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08-01-2004, 11:18 AM
AikiWeb Poll for the week of August 1, 2004:

Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

I don't do aikido
Yes
No


Here are the current results (http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=231).

ruthmc
08-01-2004, 11:43 AM
Whew - that's a tough one!

Technical ability is hard to measure - I've seen enough folk get through tests by muscling every technique. I'm starting to wonder if the grading panel themselves should uke for the gradee...

I think I would only be confident to answer this poll if I was in a position to award ranks, which I am not. I don't know how to vote on this one.

Ruth (fence-sitters R us)

Robyn Johnson
08-01-2004, 01:20 PM
Well, a person might not be able to physically perform the technique very well all the time but they can have a great understanding of it, be very mature, and contain other qualities that should count for promotion. Possibly a case by case situation.

Robyn :)

Don_Modesto
08-01-2004, 02:49 PM
Well, a person might not be able to physically perform the technique very well all the time but they can have a great understanding of it, be very mature, and contain other qualities that should count for promotion.

I agree: Heart, overcoming adversity, contribution to dojo, progress made...

I've seen aikido enriched by participants with Down's Syndrome, transplanted livers, surgically removed sternocleidomastoid muscles (cancer at 70 years of age), excess weight, diminutive size, paralysis, osteoporosis... How to level these playing fields?

aikidoc
08-01-2004, 03:37 PM
It also becomes an issue as we all age and our physical abilities start to deteriorate. We may have the knowledge but not the physical ability to execute a pretty technique.

senseimike
08-01-2004, 03:48 PM
Being in a position to award rank, I would like to chime in on this one. I feel that physical technique is a very small part of the grand scheme of Aikido. There are mental, spiritual, and social aspects of the art that reach far beyond the mat. Aikido is not something that is done for a few hours twice a week. It should be something that you practice in every day life. Being helpful, positive, an asset to your community , family and friends, and treating others the way you want to be treated are all parts of this art. Having the advantage of being from a small town, having a smaller dojo, the instructors of our school have a bit more interaction with the students outside the dojo. We have a very good relationship with the administration of the local school and know when our students are behaving in a way that is not deemed acceptable (i.e. bullying, fighting, disrespect, etc.) We have denied rank to some students that are not exibiting proper behavior outside the dojo. This may not be the "right" way to handle a situation like this, but it is the way that the board of instructors at our dojo have chosen to do it. Our reasoning for this is that each student repersents their dojo and their sensei at all times. We don't need one bad example soiling our name and standing in the community, and these students either straighten up and act right or are not allowed in the dojo.

happysod
08-02-2004, 03:00 AM
To continue my usual schizo line of answers.

1. Had to answer yes as most black belts grades beyond a certain rank (in all but a few associations) are awarded with respect to what they have done for the association/rank within the association rather than any perceived increase in their technical ability.

2. "I feel that physical technique is a very small part of the grand scheme of Aikido" - I nominate this particular phrase as the one I most disagree with to date.

Whether you're in aikido for your spiritual advancement or (as many of us are) in it for the martial aspect, the physical display of your art is what you should be measured by, not how well you (for example) can bake a cake for the entire dojo. The physical side is the direct expression you have for your understanding of aikido and should be the primary way others can measure your aikido.

While I take Don's point regarding aikido vs physical/mental limits and have modified gradings with this in mind, there is also a limit. High grade in aikido must represent a strong ability in the martial art , after all that is what aikido is, not a social club or a church.

shihonage
08-02-2004, 03:04 AM
Since I can't put it any better than Ian, I'll just quote him.


2. "I feel that physical technique is a very small part of the grand scheme of Aikido" - I nominate this particular phrase as the one I most disagree with to date.

Whether you're in aikido for your spiritual advancement or (as many of us are) in it for the martial aspect, the physical display of your art is what you should be measured by, not how well you (for example) can bake a cake for the entire dojo. The physical side is the direct expression you have for your understanding of aikido and should be the primary way others can measure your aikido.

While I take Don's point regarding aikido vs physical/mental limits and have modified gradings with this in mind, there is also a limit. High grade in aikido must represent a strong ability in the martial art , after all that is what aikido is, not a social club or a church.

WylMorris
08-02-2004, 04:22 AM
But, if the other elements of Aikido are important, how should we test them. I agree in principle that we should assess these parts, but the techniques are the only things I can think of that can be consistently and objectively graded. (Stupid research methods asssignment. Turning me into a pedant!)

The other things are far too subjective to be graded consistantly, imho, because everyones situation and circumstances are unique.

rcoit
08-02-2004, 11:03 AM
I do not award ranks but would say ranking must be based on technical achievement. Subjective qualities of honor, devotion, compassion..etc. must be pre-requisite for rank however. Rank is a measure of skill in Aikido - not a measure of humaness or worth, which is shared by all, equally. All students/sensei should join with each other in mutual respect to the same degree, but rank recognizes achievement/skill that is available to teach others of lower rank.

wimp_lo
08-02-2004, 12:17 PM
I have never tested, but it is my understanding that at our school the non-technical aspects are a prerequisite of sorts, and that rank isn't granted based on technical ability alone. On the other hand, I don't believe rank would be granted solely on non-technical achievement.

