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-   -   Do Away With Rank... (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=238)

Chuck Clark 09-05-2000 09:40 AM

Hello everyone,

I would like to enter a little deeper into the question Jun posed this time for the poll.

What is rank? Is it good .. or bad? Is the kyu-dan ranking system worthwhile?

I invite everyone to share thoughts and feelings about this.

Thanks,

andrew 09-05-2000 09:54 AM

Before people get too deeply into arguing about this, there's an excellent article explaining the origin of the modern kyu-dan ranking system and the purpose of grading at this address:


http://gargas.biomedicale.univ-paris...s/ranking.html

(Most of the site is in French, but there's a few essays in english like the one linked too. The one on teaching movement is interesting too.)

Shipley 09-05-2000 11:05 AM

I think that the ranking system fulfills a need in newer students to be able to mark their progress. While one could argue that an aikidoka should be above this, it does seem to be a fairly universal need. Once somebody has reached dan ranking, and proven that they are a serious student, I would think many would have outgrown this, or at least be attempting to outgrow this (as I am).

One could also say that dan rankings give a rough indication of somebody's qualifications to teach or run a dojo. If one just had dan rank and below dan rank this would be considerably more difficult, as dan ranks run from shodan, which to me indicates just a serious student who has some knowledge of the basics, on up.

Anyhow, that's my two bits.

Paul

chillzATL 09-05-2000 01:59 PM

Sure, it has a good purpose and I think it serves it very well. It gives the individual something material to measure their progress by which is very important to us all, initially anyway. It also gives new students an measuring stick of sorts. It's not 100% in all cases but it works in most cases. You are white belt and you see a go-kyu, and you see a yon-kyu, it gives you an idea where your level of techinque can be given time and practice. Once you reach shodan the belts are black anyway so I think rank is an afterthought at that point.

Nick 09-06-2000 01:24 PM

rank is good- placing too much emphasis on it is bad.

-Nick

rch 09-06-2000 02:26 PM

No belts where I train.
 
We don't have any type of ranking system at our dojo, which doesn't bother me at all. We are a small club, so everyone knows I'm the newbie, and I've quickly figured out who the more advanced people are.

As far as self-satisfaction, I don't care about that. I didn't start aikido as something to conquer. When I think of getting belts, I associate it with conquering something. I get my self-satisfaction from conquering routing problems on our network here in the office. :)

Now, don't get me wrong - I don't think rank is a *bad* thing, just not something I feel *I* need. I wouldn't be opposed to wearing colored belts to show my rank.

A lot of people work better using a goal oriented system. The belt's give them a goal to shoot for. If that works for you then great. For me, I'd rather let my skills (or lack of them, as it stands right now) speak for me. :)


Nick 09-06-2000 04:56 PM

I didn't know any of the ranks of the yudansha until summer camp when some tested for (insert rank here) and passed. When I first came, I knew I was the newbie and they were the instructors... and it hasn't changed.

-Nick

Erik 09-07-2000 12:13 PM

You did ask for thoughts. :)

Humans seem to have an obsessive need to quantify things: job titles; race; IQ; status; etc. There is a benefit to this because it allows us to make quick mostly/sometimes reliable judgements on things. In theory, belt colors and ranks can help with this sort of thing.

Think of this quantification another way. It's the IT Guy, the Pepsi Guy, the Aikido Guy, the Black Guy, the Jewish Guy (thank you Magma and CA for this) and ask if that quantification is always beneficial? What happens is that quantification sublimates a level of having to look at and understand who a person is. It makes for laziness. As I've said before, I suggest that all yudansha put on a white belt and attend a seminar where no one knows them, it might be an eye-opener. Look at the recent discussions on hakama. Like it or not, as a general rule, people defer to those who appear to be above them. The one thing I thank Bill Clinton for is putting some humanity into the White House, although maybe more humanity than I'd have asked for.

