fourth dan.' (Hirai was the representative for aikido in the Botokukai.)

"So it went like that. However, having our representative be only 4th dan wouldn't have been appropriate to the other budo, and it seemed that a person must be at least 5th dan to be in the Butokukai, Hirai was given a 6th dan."

That's the relevant part regarding dan rankings. But, Ueshiba sensei goes on to say some other interesting stuff:

"As an aside, joining the Butokukai had a big influence on calling our art 'Aikido.'

"Before then, although the art was being called 'Aikido," at the same time, it was also called 'Ueshiba-ryu Jujutsu,' 'Aiki Jujutsu,' 'Aiki Budo,' and others. Kaiso didn't seem to have much concern about really pinpointing one name for the art at the time.

"After this [joining of the Butokukai], there seems to have been a conscientious effort to call the art 'Aikido.'"
-- Jun

Greg Jennings
11-19-2003, 01:24 PM
Michael - my old instructor does make his living off of aikido and we had to pay for kyu testing. The higher the rank, the more the cost. i don't have a problem supporting the dojo, but then again, not all certificates are accepted at all dojos. YOu know what I mean!?
People come down on both sides of the professional versus non-professional aikido instruction issue.

I, personally, am not about to try to make a living off aikido. I have a good profession now. OTOH, if I did try to be a professional, I would probably be able to offer more classes and other services to my students.

As a brief example, I'd probably be able to offer kids, beginners, and daytime classes. As it stands now, we're going to struggle to offer a fourth class per week that will be dedicated to beginners.

NZ, I think I attended a seminar at your old instructor's place and spent time around him while he was talking to the instructor giving the seminar. If this is the same guy, I can pretty well tell you that he's not making much of a living off aikido.

Don't get me wrong, I think $300 for a not-so-well-accepted shodan rank isn't kosher, but I don't know too many people making a good living off aikido.

I was charged $200 for both my shodan and nidan. I know that I got my shodan for barely above what the Aikikai charged at the time and I know that I got my nidan at cost.

Another thought, NZ, perhaps you should relocate down here where the winter is short and the aikido is inexpensive ;) .

Regards,

Kensho Furuya
11-19-2003, 01:28 PM
Mr. Zahir, many thanks. I have thought about your question all day and I really do not know how to answer your question correctly about how ranks were given out 30-35 years ago. I was very young then. I started very young and received my 1st Dan at a young age. In those days, there were very few instructors and dojos. Only a few years previous, O'Sensei had introduced Aikido into Hawaii and a few Aikido dan holders moved to the West Coast to teach. In those days, Koichi Tohei was in control of the West Coast as Head of the Shihan Dept. of Hombu and his influence was very strong here. His Aikido was a little different from other instructors from Hombu. I found this out more clearly when I went to Japan for training. In those days, Tohei Sensei had what he called the "7 basic techniques" and the "50 basic techniques" and one had to master these to go through the kyu grades to 1st Dan.

In those days, O'Sensei was synonymous with Aikido. O'Sensei was at a level quite above such materialistic matters as ranks and gave them out freely to students and friends. In Japan, this is the priviledge of a great master and never questioned. However, Hombu Dojo itself was very strict about Dan rankings.

Just like today, there were two groups - one who were very obsessed with ranks and promotions and another group which minimized the importance of ranks. However, as a very young person then, like everyone, we dreamed of one day taking the test and receiving our Dan grade from Hombu and being allowed to wear the black belt and hakama. It was so exciting to see our name on a certificate from Japan with O'Sensei's name on it. When I was in Japan, however, I followed the custom of only wearing a white belt, taking off my black one. I still wear a white belt today over 35 years later as a habit.

One difference between then and today is that the ceiling to promotions is much higher today. In those days, training outside of Japan - the highest we hoped to ever attain was 4th Dan. Local instructors could reach 5th Dan. Instructors here from Japan were 5th Dan and 6th Dan. Today, Japanese instructors outside of Japan can reach 7th and 8th Dan. Non-Japanese (meaning not trained in Japan at Hombu) and head instructors here can reach 7th Dan, maybe higher. . . . .

