AikiWeb Poll for the week of June 16, 2002:
Should technical skill alone determine promotions in aikido?
I'm just a beginner in Aikido, (Zip-Kyu, as I call it :D ), but it seems to me that the development of Ki is an essential ingredient for a person's progress in Aikido. It seems further evident that in order to properly develop Ki, one must develop a certain attitude; a spiritual center, for lack of a better term. For myself - a retired soldier, I'm as aggressive as they come in life and on the mat; I'm working hard to develop the inner calm required to properly perform Aikido. Therefore, I don't believe that technique alone is enough; they should be equally balanced with Ki - or at least the Ki exercises - when testing for advancement. Thanks for reading this, friends. :)
never say always
In most cases, technical skill is enough, because most of the people who practice aikido are decent folk. In some very rare cases, a student may have a very serious attitude problem that may need to be overcome first, before a test and a promotion can be given. (In 25 years of aikido training, I have yet to see such a situation arise.)
The bigger problem in aikido, as I see it, is that some students are too passive and they are unwilling to test at all. Gutless martial-arts students should be a contradiction in terms, but aikido, for some reason, seems to attract them.
Should technical skill alone determine promotions in aikido?
I personally do not think that technical skill alone should determine promotion in any martial arts. I believe that attitude and ethics should always be taken into consideration too.
Since it's safe to say technical skill won't win out. I'm curious what specifically constitutes the other factors. For instance, what exactly is attitude and what constitutes proper ethics?
Technical ability is only part of a whole. And actually, if I've learned anything about Aikido, its that it would be rather difficult to learn much of anything without ALL parts at your disposal.
Intention, Compassion, as well as not only knowing HOW to do a technique but also WHY I think is very important as well.
Aikido is incredible. You either get it or you don't. I like that aspect of it as well.
Questions from a devil's advocate point of view:
1. What does rank represent, and why is it needed?
2. If some consideration other than technical skill is needed for rank, how then does one reconcile high ranking aikidoka (including shihan) who clearly do not have a strong moral character? (ie Sex, Lies & Aikido Senseis by David Lynch)
I don't expect answers to either of these questions, I ask them for retorical purposes only.
One's Aikido, to a good degree, reflects one's state of mind (or attitudes and ethics). If one is inwardly agressive and agitated this will be revealed in a tight, rigid, fumbling style of Aikido. If one cares less for uke than for one's achievement of a rank, or for the "successful" performance of a technique, one will be hurtful and careless as nage. I have seen this again and again in rank tests and general practice. Thus, through a person's performance of technique, one is exposed to the nature of that person (or at least to that part of their nature that is pertinent to Aikido).
There was another thread related to this idea and I had written some comments then.
I felt there was a place and time when more than technical skills should become part of the promotion process. I related that in the context of what I felt Aikido was about as far as what aspect of character was the key point of Aikido.
Since then I have had a very interesting convversation on this same topic with one of my former Sensei. He added to the equation some good ideas which are applicable to all Martial Arts not just Aikido.
Regardless if you think Aikido techniques are "deadly" or not students are being taught techniques which can hurt someone very badly.
Consequently at some point a Sensei has to ask themselves is the person going to be a good responsible individual. You do not want to promote or even keep teaching someone who will use their learning irresponsibly.
To exagerate the point, a Sensei would not even teach a person who comes to them and says I want to learn Aikido so I can be a better mugger. You would not give a gun to someone who will rob a bank or even just be careless with it.
The other point I liked is that for our purposes it is not likely going to happen that you promote someone because they demonstrated their charachter rather you would more likely fail to promote someone because they lack adequate standards of character.
As someone else mentioned so far it seems like the vast majority of Aikido students Ihave met seem to have good values. I wonder if that is unique to Aikido?
It is certainly not unique to Aikido, but the art does tend to weed out the more hostile students, or at least so I believe. A violent person IN GENERAL won't have the patience to sit and learn the non-combative aspects crucial to Aikido. Karate, Tae-Kwan-Do, etc. offer instant gratification in 'fighting training' that more violent people will gravitate to; or so at least I believe.