Perhaps it makes sense to grant rank to senior aikidoka based on their contribution to the art.

But I could be wrong ;)

henry brown
08-02-2004, 04:25 PM
I find there is little objective about the physical test to begin with. Outside dojo activities (or even 'spirit') may be easier to assess than someone's technique!

Misogi-no-Gyo
08-02-2004, 05:35 PM
I believe that the responses to the poll would look very different if the question asked were:

Should rank be granted only on the merits of one's technical ability?

Although I know many on the board who already have stated this as their opinion, I would really like to hear from anyone who would answer yes to that question, taking into account the following with regards to the regulations for promotion within the Aiki-Kai. It may be similar within most other aikido organizations.

According to what is posted, rank beyond Go-Dan is typically done by promotion only, not through testing. This is a clear indication of how the parent organization views the subject. As such, we, as members should follow their lead. With regards to testing for lower ranks, it really doesn't matter what the new aikido student's attitude is. Simply, if one shows the aptitude towards absorbing the basic technical material, then one passes the test. In only the rarest of problematic cases is attitude or the ability to brown nose, or whatever politically correct phrase you care to choose for those efforts, or other such factors - outside of technical ability - be considered with regards to the issuance of rank. This goes for all testing through the level before just prior to shodan.

What happens at that point is transference from a strictly physical or technical focus to the idea of "connection" being a higher element within the art. Basically, in addition to mastering the technical syllabus, one needs to find a manner in which to connect to the flow of the organization - whatever that may be. This is a purely martial concept, although there are those who do not see it this way. They would decry that there is some unseen element, and therefore an unfair element to be mastered in order to receive an elevation in rank.

One of the more interesting teachings I received from Seiseki Abe Sensei which would aptly apply here is that of Gan-Sa Tan-Riki. The four characters don't literally translate to reveal the inner meaning of the phrase. However, the first character is loosely translated as "see" and the last is physical power. Suffice it to say that each character stands for a separate element on which to focus within the learning process of the art form. Metaphorically, the teaching is to learn to see (what you can not yet see)…. and lastly focusing on what is physical. This is directly associated with the Katsuhayahi within the progression of Masakatsu-Agatsu-Katsuhayahi - sometimes mistakenly translated as, "True victory is victory over oneself." However, that is not an accurate translation, and is an advanced teaching that reveals itself through the proper practice of misogi, and a life lead within the bounds of giri and shugyo…

The Aikikai guidelines with regards to advanced rank are quite clear. There is no simple test that one can take to demonstrate the fact that they have absorbed the more advanced elements of the art. The gate to senior ranking opens by the combined agreement of the teachers with whom one associates themselves, i.e. those senior members who will recommend a person for promotion, agreeing to attach their names, and associated reputations. This is a process of recommendation, not application. One simply can't apply for advanced ranking. This element is important within any martial art, but especially Aikido, as aikido is the art of aiki, also known as "The harmony between all things." If a student can not create harmony between himself and their teacher, then they are not exemplifying a true understanding of aiki. They therefore should not be promoted no matter what their level of technical understanding. Of course, this leads to the ever-increasingly popular 38 year old 10th dan, creator of the masters-less art of JoeBloe-Do-Kai Aikido, or Severe Combat-Proof Aikido, or Aikido Dim Mak….etc.

Of course, the arguments will forever continue between the two camps, those that understand that aikido is not a group of martial techniques, heck there are enough arts like that -- with arguably better techniques, and those who want just want aikido to be something other than what it is, a Japanese art, created by the Japanese. However, no matter how hard the latter group tries, they can't change the past, so they better focus on themselves… enough so that they can come up with a catchy new name for their version of the art of aikido.

Tharis
08-02-2004, 07:51 PM
So, would a better survey include a caveat for pre and post dan ranks, or possibly pre and post godan ranks? I'd say that for beginner's ranks, you need to test based on skill so there's an objective measure. After about third dan or so, the skill differential may start to shrink, I'd imagine, kind of like how the difference between a gold and silver Olympic medalist may be a matter of fractions of an inch or of a second. At that level, skill has been attained and to advance further one must show how he/she has done something to advance the art as a whole.

This, of course, assumes that the system functions more or less ideally (excluding inevitable pettiness, brown nosing, politicking, etc).