I remember when I was studying under various shihan that almost all agreed that testing needed to be improved and made more fair. We all tried to work out various methods of testing and this has always been a big problem - what is the best test? We could, in my day, never figure this out.

Essentially, one must learn everything - all techniques! One problem is that if you decide a certain number of techniques for each grade - students begin to limit themselves to practicing just what they need for their next promotion. The other problem is that the teacher is then required to limit his teaching to what his students must learn for their test. If a teacher teaches various areas of Aikido without happeneing to touch on what a particular student must test for, it is not fair to the student. The other problem which occurred is that instructors had various interpretations of each technique. As an example, I remember many years ago that many were confused with yokomenuchi kokyunage tenkan because there were a specific three that were required but there are many, many techniques which can fall under this name. . . . . This occurred in many areas. In another example, for instance, there are many ways to execute nikyo or shihonage depending on the teacher. One teacher says this way is right, that way is wrong. Another teacher may say, this way in effective, that way is useless and doesn't work. . . . . . This has always been a difficult problem. Nowadays, with more organizations, each one decides their own way of what is right and wrong. . . . . . . . As in the past, the fact of more organizations do not expand the range of experiences for the student (as everyone seems to assume) but will narrow the range of interpretations of techniques which changes depending on where and who and under what group you are training under. One technique or interpretation may be acceptable in one group but another group may decide that this is ino good and their way in better - I have seen this very, very often in the past.

One of my old teachers found 36 ways to execute shihonage. I teach five ways of shihonage depending on which is best under which attack and what circumstances as I understand it. I would like to teach ten different ways but I feel sorry for my students. . . . especially if they have trouble just learning one way. It is the same with many techniques which can vary so much with each teacher and group.

Also, Aikido techniques have evolved. I remember long ago when the Japanese teachers first came over here, kotegaeshi didn't work too well because everyone's arms over here were longer than Japanese. Tenchi-nage and irimi-nage was diffcult because people in this country were so much taller and on and on. When I first learned ikkyo (very long ago), we used to jump up and come down with our knee against the opponent's elbow. We don't do this anymore.

Anyways, I think that the only fair way is that it is a matter between teacher and student - this is changing because today many students go around everywhere and do not have just "one" teacher. I watch and instruct my students everyday and know them very well. At the same time, however, I have to trust the recommendations of my assistant instructors in other areas and rely on their good and honest judgement. Without Trust, no system of testing or ranking will be fair.

Ranking is by nature very subjective and only the opinion of the instructor giving the rank at the time. I have seen many students do well in practice and do very badly on a test. I have seen very talented and technically qualified

students who are very strong and skillful but I somehow feel that they will abuse their rank and position. . . . . There are some students who try so hard but will never be as good as a 20 year old athelete. . . . . but have good personality, good discipline and attendance, helpful in the dojo, good to the other classmates. I would rather have a student who has developed a great attitude towards Aikido of lesser skill than a very skillful and strong student who has a very bad attitude or his arrogant and abusive to others. I remember a conversation I had with Guro Richard Bustillo of JKD and Kali, a good friend of mine. One time we were talking about skill and strength and effective techniques and how to judge a student. 20 years later, we had the same conversation but changed our attitude and agree that the most important aspect a student must develop in training was Attitude. However, if that student goes to another dojo, he will be assessed on his skill, not his attitude. . . . . Does this mean, we just create killers and death machines, in the dojo? Hahaha!

In any dojo, there are all types of people of all circumstances. Each student must be judged on individual merits. A student of meager talent who gives 100% is more valued in my book than a very talented student who only gives 20% to his training. I see this a lot in Aikido. I dream that all my students are all atheletic, strong, flexible, quick to catch on to the techniques, good attitude, can pay thier dues on time, blah, blah, blah, blah - yes, I am dreaming! No! A teacher is required to balance the human element of each individual student with the intention to promote him in his life and his art in every way, positively and constructively, and, at the same time, preserve and pass down the art without compromising or distorting it. This is the duty, I feel, of all teachers and something we must wrestle with each day in class. Ranks, so easily abused, must be handled with honestly and fairness with each individual and this may not follow some hard and set rule.

