Lack of Progress or Lack of Patience?
I've been studying Aikido for 3 months now. Most of my experience has been in Karate. I'd asked a while back if many Aikido dojo were like mine in that there was no real set curriculum, although there is a set of specific techniques to be tested on. Many of the answers seemed to be yes.
In reviewing the techniques required for the first test, I'm sure that of the 11, we've only regularly covered half and of the remaining half only once or twice.
I understand that testing isn't everything, but I also don't want to be in class 6 months or even a year from now and come to the realization that I don't know much more at that point than I know now. My assumption has always been that if a specific testing curriculum is developed, than it represents what the style considers to be an important foundation.
If I thought that we might focus on a technique enough to the point where I would be proficient enough to recognize the technique's name and then perform it, I wouldn't be too concerned. So far though, we rarely focus on a technique for more than 10 minutes or so a class.
Are my experiences so far similar to other's experiences? Am I being impatient or should I be concerned about the apparent lack of focus so far?
As far as I can understand from your story nothing funny is going on. It sounds like normal training to me.
If you want to take some test you should realize that there is a huge responsibility placed on you. You have to train and review the techniques regularly, and not only within the given classes. It is not your teacher that has to make you ready for the test, that is something you have to do yourself! Find a partner to do/practise the exam with. Learn from each other, find out were your problems are and go, preferably to the sempai, and ask question and instruction about your problems. And practise a lot, in the dojo, at work, in school, in the park, at the beach.
What you are experiencing now is pretty normal, I would think. That sort of thing is the way it's done where I practice, too.
The key is to keep on practicing, as often and as regularly as you can. Once you keep getting exposed to the same techniques over and over again, despite variations in the attack, you will recognize it for what it is.
In my first few months of practice I was also confused as to what technique was what, but it helped when I bought a book (written by Saotome-sensei) that showed picture descriptions of a couple of techniques and their names. Unfortunately I don't recall the name of the book because I lent it to a friend, who unfortunately turns out has a knack for misplacing items.
The book "Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere" also shows illustrations of several techniques and their names.
But I'm sure you have access to the choice of books and videos available over the Web.
And don't worry too much about ranking versus what you know in so and so amount of time. The way classes go, all students (from 6th kyu to shodan) are shown the same technique, and everyone does the technique. There are no "secret techniques only shodans know." Of course, if it was really secret then I wouldn't know about it anyway. :p
But seriously, ranking is more of an indication of how well you can execute the technique or understand the technique, rather than just knowing about the technique.
As said already, your training is your own responsibility.
Also, keep in mind that there is more to testing than just performing the techniques. Nobody's expecting you to execute them all perfectly. Especially in the (lower) kyu grades, testing is mostly about how much you've advanced since your latest test, and how much potential for future growth you show.
(now that I think of it, it's probably like that for dan grades too :))
Where I train, we always get a printed curriculum with the "required" techniques well in advance of the test. But the test itself will never totally reflect that - the techniques will be asked in a different order, some that are on the paper will not be asked, and some that aren't *will* be asked. Not to annoy you and make things generally difficult, but to make sure you stay alert instead of just performing a set of predefined motions, and show what you've *really* learned so far of the foundation of the art (of which your technique is, to some extent, just the outward manifestation).
Aikido is often thought of as a "principle-based art". It isn't about techniques. It's a "feel thing".
I somewhat disagree with everyone so far.
You cannot be expected to practice on your own what you haven't even been shown once. If you do practice them it is likley that you will practice them in a manner not acceptable for your test, since you haven't been shown what that is.
Generally , you are also correct that the first test contains what is considered to be foundation techniques of Aikido and, as such, they are usually practiced frequently.
That said, eleven techniques seems like a lot. What kyu level is the first test for? In most dojo, the first test is for 6th kyu (for adults).
Here are the first test requirements for ASU dojo:
I'm not sure about Isshin-ryu, but in my experience, most Karate dojo do have tests more frequently than most Aikido dojo. If you are expecting a similar rate of ranking progress, you will be frustrated with yourself.
I can't remember the requirements for 6th kyu in our dojo anymore, but I think it was somewhere around ten techniques, too. It differs from dojo to dojo.
Yeah, I agree with everybody except the guy who was in disagreement.
First of all, you're learning more than you think you're learning, but more importantly, doing well on a test depends on initiative. If your dojo is like mine, then there are lots of really nice people who have taken this test, who know what they are doing, and who are more than willing to help you. Ask them. If there aren't helpful yudansha around and you don't feel comfortable with a technique yet, ask your sensei.
I don't think this is unfair; I think it's valuable. Figuring out for yourself what you need and going out and getting it is full of life lessons, not limited to but including:
*honestly asessing ones' own skills and deficiencies
*overcoming shyness, embarassment, etc about asking for help
*humility - admitting that one is in need
*the ability to set ones' own goals and standards - why perform only to the class standard of barely knowing a technique?
