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Nafis Zahir 10-28-2011 11:07 PM

Get Over It Already!
 
Today we see so many people obsessed with getting their black belt. Something about the black belt makes many people over-train and then once they get it they think that it is something special and that now they are 'bad asses' or someone who has special powers. It has really gotten crazy. For the ones who are serious about training, they quickly realize that they have just reached the first plateau. So I have an idea for when I open a dojo. What do you think about this - A new students joins the dojo and he/she gets a gi and then I give them a black belt to wear. And when they give me that curious look I say to them "Take it, Wear it, Get over it already!" I want then to wear it so that the novelty of having a black belt will wear off very early in their training. I would like to hear what Aikidoka here think about this idea. Remember, it's just a belt and it doesn't mean you are a yudansha.

Lee Salzman 10-29-2011 02:26 AM

Re: Get Over It Already!
 
Quote:

Nafis Zahir wrote: (Post 295521)
Today we see so many people obsessed with getting their black belt. Something about the black belt makes many people over-train and then once they get it they think that it is something special and that now they are 'bad asses' or someone who has special powers. It has really gotten crazy. For the ones who are serious about training, they quickly realize that they have just reached the first plateau. So I have an idea for when I open a dojo. What do you think about this - A new students joins the dojo and he/she gets a gi and then I give them a black belt to wear. And when they give me that curious look I say to them "Take it, Wear it, Get over it already!" I want then to wear it so that the novelty of having a black belt will wear off very early in their training. I would like to hear what Aikidoka here think about this idea. Remember, it's just a belt and it doesn't mean you are a yudansha.

Better idea: everyone wears white belts, even you, and get rid of belt tests. Even better idea: nobody wears gis or hakama at all, just comfortable sweats. Of the martial arts environments I've learned in, those with no symbols of rank or fetishism about dress-code were always the best and most open, where everyone just trained with each other, even the teacher, as equal partners. It gets rid of this idea that progress is one dimensional, as it quickly becomes obvious people progress at different rates in different aspects and often even go backwards.

Richard Stevens 10-29-2011 09:46 AM

Re: Get Over It Already!
 
Quote:

Nafis Zahir wrote: (Post 295521)
Today we see so many people obsessed with getting their black belt. Something about the black belt makes many people over-train and then once they get it they think that it is something special and that now they are 'bad asses' or someone who has special powers. It has really gotten crazy. For the ones who are serious about training, they quickly realize that they have just reached the first plateau. So I have an idea for when I open a dojo. What do you think about this - A new students joins the dojo and he/she gets a gi and then I give them a black belt to wear. And when they give me that curious look I say to them "Take it, Wear it, Get over it already!" I want then to wear it so that the novelty of having a black belt will wear off very early in their training. I would like to hear what Aikidoka here think about this idea. Remember, it's just a belt and it doesn't mean you are a yudansha.

That might result in a dojo that isn't open long or flounders. People like having a goal to strive for and in most martial arts it's the black belt. Without that goal available to them students are going to be training simply for the sake of training (non-pejorative). While that is a noble idea, only the minority of potential students are going to be interested in training on that level. For most it's a hobby. One that requires goals for them to achieve and be proud of or they will simply lose interest.

For those that get big-headed after they achieve Shodan. Maybe they just need a good bounce off the mat? :p

lbb 10-29-2011 07:01 PM

Re: Get Over It Already!
 
Quote:

Nafis Zahir wrote: (Post 295521)
Today we see so many people obsessed with getting their black belt.

Today? Really?

Lyle Laizure 10-30-2011 08:32 AM

Re: Get Over It Already!
 
I don't think this is anything new. Over the past couple of decades I have seen lots of folks reach their black belts only to never be seen again. It is, as already stated, because they see their martial arts training as a hobby and the blackbelt is seen as the "goal" of their training.

Getting rid of the color belts or just starting by wearing a blackbelt isn't a new idea but I agree is it effective to some degree. I train in Shinkendo and we wear a white belt until we achieve blackbelt. There are tests in between so there are goals there but the focus isn't on testing so much as it is about improving technique as well as ourselves. This doesn't mean people don't drop out after getting their blackbelt or disappear for long periods.

It isn't limited to blackbelts either. Ultimately it is on the mindset of the student. Sometimes training can improve a person but most times training reveals what was hidden all along.

grondahl 10-30-2011 08:55 AM

Re: Get Over It Already!
 
Quote:

Lyle Laizure wrote: (Post 295572)
It is, as already stated, because they see their martial arts training as a hobby and the blackbelt is seen as the "goal" of their training.

Are you a professional in the martial arts?

grondahl 10-30-2011 09:21 AM

Re: Get Over It Already!
 
I agree with Lee Z, no visible signs of seniority makes for a very pleasant training environment.

Shadowfax 10-30-2011 11:57 AM

Re: Get Over It Already!
 