When I was young, I took piano lessons from a world class concert pianist. She had trained in Europe and had performed all over the world in the most prestigious concert halls. However, at that time, she just taught young people like me to make a modest living for herself. When she played, it was not very good and limited herself to teaching. She had developed severe arthiritis in his fingers and could no longer play well, but she was an excellent teacher in every way and her skill was without question and I really respected her.

When I was very young, I had one Aikido teacher who was not technically the greatest in skill, but was a very fine gentlemen and scholar and I always respected him for that and learned a great deal although it wasn't really shihonage or ikkyo. I think it is easy to say we should do this and that and tests should be like this and ranks should be like that. But when you get down to the "dirty" work of teaching students each day and everything else that is involved in getting a student to move somewhat correctly and make him understand a little about Aikido is all about. . . . . we are making and breaking rules minute by minute!

I should also like to add finally, O'Sensei was at the spiritual level where he thought all people, everyone in the whole world, was a 10th Dan in Aikido. Most of us are not at that level of understanding and what a headache it was for Hombu to straighten that out into real, world terms! Our thoughts on ranks is nothing where O'Sensei was at. . . . . . and we should keep that in mind. . . . . . what a world this would be if each one of us thought so well about the other person as O'Sensei did!

aikidoc
11-19-2003, 02:45 PM
It is my understanding the hombu aikikai establishes rates for dan exams-that apparently does not preclude organizations from tacking on an additional charge.

The charges get pretty steep when you start getting above 3rd or 4th dan if testing at a seminar (hotel, travel, seminar fee, dan fee).

Nafis Zahir
11-19-2003, 04:20 PM
To Sensei Furuya - Thank you so much for that insightful thread. You have certainly given me alot to think about. Did you test for Shodan? I respect the fact that you wear a white belt. My Instructor is Donovan Waite Sensei who also wears a white belt. He said it was in order to keep a beginners mind. But you eluded to it being a Japanesw tradition. What is the significance of wearing the white belt? I may want to evaluate this for myself. I still feel the same way about rank. Like you said, you would rather have a student (like me!) with a good attitude and not so good skills as opposed to the other way around. But sadly, as you know, that is something that is not looked for during testing and sometimes not even by the instructors who decide a student is ready to test. All part of politics. Please tell me about the white belt. Although I live in Philadelphia, I would like to come out to LA and see you and train at your dojo, with your permission. Do you have a web site? Please respond soon! Domo Arigato! (sorry for the spelling)

To Greg - It was Agatsu Dojos in South New Jersey and the instructors name was Crane. Ring a bell?

John Boswell
11-19-2003, 04:52 PM
Sensei Furuya said:When I first learned ikkyo (very long ago), we used to jump up and come down with our knee against the opponent's elbow. We don't do this anymore.
THAT'S just MEAN! :dead:

Seriously though... I never even thought of that. Talk about a truly "martial" way of executing that! Wow...:eek:

Kensho Furuya
11-19-2003, 05:37 PM
Hello! I don't make a big point of it, some of my black belts wear their black belts and some do not. This is not a custom very popular anymore, I believe. O'Sensei always wore a white belt and as you say, it is to remind us of "beginner's mind" ("shoshin") - so important in our training. In those days, many of the "hard-core" black belt students only wore a white belt. Some of the shihan wore only white belts too, I think Yamaguchi Seigo Sensei was one of them at the time as I remember. He passed away several years ago - what a great loss!!

Actually, I prefer my assistants, especially those who have teaching assignments to wear their black belts. More than anything to give confidence to the new students who wouldn't understand or appreciate this point yet. . . . .

It is all ancient history and not a big thing but I took an examination for shodan. I think I did very well as good as all the others but I was told: "You did very well, but you are too young to receive a black belt, I just wanted to see how well you would do!" Well, I was very young at the time and very, very disappointed to hear something like this. I think this was my first exposure to Aikido "politics." I took the test again several months later and they made an exception and gave me my black belt, so actually I took it twice!