One thing that I think you should keep in mind also is that many of the techniques are connected on some level© This goes into a theory I have about connections in geneeral, but really I've noticed that no matter what techniques I'm working on, when you go back to other techniques that you may not have done in a while you can apply some of the knowledge from the other stuff© In most cases I don't notice it at all, I'll just realise I'm doing a technique much better than before, but once in while it'll hit me that what I'm doing is quite similar to something else© I think this is just another way of saying "principles based art" but really it seems like you can train many techniques or a few and your progression may be very similar© Hard to test that one, but some dojos start out with a few and some start with a broad base© I wonder if one really would be more effective or if they would be comparable, I think it wouldn't matter much© Granted this only appplies very strongly in the beginning, when much of your training involved getting to know your own body and it's limits and capabilities©
I'll shut up now :¤
how long does it take?
Well, let's see.
If you were smoking for a few years, your brain gets accustom to the endorfins being activated by the smoke, and it takes 8 to 12 months to properly get those brain functions to work without that cigarette smoke, so how long does it take to change behavior from karate to Aikido?
It takes as long as it takes.
No, really, not trying to be funny ...
The overanxiousness of coming from another martial art takes time to acquire skills of another art.
In karate, you should have been taking notes, reviewing techniques, and keeping track of what you learned in each class, if not .. then you were being spoon fed. Sometimes a teacher will do that, review for upcoming tests, and even go through a test for a student at the end of a class to smooth out the rough edges, but you either have to ask for it, or ask some of your classmates to help you ... that is part of the learning social process of Aikido.
I cannot help but smile at the progress many of the students have made in two years. From stumbling, bumbling, ineptitude, they have become proficient enough to help the teacher in most demonstations, and even help with the childrens class as assistents to the teacher. That is quite a long distance from the stumbling of the first six months when they first came to Aikido.
Don't be in too much of hurry to be a master practitioner. There are a lot of bad habits from Karate that will haunt you for many years, but when you learn to blend them into your Aikido practice, the clarity of what you have learned will astound you.
As far as learning the techniques, their names, and what they do ... print out the Aikido throws here on the Aikiweb, then add your own notes to what they are, and stick it up near your computer, and anywhere else you think it will be read to imprint the words into the mind.
I am pretty thick when it comes to words, even though transition and the "advanced techniques" come quite easier than the words that describe them. Besides, many of them are still in my head as judo, jujitsu, and part of my karate training, so I do understand part of your dilemma.
Remember, a black belt never protected anyone in a real fight situation, but knowledge always does.
Train for the knowledge, and the grade or kyu will come in its own time.
Don't be in such a rush! Three months is nothing. Since aikido is a self-defence, we are training our bodies to react instinctively to a situation. Since aikido techniques are relatively more complex than (most) karate techniques, since they require interaction with a partner, it can take much longer before you are able to use these techniques when someone actually attacks.
I've tried all sorts of ways of systemising techniques for several years now - but as far as I'm aware there is no clear way to do it (any systemisation I've come up with misses the point somewhat). This is why I think most aikido clubs still train in this way. [for example there is the story where Ueshiba did lots of ikkyo techniques in succession, and after each one he said 'and this is a different technique'.]
10 minutes on a technique does seem too little in my opinion, but try to see the connection between all the techniques in the lesson. When a lesson is taught it is often not about doing different techniques in succesion, but about applying a certain principle - once the principle is learnt the techniques seem obvious.
Get a book, train with others, but keep training. I tell my students to give it 6 months before they start to grasp what aikido is about. Also, at your grading, (hopefully) your instructors are not looking as much at the techniques you do, but your ability to do them well.
I've found that this problem only really occurs before the 6th kyu test. For this test, just try to place a name with a technique and be able to reasonably show that you know what's supposed to happen.
I had an interesting class the other night, where it was just me, 3rd kyu, a 4th kyu, and the new guy. The question of testing came up, so I administered a hour long test to the two of them. We don't have seperate classes for beginners or advanced people and I hadn't realized how long it had been since we went over the basics in that most basic of ways. The person getting ready for his 6th kyu stated that "we never go over this stuff in class". We do go over it, but his experience level is such that he doesn't yet realize how much he's learned.
Aikido is fundamentally different than Karate in that, in Karate, there is a correct way to strike, block, what have you, but in Aikido, the permutations of Ikkyou are innumerable. So people first expect, "ok, this technique goes exactly like this" so they can perform on the test but Ikkyou depends on a lot of factors to detirmine how it will be performed. So the idea behind Ikkyou is more important than memorizing Ikkyou for dummies.
The 4th kyu I practiced with and I went over the entire list of 1st kyu examination requirements. He knows how to do all the techniques on that list and more, but that doesn't make him a 1st kyu, whereas in other MA's it would. So why the difference? That's a question best answered by years of practice and not words.
A very nice post with lots of good points. I have just one comment: In other MA's knowing the techniques is not neccesarily enough to make the next grade. I used to do karate, and it was emphazised that one should not just learn the techniques, but should also 'put in the hours'. Actually my 3. kyu grading was very similar to my 7. kyu grading, but the level at which the techniques should be performed was much higher.
Just a little squeak :)
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