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Derek Gaudet
12-06-2005, 07:22 PM
I'm preparing for my shodan. I have had my Ikkyu since August 23rd 2004 (Which isn't a big deal, that's about normal time, besides it's the journey that counts). I would have went late this year ( Septemberish by our dojo's requirements), but me and my instructor had differing views on the direction of the dojo.
Me and him were pretty close like family almost, my grandfather was his first Instructor in the MA's, so we talked more freely to each other then what should be in a dojo. I was his "personal" uke for the time the dojo had been open, and he always used to talk to whoever my partner was and say "well..your a lucky one tonight!" He always wanted the opinions of his senior ranks on big decisions for the dojo, and as soon as the opinions where opposite of his he kinda crossed them of the list, or as he put it, they ended up "Out of the loop".

The dojo was being converted from a full time Aikido Dojo to a full time Karate Dojo, and the karate was leaking in. A system offered there was cut out and replaced by more karate, Aikido's time on the mats was cut in two. Really just a turn in the opposite direction then we all expected. However, this time it was a mutual decision for me to leave the dojo, it was hard, but I am still practicing Aikido. I wasn't even angry until I received a harsh letter in the mail about me no longer being a member(which I knew so it didn't bug me), if I show up the police will be contacted (kinda harsh), all signed and witnessed by a professional witness, in the states, when I am in Canada mind you, saying I can't use him as a reference point of my training (which he is remaining anonymous, but what am I supposed to say I was struck by lightning and here we are?) and finally here's the kicker , removing any rank I hold. I think a simple get out and maybe "good luck in the future", would have been more then enough. One of my other instructors said rank can be earned, not given or taken, no one can remove the time and hard work you put in.
Well this whole thing is no big deal but kinda harsh for difference of opinions wouldn't ya say? If I were doing Drugs in the back or something, it's completely reasonable (Which I'm Drug free, so no worries there), But difference in opinion, it's just that an opinion, listen or don't, no one will see the same way 100% of the time, and we seen the same way about 99% of that time. . .
There are some from my dojo who still train with me on the weekends, one who was told if they have connections with me they are "Out of the Loop." Anyhow getting past all this, one of my other instructors is arranging for me to get tested by Kevin Blok Sensei and my former instructor got wind of this and told my Jujutsu instructor that he was getting in touch with Kevin Blok to more less recommend against my testing. The reason this bugs me is, before all this me and my instructor had the idea for me to open a Dojo in Saint John N.B., and I would like to pass on what I have been taught (Why else do we train so hard, but to pass it on, we can't just let it die with us.), and actually was going to try and teach full time, and well I'll just come out and say it what better way to live my life then flopping people around on the mat (come on who wouldn't enjoy that ;) ). Aikido for me is much like it is for most of you I'm guessing, It's become more than an obsession, it's part of who we are. Well I guess what it boils down to is asking if anyone here has had a similar confrontation? I am not worried about being tested, it just kinda bugs me that even though I am no longer a member my former Sensei seems to want to see me fail. I know Blok Sensei is a Philosopher, so he Will see through whatever me or my instructor says and formulate his own opinion. I in no way have harsh feelings towards my former instructor, because it was a decision to benefit his martial arts. It's just odd that he talked to everyone and all I heard from him was written in a harsh letter, what a way to find out. This all happened maybe a month ago...can't really keep track of time with nowhere to be in the evenings. Well if ya have anything to contribute, I'm all ears.... :ai: :ki: :do:

Joe Bowen
12-07-2005, 12:56 AM
Don't really have anything constructive to add, but damn, dude what did you do? Kill his dog? Such animosity is really rather surprising.

David Yap
12-07-2005, 02:37 AM
snip...dude what did you do? Kill his dog? Such animosity is really rather surprising.

Hi Joe,

Surprising? Not at all, especially when MA is a livelihood to those affected. For some, MA is their sucess stories but others who didn't quite make it - regret and frustrations and loss of self-esteem.

Hi Derek,

My advice - train and enjoy the art. Train with Kevin Blok sensei and let him be the judge (of your character and skill). As for you wanting to be a full time instructor (at shodan) - my advice is DON'T.

Best training

David Y

justin
12-07-2005, 02:54 AM
"senior ranks on big decisions for the dojo, and as soon as the opinions where opposite of his he kinda crossed them of the list, or as he put it, they ended up "Out of the loop".

Before I got any further this bit confused me, what is the point of asking seniors there thoughts and then if you don’t like them take them out of the loop, surely everyone can not agree all the time and for that they get taken out of the loop ?? If that was the case in my dojo I wouldn’t want to be in the loop in the first place

Derek Gaudet
12-07-2005, 05:05 AM
"senior ranks on big decisions for the dojo, and as soon as the opinions where opposite of his he kinda crossed them of the list, or as he put it, they ended up "Out of the loop".