I don't like the idea of testing but I think it is a necessary "evil" and sometimes this formality makes a big difference to the student who feels it to be an obstacle to overcome in training and goes about to overcome it. I worry about some students who become too obsessed with taking tests and only practice for promotions or those who look at testing as a form of competition.

Reading this thread, I think we have to realize that many of these rules and formalities are not who those who understand the art and have the proper attitude towards practice and training, but, like all rules, are made to "encourage" and guide those who are in danger of breaking or abusing them. . . . . Like traffic laws, if we all understand that we have to stop at the red light, why do we need a law to say so? Well. . . . . . . I think it is something like this.

Finally, in class, I may have an opinion about a student knowing his practice habits, regularity of training, attitude, personal ability vs a general standard of skill, etc. and have to take all of this into consideration. Sometimes, the test is just for the student to make sure for himself that he knows all of the required techniques. The test, I think, should be a part of the learning process for the student himself, it is not really to satisfy me in anyway, I already know him well enough in class and in the process of teaching him. . . . .

When I graduated the university, I didn't really know anything at all although I had a perfect grade point average. When I was ordained as a priest after many years of training, I still didn't know much about being a priest. Sometimes, I think we have to think that 1st Dan is "what it is" - a "first step" for the student in his training and, if you are his classmates or his teacher, you have to be encouraging and give him the benefit of the doubt. . . . . It is easy to make high standards and lotsa rules, but I would never put a student through what I went through my self and I would always hope that someday he would surpass me (without kicking me out of the dojo into the streets!)

After all those years in school, I still need the piece of paper which says I graduated. After all the time a student spends in training in Aikido, he stills needs the rank when he deserves it and he needs to be promoted as he progresses - if not for himself - at least for all the newer students in the dojo who will hold him up as a source of guidance and inspiration.

My students do not emulate me - I am too old and ornery to be a model for anything, but they do my younger assistants. I think they are more accessible and easier to model themselves after. I think this is good in the dojo and as it should be. In this respect, I think the rank is necessary. In addition, what rewards does a teacher get in all his efforts to teach his students? I am very proud of my black belts and my own selfish reward for what I do is to see my student progress well and go through the ranks and become good Aikidoists.

Everyone is welcome to practice at my dojo anytime. I make no restrictions or regulations about any organization and such. I do hope you meet you face to face some day as I do everyone here that I have met. I hope I don't violate any rules about self-promotion here but since you are asking, my website is www.aikidocenterla.com. I write a Daily Message each day which you might enjoy. You might enjoy my book, KODO: Ancient Ways-Lessons In The Spiritual Life of the Warrior or my video series, Aikido Shoshinshu-The Art of Aikido, in nine volumes. I have also been publishing a monthly newsletter from my dojo for the last 22 years. There are about fifteen dojos affiliated with me around the world but there is no organization name and no organization, we are all just friends and partners in practice and I act as an easy and convenient source of information about Aikido and practice. Outside of this, I stay pretty quiet and live alone in my dojo and don't go out much until I came onto this website several week ago. Thanks for asking and best wishes,

Nafis Zahir
11-19-2003, 10:41 PM
Sensei, why would O'Sensei wear a white belt? I've seen many pictures of him and never saw him with a white belt. Did he tie his hakama a certain way and you just couldn't see it? I sent you a private message. I've seen ads for your tapes and I never noticed you wearing a white belt. Am I missing something. Hope to see you soon.

Hey Greg, what happend to ya?

Kensho Furuya
11-20-2003, 12:59 PM
Yes, O'Sensei often wore a white belt. Yes, I, like many other dan holders and instructors of the old school, wear a white belt too. Sometimes, I put on a black belt at demonstrations or when I am outside my dojo to keep people from asking me, "Why are you wearing a white belt?" There is no "why" to this question, I think, it is just a matter of heart. . . . . . Many thanks as always!

