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tiyler_durden
07-05-2004, 06:25 AM
Hey All,

At the moment I am having a similar discussion on another website but I am truly interested on your opinion.

Now I hear all over that people say that you do not start learning until you are a black belt!

Why is this?
I know that you have to promote the black belt and its elitism but I cannot get my head round why!
As I have now studied Aikido for some time and think that I will never stop learning so why should this be different if I have a black belt?

I can understand from the teaching perspective but what more?

Someone please shed some light...

Thanks you kindly

Tiyler_Durden

PeterR
07-05-2004, 07:05 AM
Hi Tiyler;

Shodan (1st Dan) means beginning level. The idea was that at this level you reached the point where you understood a core curriculum and could do or be done relatively safely. That is why in Japan, with a certain intensity of training you get there in about two years. Less intense - longer time. Aikido is about free expression of your technique - something you can only begin to do once you are past the hand here foot there stage.

Why in the West we've gone up to in some warped cases to 10 years to Shodan I'll never know.

Ian Upstone
07-05-2004, 07:25 AM
Ironically enough, students may decide to stop learning when they reach shodan as they now know it all! :)

To sound horribly uncommitted to a strong opinion, I would say the phrase "you do not start learning until you are a black belt" has plenty of meanings depending on how it is said, (and who it is said by!)

In one respect, in many places you are not considered a 'serious' student until you've put in the time to get the coveted grade, but as an artificial measure of ability that can vary widely - I'd take that statement with a pinch of salt. In this context it also has an air of elitism about it, almost like saying "I'm better than you!"

The other meaning I'd say is that at shodan, you would have a grasp of the syllabus and techniques, and start to understand underlying principles and more subtle points that go beyond a set list of techniques.

Another thing that happens is the sudden awareness (and horror!) that you may be now setting an example - this (self imposed) awareness does bring about a change in attitude - for better or worse, which is in itself a form of learning I suppose!

I'll go back to the safety of lurking now..

happysod
07-05-2004, 08:02 AM
With the other two posters - I think it's a miss-applied phrase that only makes any sense in context.

While it's not one of my favourites (in fact, it's up there with it takes x years to master y) I've always understood it to mean that it takes you until your black belt to realise just how little you actually know. A bit like completing any course in absolutely anything, you need a certain level of competence before you can tell how woefully inadequate you truly are.

Peter, not warped, just slightly bent (guilty of taken long long time to get the black belt, ok perhaps too long, but I blame the parents)

PeterR
07-05-2004, 09:32 AM
Peter, not warped, just slightly bent (guilty of taken long long time to get the black belt, ok perhaps too long, but I blame the parents)
Ah Ian - that's just circumstance. Now if you were instructor and proudly proclaiming that your guys are the absolute bestest and meanest and and ...... as for proof well we take ten years of hard training before we can even consider reaching Shodan. Then we could have a discussion. :grr:

happysod
07-05-2004, 09:38 AM
Peter, aahh, understand your ire. I'd consider anyone promoting the need for 10 years of hard training to reach shodan just proof of inadequate teaching methods and a misunderstanding of what constitutes progress :D

tiyler_durden
07-05-2004, 09:55 AM
But what if you are like me nad do not want to grade nad just learn as i see it this way!

I can do Aikido all my life, yet will be labed "That Guy" if I never get a black belt?
Or does it mean that i will never truly learn Aikido if i never get a black belt?

happysod
07-05-2004, 10:14 AM
Tiyler, nope, at least not to those who should matter - you and your regular training partners. The actual belt colour (or lack) is often only used as an obvious marker by organisations to denote where someone is in their hierarchy. As such, it only denotes your competency in aikido if you accept the ranking system in the organisation you belong to.

Now if you never actually grade, one of several things may happen.

1. You get mugged by your association into grading
2. You get given the grade despite your best intentions
3. You sort of drift out of aikido if you have no other goals as "getting better" is often a bit too nebulous to normally stimulate learning.