Before I got any further this bit confused me, what is the point of asking seniors there thoughts and then if you don't like them take them out of the loop, surely everyone can not agree all the time and for that they get taken out of the loop ?? If that was the case in my dojo I wouldn't want to be in the loop in the first place

Well, It has something to do with the fact that people get along better with those who agree with them. An easy way to have everyone agree with you is only talk to those who you are sure will not say anything counter productive. Just my thoughts...

Derek Gaudet
12-07-2005, 10:52 AM
Hi Joe,

Surprising? Not at all, especially when MA is a livelihood to those affected. For some, MA is their success stories but others who didn't quite make it - regret and frustrations and loss of self-esteem.

Hi Derek,

My advice - train and enjoy the art. Train with Kevin Blok sensei and let him be the judge (of your character and skill). As for you wanting to be a full time instructor (at shodan) - my advice is DON'T.

Best training

David Y
I was trying to reply to you guys earlier but for some reason I couldn't make it to Aikiweb....site not found or some nonsense like that...
I agree completely, teaching at shodan full time wouldn't be wise. My former instructor opened up at Nidan (now yondan), and it was hard enough then. I had planned on moving up the ranks a bit first, but as you see, was cut short. I will still do this on my own somehow, probably traveling to get tested. That's how Sensei moved up the ranks after Nidan. Sensei also said we were the "last of our line". Which makes it all the more interesting :confused: , Our style in a mix between Aiki kai, and Nihon Goshin, so our curriculum is far off from what might be expected of me from Blok Sensei, or many others for that matter. We did little Jo work, and I know what the techniques from the aikikai general curriculum are, but don't recall doing most of them, at least the way they are done there.
The way my Jujutsu instructor is working out is for me to go to a big martial arts event next year with him to meet with or be tested by Blok Sensei, hopefully to him Aikido is Aikido, and me not knowing the Yoshinkan or Aikikai curriculum, the way it's meant to be, strongly won't effect this... otherwise I have a lot of work ahead of me ;) , but hey that's half the fun right?

As for teaching someday, luckily Me and a Jujutsu student are putting on a demonstration this year at the university of jujutsu and Aikido, so I'll get to see what kind of interest there is....

Derek Gaudet
12-07-2005, 10:57 AM
Don't really have anything constructive to add, but damn, dude what did you do? Kill his dog? Such animosity is really rather surprising.
Didn't kill the dog...he's pretty old anyway.... Well depending on where ya come from it may or may not be surprising. It was surprising that I was the one to be given the boot to a lot of people, they all looked at me more less as the second hand man in a sense. And in some dojo you get the boot for looking at someone wrong (bit of an exaggeration but you get the point). But originally our dojo wasn't one of these. Ah well all we can do as martial artists, is keep training until an opportunity presents itself. Thanks for the words Guys....

AikiSean!
12-07-2005, 09:36 PM
I've only had the oppurtunity of meeting Blok Shiahn once so far since being in his organization. But you are 100% correct about him being a philosopher.Listening to him speak, and watching his aikido, you can tell. You will be tested fairly. I wish you much luck. Empty mind, empty heart. Don't take it with you into your testing, dont worry about what hes thinking. Do what you came to do.

Devon Natario
12-08-2005, 12:07 AM
Derek,
I have seen this in the past before. I was taking a mix style called Isshin Shorin Go Ryu (Isshin Ryu, Shorin Ryu, and Goju Ryu Karate).

We had two Shodan, a 1st Kyu, and myself all doing this art and learning Jujitsu from one of the above Shodan.

The instructor found out and gave the Shodan the boot for teaching us Jujitsu. He told us we were not allowed to learn from both and we had to choose. He told us we could only serve one master.

The Jujitsu instructor said that he did not care what we did either way and that we could continue training at both, or with him only.

We all continued studying Jujitsu. I quit the Karate class because I did not want to disrespect him and I found him to be too arrogant and putting himself in the place of my only Master (God). The 1st Kyu stayed until he finished Shodan and then he told the truth, and got the boot. The Last Shodan continued to study and got his Nidan and then told the truth and got the boot.

The instructor gave them their promotions and certificates and said they were not allowed to use it as a reference for teaching. However, he was kind enough to get them promoted in Isshin Ryu Karate from another foundation and he had no say over that reference. So even though he refused them to use his own personal art, he did hook them up with something useful.