Yardstick, verses ability.
The technical yardstick of advancing for ranks of aikido is the viewing of technical ability. It is so contrary to the overwhelming moral majority who answered this question, the actuality that verses the morality is shown to be inverse.
Or, the real answer is that technical ability is the measure of students and teachers.
Teachers do not live with students, observe their daily lives, and how they react to different situations, they are human beings who spend an hour of so teaching then socializing within the week on a semi-personal level.
Hey, even a teacher needs space to be who they are, they are only human beings.
Our present measure of Aikido is based upon the technical expertise per level, and the ability of the student to observe levels of safety while practicing or testing.
So, even though our superfluous social lives brush as we practice Aikido, the true measure of what we will do when pressed is unknown to both our classmates or teachers?
Many of us, the older practitionersespecially, have some clue as where the line is drawn for us to cross and when/how we should respond to violence outside the normal lines of moral civility, but our passiveness is mistaken for slovinness, or inability.
This kindness, many of us show, is the waryness of lessons learned over a lifetime. This, with the understanding that the old ways of violence, are not always the best way to deal with most situations that can be resolved by words or simple lessons. Hence, Those of us who realize violence sometimes roam into areas of concern that seem of no consequence to the practitioner who believes that harder longer training is the answer to all problems. It isn't.
Aikido practice can be the ability to use common sense for applying the abstract ideals of religion, emotion, and lifelong goals that are diversely congruent to who and what you want from life today.
If finding completion of who you are is found in hours and hours of practice, then that is you. Don't press it into the lives and measure of what others expect out of aikido or the level of completion it gives to others who practice Aikido.
In many cases, the clumsyness of an older practitioner who is new to Aikido is the physical and mental restraints from using agressive/violent techniques from other MA practices. So, don't go getting all full of yourself because your five years or more of practice get the nod of your teacher and peers, and the older new students are drawing back ... it could be that many of us have had enough of hurting people and we seek another way to practice MA's ... Aikido?
Ramble on? Yep.
Aikido has many levels of practice, and many levels of expertise, some of them are not tested on the level of kyu or dan, but by the measure of how it affects our everyday lives or how it changes our more violent tendancys into acceptable social behavior.
The only test for this is how you live each day compared to how you lived each day before today.
Bruce, your post is rather confusing. Could you be more succinct? Your profusion of words obscures the sense of what you are trying to say. Remember, "Brevity is a sign of genius."
Is your sensei Michelle - if so please pass on my regards - I visited your Cambridge dojo a few years back. Also could you pass on my e-mail email@example.com to the owner of your dojo (its the Judo dojo on Charles Street right?). I visited him just before I returned to Japan and lost the contact information. Foolish me.
By the by - its not the patience that gets them or the need for violence (they can get plenty of that in some Aikido dojos). Young men and women base a lot of their self image on who they hang around with. Aikido by its very nature does not exclude the less svelt. A young man looking into a dojo asks himself do I want to be like them and frankly that is what kept me away from Aikido for so long even though I liked the technicallity. Finally, one day I walked into a dojo in Tsukuba University full of young men and women sweating like demons and I was hooked.
:cool: I think this is a valid point but Iīm a bit sceptical about being graded on anything other that technique.
I wanted to say that my Sensei has the same argument with other teachers. I wonīt try to paraphrase him as English is his third language but, he says something like, "its only technique".
He seems to feel that there are lots more important things in assessing a students progress. The next time I see him I shall ask what he feels these are.
As I said, I would be worried about being graded on my personality but I canīt really comment as I have been practicing for 6 years and donīt have a grade.:freaky:
Is grade important anyway, or I am I staying at the same level whilst everyone elso moves on?
No, the question does not reflect the reality.
Aikido testing is judged upon technical skill not upon ones character, but upon lack of emotion during testing.
I, for one, have given up testing.
It is no measure for what one can do, and what they will do if forced to use martial arts.
Teachers can only judge a person by what they see in class.
Brevity only works when you have been there and done that.
If you have been there/done that ... you wouldn't ask the question, or need Brevity in an answer to it.
Time for coffee ... sorry if I was a bit grumpy ...