I see no problem with people having a goal to reach a certain rain. Goals change, people change. Aikido facilitates change. Someone who starts out in a hurry to get to shodan might just realize what training is about as they progress or they will decide that it is too hard and they will quit. I think it is better not to be so worried about what other peoples goals and perceptions are and just make good use of their bodies to further your own training for as long as they are available.

When I first started training I looked at the brown and black belts in the dojo with awe and wondered if I would ever reach that level. A few weeks ago one of the children of a fellow student asked me if we were doing different belts in the dojo because I was wearing a brown one now instead of a white one. (up until then they had not seen another brown belt in the dojo) I just said no, this is jut the one sensei wants me to wear now.

Yeah now and then I look at it and it represents to me how much I have learned and grown over the past couple of years. I like having that sort of tangible evidence of all of that hard work. Mostly it just holds my gi shut. Some day my sensei will hand me a black belt and I will put that on, appreciate what it represents and keep training.

Dazzler 10-30-2011 12:44 PM

Re: Get Over It Already!
 
Quote:

Peter Gröndahl wrote: (Post 295576)
I agree with Lee Z, no visible signs of seniority makes for a very pleasant training environment.

One of the clubs local to us had an interesting environment...it didn't sound very pleasant and no one graded but some people thought it was ok....then the instructor went and died after running his club for 20 years or so....and no one could take over.

Guys with 10 or 15 years experience had never graded or taught and no one had the confidence to take the club on.

So it folded.

Personally I've no major attachment to grades or belt colours....but the grading process itself can be highly beneficial to building a dojo and its future leaders, it can energise, provide short term goals and is a very useful part of the sometimes hard road that is Aikido.

For me a grading is only as valuable as the effort put into achieving it, for myself I always give everything in my own gradings and try to encourage my students to do the same. Once its done ....its done and practice starts afresh tomorrow.....but give me focussed targetted training against a pleasant practice any day.

Regards

D

Carsten Möllering 10-30-2011 01:18 PM

Re: Get Over It Already!
 
I know some dojo where there is no grading. Doesn't work well: The students mostly don't like it. They stay because the teachers seem to be brilliant. But they would prefer a grading system. At least a distinction between something like mudansha and kyudansha.
I never practiced in one of these dojo. Just know about it from sitting together and talking during seminars.

I often experience that students quit or at least don't practice with the same power after reaching shodan. Seems like they got, what they were looking for and stop searching.

In our aikido we wear hakama from nikyo on. So a lot of students are "in black or blue". This is what you see. But if it is important to you whether someone wears black or white belt you have to go near and look carefully. Most of the time you don't think about it because it doesn't matter: hakama can be kyu or dan. Be it this or that: At least it's an advanced student.

I sometimes train in surroundings where there are only black belts. I think that is the scenario OP is looking for: No signal in clothing who is advanced or who is not. No signs in clothing what to expect. No distinction of students grades (1.-4. dan in our understanding) or teacher grades (from 5. dan on in our understanding). You just have to practice wiht someone to feel how it works.

So there is a setting where there are no distinctions in clothing and gradings are years apart and dont really matter. Mostly one doesn't know the grading of the other person.
But, until you get there, there are gradings and there are signs.

philipsmith 10-30-2011 01:37 PM

Re: Get Over It Already!
 
This i. sn't anything new.
For a while I handled the hombu yudansha registrations for our association and it was interesting to note that the numbers registered for Nidan were roughly 1/2 those for Shodan and so on
So maybe we should just accept that people practise for different reasons - or perhaps more relevantly give up for different reasons.

Chuck Clark 10-30-2011 01:48 PM

Re: Get Over It Already!
 
Human beings set up pecking orders of one kind or another in any group activity. In my experience, a harmonious, uplifting group dynamic depends on the qualities of the seniors (that isn't determined just by skill, by the way) and their behaviors. Healthy practice is the goal... skill is just one of the many qualities that we recognize in each other. As usual, the quality of the group activity is a constantly changing value. Trying to "force" these qualities in whatever manner makes it worse in my experience.

Best regards,

Alex Megann 10-30-2011 02:03 PM

Re: Get Over It Already!
 
Of course it's nice for the ego to have passed grading examinations, and you could also put forward a reasonably convincing argument that it can standardise quality, that the stress of performing in public is some sort of validation of your ability, and so on.

After teaching for quite a few years, though, I feel more and more strongly that proceeding up the grades is most of all a process of taking on responsibility: the senior grade in a dojo (as a rule) automatically leads the class when the dojo-cho is absent, and the middle grades help bear the load of looking after beginners.

I can also imagine that not having a grading system is much more open to abuse through favouritism, although of course this is true to some extent of any system.

Alex

George S. Ledyard 10-30-2011 02:44 PM

Re: Get Over It Already!
 