--Thomas

senseimike
08-02-2004, 08:25 PM
Haven't had many students baking cakes in the dojo, and I think that's a foolish example. A person can learn all the physical techniques that Aikido has to offer in time. If the physical "mat" techniques are what a person is after, they will fade away after they feel that the instructor has nothing to offer them anymore. The people that stick around to achieve higher rank usually figure out that there is more to it than throwing people around a couple times a week. I would never promote someone on merit alone in our dojo as I do want to see that they grasp the physical arts. After I had been involved with Aikido for a time, my motivation for training changed. Instead of training to learn how to defend myself and fight, as a martial art teaches, I now train so I don't have to fight. Guess everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and this is mine. Right or wrong.

Edward
08-02-2004, 10:19 PM
I agree: Heart, overcoming adversity, contribution to dojo, progress made...



Exactly, contribution to the dojo, or to the teacher.... Excuse me, maybe I 've had some bad experiences with this subject so I'm a little sensitive to it, but I have seen many cases of rank advancement in several dojos based exclusively on monetary contributions to the "dojo", or more precisely, directly to the teacher's "pocket".

Lyle Laizure
08-03-2004, 12:24 AM
This is an interesting question. In the organization I belong to (as I am sure with other organizations) the testing requirements are very well laid out. When I grade a test I look at the physical technique and I grade the physical technique.

Not much more one can do unless they are involved to some degree with the students life outside the dojo, which in my case I try to get to know my students as much as possible. But how well can you really get to know your students?

Well, I joined an organization once and they required a background check before allowing me to join. I was surprised but very happy as I thought to myself how possibly could you go wrong. You weed out some of the bad elements from the beginning.

No different than a company dismissing employees because they they bring a negative light to the company simply by being affiliated with it. I mean do you really want a convicted sex offender working for your company? Most folks will say no, I think. On the same token do you want someone of bad character representing your dojo, your sensei? I think again the answer is no.

So back to the question; "Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?" NO!

A persons character as well as his/her technical ability is taken into consideration for promotion. A person that cannot perform basic standards for the rank being promoted to does not get a promotion, even if the person is at the dojo everyday cleaning and doing extra tasks.

A person who is of "bad character" that demonstrates great technical ability would not be promoted either. Again I agree judging the character of a person is very subjective. Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone. Who are we to say that someone can't be promoted because they are an adulterer or a bully? Who are we? Well in my case, I am the sensei, so that is at my discretion. In your dojo, if you are not the one that handles promotions, it is at your sensei's discretion.

Aikido is far more than the physical technique we practice on the mat. There is a spiritual side, not religious but spiritual.

Inevitably we may all have a different opinion. It doesn't mean anyone is wrong, just of a different mind.

SeiserL
08-03-2004, 08:15 AM
Yep, I think that people should receive rank for showing up consistently and training, for having a good training attitude, for contrinuting to the field. I think that to limit ranking just to technical ability would eliminate the greater good that Aikido can offer, and diminish it to McDojo status (oh wait, they promote because you pay).

Technical is not conceptual or spiritual, its just mechanical and only the first level of proficiency.

tiyler_durden
08-04-2004, 12:22 AM
I know it happens so i voted "YES" .
I must say that sometimes i don't agree and with some I do!

Chris Birke
08-04-2004, 04:03 AM
I'm sorry, no. Not below shodan.

Giving people rank despite their technical ability is dangerous and detrimental to the art.

You can fake Ethics, you cannot fake technique.

A belt should be an indicator of someone's technical ability, both in
giving and receiving technique. It keeps those without skill safe as a
grade of their ukemi, and highlights the advanced students you may learn from. Thus, a belt system with rigor is useful.

Granting belts for non technical reasons destroys this, and a belt
ceases to have any technical meaning. A person with lesser technical knowledge may end up teaching incorrect technique to others on the basis of this false rank. That same person might be unable to handle the techniques of others.

Being proficient in Aikido technique does not automatically make one
ethically sound, nor does it grant perfection to your character judgment.

True, ethics in relation to Aikido is tied to technique, but at an
early stage they are distant, and not indicative or each other.

Moreover, it is very easy to be a bad person, and yet still appear a good one in the limited context of most Dojo. A preacher might not know sankyo, and a murder might. Thinking that their belt is tells anything besides technical ability is a dangerous gamble.

We, as individuals and as a society, all have devoted far more years
to the art of reading people than we have Aikido. Although an average blackbelt
is certainly superior to a whitebelt in technique, their ability to
read people might be perfectly matched. To assume your students should
defer to your social judgement based on belts can lead to dangerous
situations. Also, how a student treats the teacher may be very different from how they treat others when you are not looking.

Creating this "good behavior equals belt" rewards system is a social
mistake. People should be good for the sake of being harmonious with
others. Putting a belt into the equasion clouds that (are they being
nice because it is the best way to be, or because they want a belt?),
and ultimately detracts from one of the fundamental spiritual messages of Aikido. By rewarding students for good behavior with belts, you may actually inhibit their spiritual growth.

Lastly, what about the idea that you simply expect people to be good.
I am fine with refusing to train (much less rank) people on the basis of moral flaw, but there is simply more good in not granting belts for morality than in granting them.