Seen all three, done two of them and am currently trying out option 4

Ian Upstone
07-05-2004, 12:56 PM
Peter, I see where you're coming from, but I still think I'd be more suspicious of a shodan grade after one year than one after ten years! (not that it took me ages, ahem) :rolleyes:

Ian, Ok, now I really do need to know what option 4 is.

Tyler, if grading and ranks are what are required where you train then go with it, and just treat it as part of your own progress without reading too much into it! Going to extremes - either obsessing about promotion by making it your only goal, or at the other extreme - boycotting it by refusing rank don't make for good long term training in my opinion.

Jorge Garcia
07-05-2004, 02:19 PM
I have always told my students that to be shodan, you must know and be able to perform all the basic techniques of aikido competently and be able to teach them to others. Prior to that time, you are learning aikido. After that time, you are practicing aikido. That has been my experience. I was learning the basic techniques through practice but after shodan, I began to understand their relationship, flow and connectedness better and I began to practice the art without worrying if I was doing it right or wrong. I began to just train. I still learn and I always practice but ideally, shodan is a line that you cross that says you are knowledgeable and comfortable with the basics of the art and are ready to practice what you know.
Best,

Jorge Garcia
07-05-2004, 02:34 PM
When a person gets the black belt and what criteria organizations use to give it is another matter altogether because that involves human judgment and some measure of politics. I don't think wearing the black belt or whether you even have one is a measure of my comments in the previous post. Those comments are based in a ideal situation. The human factor messes up the theory somewhat. The fact is that you will be competent in the basic techniques after a certain amount of time and that will be different from person to person. It will depend on the learning ability of the individual, the quality of instruction, the opportunity and the benevolence and attitude of the governing organization. Only God and you (in your heart) will know when you were really a shodan. The world will find out when they see your arts or when you wear that belt. Some people have a black belt that don't fit the profile and for them, shodan is a "legalized fiction". It should be our goal to truly be the rank we possess but even more than that, we should strive to be the "lessons of aikido". If we are that, it will be good enough. I have many memories of sempai senior students who never made shodan but were my superiors in every respect. In my mind and heart, they will always be true shodans.
Best wishes,

aikidoc
07-05-2004, 03:39 PM
I agree with Jorge on the basics element. To me, shodan is at a level of consciously competent with the basics-i.e., they probably have to think somewhat about most of what they do but understand the core techniques (basics) well enough to assist lower ranked students and teach them. They have the foundation to start opening and developing their training. They can watch technique and reasonably model the technique shown since they understand the core movements inherent in the basics. They also can recognize their weaknesses and grasp the necessity for continued development and training. Their future training becomes refinement oriented. They also have a strong enough foundation to connect the basics with more advanced movements and techniques. I use a question regularly for advanced techniques-how might you go from this basic technique to a more advanced technique (I tell them the technique I want). With a solid foundation, the shodan (and the upper shodan in training kyus) can actually get pretty close. If you understand kihon (tai sabaki, footwork, etc), the principles for advanced techniques are the same-the application or movement patterns just become more complex. Their basics are solid enough to allow them to explore and develop more freestyle movements. I do stress however they must continue to not only learn but to learn to learn.

aikidoc
07-05-2004, 03:43 PM
P.S. I have seen some pretty cocky black belts who have decided they know it all :rolleyes: . Although humbling them is pretty easy, it is often a fruitless endeavor since they have stopped learning. I try to get my students to train with the attitude they will learn something every time they step on the mat. I do each and every time, since I have trained myself to expect it. Even if it is a distinction in a technique I had not thought about before.

aikidoc
07-05-2004, 03:50 PM
That should have read shodan level black belts.

PeterR
07-05-2004, 08:37 PM
Ditto on the Shodan after one year - ah where is the happy medium?

Personally I'm not too happy with those that disturb the wa of the dojo by refusing to grade in a dojo where grading is an integral part of the learning process especially if by doing so they imply they are taking the purer path <---utter bullocks alert.

I don't think rushing up the grading ladder is a good idea either.