Rank also separates people: mudansha from yudansha, shihan from non-shihan (how many non-Japanese, non-male shihan are there?), us and them (managers and non-managers).

And does rank really recognize ability or commitment? In Judo, you go out, bounce around a bunch of higher ranked people and you move up a notch. In Aikido, it's much more subjective. Terry Dobsen trained with O'Sensei for several years, continued his practice after that, made a significant contribution to the art, in my opinion, yet he was only a 5th dan. I dunno, maybe something else weighed in his rank, maybe he wasn't that good, maybe he needed to kiss more booty, maybe he didn't care, I don't know.

I've also seen rank play into power struggles. A Tae Kwon Do instructor who owned a school where some of us Aikidoists also hung out refused a promotion to 6th dan because he would have been under a certain guy and would have had to call him master (and he wondered why I wouldn't call him master when I didn't even do Tae Kwon Do?). This same play definitely goes on in Aikido circles or any system involving rank. A lot more probably goes on behind the scenes that most of us don't see directly.

Rank can also be a revenue generator. I know of schools (one Aikido) where there are many ranks (lots of tests), lots of belt colors (sell more belts) and most importantly lots of fees. I would also challenge that there is any organization collecting fees that doesn't enjoy a cash benefit from ranking. I'm not sure this is bad and maybe it's even the right thing as organizations theoretically do provide value (another thread?) and rank has a value. I've seen organizations suggest seminar rates based on dan ranking ($100/dy per dan rank).

I've also seen rank do good things. Sometimes, a promotion can push someone past a sticking point. The new rank causes them to achieve levels of ability they wouldn't have otherwise--it pushes them. I was initially motivated by rank. It acted as a target/measure for my ability. It gave me a standard to reach.

I was also promoted once to push others. Students stagnated at a certain level so I was promoted past that point. It made for an interesting few months as not everyone whom I was promoted past found me deserving. Of course, it wasn't like I was any better pre/post ranking. I will say that it was an interesting experience to own rank in that situation.

At the dojo I currently train at, I've argued for rank more often than not (doing away with it has been discussed) because if we are going to do Aikido, rank is part of the equation. The community will expect it, and if we are going to have a place in it representative of our ability and commitment, well, you need rank. People don't listen to no-ranks or even shodan, the way they do yondan or whatever. Maybe this is an argument for doing away with rank?

I guess I'm rambling here a bit--a lot--and I couldn't even tell you if I think rank is good or not after all that. On one level, I think rank (and people's tendency to quantify things) causes tremendous unnecessary grief. I'd like to think we could do without it and things would be great. On the other hand, virtually every single system that has achieved some level of consistent success uses a method of quantifying people.

Good or bad? Lots and lots of both!

PS: Those of you, who support rank in Aikido, and there seem to be a lot of you, how do you feel about rank in business? Being classified and graded as something: manager or non-manager; group 4's or 3's; Jr./Sr.; partner, jr. partner; VP, Pres, Senior VP, Jr. VP; etc. Do you feel it's any different here?

[Edited by Erik on September 7, 2000 at 01:07pm]

DJM 09-07-2000 04:53 PM

Quote:

Erik wrote:

PS: Those of you, who support rank in Aikido, and there seem to be a lot of you, how do you feel about rank in business? Being classified and graded as something: manager or non-manager; group 4's or 3's; Jr./Sr.; partner, jr. partner; VP, Pres, Senior VP, Jr. VP; etc. Do you feel it's any different here?

Erik,
I'm neither for nor against ranking in Aikido - I haven't got the experience to know if it's good or bad.
I would like to comment on the difference between rank in business and in Aikido - or indeed any martial art..
I think the key difference between the two is that, with business, rank connotes what you do. In Aikido, I believe, rank should give a glimpse of what you are...
Small but important..
Peace,
David

Nick 09-07-2000 05:00 PM

Quote:

Erik wrote:
You did ask for thoughts. :)
I've also seen rank play into power struggles. A Tae Kwon Do instructor who owned a school where some of us Aikidoists also hung out refused a promotion to 6th dan because he would have been under a certain guy and would have had to call him master (and he wondered why I wouldn't call him master when I didn't even do Tae Kwon Do?). This same play definitely goes on in Aikido circles or any system involving rank. A lot more probably goes on behind the scenes that most of us don't see directly.[Edited by Erik on September 7, 2000 at 01:07pm]

No man's great who thinks he is.