In my opinion, it would be easier for you to find an organization to test you. Here is a link to the PCMA
http://www.brooksmartialarts.com/
This is a good organization and they are fair. They understand things like this happen and they are there to support. They would not give it to you, and they would expect you to test for Shodan in person, but all of the board members have been doing MA forever, to include Lunsford Sensei who is an Advisor of the Aikido portion and holds 6th Dan. You also have Soke Hummerstone that is the head of Aiki Tora Ryu Aikido.
Each specific art is lined with general requirements. A person can add to, but not take away from in most cases.
Anyways, good luck Derek and I hope everything works out for you. Keep searching for support, someone will take you in and support you.

crbateman
12-08-2005, 06:14 AM
I won't offer much advice here, as I have only seen one side of the story, but I will say that Kevin Blok Sensei's reputation is impeccable, and if you need a place to train, you could not go wrong there. Good luck to you.

Peter Seth
12-08-2005, 06:57 AM
Where is your former sensei's 'Aiki'! With an attitude that you described he needs to review his 'Big' aikido (the way you conduct your life). I wonder if this is reflected in his 'small' aikido (practice/physical skill/technique)? Treat this experience as 'bad or incorrect technique' and 'small spirit'. You are better off on your new path, look forward and enjoy.
Good luck for shodan.
Stay cool
Pete

Derek Gaudet
12-08-2005, 10:37 AM
I've only had the oppurtunity of meeting Blok Shiahn once so far since being in his organization. But you are 100% correct about him being a philosopher.Listening to him speak, and watching his aikido, you can tell. You will be tested fairly. I wish you much luck. Empty mind, empty heart. Don't take it with you into your testing, dont worry about what hes thinking. Do what you came to do.

Thank you kindly Sean. I've been getting my old curriculum, copies of my certificates and a letter together. Hopefully I'll be sending these out soon. And Blok Shihan was recently promoted to Blok Kyoshi (8th dan) ;) (just a fun fact). Again Thank you.

Derek Gaudet
12-08-2005, 10:47 AM
Derek,
I have seen this in the past before. I was taking a mix style called Isshin Shorin Go Ryu (Isshin Ryu, Shorin Ryu, and Goju Ryu Karate).

We had two Shodan, a 1st Kyu, and myself all doing this art and learning Jujitsu from one of the above Shodan.

The instructor found out and gave the Shodan the boot for teaching us Jujitsu. He told us we were not allowed to learn from both and we had to choose. He told us we could only serve one master.

The Jujitsu instructor said that he did not care what we did either way and that we could continue training at both, or with him only.

We all continued studying Jujitsu. I quit the Karate class because I did not want to disrespect him and I found him to be too arrogant and putting himself in the place of my only Master (God). The 1st Kyu stayed until he finished Shodan and then he told the truth, and got the boot. The Last Shodan continued to study and got his Nidan and then told the truth and got the boot.

The instructor gave them their promotions and certificates and said they were not allowed to use it as a reference for teaching. However, he was kind enough to get them promoted in Isshin Ryu Karate from another foundation and he had no say over that reference. So even though he refused them to use his own personal art, he did hook them up with something useful.

In my opinion, it would be easier for you to find an organization to test you. Here is a link to the PCMA
http://www.brooksmartialarts.com/
This is a good organization and they are fair. They understand things like this happen and they are there to support. They would not give it to you, and they would expect you to test for Shodan in person, but all of the board members have been doing MA forever, to include Lunsford Sensei who is an Advisor of the Aikido portion and holds 6th Dan. You also have Soke Hummerstone that is the head of Aiki Tora Ryu Aikido.
Each specific art is lined with general requirements. A person can add to, but not take away from in most cases.
Anyways, good luck Derek and I hope everything works out for you. Keep searching for support, someone will take you in and support you.

Thank you Devon. I will look into the link. I believe that the testing is going to be through an organization though. The WKF, as Blok Kyoshi is the head of Aikido in this organization.

Derek Gaudet
12-08-2005, 10:58 AM
Completely understandable Clark, I also would hesitate in offering too much advise only hearing one side . As I've said I in no way think of my former Sensei in a bad way, his dojo was just not a path I could continue on. Regardless of the things that happened he is still the reason for me being at the level of understanding I'm at today. And Thank you.

Thanks Pete, I think his small Aiki just shifted to karate. At first Aikido was his core art, he did that a while, and now Karate is his core art. He always told me never to teach something my heart isn't entirely into, and what I seen from the last few classes I was there, he wasn't teaching, just reading names of techniques off a sheet, when someone had a question grabbing one of his seniors and saying work with him/her.... But as I've said his decision, his Dojo, his rules. I'm not gonna look at this as a bad experience...but just an experience in general... Thank you Pete.

Devon Natario
12-08-2005, 11:16 AM
Thank you Devon. I will look into the link. I believe that the testing is going to be through an organization though. The WKF, as Blok Kyoshi is the head of Aikido in this organization.

No problem Derek, again good luck. In all honesty, the journey and skill means more than a certificate from any organization anyways.