SeiserL
07-05-2004, 10:13 PM
I certainly didn't get it until I got there.

IMHO, up to black belt its only learning the basics. Shodan and Nidan are polishing the basics. Sandan is learning the concepts behind the basics. After that, I hear its all about getting out of the way of all the training you did in basics.

aikidoc
07-05-2004, 10:14 PM
Although I have had friends who preferred not to grade, I too am of the opinion one should grade if this is dojo practice. Although there are several reasons for this, one key one is to perpetuate development of future instructors. Grading is part of the process.

Rupert Atkinson
07-06-2004, 01:25 AM
In Asia grading to Shodan takes only one or two years and Asia is where the saying that shodan is just a beginner comes from. Simply, they know all the forms but are often not that good at them. In the West it can take from five to ten years in some schools - even though they probably knew all the forms in outline after their second of third year. For example, one of my aiki-orgs in the UK typically had one grading a year. Obviously then, in the West, a serious student of five to ten years who gets their shodan is not really a beginner in the Asian scheme of things. But it is a good idea to think so since it encourages further development.

tiyler_durden
07-06-2004, 02:45 AM
Hey,

But I truly do not want to grade! I just want to practice and learn!
You say that I will either be given it or drift away...I truly can't see that as I drifted once but won't do it again as i see Aikido as something that fate gave me!
you say Shodan is where you should know the basics, I am now getting to know the basics and also learning a lot more...this does not make it that I should go and take an exam!
Why, when I don't want to! I see the grade and black belt test as nothing more than a belt and another person who thinks himself superior to others!
I have seen and still do people who should have never been give the titel most days in my dojo...
I do not want to be one of them!
In my dojo there is a very humble lady who has been doing Aikido for now 20 years and has never once graded, her tecnique is second to none and only 3 people know she has been training this long, myself included.... has she walked away from the art...NO
Has she been given the titel...NO...why because the others are too busy mixing up in polatics and all the rest of the dojo strugles that go on day after day...

I am sorry to sound so negative but this is how I feel and what I think!

Tiyler

happysod
07-06-2004, 03:49 AM
Hi Tiyler, I always like to hear such devout and heartfelt views held by someone who posts what intially seemed such an open and interesting question and I'm really pleased the experiences/views offered by others are of such small interest. Go for it and let us know how you get on in a few decades.

Ian Upstone
07-06-2004, 04:01 AM
Ian, you are a mind-reader (perhaps it's a namesake thing?). I was going to say the same thing, only a badly written version of it. I still want to hear about option 4 by the way. :)

Tyler, just a thought here: if you see examples of bad black belts, why not do your utmost to become an example of a good one and set the record straight?

I often read posts where folk go to great lengths to prove how little something matters to them. I think they doth protest too much. ;)

PeterR
07-06-2004, 04:14 AM
I have seen and still do people who should have never been give the titel most days in my dojo...
I do not want to be one of them!
Ah the seeds of arrogance.

ian
07-06-2004, 06:46 AM
Aikido is about blending. Many other martial arts contain similar techniques to aikido. At dan grade you could be expected to be able to know almost all the techniques on your syllabus, and therefore you can focus on what aikido really is: blending. Before dan grade much of your time is taken up learning or internalising techniques.

Ian

PeterR
07-06-2004, 06:56 AM
Or does it mean that i will never truly learn Aikido if i never get a black belt?

I'll take another stab at this because, much as I want to :rolleyes: for the reasons given, the question is actually a good one.

I think it is possible to train and progress without having to worry about ranks but in dojos where testing is part of the process it is self defeating. The kyu grades are as much an ever increasing bar as a series of techniques and generally you see a strong improvement prior to the test and a growing into the grade afterward. If that mechanism is in place and you choose to stay outside of it - you will not reap the benefits and your Aikido will lag.

Dojos which don't use the kyu/dan system have other mechanisms. For example a student will train only in one set of techniques until it is decided by the teacher that he is skilled enough to progress to the next set. A kyu or dan rank is not awarded but the effect is the same. No mechanism - well the student and perhaps the dojo itself can only coast. There will be progress in the beginning but how long can it be maintained.