Nafis Zahir
11-20-2003, 03:48 PM
Hey everyone! I want to keep this thread going, so here is another point. I've read all of the post here and many of them made good points. But if O'Sensei didn't want aikido to be cpmpetitive, don't you think we somehow contradict that idea by having a ranking system which inadvertantly causes competition in many dojos? People often argue over who is sempai when they have the same rank but come from different dojo's or styles. It also works that way when a "teachers pet" gets moved up the ranks quickly. (No one act like this doesn't happen) I understand when Sensei Furuya says he'd like to see the fruits of his labor, but that can also be achieved just by watching a student and seeing the progression in his learning. Maybe I wouldn't be so stern on this issue if Sensei's thoughts and feelings could be permeated throughout the aikido world minus all the politics, favoritism, and money that has really caused this mess in the first place. Do you think we could ever achieve such a thing?

Chuck Clark
11-20-2003, 04:33 PM
Human beings compare because that is our nature... it's how our brain works. We set up a "pecking order" in everything we do, it seems. Whether we use wisdom in this or stop being so attached to our comparisons is up to us. We cause so many of our own problems and suffering due to our fear and insecurities.

Even if there was no ranking system, we would "rank" each other anyway. Instead of getting rid of rank, we should learn to deal with our own "stuff".

Kensho Furuya
11-20-2003, 04:43 PM
Yes, that is exactly right! What an excellent point! Why get rid of something we inevitably do anyways. . . .

kung fu hamster
11-20-2003, 05:04 PM
Actually, I completely agree that rank isn't a consistent indicator of anyone's skill/ability (which I suppose would make me much of the same opinion as Nafis...!), I guess the point I am trying to make is, yes the ranking system has it's problems, but don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

ranZ
11-21-2003, 03:39 AM
I agree that comparing is something that we naturally do. I'm in a dojo with no rank system and no colored belts. All i know is i've been learning for 2 years and so-and-so has for .. years etc. But at the end of the day we do discuss and make "ranks".

We'd make comments such as

"Oh, A is getting really good.", "B's flow is much better now.", or "C seems to be having trouble in ... area."

So i think we unconsciously know who's better in what area and who's not, even if we don't know what rank we are.

But on the question whether rank really matters, well unfortunately we live in the world where we need money to eat and need a system to run an organization. So, imo depends on how you want your aikido to grow.

Thalib
11-21-2003, 09:14 AM
Actually Ran-chan... there is a ranking system in your dojo, remember:

shokyu

chukyu

jokyu

shoden

chuden

okuden

Did I miss a rank here?

And you just got tested. Ran-chan, I believe you are a chukyu now?

Me... I'm still a shokyu... :p

aikidoc
11-21-2003, 11:10 AM
The rank issue does come up in a practice way regularly. I have had two incidences of non-verifiable rank which when questions were asked the responses did not make sense.

THe most recent was a young man claiming to be a shodan from a USAF dojo. He said his sho sho was packed (he just go out of the military). Then the story changed-it was in route. So I checked with hombu-they never heard of him. When confronted he acted like something was amiss. Story changed again. He said his instructor stole the money for the test. Knowing aikikai organization testing procedures I knew this was a lie-he was eventually kicked out of the school-he did produce a 1st kyu certificate from USAF.

Now most recently, he is claiming to be a 4th dan and saying he was from my area-his skills were at a 2nd or 1st kyu at most and his attitude at a poorly disciplined 6th kyu.

This is one of my reasons for liking documentation of rank-I can verify it if it is legitimate. There are a lot of frauds out there that learn enough to hoodwink the unknowing public and have enough physical skills and line of BS that they can pull it off for a while. It gives the art a bad name and the public a bad taste for the martial arts.

Kelly Allen
11-22-2003, 01:06 AM
I remember that story. This is the first time I heard how it eventually turned out.

That, I suppose, would be the single most important reason to have an established registered ranking system.

Suru
11-23-2003, 01:02 PM
From one of my favorite songs, "Samurai" by Michael Cretu:

"Your commission was written in the sand."

Drew

Greg Jennings
11-23-2003, 01:53 PM
Hey Greg, what happend to ya?
Hosting a seminar with Goto Sensei! Dude, check your e-mail.

Best,

BKimpel
11-24-2003, 10:54 PM
After thinking about what Kensho Furuya said about rank being kind of a small reward for his teaching to see his students succeed, I thought about the value of rank to my sensei.