(Abraham Lincoln).

Kanpai,

-Nick

chezmike 09-07-2000 09:13 PM

I feel rankings in the Mudansha are relative simply because of interpretation. Obviously as John Lennon has said "Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans." Some Aikidoka have great skills in some areas, lesser skills in other things. This is taken into account because they are Mudansha.

After 20 years of study, I would expect greater things of someone who had studied for 5 years, even though they are both Yudansha. Thus ranking serves more to the student in knowing who to watch for correction of one's own technique.

Even so, I have had Sensei ask me which Nikyo I liked better, hers or Sempai. DANGER! No right answer! Sensei is very polished, Sempai very strong - both work! It makes no difference on what rank slams - er eases me to the mat, I am still Uke or Nage and will still practice to make myself a better Aikidoist. That to me is more important than the rank I have earned or the recognition I am given.

Mike in Denver

andrew 09-08-2000 03:46 AM

Quote:

chillzATL wrote:
Once you reach shodan the belts are black anyway so I think rank is an afterthought at that point.
Once you've reached Shodan you're a beginner whos simply become proficient enough to start learning properly. If you think Yudansha rankings are an afterthought you need to take Ukemi from a high grade at a seminar.
andrew

Chuck Clark 09-08-2000 09:47 AM

Lots of good points, so far. Here's my bit.

Like all things, certificates and rank have both negative and positive aspects. How this manifests in relation to you is your choice.

We have to "not care" or be attached to the idea of rank, and at the same time we must value it for what it really is.

Rank does not bring benefits, it should bring responsibilities. Promotion means that you should show a level of practice that matches the rank.

Teachers have not always awarded rank evenly and fairly. Some have even used rank as a carrot in front of students to gain money, emotional leverage, and even sexual favors. Rank in one system is usually not really recognized outside that system (sometimes not even within the same system!).

People get in disputes comparing and bickering over whose rank is more real. There's a lot of "my teacher/system is better than yours, etc.

Rank is part of the practice...even if there is no formal rank system. Others will always set up a "pecking order" of some sort.

Such is life. It's human nature. There is a lot of emotional baggage connected with rank. I believe that is precisely why we need it! It is a koan (Zen puzzle) which we need to work with. It's a conundrum which we all need to wrestle with and come to a place of balance.

Do your practice. Keep experiencing, learning, and practicing for the sake of the practice. It's easy...just care and not care at the same time!

Struggle with it until you don't...


Magma 09-08-2000 09:47 AM

Quote:

andrew wrote:
If you think Yudansha rankings are an afterthought you need to take Ukemi from a high grade at a seminar.
But Andrew, I think we need to be more careful. Those Yudansha don't throw the way they do because of the rank they have... they have the rank they have because of the way they throw (and the long years it took to get there).

We keep talking about the good and bad points about rank, and in an art that eschews competition it makes sense that we would look twice at anything that smacked of making comparisons between people. We'll talk about the hakamas at a seminar not paying attention to their kohai partners, or worse; we'll talk about rank-chasers in it to sit higher than their fellow students; we'll talk about blowhards who do not appear to have the skills necessary for their rank; we'll talk about all of this, but what it really comes down to is we are talking of ego. And short of absolutely destroying someone to break their ego, the road toward a place of no-ego selflessness is an intensely personal one.