Derek Gaudet
12-08-2005, 11:26 AM
True... When my Jujutsu instructor heard Sensei was removing me of rank all he said was " Ya know as part of the advacement ritual I always tell my students: when I put this belt on you, no one can remove it. No One can take away the hard work and training you've done to accomplish this." I myself always told the students in the dojo when they asked me "why aren't I going for a grading"...or "why can I throw everyone but that brown belt! I'm a green!" , that "the only thing a belt is good for is holding you gi shut and your pants up! It's the skill you have and the heart to back it up that counts. Never think a color or rank makes you that rank."

crbateman
12-08-2005, 10:45 PM
"the only thing a belt is good for is holding you gi shut and your pants up!"That's why the belt costs $5.00, while the knowledge costs so much more.

Jorge Garcia
12-09-2005, 10:34 AM
You wrote,"It's just odd that he talked to everyone and all I heard from him was written in a harsh letter, what a way to find out."
I have a story that will beat this one but in order to protect the guilty, I will defer telling it. As odd as it might seem, this is probably more common than you might think. Martial arts sometimes can attract some odd characters and not a few without some big personal, psychological, and mental problems. All it takes is one episode with a person like that to amaze you at who is out there. Just keep going and show the world who you really are. That's what I did.
Best wishes,

Derek Gaudet
12-09-2005, 10:40 AM
Thanks for the advice Jorge, and yeah I guess it would be more common, it's kinda like firing someone you've know a long time... you just don't want to talk to them face to face before it happens.. Again thanks for the support.

Ron Tisdale
12-09-2005, 12:16 PM
Hi Derek,

I feel for you...I myself have left a dojo due to changes in direction, and it can be very emotional and difficult for all involved. The best thing you can do in those situations is to keep a cool head, be polite, and when it's time to go...go.

As for your new training, Yoshinkan is a great organization, and I really like the training there. Personally, I would recommend just training in the Yoshinkan for a period of time and learning the requirements up to shodan. From what you've said of your experience, that should take about 1 to 2 years tops (maybe even less), and shouldn't be a major issue. But I think going through the curriculum is very important, especially in the Yoshinkan, especially if you want to teach. The Yoshinkan has a very specific teaching methodology and curriculum to promote the use of strong basic movements in waza, forward focus, and other things. This generally means that anywhere you go, you can be recognized for the skill that you have pretty easily. Skipping out on that would be a mistake, in my opinion.

I should also mention that Block Shihan is 6th dan in the Yoshinkan. His other ranking comes from the World Kobudo Federation. You can find out more about his training and teaching from his web page : http://www.chudokai.com/index.htm.

Best,
Ron

senshincenter
12-09-2005, 03:19 PM
I'm with Jorge here too - I'd have to say this is more common than most think and/or certainly expect. Without taking anything away from the downer that your story truly is - I mean, what a bummer/ I feel for you - my own story too kind of makes yours look like a fairytale. :-)

I think Ron's advice is sound on its own, but it becomes even more sound because it won't have you relying on the perceived good graces of another - another that just may not be as "developed" as you may imagine and/or developed toward seeing your issue in your own way and/or as even seeing your issue as relevant to their existence. In fact, in 20 plus years of training now, I've only seen it happen one time when the higher ranked authority figure came to the aid of some regular deshi. Most times it's just not big enough an issue for them to get involved and/or they don't see it as something they should get involved in. The Truth or one's capacity to understand the Truth, and one's commitment to the Truth (one's commitment to act in line with the Truth), are measured by separate values. Most big wigs survive as big wigs precisely because they have let a great many abuses of the Truth go "unnoticed." For better or for worse, this is federation life, and this is why I am now an independent. In my experience, independence allows more easily for one to combine a value for the Truth with a commitment to the Truth.

Good luck whatever you decide - I'm sorry you had to go through that. It truly is a shame. Hang in there.

Derek Gaudet
12-09-2005, 05:32 PM
Hi Derek,

I feel for you...I myself have left a dojo due to changes in direction, and it can be very emotional and difficult for all involved. The best thing you can do in those situations is to keep a cool head, be polite, and when it's time to go...go.

As for your new training, Yoshinkan is a great organization, and I really like the training there. Personally, I would recommend just training in the Yoshinkan for a period of time and learning the requirements up to shodan. From what you've said of your experience, that should take about 1 to 2 years tops (maybe even less), and shouldn't be a major issue. But I think going through the curriculum is very important, especially in the Yoshinkan, especially if you want to teach. The Yoshinkan has a very specific teaching methodology and curriculum to promote the use of strong basic movements in waza, forward focus, and other things. This generally means that anywhere you go, you can be recognized for the skill that you have pretty easily. Skipping out on that would be a mistake, in my opinion.