To sensei rank can be a measure of job satisfaction (imagine how great those professors would feel each day if NONE of their students graduated from college), it can help him grow the dojo (they can assist him with the beginners), it is a perception issue in that a dojo with lots of yudansha does help to show that many students are dedicated to the art and their teacher and charges up the other students (motivational, considering not everyone is self-motivated like myself).

Furthermore after crunching the numbers I realized that sensei makes very little from each student, and because I have had the opportunity to hop around dojos over the last few years I truly believe the amount he charges is a small price to pay for quality Aikido.

What it comes down to while rank means nothing to me, it does mean something to my sensei and his dojo (indirectly), and my sensei is VERY valuable to me…so I have changed my spots.

I will now do whatever I can to help sensei succeed, whether that means testing when he says so, obtaining whatever rank he wants me too, doing whatever I can to help him promote his club (both on the mat and off), and even hopping up and down on one foot if he asks (hope he’s not reading this ;) ).

Thanks for the little push Kensho!

Kensho Furuya
11-24-2003, 11:22 PM
Many thanks! Your remarks are greatly appreciated. I am not much different from other teachers, so I think their thinking cannot be so different from mine. You might notice in your dojo that, after an examination, all of the beginners seem to be practicing much harder. Anything which might encourage the newer students to be inspired in their training is good, even if it might be such a materialistic and short-sighted goal as rank - until they gain a deeper understanding of the real goals of their practice. . . . . .

I always like to tell my students that no one gets good all by himself in the dojo, we all develop and improve together. We should all encourage each other and push each other forward as we develop ourselves at the same time.

In other martial arts, you may compete, you win, you get trophies and money, prestige, movie contracts and on and on within the context of a competitive sport or performance art. In Aikido, we really do not have any rewards at all for your years of training and committment. We receive rank as recognition of not only our training and progress, but in recognition of what we can bring into the art and how we help to develop our own dojos and create a nice Aikido community within our dojo and in your own community of dojos. Finally, somewhere along the line, you will eventually receive some responsibity to help out in the dojo, assisting the teacher, helping with classes, teaching, taking care of the students, and on and on and all of this deserves some recognition as well. So, without obsessing on rank, it still, as you say, plays a very important part in the overall picture of Aikido as a community of fellow classmates, the dojo itself and your teacher, I believe.

Nafis Zahir
11-25-2003, 12:57 AM
Sensei, I do agree with all that you say. Just reading your responses has motivated me to train harder. However, I have decided that with all the politics involved in rank, and now this on-going arguement over different styles of aikido, I am going to follow that old Japanese tradition and wear a white belt. I don't want to be associated with any particular style. I find all the styles have something to offer and the essence is the same. By the way, I was wondering what "style" you teach? I'll probably test again, pay money, get a certificate, but I just want to be known as a student of aikido. When I look at Sensei's such as yourself, Chiba, Yamada, Kanai and the like, I realize that this is a lifetime commitment for me and that I will never cease to learn and seek out new things. Please keep me posted about any seminars or demos you will be doing, as I would greatly like to train with you and hopefully gain a little insight into Aikido. Thank you Sensei!

Kensho Furuya
11-25-2003, 02:28 AM
Many thanks for your kind words. I, too, pointedly stay out of all politics and this has necessarily made it difficult for me to venture anywhere beyond the doors of my own dojo. For the last twenty years or so, I have concentrated solely on my own students in my own dojo. Of course, I welcome all Aikidoists of any organization and we have a parade of visitors coming through our dojo doors from all over the world. I haven't taught a seminar in many years in this country, I find seminars often have a political slant to them or can be self-promoting so I try to avoid them. Also, I find that I myself cannot teach a student or group of students very effectively once every few months or once a year. I like to be in my own dojo each day, where I can teach and observe the progress of my students every single day and then judge their progress over a lengthy period of time. It is hard to evaluate the student's short term and long term needs in just a few classes of many, many people as in a large seminar. As for myself, it is only through daily instruction and contact with my students that I feel like I can really teach them or be effective as a teacher. Also, I am more effective with small groups of students than larger groups one finds in seminars. With too many people, I cannot devote enough time and attention to each student's needs in a given class or observe each one carefully enough. Also, I am very strict in observing the protocol and a particularly strict in the very fine details of each technique. I don't have a very good personality nor am I very out-going, perhaps too serious in mood, I have an old, inescapable reputation for being very, very demanding of my students. I definitely do not have a high "personality" or "charm" ratio!