Belts should be for technique, word of mouth should be for integrity. We should make this clear, and stick to it.

//

"I've seen aikido enriched by participants with Down's Syndrome, transplanted livers, surgically removed sternocleidomastoid muscles (cancer at 70 years of age), excess weight, diminutive size, paralysis, osteoporosis... How to level these playing fields?"

Destroy any idea that you need a belt to determine your self worth.

Those people are good people; perhaps they are masters of spirit already, perhaps they outrank the Sensei. Technique does not make you a good person, it is technique. Training lets you be a good person, it moves you with others.

You need good ukemi to train high level techniques, so having a belt to determine this is prudent.

These people should not feel the need for that, life will have already and clearly demonstrated to them that being able to run fast or throw a baseball does not make you a better person spiritually.

Moreover, if you leave the belts to technique, they will be a much greater reward to those who struggle hard with technique. If they finally acheive it, they have done so purely, and by no other means than their own hard work. Let that be their internal reward, and do not cheapen it by awarding things softly. Let them know how much you appriciate them in other ways - extra training attention. Extra devotion to history. Bake THEM a cake.

You do not need a belt to train Aikido.

David Brannigan
08-04-2004, 07:46 AM
There's more to respect in Aikido than just technical ability but without it the rest means little.

Amendes
08-04-2004, 01:36 PM
Requirments for testing in order by importance.
Attitude, Attendence and Commitment.
Then when you have that focus on technique.

I've seen people with good technique not test because there Attitude was poor or thier Attendance and commitment lacked.

I've also seen one student with 92 on a test get bumped up 3 points for a double grading because thier commitment was so strong. They stayed after most every class and helped out other students like myself every day. Now i try to do the helping because of what it ment to me when I needed it. To me thats Aikido.

Ron Tisdale
08-04-2004, 02:47 PM
Chris, while I'm not sure I agree 100%, I think that was a FANTASTIC post.

Thanks,
Ron

aikidoc
08-04-2004, 04:54 PM
Another issue is the aging process. Technical finese does not always hang in their as we age and suffer from degenerative changes and diminished flexibility. I'm sure a lot of O'Sensei's deshi are not as dynamic as they once were. It does not mean they don't have the knowlege or ability to impart it. So, we have to be careful how we define technical ability.

suren
08-04-2004, 07:17 PM
Well, I'm really confused here. Are things like Zanshin (see http://www.aikiweb.com/columns/cclark/2004_06.html), ability to be relaxed, concentrated, ability to perform the technique with correct state of mind counted as "technical ability"? If so, then I'm sure those values greatly affect not only your training, but also your life and the way you socialize with your surrounding. I believe and I heard that many times that Aikido affects your daily life and changes you from inside. I don't have much experience with Aikido, but I already can feel some changes in my life that came from my daily training.
My point here is - you can't separate the mentioned mental abilities from Aikido, you can't separate your mental abilities from your life and consequently you can't separate your life from Aikido.

As for ranking, I don't have any rank for now and I don't really care about it. My test will come soon and I'll probably get my first rank, but I think the only meaning of having different belt colours (and that's the only reason I will put on a coloured belt) is for young practitioners to know who is experienced enough to work with them during a class.

Your rank as a human is much more important and Aikido can greatly help with this.

suren
08-04-2004, 07:20 PM
As for poll I personally don't know how to vote until one can clearly describe what "technical ability" means.

James Finley
08-04-2004, 08:53 PM
I think we need to determine what Aikido's primary goal really is.

Did O'Sensei feel that mastering the physical techniques is the primary goal of Aikido and that character and/or spiritual development is of secondary importance?

Or, did O'Sensei place character and/or spiritual development as the primary goal of Aikido and choose to utilize the physical techniques as a means to this end?

If it was the former, then technical ability should be the most important factor IMHO. If it was the latter, then technical ability is only one of many factors that must be considered, and not necessarily the most important one. Some extraordinary individuals may achieve O'sensei's goal with little or no technical ability in the latter case.

O'Sensei never said that Aikido is a "martial art" as is often claimed. He said it was a budo. These two terms are not synonymous in my experience. I do not feel that Aikido could be classified as a budo at all if its primary purpose was fighting or self defense ability.

These are just my opinions. If you disagree, that's fine. I'm just trying to create some food for thought here. James.

James Finley
08-04-2004, 09:07 PM
Here's another thought worth chewing on...

Who do you think O'Sensei would have considered to understand his Aikido better? A very sharp, technically skilled shodan or the Dalai Lama who may have very limited ability to perform the technical skills of Aikido due to age and/or physical constitution? The answer would probably depend on what you feel is the primary purpose of O'Sensei's Aikido (and probably at what point in his life you posed the question). Of course, I realize that the Dalai Lama has likely never trained in Aikido, so it is just a hypothetical question. It does, however, serve to illustrate a point which contrasts sharply the physical versus "other" factors. James.

happysod
08-05-2004, 02:00 AM
I think we need to determine what Aikido's primary goal really is No we don't, you just need to determine what your primary goal from aikido is.
Here's another thought worth chewing on chewed it, but didn't like the taste - sorry, but I'm not playing the hypothetical uke game.