Low kyu ranks are not political they are measures of progress. If you don't wish to be measured fine but you have no basis to say your Aikido is better or worse than one who has. To do so is the height of self absorbed arrogance.

akiy
07-06-2004, 11:13 AM
Hi Tiyler,

My very brief thoughts on this subject that people who refuse to grade due to not wanting to "care" about ranking are as caught up in the ranking system as much as those who just pursue ranking; the person actively avoiding rank, in my mind, places far more importance to them than those who just move up the rankings appropriately.

I personally don't see any reason why one couldn't keep practicing and learning while moving up the ranks. To say otherwise is insulting to all of the rest of the folks in aikido who do just that.

I've put a couple of good articles regarding testing in the articles section of this site:

http://www.aikiweb.com/testing/rock5.html
http://www.aikiweb.com/testing/auge2.html

-- Jun

George S. Ledyard
07-06-2004, 11:28 AM
I wrote this during one of the last discussions of this topic so I thought I'd recycle it rather than reinvent the wheel:

In my opinion the "I'm not into rank" thing is a form of false humbleness that simply masks a reluctance to step up to the plate and take the risk and deal with the pressure of testing. In saying it's "no big deal" the student makes it a big deal and is avoiding it. I
will occasionally let students slide on testing when I know they have a great deal of pressure in their lives outside the dojo. What they need at that time from their Aikido training isn't more pressure. But they know that at some point I expect them to get on with it.

One of the few times in your Aikido career that you will have to step up and put it all on the line is testing. The point isn't to recognize ability (although that is a result), but rather to get that individual to make a concerted effort beyond a routine level of commitment. Ability isn't the point, it is making the jump to a new level that is the whole point of testing.

We test during seminars and there will be dozens of people, including many heads of other dojos, attending. There's a lot of pressure not to get out there and look like a fool. Also, my students are quite aware that their performance reflects on the dojo and myself. My own teachers don't see me more than a couple times a year at camps and seminars. The only real way they can judge what I am doing as a teacher at my dojo is by the students I am turning out. This puts even more pressure on the person testing. Since this is a martial art and not just a social club I consider that pressure to be quite valuable. Students find out quite a lot about themselves in the process preparation for and then the doing of the actual test.

I think that it is precisely this "finding out" that the anti-testing people are really avoiding. Having to face whatever stuff you have is not usually something people willingly go after.

It's been many years since I had to worry about testing. But last year (Expo1) I was invited to demo at the Aiki Expo. Getting up in front of seven hundred people, many of them teachers of various arts whom I highly respect, reminded me of what I had felt like when I was testing so many years ago. It had that "No more time for practice, no more second and third chances, just get out and do it now" feel that a martial encounter has. Any screw-up would be there for all to see, permanently, as they were filming. It reminded me why the ritual of testing is important in the development of the kind of spirit that I am looking for in my students.

I am surprised at how many say things along the lines of the Sensei shouldn't make you test, or that it should be up to you when you feel like doing it.... One of the functions of a teacher is to encourage you to make those jumps that come with facing things you don't want to do.

Finally, testing has a social function within the dojo. No one can prepare for a test alone. When candidates prepare to test the whole dojo community is involved. The beginners support the effort by being patient with the fact that for a bit of time they don't get quite the attention from the seniors as they are focusing on working with the test candidates. All of the candidates' peers and seniors have to step up to the plate and put in extra effort, sometimes within class and often after hours, to help the candidates prepare. The energy of the whole dojo rises when testing is approaching. If the candidates do their job, they actually pull the whole dojo up in their wake to a higher level of effort. The beginners see a wonderful example of focused training which can be quite inspirational for them.

I think that the arguments for testing far outweigh the arguments against, both for the individual and the dojo as a whole. I think some folks opposed to testing have a "button" which they ought to look at in an honest fashion.

happysod
07-06-2004, 11:48 AM
George, very nicely written and argued but I couldn't disagree with you more.