I just find it better to be out of everyone's way - "out of sight, out of mind" as they say. I do not try to discourage you but I find it the best way for me to be very quiet and not get in the way of any other organization or teacher. It is only by some very unexplanably odd karma that I have come onto this website recently and started to have contact with so many people such as yourselves outside my own dojo.

Over the years, I should say, I have been receiving so many invitations to teach that it has reached a point where I might begin to travel again, not able to no longer keep refusing everyone.

I teach Aikikai style but that of about 30 years ago. I do not change much from the way I learned it and even still use the same explanations, wrods and order of techniques as my teachers taught it. I am more of a transmitter, than an innovator. I want to give my teacher's Aikido to my students, not particuarlyy my own. You are welcome to visit my dojo at anytime. Always welcome, indeed! My classes are very tedious ( I warn you!) - a lot of basics, over and over again, a lot of attention to the fine detail of each technique and attention to the individual characterics of each technique - and tons of cleaning! Hahaha!

I do conduct a monthly Intensive Seminar in Aikido and separately in Iaido once a month from 6:30am. Twice a month there is a lecture-discussion study class where students can ask any question about Aikido or we have a open group discussion. Several times a year, I give public lectures on Aikido, Iaido, the arts of the Samurai sword, Miyamoto Musashi's life, etc. Over the past 35 years, I have about 150 or so published articles floating around somewhere. I do have some students on putting together all of this archival material. I have three books in the works, actually in the final stages of completion. My one technical book on Aikido has 5,500 photos and contains approx. 600 techniques, an average of 8-10 photos per technique but the publisher feels that there is not that much interest in such a large book. . . . .me too! Haha!

Anyways, I keep very busy in my own little dojo here. You can always visit me at my website and always welcome to see my training schedule. Please come anytime! And many thanks for your interest, I think I just rambled on and on too much. . . . . . . oh well.

Nafis Zahir
11-25-2003, 05:46 AM
[QUOTE="Kensho Furuya"] Also, I am very strict in observing the protocol and a particularly strict in the very fine details of each technique. I don't have a very good personality nor am I very out-going, perhaps too serious in mood, I have an old, inescapable reputation for being very, very demanding of my students. I definitely do not have a high "personality" or "charm" ratio!

I can handle it Sensei, if you can! I am a perfectionist. There is no one I am harder on than myself. And yes, I can handle constructive critism. Many people say I'm too serious and need to relax, but I take what I do very seriously. Aikido is not a hobby to me, it is what I do! Besides, I'm not looking for "charm!"

My classes are very tedious ( I warn you!) - a lot of basics, over and over again, a lot of attention to the fine detail of each technique and attention to the individual characterics of each technique - and tons of cleaning! Hahaha!

Tedious? No problem! Attention to fine detail? Exactly what I need. Tons of cleaning? Before class, after class, or both?

Kensho Furuya
11-27-2003, 08:58 AM
Many thanks for your kind message. It is not really hard at all but I think it becomes difficult in the process of continuing this kind of discipline day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year. In addition to skill, strength and the most obvious benefits of regular training, this type of old-fashioned discipline creates an "order" in one's life. It is in this order, that we begin to see how we fit into the "greater" picture of Life and Nature and learn the true value of people and things. I believe this is a kinda of inner strength which we need to acquire to attain true ability. By all means, in your own dojo, please keep up your training by all means, no matter what. Over the continuing years, you will never regret it. Of course, everyone is always welcome to my dojoto train, Best wishes always!

indomaresa
12-01-2003, 01:50 AM
I totally agree with bruce's opinion!!!!

an aikido sensei has to give so much to their student, and we could never repay them with just money.