I should also mention that Block Shihan is 6th dan in the Yoshinkan. His other ranking comes from the World Kobudo Federation. You can find out more about his training and teaching from his web page : http://www.chudokai.com/index.htm.

Best,
Ron

Ah yes, he got his 6th from Gozo Shioda if i'm not mistaken... And true I knew about the last two ranks but didn't really understand what the organization rank would mean in the Yoshinkan world. The only problem with me learning the curriculum is that there is no Yoshinkan I know of in New Brunswick, otherwise I'd go for it, and if the opportunity come up I'll definitely not pass is up.But I have school family and those things that act like "anchors". Our Aikido was similar in the philosophies of Yoshinkan and more closely compared to "O" Sensei's earlier years, so I've been told... I have yet to find a Dojo around here that trains the same way. But thanks for the reply my friend, I appreciate the advice.

Derek Gaudet
12-09-2005, 05:50 PM
I'm with Jorge here too - I'd have to say this is more common than most think and/or certainly expect. Without taking anything away from the downer that your story truly is - I mean, what a bummer/ I feel for you - my own story too kind of makes yours look like a fairytale. :-)

I think Ron's advice is sound on its own, but it becomes even more sound because it won't have you relying on the perceived good graces of another - another that just may not be as "developed" as you may imagine and/or developed toward seeing your issue in your own way and/or as even seeing your issue as relevant to their existence. In fact, in 20 plus years of training now, I've only seen it happen one time when the higher ranked authority figure came to the aid of some regular deshi. Most times it's just not big enough an issue for them to get involved and/or they don't see it as something they should get involved in. The Truth or one's capacity to understand the Truth, and one's commitment to the Truth (one's commitment to act in line with the Truth), are measured by separate values. Most big wigs survive as big wigs precisely because they have let a great many abuses of the Truth go "unnoticed." For better or for worse, this is federation life, and this is why I am now an independent. In my experience, independence allows more easily for one to combine a value for the Truth with a commitment to the Truth.

Good luck whatever you decide - I'm sorry you had to go through that. It truly is a shame. Hang in there.

Thank you David. One of my worries is if I get involved with an organization, I'll loose the Aikido I have learned and have to replace it with someone else's. I'm under O Sensei, not Gozo Shioda, and don't wish to change that (I respect both of these men, but was brought up in my aikido studies with O Sensei's portrait on the wall). Hopefully it won't have an affect on much. I know Yoshinkan is under Gozo Shioda, And Nihon Goshin, which had an influence in my style, is under Shoto Morita. But for various reasons my school only had O Sensei in the Shomen area. Again Thanks.

Sam Williams
12-10-2005, 04:06 PM
Man do i feel lucky ... my dojo is independent, our Head Sensei (4th Dan) decides when we should receive grading; but usually with verification of guests when they visit.

Halfway through this year, about a month before i joined, they reopened the dojo separate from the Mushin-Wado Shinpo Society of Europe. The clubs development has been close with several important instructors, they even had Master Sammy come to teach in 2000.

We are now only in one organization, the Aikido circle of Friendship. So even if i had to leave this Dojo, i cant see sensei striping me of my rank :)

Derek Gaudet
12-10-2005, 09:34 PM
Stripping of rank is one thing. Stripping of knowledge you have gained in my opinion, is impossible. One of my instructors was talking to me about stripping rank and he made a good point, if you earn something it's yours. Too many instructors give rankings and think they own them, his opinion was if you earn it it's yours and no one can remove it after it is given.

Rank can neither be given or taken, only earned.

Ron Tisdale
12-12-2005, 11:20 AM
Just to present an alternate viewpoint, even though I generally agree that knowledge learned can't be taken away by the instructor.

Rank in aikido is sometimes thought of as more of a symbol of the relationship between you and your instructor. Even in the same dojo, two people of different levels of physical ability may well hold the same rank. Rank does not travel well between different organizations, or even sometimes different dojo in the same organization. So the most significant factor in rank in an art without competition is probably the relationship to the instructor. As such, if the relationship deteriorates to the point of becoming antagonistic, of what value now is the rank?

This is just meant as food for thought, nothing else.

Best,
Ron

senshincenter
12-12-2005, 12:24 PM
I think Ron makes in interesting point, only I think I tend to take what he said from a different angle - same meaning, just different angle. Of what value is the rank when it is coming from such a spiritually immature person (which is my personal take on the course of action he opted for)? In other words, who would want that rank? Who would want that relationship in real life or even just symbolically? For me, it would be like earning a medical degree from some school that was later found out to be less than credible - after that, you'd be doing yourself a disservice by going around saying you graduated from that school. Sometimes, for many reasons, it is just best to start all over. I think budoka have to learn how to do that sooner or later - how to start all over - again and again and again. It's a purifying experience that no one can really do without, especially if it is important for a person to gain the perks that can come with playing the political game - in my opinion.