I honestly couldn't care whether people grade or not and no I don't think it's either an inherent flaw in that student's psyche or even a sly insult at all others in the dojo. To imply either of these about an individual I believe is insulting.

While I take your point concerning it being a ma, so sensei gets to set the rules (no I'm not into full democracies in the dojo), I think the testing business reflects more on the political and social setup of the association/dojo/teacher than any particular benefits concerning gradings.

I'll happily agree with your assessment of how a grading can improve a dojo. I'll even agree with you in part concerning the pressure aspect of gradings (although previous threads have lead me to understand that a large minority see grades as almost tedious rather than testing).

I've also seen the converse where testing becomes all the dojo does and we have the belt chasers so beloved by all come to the fore.

At the end of the day, grades (and gradings) are artificial measures of a competence which widely vary from association to association. Now I deal solely with adults (which may colour my reasoning) but the idea that anything so artificial is going to affect how I interact with someone on the mat is one which I find is rather sad. If they can bounce, they can train, anything else is gravy.

I can see the benefits in gradings, I'll even admit to leaving one of my own overly long. However, I wouldn't put them at the forefront of training needs either.

BC
07-06-2004, 01:00 PM
I remember one of my sempai reflecting upon his kohai who stopped after receiving his shodan. He basically said he had wished he would have stayed, because aikido gets really interesting after about fifteen years.

Ron Tisdale
07-06-2004, 01:47 PM
Hi Ian and all,

I have to agree with George, Peter and Jun on this one. I've been in places where there is testing, and where there is not...and I'd have to say that in my view testing can be a valuable asset if its done in a correct way. I've seen just as much ego come into play in places and people who don't test as in places and people who do.

I see the grade and black belt test as nothing more than a belt and another person who thinks himself superior to others!
I have seen and still do people who should have never been give the titel most days in my dojo...
I do not want to be one of them!

Its funny how this statement seems to me to be a prime example of the very thing the poster decries...

That said, it wouldn't surprise me if there were plenty of people who choose not to test for personal reasons that are just fine...its a personal matter in the end between you and your school/instructor.

Ron

otto
07-06-2004, 04:25 PM
Ledyard Sensei:

Am I correctly reading from your post , amongst other things , that students under your instructions do have a debt to you (for the time and effort invested on their development) , and that debt is best repayed , at least partially , with their compromise and finally by giving their best performance at their various grading test they will encounter on their aikido careers?.

If so , thats the they I personally feel towards grading , its just a way (maybe the only) to show my teacher ;and his peers and superiors ; "this is what i've become thanks to you".

Just one publicy way of saying "domo arigatou sensei".

Yours respectfully

Ottoniel Ojeda.

aikibum
07-06-2004, 07:31 PM
IMHO, there are two sides to this: one side saying the journey matters more than the testing, the other saying testing matters more than the journey.

I personally take a more moderate course; testing is important in that it hones and polishes your skills. Yet, (and I think O sensei would agree) to truly to get at the heart and soul of Aikido, you have to open yourself to everything around you. Not to get too metaphysical, but in a sense we Aikidoka are in the dojo everyday.

Jerry Miller
07-06-2004, 10:09 PM
Perhaps the question is should testing be part of the journey. Certainly if it becomes the whole journey then you are missing the point.

George S. Ledyard
07-07-2004, 08:59 AM
Ledyard Sensei:

Am I correctly reading from your post , amongst other things , that students under your instructions do have a debt to you (for the time and effort invested on their development) , and that debt is best repayed , at least partially , with their compromise and finally by giving their best performance at their various grading test they will encounter on their aikido careers?.

If so , thats the they I personally feel towards grading , its just a way (maybe the only) to show my teacher ;and his peers and superiors ; "this is what i've become thanks to you".

Just one publicy way of saying "domo arigatou sensei".