Question for the "non-technical" grading team - do you really feel you have the necessary enlightenment to be able to judge another human beings spiritual and moral abilities?

I freely admit that I don't and I hope that if I ever get to the point that my own hubris allows me to say I can judge other's character in such a way that I can grade them on it, I sincerely hope my cats smother me while I sleep.

I can only grade on technical ability in aikido. Now the grading of your techniques of aikido will take into account your calmness and manner in which you throw uke - but these are still the first stage mechanical bits and thus part of your physical technique. I don't actually see a problem here with zanshin, mai or any of the other bits. I'm in a Ki assoc, we even test for ki! How, well it's strangely enough through the ability to pass physical tests...

Now I don't actually care why anyone else practices aikido, whether it's for personal development or self-defense of just for a bit of a laff. However, I do find the idea that you should be graded in aikido on your morals by some second-hand guru in a skirt rather repugnant and I'm very pleased I've never been with that type of sensei.

Hanna B
08-05-2004, 02:33 AM
Not for ethics, or "growth as a person", but for time is OK. I.e. a shodan after three years should do a darn good test, a shodan after 10 years does not really have to look very good but should have the rank anyway.

Then I also agree with Andrew: I have nothing against a ranking focussing more on attitude, attendance and commitment. Especially attendance for beginners.

I voted as is the poll was phrased like Shaun said. It makes more sense then. I can not say that rank "should" be handed out for these reasons, but I do think it is OK to do so.

James Finley
08-05-2004, 02:36 AM
No, I need not find my purpose in studying Aikido, we all need to find O'Sensei's purpose in creating it. If he designed it for one thing, it may or may not work terribly well for another purpose. A shovel is designed for a specific purpose. It works great for digging holes-it works less well for driving nails (although one can certainly attempt to drive nails with it if he is so inclined to do so, albeit with less efficiency than a hammer).

Finally, while I certainly don't consider O'Sensei a god, I have also never thought of him as a "second-hand guru in a skirt" either. Maybe a little less sarcasm is in order.

For the record, I am not at all convinced that O'Sensei created Aikido with the primary goal of developing fighting or self-defense ability in its exponents. I'm sure there are plenty who disagree and that's fine. We can disagree and still remain civil. James.

James Finley
08-05-2004, 03:41 AM
Some more thoughts...

Regarding character:
Good parents judge character all the time, as do schoolteachers, school boards, managers, policemen, military personnel, judges, juries, parole boards, and countless others. Many of these people make decisions or write evaluations/recommendations that have life-altering consequences for the individual concerned. In fact, we all make these judgments when we choose our friends and spouse.

Regarding technical skills:
When I look at a man who is 74 years old and takes up Aikido, I don't expect that his technical abilities are likely to be equal to those of an athletic, young person's (though I am always optimistic). This is especially true if he has physical limitations. I do think he can and should be graded on abilities other than just technical ability. If he markedly improves his balance and coordination, improves his fitness level, develops better awareness and faster reflexes, and thereby improves his overall quality of life, I think he should be recognized for it. This is the case even if his ability to execute throws and pins is not equal to what I would expect of a younger, more athletic person. This is especially true if this individual shows real effort and commitment, and in doing so, is seen as an inspiration by the younger folks. Interestingly, I have found that the younger folks are often the ones who feel most strongly that this older gentleman deserves to be promoted.

Regarding benefits of Aikido other than technical ability:
These include (but are not limited to): Improved fitness, balance, agility, coordination, explosiveness, faster reflexes, improved awareness, better control over one's temper, respect for others (regardless of their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation), respect for authority, improved ability to cooperate with others, improved ability to relax, improved ability to react under pressure, improved ability to pay attention to detail, improved self-discipline, and improved self-respect, improved self-confidence, etc..

I am sure there are many others. James.

happysod
08-05-2004, 04:13 AM
a shodan after 10 years does not really have to look very good but should have the rank anyway Hanna, I can't quite grasp your logic here - someone who has practiced for less should be held to a higher standard than someone who has just turned up for a long time? Try extending this to any other profession/activity please and postulate what the long-term effects of this program would be.

James, well, where to start other than say "wow". I really wish I could be as righteous in my knowledge of what a man whom I've never met intended when starting a martial art (I think you'll find this is actually a commonly accepted blanket term which includes aikido) and feel confident enough to bring others into the light of my determination. (now that was sarcasm - see the difference?)

Now let us look at your last missive

"Regarding character" - this type of post is why aikido is often considered a cult. Of course you make decisions on others characters, no matter how brief the association. However, to extend the analogy of choosing your spouse to include your fellow training partners in a martial art just leaves me rather concerned.