MaryKaye
12-12-2005, 01:24 PM
Your story reminds me of something that happened to me in a non-aikido field:

I had a teacher who seemed to think the world of me, and taught me a tremendous amount of useful stuff. The relationship was very positive up until the point that I was close to her seniority in the organization and began, as a matter of course, to sometimes disagree with her in meetings and discussions. Suddenly I was persona non grata--she tried to have me thrown out, and made my life quite miserable.

I spent a number of months wondering what awful thing I had done to deserve this, and watching my ex-teacher with her new favorite student. When she began to try to get the new student thrown out too, suddenly the pattern became obvious: and asking around I found that I was the third or fourth iteration of it.

Some teachers are only comfortable with their students while the students are too junior to seriously challenge or disagree with them, and become acutely uncomfortable when that line is crossed. If this is the case, moving on is really your best option. Treasure what you learned and find a place of your own. (I'm not good at taking my own adviice, so I was mad at her for years; but it didn't really accomplish a darned thing. Better just to let it go.)

When you do find a teacher whose ultimate joy will be for you to equal or surpass him or her, treasure that person: they are a jewel without price.

Mary Kaye

Derek Gaudet
12-12-2005, 09:32 PM
Interesting points David and Ron. David after reading some of your post on Oomoto Kyo theology I respect your knowledgeable opinion, not to take anything away from Ron, because you both argue an equally interesting point. However, there are many ways of looking at rank. Rank can be a measure of relationship, skill, status, this field is probably fairly open. If we are talking about kyu ranking and dan ranking designed by Jigoro Kano, then it was implemented in the martial arts as a view of status or achievement in skill. A way to measure a students progress. Much like grades in school, it doesn't measure your relationship with your teacher, but you understanding of the material. Your relationship with your teacher may increase when your grades to but generally your grades don't increase with your relationshop towards a teacher does. To think of rank as a relationship with the instructor, might be stretching things (at least in some situations). Some dojo the students may have very little contact with the instructor, but still hold a significant rank. In large Dojo not everyone can have a form of relationship with the instructor, instead it becomes a corporation process of where you communicate through the "Vice Presidents", if you will. If rank can be achieved through a symbolic relationship and not so much technique, then it would be hard for me to consider the original martial intension of the art. When people demonstrate for kyu or Dan testing I like to think it remains realistic, in a form that the testings are equally challenging regardless of who is on the chopping block. The world doesn't see us as young, old, men, women, it see us as equal, and when confronted in a situation that may become violent or challenging, it doesn't take into consideration that we may be weak, less capable, helpless, it treats us all the same. Therefore we have to put all we have into our training. What I'm getting at is too many differences in what a particular kyu or dan should be, doesn't prepare us for reality. Some argue that it it harder for some to understand then others, this is very true, but it is also true the it all is within our capability to understand, if we put our hearts into it. I may just not be understanding your meaning of rank, but in my former dojo we never looked at rank as a measure of relationship between ourselves and our instructor, but it's an interesting topic to discuss. Perhaps we should start another thread called "Significance of rank" what does it mean to you.
I agree with David, sometimes it is best to start over, and if I have to then I have no choice and will. Keep the ideas coming I find them interesting. And thank you kindly for the advise your giving...

senshincenter
12-12-2005, 10:19 PM
Hi Derek,

I think you've made some good points. I would never really find myself disagreeing with any of them. I think my stuff was coming from a different understanding of what Ron was saying.

I would not want to speak for Ron - he would never need my help - but I see rank as an institutional matter. For me, rank is an institutional matter - and nothing else. This is true, I feel, no matter how it may be presented and/or how someone might wish to represent it. For the most part, rank comes to a deshi via his/her instructor and/or someone else that is thought to be the authoritative source for that instructor (e.g. a panel of instructors, a shihan, etc.). Whatever the case, rank does represent a relationship that one has with the institution that issues that rank. Since the institution often connects itself via "instructors" or via folks that can act as issuers of rank, I don't really see it as too much of a stretch to say that rank represents a relationship between a deshi and his/her instructor (i.e. between a person and the institution he/she wants to be a part of). I'm fine with that description as long as one understands it sociologically/politically - as I have attempted to describe above. I would not be fine with that if one wanted to understand "relationship" in this case as some kind of interpersonal intimacy. An institution can hardly muster that - which is one reason why the institution is antithetical to Aikido's ultimate aims (both martial and spiritual) - in my opinion.