I think Bruce does have a point regarding how a Sensei can judge a persons character from limited contact in a Dojo setting. Thats probably why we read about traditional Senseies requiring letters of recommendations for new students. I think even O'Sensei did that for students too.
I think a Sensei will get an idea of a students character after a while. Eventually they will see how they interact with other students, react to training difficulties and if talked to maybe even learn some of the students outlook on life.
It won't be perfect and as I said before I think it will be more of a case of not promoting someone if the Sensei feels they have poor character. As well it should likely only become a bigger factor at Yudanhsa levels at which time it is very likely the Sensei has come to know that student well.
In any event I don't believe technical skill should be the sole criteria for continuing promotion.
re : testing
I'm not on a testing board. I don't know what else is being measured besides technical profficiency and perhaps time in training. These are the stated requirements for the test.
For me personally, testing is a milestone, an event and a marker in my on own path. However it also would seem to indicate some level of commonality with other people.
Down at the kyu level I feel that the testers are performing an analysis against their own experience of other tests and perfomances seen and evaluated.
This is not rule based processing, it's (if you can bear with a half cooked analogy) neural network processing. I mean the evaluation is done by people who have a soft , yet extensive understanding of what is tested.
Besides the grid of techniques there's a feel involved. How do you separate this from the executed technique?
All people are different. This is part of the evaluation.
In any case what's underlying the question? People upset at 'undeserved promotion'? People upset at 'inmoral shihans'?
Testing is a stressful event; it's a challenge for the testee , a chance for teacher evaluation by the tester. I'd rather test and fail than not test.
Testing as a step along the way
I agree strongly with AikiAlf who said that testing is a step along our personal way.
I used to train in Seidokan aikido, and there I was told (we talked a lot in Seidokan) that 'test' is actually a poor name for what a test is since the teacher should know from a student's performance day to day whether or not they are ready, and so the test is more of a ceremony than a test. We were also told that our aikido was judged much more on our ability to demonstrate aiki than on our ability to throw people. We were given rank certificates that said that through diligent practice we had reached a level where we were deemed 'ready to assume the obligations and responsiblities associated with the rank' of whatever kyu.
Ultimately, what I internalized is that (1) the test is an opportunity for me to reflect and consolidate what I have been learning, and to share that with my aikido community, (2) technique in aikido is ultimately a kind of packaging or maybe a vehicle through which I express myself, and that it is my responsibility to have my aikido reflect my self, and (giving my answer to paw's rhetorical question) (3) rank is mostly about one's role and responsibilities within our aikido community and because of this rank should reflect to a large extent one's ability to honor the role and discharge the responsibilities appropriately.
Yours in Aiki
Thank you so much for replying. :) My Sensei is Mike Henderson; who was indeed once a member of the Cambridge dojo. I will certainly pass on your information to him. :)
You know, I have very little experience in Aikido dojos, but I consider myself very lucky to be a member of this Dojo - of the small numbers we have, we have 3 truly superb instructors there. Sensei Mike; a careful and considerate teacher who can balance class-wide instruction with one-on-one help - a difficult task - with ease. Our senior student, Jill Nielsen, is another good teacher who can make sense and fun out of the most confusing technique. Another instructor, Gary Thomas, is a superb details man. He can point out the 'why's' of a technique, making sure the student understands the idea behind a technique - all in a rather elegant Welsh accent. :) They make a heck of a tag-team for us newbies: Sensei Mike introduces the technique, tells us how it works, why it works and when it works. We learn and practice the technique with Jill, who demonstrates its effectiveness and gets us practicing it with enthusiasm, then hands us off to Gary, who irons out the rough spots and gets us practicing with grace...for students. :rolleyes: As an experienced instruction teacher, I tend to get tired very quickly with poor instructors; I really appreciate the skill of these 3. I've been told I'm learning quite quickly; I still feel like a gracless cow on the mat (LOL!), but whatever speed I'm learning at, I place all the kudos on them.
BTW; I agree wholeheartedly with your assesment of my last comment, although I still adhere to mine. I think there's enough room for both opinions :)
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