Yours respectfully

Ottoniel Ojeda.
I hadn't quite thought of it that way but certainly, I am evaluated by my own teachers by what they see as the product of my efforts in my own school. Since my teachers only see me a few times a year, this is the primary way in which they form an idea of what I have been doing during that time. So, it is important to me how they do.

On the way to the dojo one day when we were scheduled to have yudansha testing Sensei said to me "You know, student not do well on test, not their fault, YOUR FAULT." This is not something I have forgotten.

gilsinnj
07-07-2004, 02:43 PM
Here's a couple good explanations that we've been given by our Sempais and Sensei.

1. The three basic levels of testing that we use in our style are
- 6th kyu (first test) = you can fall without hurting yourself too badly.
- 2nd kyu (brown belt) = you know how to defend yourself, or you know the basic physical Aikido techniques and know how to use them in a combat situation.
- 1st dan (black belt) = you know how to defend yourself and use Ki to do it, or you don't need to rely on stength to do Aikido techniques any longer, you've discovered Ki and can use it to your advantage.

The basic idea here is that once you've discovered Ki and can use it at will, everything about YOUR Aikido changes. Its almost like starting over.

2. Think of the kyu ranks as grade school. You advance up through the the different grades (ranks) learning different things as you go. At first, you learn basic things like arithemetic and reading (techniques), but as you get farther along you are expected to learn more advanced concepts like calculus, phycology, and history. These are similar to the more advanced concepts of relaxation, centering oneself, and Ki energy.

Achieving a black belt is like being handed your high-school diploma. Some people might think that they don't need to go any farther, so they stop training and learning. Other people decide to go for college degrees or higher. Those people have decided that now that they understand the basics of how to learn, they need more knowledge. These are like the people who decide to continue practicing and advance through the dan ranks. As you spend more time studying, you learn more and may get your Masters or PhD (2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. dan ranks).

Hope that makes sence to people,
Jim

Ron Tisdale
07-07-2004, 04:51 PM
IMHO, there are two sides to this: one side saying the journey matters more than the testing, the other saying testing matters more than the journey.

I personally take a more moderate course; testing is important in that it hones and polishes your skills. Yet, (and I think O sensei would agree) to truly to get at the heart and soul of Aikido, you have to open yourself to everything around you. Not to get too metaphysical, but in a sense we Aikidoka are in the dojo everyday.

I think testing in SOME dojo is an important part of the journey...in others, they do other things to function in much the same way (demos, competition, rigorous free-style, etc), so that testing is not part of their journey. As long as you get to the same place, and enjoy the journey...but I do have a preference for myself, having tried both.

Ron

Lyle Laizure
07-31-2004, 05:12 PM
In the beginning of our training we are learning a lot of new things. From the basic technique and philosophy to etiquette and protocol. Although we are learning a lot of new things I do not think we are really internalizing them or fully understanding them. We are very much still in an infant stage in our training. I think shodan is looked at as the beginning because now that you presumabley have a solid understanding of the general basics one begins to really understand and internalize the arts and make them his/her own.

Attaining a blackbelt doesn't mean you are going to be in this internalization stage. For some it may happen sooner or later. Whether or not one tests is up to the individual but having the rank doesn't make you better or worse.

maikerus
08-03-2004, 05:01 AM
I've often found that the test, or the passing of the test, is not when you achieve the "knowledge" of the rank.

It seems to me that once you've passed the test is when you have some knowledge of the skills that you should be working on and learning more about that are appropriate to that rank. Once you've passed the test you can start working on them with confidence and then get better at them until you're ready to take another test, so you can start working on improving a more focused set of skills inherent in that next test.

If this idea makes sense then tests can be considered personal landmarks or goal posts along the way that give an individual a finite set of skills to be working upon and discovering more about at any one point.

Of course, one could argue that we are continuously getting better at everything and working on all our skills so that each time we step on the mat (or walk through a crowd) we are working on improving the set of skills that we know.

A test just formalizes this a little more. Some people may want or even need that structure to understand what part of the journey they are working on as opposed to trying to work on everything they've seen, done, heard or felt at any point in their Aikido career all the time. Then again, some might not.