When Ron made his point, I was understanding him to be describing the socio-political foundation of rank - which does in most cases come to the deshi (i.e. a smaller cog in the institution) via the instructor (i.e. a somewhat larger cog in the institution). I did not understand him to be talking about skill or about some kind of interpersonal relationship. Hence, my comments and my question: Who would want to be part of such an institution? Ultimately, for me, it's a question of who would want to sell their soul or at what price would they. Two times I have walked away from the upper echelons of such institutions - in two different arts. Both times, I simply left my rank with the institution, where it was from, etc. This is because while the skill is mine, rank can only be mine as long as I am part of the institution that has attempted to judge and mark me with it - which the institution does for its own purposes.

When I left, what I wanted was to no longer be judged by something that I had no right to judge me, no capacity to judge me, and to not be marked in a way that gave me only more shame than pride. In other words, for me, when you leave, you should leave. And when you leave, you should leave things behind. I have never suffered the worse for it - any struggle that has come my way via the absence of political perks, I feel, has only made my practice more real, more deep, more personal. I have gotten stronger via the challenges of independence, not weaker. The idea of suffering or of getting weaker without the aid of the institution, or of the insurmountable obstacles one is to surely face, the predestined failure, etc., all of that is just part of the myth that institutional folks like to tell their own kind - to keep them all in line, to keep them paying their dues or to keep them thinking all the same, etc. None of it is really real. You learn this once you step out mind, body, and soul - leaving it all behind. The institution is like a ghost; it can only hurt you if you believe in it. You learn that with your first real step outside the institution. From there, you even learn what is real in the institution - because it is real wherever you go and however you are marked: If you train your ass off, if you dedicate your energy and time to your art like few others, if you constantly push and test yourself beyond whatever your current limits may be, your Aikido will be real and it will not need a symbol to have that be known by your own person or by others.

The real solution here is to learn to leave things behind, and then to train your ass off like few others. If you can do that, all of this "drama" will amount to nothing. This will be true of you seek membership in some other federation or if you seek independence. No matter where you go or whom you are with, hard work and self-reliance are the foundation of everything that is real in Budo. Again - this is true both inside and outside of federation life.

my two cents. :-)

Again - hang in there. The universe is without boundaries, options are countless. Keep faith in these truths and this will pass. For what its worth, I feel for you, and only wish the best for you - this I can say without even hearing the supposed "other" side. Always feel free to write me or to visit us. You will always be welcomed.

dmv

Ron Tisdale
12-13-2005, 09:07 AM
I think David understands what I said extremely well, and also that his experience is very much in line to make his comments on this thread very much worth listening to.

Best,
Ron

senshincenter
12-13-2005, 11:24 AM
I forgot to expand upon this notion as I first intended. It is this idea of self-reliance and of working your ass off as few can – in way this has to be considered the “Gold Standard” in the symbolic and/or cultural economy of Aikido. Rank is like paper money – a kind of “gold certificate” (or at least it is supposed to be). Like the gold standard of old, self-reliance and hard work are supposed to be what guarantees the paper money of rank issuance. This gold standard is supposed to allow for capital exchange (between federations and even between arts). It is also supposed to work to make the symbolic capital of rank resistant to its own versions of runaway credit and debt expansion. Additionally, this gold standard is also supposed to be the check that prevents “currency” (i.e. rank) being created by some sort of government fiat (e.g. the soke councils) – thus this gold standard also makes rank resistant to its own kind of inflation. The idea here is that the gold standard of self-reliance and hard work removes currency uncertainty (i.e. What is a black belt?) while it keeps the credit of issuing monetary authority sound. It thus also encourages lending (i.e. folks who want more self-reliance and hard work will come to train with other folks that have self-reliance and hard work). It is the foundation of a healthy economy regarding Aikido’s symbolic capital of rank.

However, today, through a multiplicity of different causes, reasons, and forces, this gold standard has been weakened (because gold is becoming more rare as more people need it/because less people train hard in the fac eof the countless multitudes that do not), redefined, and in a great many cases already done away with. Across the board, it is really this redefining that has been the most problematic. I think George Ledyard’s latest article is again relevant here. What has happened – generally speaking – is that partial gold standards have become acceptable (e.g. “Well you train hard for a woman.” “You train hard for a Westerner.” “You train hard for someone that works.” “You train hard for someone with kids.” “You train hard for someone that has a handicap.” Etc.) In other words, a partial gold standard is part of a larger effort to see the full gold standard in relative terms. Many problems arise from this – such as making exchange pretty much impossible. (Today, it is pretty much impossible to go from one federation to another – for example.) However, most importantly, the real problem with partial gold standards is that they leave some amount of value that is not backed by gold – they are a mixture of gold and ultimately of paper. Hence, they are in a way, real and not real. For example, you get this fourth dan that has done some work but not all the work. In a way then, seeing the gold standard in relative terms has led to the fetishizing of symbolic capital (i.e. rank) and thus to the possibility for everything we now see in Aikido’s cultural economy today. Rank today is a kind of fiat money that has it dropping in value overall, especially in comparison to the few folks out there who are still working on self-reliance and hard work. In other words, rank is a mess. Only newbies, and perhaps a few folks that benefit from not acknowledging this fact, might disagree with this fact.