"regarding technical skills" - try the search function on training and grading, you will find nearly everyone has accepted that gradings may have to be modified for physical problems.

"regarding other benefits" - could you cite me some references for these other benefits other than anecdotal evidence? The reason I ask is that (again if you use the search function) you will find that many are dubious about some of the more inflated claims and I was hoping you could give me some third-party corroboration for your viewpoint.

Yours in the spirit of scientific inquiry

James Finley
08-05-2004, 04:51 AM
No, I really can't provide any. They are just things I have experienced or seen others develop over time. I certainly wouldn't argue that everyone develops all of these to an equal extent in all cases.

I don't see it as "cult-like" when you make the same character evaluation when considering someone for promotion in Aikido as you would when writing an evaluation or Fitness Report for a junior in the military or when deciding whether to write a recommendation for someone to medical school. Maybe it is just the limitations of the Internet that is preventing me from making my point more clear. Oh well.

Yes, I realize that "martial art" is a blanket term used in the west, but I feel that it carries a lot of preconceptions (and misconceptions) that make it a less than ideal translation of the word "budo."

Please refrain from the hyperbole, Ian. I haven't claimed to be "righteous in my knowledge of what a man whom I've never met..." I merely stated in my first post that we need to determine what he intended. I further stated that "I am not at all convinced..." That is my opinion. Neither of these are definitive statements asserting what O'Sensei meant or didn't mean.

I think you and I have taken this about as far as is productive between us. In any case, I will be out of town for a few days and may be unable to reply right away if anyone else replies to my posts. James.

Laz
08-05-2004, 08:55 AM
Criteria other than that wich can be directly measuered and quantified is subject to the individual biases of the panelists. It wouldn't be that fair.

I would have to say, stick to measuarble criteria, i.e. Technique and Theory (writen test?) except for the most extream cases when a student shows a lack of proper attitude.

Hanna B
08-05-2004, 10:29 AM
Ian, why should a budo grading system be compared with anything that has to do with professions? That is beyond me.

What is the purpose of having a grading system? I say it is there because the Japanese likes knowing on a scale who is higher in status than the other. The way their society and culture works, it makes things easier for them. If you ask me, we could skip the grading systems all together - but that can not really be done, in an aikido world where everyone else is using them.

As I have understood it, it is we here in the West who finds this discussion of grades and what quality is required so important. I heard of a middleaged woman who was given shodan in judo, because younger people got high grades and she could not be left behind; it would have been not giving respect to elders. If that is the system, and everyone knows that's how it is - fine with me.

If you are grading your own students, not as a member of a committee judging people you do not know, it is quite OK if you want to take different people's different limitations into account - this is pretty much what James said. Ten years of training to shodan, in a line where people grade quickly (or more in a line where people take their grade fast) means the person is not the most talanted one. For him, he learned a lot during these years. Another person taking shodan after three years - let's say they train equally much - is talanted. He has no major limitations to take into account.

Character: for the major part I am not a major fan of judging students's "characters" but if your system is that the highest rank teaches class when the main teacher is away, then maybe there are people who you do not want to give the highest rank - because of attitude, and similar problems. Letting a student with bad attitude grade fast is also setting a bad example for the whole dojo. I have no problem with people not wanting to do that. Another possibility is of course that the teacher chooses who will teach in his abscence, regardless of rank. That is fine with me also.

Hanna B
08-05-2004, 10:31 AM
I am reminded of the grading system in Okamoto sensei's Roppokai organisation, where rank up to third or fourth dan is given on how much you train only. Hey, why not.

happysod
08-05-2004, 11:13 AM
Ian, why should a budo grading system be compared with anything that has to do with professions? That is beyond me. Perhaps you're correct. I've obviously been in a totally different martial art that has cruelly misinformed me that it is aikido. In fact it's possibly a UK conspiracy as in all the associations I've trained with, the higher the rank, the better they technically were (caveat: as long as the comparison was within a single organisation). Hanna, I used that example for one simple reason, the higher grades would become the teachers of the next generation of little ukes. If they can't execute the technique, what benefit is it to the newbie to learn from them?

But going off the replies so far, I'm mistaken. Aikido doesn't need to maintain a certain degree technical competence as instead of technique, we're to be judged on more nebulous concepts of personal integrity and honour. Well bugger it, I'm off to train in whatever the hell I'm doing, hope you have as much fun as I'm planning to...

suren
08-05-2004, 12:35 PM
[QUOTE=Ian Hurst]Question for the "non-technical" grading team - do you really feel you have the necessary enlightenment to be able to judge another human beings spiritual and moral abilities?[QUOTE]
I'm not sure if I belong to "non-technical" grading team, but my answer is NO. Does my teacher feels that... I don't know. I think the whole ranking process in my dojo is not treated as a very important and so do I.