Quote:

Nafis Zahir wrote: (Post 295521)
Today we see so many people obsessed with getting their black belt. Something about the black belt makes many people over-train and then once they get it they think that it is something special and that now they are 'bad asses' or someone who has special powers. It has really gotten crazy. For the ones who are serious about training, they quickly realize that they have just reached the first plateau. So I have an idea for when I open a dojo. What do you think about this - A new students joins the dojo and he/she gets a gi and then I give them a black belt to wear. And when they give me that curious look I say to them "Take it, Wear it, Get over it already!" I want then to wear it so that the novelty of having a black belt will wear off very early in their training. I would like to hear what Aikidoka here think about this idea. Remember, it's just a belt and it doesn't mean you are a yudansha.

In the old days when Saotome Sensei presided personally over the majority of Yudansha testing the ukes for the tests were the most senior folks present, usually dojo cho. That was, of course, back when all of us were still taking ukemi... before the wear and tear took its toll. So if you were testing, you had the very best ukes in the whole organization. Typically they would give great attacks, good speed and commitment, but they didn't have an "attitude" and didn't think their job was to get out there and try to mess you up. Rather they'd give the kind of attacks that would allow someone who was well prepared to really show what he or she knew. On the other hand, if you weren't well prepared, they'd eat you alive. Even for the best prepared, there was always a moment in the test when they'd push you to a crisis point. Often, it was the knife takeaways when the late Paul Kang Sensei would come in at light speed, stick you and be gone before you had even thought about what technique you'd be doing. In other words, he'd attack quite a bit above ones "pay grade". No one expected a Shodan or Nidan candidate to actually be able to handle this well. Sensei just wanted to see what would happen when you got pushed to failure. The most important thing was to never give up. I remember one of my friends missing three attempts to execute a takeaway and on the third attack he simply went straight to the center and knocked Paul Kang flat. Saotome Sensei and Ikeda Sensei laughed and clapped and that was clearly all they had been waiting for, it didn't have to be pretty, it just had to be something you dug deep for. After that. Kang Sensei attacked in a more civilized way that was designed to allow my friend to show his technical repertoire.

We also often had to do something on our tests which we simply weren't expected to be able to do. On my own Shodan test, Saotome Sensei had me do a randori against three people with shinai. It consisted of me running around the dojo with three attackers beating me mercilessly while Sensei laughed his ass off. My point here is that our testing in the old days was a balanced mix of opportunity to succeed at what we knew along with the opportunity to fail. At the end of our Shodan tests back in 1978 Sensei looked at everyone and laughed saying "You all died..." No one walked away from tests back then with some unrealistic idea about how great he or she was.

I miss those days. Now, often the ukes on tests are only marginally senior to the person testing... often they look at the opportunity to take ukemi as a place to show off for the Shihan. They don't really understand how to adjust their ukemi to fit the level of the person testing. They either don't attack with real intention or they think they are supposed to get out there and screw with the guy testing. So you get a mix of people whom you think might have some skills but they simply can't show them because their ukes are so wretched or they can't show what they know because the ukes are not attacking in such a way that they can respond with clean kihon waza. Often candidates get through their tests never having been pushed past their limit a bit or they never got a decent chance to demonstrate what they really knew.

Anyway, I think that if a test is properly run with ukes who understand their role in the testing process properly, the properly prepared candidate walks away from the test feeling empowered but at the same time humbled. He or she should come out of a test with a very realistic idea about what they need to be working on for the next level. If someone walks away from a Shodan test feeling like a bad ass, the test wasn't done properly, in my opinion.

Walter Martindale 10-30-2011 03:13 PM

Re: Get Over It Already!
 
Quote:

George S. Ledyard wrote: (Post 295597)
Anyway, I think that if a test is properly run with ukes who understand their role in the testing process properly, the properly prepared candidate walks away from the test feeling empowered but at the same time humbled. He or she should come out of a test with a very realistic idea about what they need to be working on for the next level. If someone walks away from a Shodan test feeling like a bad ass, the test wasn't done properly, in my opinion.

(where's the "like" button.. oh, wrong forum)

Not sure about the others who've tested when I've been testing, but I've usually come away from a test thinking "what? you're passing me with THAT many mess-ups?" and... "Whew.. Survived!"
W

RED 10-30-2011 09:11 PM

Re: Get Over It Already!
 
Why do you care if other people take it so seriously? How does their ignorant or pompous behavior effect the serious student's focus? In my opinion, just ignore them. The serious practitioner is there for the long run and is focused on improving their Aikido and seeking high-level instruction. While black belt is a nice mile-stone, it is a goal to be proud to have gotten to; I think the serious and focused practitioner will view it just as that "a mile-stone". The people who have no will to improve will train irregularly and maybe come out of the woodwork for a seminar from time to time without improving...they might even quit. Therefore I think it is best to ignore the "no-Dans" and focus on my own development.

Lyle Laizure 10-31-2011 06:11 PM

Re: Get Over It Already!
 
Quote:

Peter Gröndahl wrote: (Post 295575)
Are you a professional in the martial arts?

Professional can refer to whether or not one gets paid to do something and or being an expert in one's field. While my students pay monthly dues I would not define myself as an expert. I do not however see my martial arts training as a hobby. So, would I be considered a professional in the martial arts? I don't know.


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