Sure, a lot of folks, most in fact, do fine within this system – but “fine” has now become a highly relative term and thus often in reality means “not fine”. Regardless of how one is doing, the thing is that this system is now no longer secure against calamity – such as will definitely be experienced when, for example, the Japanese Shihan of the USAF pass on. Folks got a glimpse of what is to come when the Midwest Region suffered the loss of its Japanese Shihan – only now picture that happening without any other American-based Japanese Shihan there to give authority to the new partial gold standard and/or the fiat-based ranks. Will the folks of the East and the West look to Tokyo then? Hardly. It will not be that easy for them to do so – they are old federations with some extremely powerful practitioners. Moreover, these federations now have their own slant regarding world Aikido politics (e.g. the Birankai and the inclusion of Mid/South America in the USAF) and even things pertaining to curriculum (e.g. weapons) that for the most part make Tokyo affiliation difficult outside of being anything more than a paper trail. However, because they, like all federations today, suffer in part from relative understandings of the Budo gold standard, when the stuff hits the fan, it is going to go all over. Expect to see huge division and variation; expect to see dissolution and reorganization. Some will go independent, some will group wishing to remain loosely independent, some will still go to Tokyo, some will attempt to keep the old format, etc. Everyone is going to go everywhere and do everything they can to not suffer too badly the pitfalls of having put weight in a symbolic economy that has for the most part lost its gold standard.

What does this mean? In about 10 or 20 years, for a great many people, all across the globe, in federation after federation, it will again not matter what you have – it will again only matter who you are and what you can do. 10 to 20 years is enough time for anyone to develop his or her own gold standard. For me, this is just one more reason why today folks should work on working hard and not necessarily work on trying to get the most for their rank.

Derek Gaudet
12-13-2005, 12:09 PM
David,
Your post were very inspiring, and I appreciate the time and effort you put into them. I believe now I understand more about this Symbolic Relationship we're talking about. I also enjoyed your economics discussion (Not being a big fan of Economics), taking a year of intro in economics, my experience is limited, but at least now I can relate it to something that is important to me. I agree with what you say about rank dropping in value. And sometimes In the west it is seen as more then it actually is in the east. Talking to people with limited experience in the martial arts you always get that "your a Black Belt, Wow!" reaction, when in reality, in the east, it is seen as a first step into the real training. It means your are comfortable with the basics, so now we can move on. I myself have left behind 3 other systems besides Aikido, so it's not completely new to me, but the first time I was asked to leave. Well as you said, I will continue to train my ass off. Someday I'll be running that Dojo, and I'm going to work hard to do it. Again thank you Valadez Sensei, Your Post are inspiring and I really appreciate the time you put into them. It's good to know I'm making new friends and connections in the Aikido world.

Ed Shockley
12-31-2005, 10:39 PM
I wish that your story were a rarity but I have heard several such excommunication tales. They all have been from independent dojos so I guess that's a good argument for some federation. The structure in all of them seem less individual driven. My own Sensei and dojo is very welcoming of visitors. Sensei Smith doesn't try to erase someone's past experience unless they arrive with ineffective technique. This means that when the Kanai transplant teaches we do throws grabbing the gi, when the Tohei resident teaches we "disappear" etc. I offer all of this to say, when you find the right dojo they will value your past and assist you toward your future. You needn't rush through the rank in order to teach but rather can start right away in many places once you've demonstrated the quality of your aikido and an attitude of respect. In the long run this round path will make your work more rounded.

Edwin Neal
01-10-2006, 03:18 PM
hello all ... :)
somewhat off topic but i'll get back ... i promise...

i was wondering what your thoughts on testing requirements i.e. curriculum or what techs you needed to demonstrate, as i understand there is no central standard like to be a shodan you must know this and this. I am somewhat amused by some organizations that ask for very little technique. The book dynamic sphere gives requirements for testing at various ranks that i find somewhat lame. My first test in aikido in hindsight was rather lightweight, but in another school the requirements were very extensive. Do you believe a "standard" should or could be developed?

I too had an excommunication experience... had a falling out with some roommates in college and as a result they en masse called my sensei and told him god only knows what about me. Sensei told me he could not allow me back to class because of this incident. No malice or hate on his part, but it was still painful. I still strongly intend to effect a reconciliation and return to this school, i just consider myself on hiatus... just my two cents which may not be worth much in any economy...

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