[QUOTE=Ian Hurst]Now the grading of your techniques of aikido will take into account your calmness and manner in which you throw uke - but these are still the first stage mechanical bits and thus part of your physical technique.[QUOTE]
I'm not sure about this. I think the way you treat your uke finally reflects in your every day life and make you treat people out of dojo in a similar way. Aikido is a good way to teach and reveal those things via physical movement. That's my subjective opinion.

[QUOTE=Ian Hurst]I don't actually see a problem here with zanshin, mai or any of the other bits. I'm in a Ki assoc, we even test for ki! How, well it's strangely enough through the ability to pass physical tests...[QUOTE]
Ok, if all these aspects are included in the "technical" part of Aikido, then I agree on testing people on their technical abilities, because to me these physical abilities are reflection of your internal state in the outside world.

That sounds too romantic, but that's my opinion.

suren
08-05-2004, 12:37 PM
Strange... Quotes did not work i my previous post. Oh well...

akiy
08-05-2004, 01:05 PM
Suren, you forgot to use a forward slash in the ending quote tags: [/quote]

You can always preview your reply, too...

-- Jun

suren
08-05-2004, 01:16 PM
Oops... Sorry, my bad.

shihonage
08-05-2004, 02:58 PM
Criteria other than that wich can be directly measuered and quantified is subject to the individual biases of the panelists. It wouldn't be that fair.


I agree with this, plus everything Ian Hurst and Chris Birke has said so far in this thread.

Oh and David Brannigan's quip sums it up elegantly:


There's more to respect in Aikido than just technical ability but without it the rest means little.


I'm sure a lot of O'Sensei's deshi are not as dynamic as they once were. It does not mean they don't have the knowlege or ability to impart it. So, we have to be careful how we define technical ability.

Gozo Shioda spoke of the kokyu power, which does not age with the rest of your body.

He mentioned that he had plenty of kokyu power even at his old age, and he also, while being old, did randori which is more energetic than what you see at most dojos today (there's video footage).

Hanna B
08-06-2004, 07:13 AM
Perhaps you're correct. I've obviously been in a totally different martial art that has cruelly misinformed me that it is aikido. In fact it's possibly a UK conspiracy as in all the associations I've trained with, the higher the rank, the better they technically were (caveat: as long as the comparison was within a single organisation).At first, I thought you were being sarcastic. Then I realised I had been unclear: Roppokai, that has the grading system based only on amount of training, is not an aikido org but a Daito Ryu organisation.


Hanna, I used that example for one simple reason, the higher grades would become the teachers of the next generation of little ukes. If they can't execute the technique, what benefit is it to the newbie to learn from them?
You make the assumption that the highest ranks will become the teachers, then. Well, that is one possibility of building something - but not the only one. This is not the case in most of the places I've been - in a dojo where the average level is low, yes, but not when you have plenty of yudansha around.

You also assume that I say people should be given grades if they can not execute technique, but I never said that. To get the grade, one should learn the techniques required for the grade - but the performace, the quality could vary. Sometimes, the best performers are not the best teachers.


But going off the replies so far, I'm mistaken. Aikido doesn't need to maintain a certain degree technical competence as instead of technique, we're to be judged on more nebulous concepts of personal integrity and honour. Well bugger it, I'm off to train in whatever the hell I'm doing, hope you have as much fun as I'm planning to...
Well, most of the votes say you should not judge anything else than technical competence. I do not like the idea of teachers giving me grades judging if I'm a good person either... I am actually quite appalled by the idea.

I'd say that technical competence in aikido is quite difficult to judge. In previous similar discussions, paw always jumped up to say that aikido gradings were useless because they did not mean anything while as in judo, a blue belt meant that one could compete at blue belt level. In aikido we judge technique on how it looks, and quite often we think a technique looks horrible when it simply is done according to another ideal. There is an interview with Christian Tissier on the web, where he tells about goint to Japan to train as a young man, saw the late Doshu doing iriminage and thought "that guy is not very good".

How do we know that we are judging skill, when we think we are? If you ask me, most of the time we are not. We are judging if something looks close to the ideal that we have learned.

Hanna B
08-06-2004, 07:16 AM
Criteria other than that wich can be directly measuered and quantified is subject to the individual biases of the panelists. It wouldn't be that fair.

You are assuming there is a panel, a committee of some sorts that hand out the grades. I think this kind of "justice" thinking gets more abundant then. If the rank is seen as something between the student and the teacher who gives the rank, it will always be biassed - if you do not like your teacher's way of beign biassed, find a new teacher.

Hanna B
08-06-2004, 07:21 AM
My biggest objection to this focus on gradings being accurate measurement of skill is that I think it puts too much focus on the gradings. In my mind, we have better things to focus on.

happysod
08-06-2004, 07:47 AM
Hanna, until your last set of posts, yes, I did get the impression that your were in favour of receiving rank on non-technical aspects as you indicated no problem with rank being awarded for just turning up. Now your definition seems to indicate that technical ability is inherent in length of service to the dojo, which is why you have no objections to this practice?