I think we all agree that rank has some good points and bad points, and that those bad points come from misuse by the individual. So if the road to no-ego is personal for the person who is paying no attention to his/her kohai, it is also personal for us watching that situation. Having rank is another challenge that the art presents us with. At one point maybe we didn't think that we could do any of the stuff these people were doing on the mats, then we learned a little. Maybe we thought we couldn't take breakfall ukemi, but we learned a little. Then we thought we couldn't take a high fall from shihonage, but we learned a little. I think that as we learn a little more about ourselves and about our art and our rank, we will treat it with more respect and less ego attachment. We can see those who fixate on rank and know that they just have more growing to do. The thing is, none of us would have had the opportunity to grow this way without this "second" test of rank. You've got your rank, now how do you treat it?

M.

Nick 09-08-2000 01:07 PM

Quote:

chezmike wrote:

Even so, I have had Sensei ask me which Nikyo I liked better, hers or Sempai. DANGER! No right answer! Sensei is very polished, Sempai very strong - both work!

correct, there is no answer. I believe that because in this art that 'eschews' competition, when that was asked, the sensei was not asking about Aikido. She was engaging in a meaningless competition with you as her medium...

If I may ask, how did you respond?

-Nick

chezmike 09-08-2000 10:33 PM

Quote:

Nick wrote:
Quote:

chezmike wrote:

Even so, I have had Sensei ask me which Nikyo I liked better, hers or Sempai. DANGER! No right answer! Sensei is very polished, Sempai very strong - both work!

correct, there is no answer. I believe that because in this art that 'eschews' competition, when that was asked, the sensei was not asking about Aikido. She was engaging in a meaningless competition with you as her medium...

If I may ask, how did you respond?

-Nick

Easy. I answered "It's Nikyo, Sensei." Wisdom comes from marriage as well as martial art.

Redd Moon 09-09-2000 10:50 AM

re: doing away with rank
 
When I first began reading about Aikido, I liked that there was no rank or at least no colored belts, before black belt. This to me put the importance on learning the art, not achieving new and interesting colors for your gui wardrobe. Now as a member of Clark Sensei's Jiyushinkai Aikibudo at the Aikibudo Dojo in Lewisville, Tx, I can see both sides. I could do without the belts, but admit to a feeling of accomplishment. On the negative, Aikido is a communal art, and belts can segregate.

However, I do believe Dan rankings should continue. There is quite a difference between a Sensei and a Shodan, and that should be denoted.

Those are the thoughts of a newly promoted 6th Kyu (not very impressive, eh)

RM

Erik 09-09-2000 12:17 PM

Re: re: doing away with rank
 
Quote:

Redd Moon wrote:
Those are the thoughts of a newly promoted 6th Kyu (not very impressive, eh)

RM
But certainly valid nonetheless.

Nick 09-09-2000 02:14 PM

Re: Re: re: doing away with rank
 
Quote:

Erik wrote:
Quote:

Redd Moon wrote:
Those are the thoughts of a newly promoted 6th Kyu (not very impressive, eh)

RM
But certainly valid nonetheless.

Hear hear! Taking up the voice of the little guy! :):)

Kanpai,

-Nick

andrew 09-11-2000 04:07 AM

[quote]Magma wrote:
Quote:

But Andrew, I think we need to be more careful. Those Yudansha don't throw the way they do because of the rank they have... they have the rank they have because of the way they throw (and the long years it took to get there).

M.
So how the hell do you intend to find them? Word of mouth? That wouldn't work.. I think you missed what I was saying there.
andrew

Magma 09-11-2000 08:21 AM

Quote:

andrew wrote:
Quote:

chillzATL wrote:
Once you reach shodan the belts are black anyway so I think rank is an afterthought at that point.
Once you've reached Shodan you're a beginner whos simply become proficient enough to start learning properly. If you think Yudansha rankings are an afterthought you need to take Ukemi from a high grade at a seminar.
andrew

Andrew, I quoted your entire post there for a reference. I don't see anything there about the "visibility" of the yudansha, as you spoke about in your last post... "So how the hell do you intend to find them?" was what you said, I think. I replied to the quoted message because I believe:

The Yudansha does not make the ukemi, the ukemi makes the Yudansha.