Just a thought...

--Michael

akiy
08-03-2004, 11:15 AM
I've often found that the test, or the passing of the test, is not when you achieve the "knowledge" of the rank.

It seems to me that once you've passed the test is when you have some knowledge of the skills that you should be working on and learning more about that are appropriate to that rank. Once you've passed the test you can start working on them with confidence and then get better at them until you're ready to take another test, so you can start working on improving a more focused set of skills inherent in that next test.
Saotome sensei has written about the same thing in his essay, "Yudansha Ranking":
Yudansha ranking is given for many reasons, not just technical ability. Just because a person receives a certain yudansha rank does not mean that he or she has attained that ability at that moment. It means that I feel the person is on the threshold and will grow into that rank with the pressures of added responsibility.
Also from the same piece:
To train for shodan:

You are training to become a beginner, no longer just a guest in the dojo, but a student with very real responsibilities. One must study the basic technical form and basic physical principle until the correct movement is automatic and feels natural.
Here's a link to the whole essay:

http://www.aikidofaq.com/practice/yudansha_ranking.html

-- Jun

Aikidoiain
09-16-2004, 10:54 AM
To make an analogy -

I was a drummer for well on 30 years. Throughout that time I continued to learn new things. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that "the more you know, the more you realize you still have to learn".

Therefore, there is no end.

Once you climb to the top of one plateau (thinking that you've "arrived") you look up and see an even steeper climb ahead! And it goes on....

I think the same applies to Aikido.

It's just a thought.

Iain. :ki: :)

Aikidoiain
09-16-2004, 11:24 AM
Analogy amendment -

There is no end - only more beginnings.


Iain. :ki: :)

George S. Ledyard
09-16-2004, 06:23 PM
Analogy amendment -

There is no end - only more beginnings.


Iain. :ki: :)
One can use the anaolgy of learning to write. One has first to learn the alphabet, then acquire some vocabulary and basic spelling. The rules of grammer come next. Only at this point can you start to actually write.

All of the training you do as you approach Shodan is just to acquire the basic skills which form the building blocks that later combine to create Aikido. It is true that until Shodan or so you don't know enough to be able to process what the senior folks can tell you. This is why some people say that you don't really start learning till Shodan. You have, of course, been learning but it isn't really the art yet, it's the components.

Aikido is to martial arts what literature is to writing. You need to master the alphabet, vocabulary, and grammer to be able to write but you spend the rest of your life refining your writing to create literature. Aikido is the same. If you have been trained properly you know most of the components at Shodan which will combine to create Aikido but you can't really do it yet. Later on you will understand those components in a very different manner and you will be able to do Aikido on some level. Then you can spend the rest of your life finding out what your own true expression of the art is and making it your own. That's when your practice starts to be an "art".

Aristeia
09-16-2004, 08:09 PM
Here's another analogy. I did a BA in philosophy. I seriously considered doing Masters, but went on to do a Japanese course instead. However a good friend of mine did do his Masters. When I asked him about it he said the difference was in the Bachelors programme you were learning about philosophy, in the Masters you were doing philosophy.
I think that's quite a good comparison. By Shodan you should have the basic skills to stop learning "what is Aikido" and start doing aikido not by rote learning of the techniques but by applying the underlying principals they are derived from. In this way you can start re-inventing them for yourself. MTCW.

stuartjvnorton
09-16-2004, 09:26 PM
<random mutterings>

Dude, the rank doesn't mean a thing.
It's just a general indication, but big deal.
Like your 20-year no-kyu. Anyone who trians with her for 2 minutes should have a fair idea of how good she is.

The statements about non-graders losing interest after a while have a point (up to a point ;-): some people need a different belt/grade to feel like they are progressing, or the idea of an upcoming test to keep them from losing their way. Some don't. Simple as that.

I like Lynn's take on the kyu, shodan/nidan, sandan thing. Seems quite accurate from what little I've seen of things.