As regards to your objections to gradings- fine. I was using gradings as the example for gaining rank rather than gradings equal wonderful. I should have stuck to the original definition which was rank - in which case my position stands. Until x-dan, rank = technical ability. After that, rank = whatever the assoc seems to deem important.

Minor point - I said the higher grades become the teachers, not necessarily the highest. Having said that, if the highest never teaches (even if they're a poor teacher), I don't think I'd stay with that dojo.

Hanna B
08-06-2004, 08:26 AM
I am fine with giving grades partly based on other aspects than technical skill, such as attitude towards other people in the group, if they take good care of their uke, dedication, how much you show up to class, if you are doing your part of the job in maintaining the dojo or just showing up for the classes, degree of improvement rather than comparison with other people. I do not suggest rank should be handed out by these criteria only - not in aikido (I have no problem with what they do in Roppokai but think it would be too different from the rest of the aikido community if an aikido dojo tried to implement that). I do not like the idea that aikido would be some kind of school for moral improvement, and do not think grades should be based on judgement of my "personal development" whatever that is.

happysod
08-06-2004, 08:57 AM
Aha, becomes clear now - you're a carrot person, I prefer the stick and a relatively non-moving baseline for rank. I would basically not put someone in for a grading if they didn't show up regularly or injured uke maliciously rather than reward someone for regular attendance and/or taking good care of uke.

Berney Fulcher
08-07-2004, 07:45 AM
Destroy any idea that you need a belt to determine your self worth.
To me this was one of the best things said here. I come from a TKD background which did not promote solely based on technical expertise. While I think it is admirable to try for a belt when you may have difficulties reaching it, to just give the belt through time in grade diminishes the very thing you are trying to reach for.

I really like the fact that my current Dojo is tougher in its grading requirements, and that I see a refusal to promote before the technical ability is there (for reference we are all pre-shodan, I can see that technical ability after shodan might be a bit harder to judge, at least from my perspective).

Charles Hill
08-07-2004, 03:16 PM
Of course, I realize that the Dalai Lama has likely never trained in Aikido, so it is just a hypothetical question.

I once taught an Aikido class attended by the Dalai Lama's youngest brother (himself a recognized tulku) and his son, the Dalai Lama's nephew. At a party after the class, I asked him what he thought of the class and of Aikido. He said, "I think it's terrible." Then seeing the shocked look on my face, he said, "Just kidding." (If you read the Dalai Lama's biography, he's the one who was always playing practical jokes on people and getting in trouble as a kid.) He did say seriously that he wondered if the slapping of the mat during ukemi (which is generally done harder than necessary) is ego-building rather than ego-diminishing.

Charles Hill

Hanna B
08-08-2004, 03:10 AM
Aha, becomes clear now - you're a carrot person
I googled to find out what you meen by "carrot person"... Honestly, I don't think so. I do not see that ranks should have much to do with the motivation for training, which is why I would like to give them less emphasis, which is why I am OK with them handed out for a variety of reasons.

eric carpenter
05-09-2005, 05:59 AM
if someone has been working in the background , doing a lot of organising ,therefore giving up there own time when perhaps they could have been training, why shouldnt they be recognised for there input.a lot of people are never thought about who organise courses give up there time write and print out programmes licences take care of money issues but there again a rank grade or coloured belt means little it is the person that matters how he/she behaves as ssomeone has already said aikido doesnt stop when you walk off the mat it is how we live our everyday lives and applying those principles, well thats what i think any way , domo arigato.

pezalinski
05-13-2005, 08:07 AM
NO! :disgust: NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!NO! NO! Bad Aikidoka! Put that rank BACK where you found it and don't accept it if you haven't performed up to the expectations of a bona fide teaching committee.

Rank = passing on the merits of your performance of USAF / Hombu testing requirements for Kyu and Dan grades, as approved by your sensei and/or a recognized teaching commitee. No "warm fuzzy" ranks for "meritous contributions to fundraising and dojo maintenance" -- that sort of thing is rewarded with a plaque or an honorarium or a dinner in their honor. Shihan and upper dan grades may be based on recognition of acheivements in Aikido, but such recommendations for promotion come from the ranks above.

maikerus
05-13-2005, 06:56 PM
Hmm...I suspect that even if there isn't an official "They helped out at x number of dojo events so they get +y points for their test" section in the "testing manual" it probably does exist within the testing committee.

A similar situation is the exact opposite, where those who are considered to be more dedicated and are going the "instructor" route may get "-y points" since expectations are higher.

I suppose this means that every test is a "case-by-case" situation and nothing should be taken for granted, included those factors which drive human decision making...

--Michael, using Aikido to get a better grip on human nature :)