That's my point. I'm for ranking, I just don't think that it is the essence of that person's martial abilities. And to believe that the belt is the martial-essence or that the belt makes the ukemi is to make the mistake of rank, ie, believing that you have earned something or or entitled to something simply because of the rank you hold, rather than the abilities and attitudes you demonstrate.

M.

[Edited by Magma on September 11, 2000 at 08:24am]

andrew 09-11-2000 09:22 AM

Quote:

Magma wrote:


The Yudansha does not make the ukemi, the ukemi makes the Yudansha.

[Edited by Magma on September 11, 2000 at 08:24am]

Essentially, however, you are accusing those responsible for granting Dan grades of being blind to what you're saying. A certain level of proficiency is implicit in the grade, or it would not have been granted. For all the validity of the above aphorism, you're making an argument above by constructing a problem that does not exist. If you catch my drift....

I don't need to watch Yudansha take ukemi and assess them before I know I can learn from them. (a task very few of us are equipped to carry out objectively) I'm quite happy to assume,for instance, that a 4th dan has excellent Ukemi.

My point about finding them relates to the fact that most of us can't really tell who's good. Ranking lets us tell where there's an opportunity to train with a good or great teacher. Without ranking we might well be overrun with self-styled and mediocre teachers.

anyhow, now I'm done ranting.
cheers,
andrew

Magma 09-11-2000 09:43 AM

I don't want to belabor this point, because I think Andrew and I are arguing the same thing from two different directions. That said, I find myself imagining a seminar where I work with yudansha I don't know the rank of (since I can't tell from the hakama). One has incredible ukemi and just seems to absolutely float through the falls, and another is a bit stiffer. Looking at this from my perspective, I don't have an idea of the relative rank of either of these aikidoka until they perform. To be told that someone is of such and such rank and then to assume that they have good ukemi is a completely cerebral process. To experience it on the mat is to feel what that rank really is.... which is where my aphorism came from... because of those two Yudansha I trained with in my imaginary seminar, who is to say that the one with the better ukemi isn't the lower ranked student? I imagine that that person is of the higher rank, but I don't know that.

M.

Highway 09-12-2000 09:14 AM

I have been in the military for over 25 years so I have a very biased view of rank structures.
However in the dojo I find it usefull as a guide to ukes abilities,It lets me know how I can use uke to train myself, as well as how I can expext my uke to use me.As I understand it one of our goals is to be able to feel our partners motion and to react to/with it.Untill the day I reach that point,having colored belts to indicate each others abilities is a great training aid.
Well thats my view anyway.

guest1234 09-12-2000 10:01 AM

i think dan rank means essentially what kyu rank means (to me at least), a way for the individual to measure his own progress, not himself against others. i don't really think either set of ranks helps as a predictor of ukemi, for as we've discussed before, some reach shodan with woeful skills. Or they could be recovering from an injury, or just not be having a very good day...i try not to prejudge my partner, no matter posititve or negative. as for skill, well, when i first got to my current dojo, after a few classes i'd pretty much figured out the rank order, if not the rank, of those i'd seen---later found out i was 100% correct. as a beginner, i'm certainly no competent judge of someone's skill, but i know what i feel, and amazingly enough, how it feels when they've got my arm pretty much matches up with what their rank is. and if it didn't, i'd go with what i feel in terms of who to learn from, not what is written on his certificate. the same goes for choosing a school or teacher: i've been in a lot of them, different styles, and a shodan in one may surpass a sandan in another...the bottom line is, who cares....if you can learn from the person, then learn. i tend to watch someone's feet, not their belt, when i'm learning; and what i feel from them is more important to me than who they studied with, or what rank they reached. i'd say keep the rank, but for the individual's benefit, not that of anyone else.


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