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Unregistered 12-04-2002 03:01 PM

Glass ceiling in the dojo pecking order?
How does it work in your dojo?

I've heard of places where people progress in rank based on ability alone. Students can "overtake" those who were senior but are progressing slower.

I've also heard of places where the pecking order is more or less fixed by both rank and time in training at the dojo. A student who is learning faster than his "seniors" can't be promoted above them at all--he/she has to wait and get promoted "with" them at the very earliest.

Anyone have experience one way or the other, comments on the "rightness" of one or the other, past frustrations? How did you resolve those?


Unregistered 12-04-2002 03:29 PM

Re: Glass ceiling in the dojo pecking order?

() wrote:
...I've heard of places where people progress in rank based on ability alone.... ... A student who is learning faster than his "seniors" can't be promoted above them at all--he/she has to wait and get promoted "with" them at the very earliest....


Sorry - at the dojo I belongED to people were promoted above their seniors not based on ability, but on whether they were friends with the people who ran the place, or were taking on assistant instructor role.

If people were promoted on ability alone at this particular place, there would not be a lot of people training, nor did they wait 'till their seniors were promoted to be tested at the same time.

Unregistered 12-04-2002 05:17 PM

i dont know what you mean by "glass ceiling" but where i train ranking is determined by both time and ability. you cant go for another rank without doing a certain amount of training time, and without having a certain amount of ability. so if you put in the hard work, it is possible to pass who were previously your sempai, as i have myself done.

oh and just for interests sake, we dont have a formal grading day, instead when you feel you are ready for a grading you tell the sensei and the grading takes place in small increments at the end of class for however long it takes. if a section of the grading is not satisfactory the grading will be stopped for that day and continued later..... i dont believe there are any failed gradings, just gradings that take a lot longer.... so far i think the longest has been over 2 weeks. oh and there is a student who started his grading and has now dissapeared from the dojo halfway through without finishing it. we haven't seen him in months.

Unregistered 12-04-2002 07:00 PM

I've been training a long time, and have been passed by too many people to count. It is because I am not extremely adept at picking things up, and because, although I train regularly, train only 3-4 times a week. It used to bother me, but not so much anymore. I figure I've got seasoning behind me, that some higher ranked folks don't have, even if they might be better technicians. It's not a competition.


Fiona D 12-05-2002 06:06 AM

I've never come across the 'glass ceiling' so far, and I'm very glad! I've not been practising Aikido long enough to grade yet -in the club where I train there is a compulsory 6-month wait, then sensei decides whether you know your stuff well enough to do the grading. From there, you'll advance if your technique is good enough to pass.

In Jiu Jitsu, which I have been training for 7 years, I have progressed rather more slowly than many people, for various reasons. I'd hate to feel that I was holding someone else back by not grading (or by going for it and failing on account of being not quite ready). Grading progressions should be done according to individual ability, otherwise the whole thing becomes meaningless.

Ta Kung 12-05-2002 07:05 AM

In the dojo I go to, we aren't allowed to grade until we have the minimum amount of time since last grading AND also the minimum amount of attended classes since last grading. Only then are you allowed to give it a try. Of course, you don't pass unless sensei thinks you have what it takes... :eek:

Usually, people pass. :)

I think this method is good. I've seen clubs where students have 3:kyu, and (imho) they do not have the skill one would expect from that rank.



Creature_of_the_id 12-05-2002 07:10 AM

our association grades on ability alone.

If you think you are good enough, you grade. If you are not... then you fail.

Right up until shodan that it, when you are invited to grade when the head of the dojo thinks you are ready for it.

I've been over taken by more people than I can count.


Ta Kung 12-05-2002 07:26 AM

This thread makes me think of my time as a Taekwon-do practitioner. In some clubs, you could have a black belt within 1-2 years... When I found out, I lost a bit of my respect for those clubs.

Greg Jennings 12-05-2002 07:30 AM

If I'm reading the original post clearly, the issue is:

- The student _has_ the ability
- The student _has_ the time in grade in terms of calendar time and number of classes attended, seminars attended, etc.


- The student is not allowed to test because he/she will be promoted over students who have been paying members of the dojo for a longer period of time.

I've heard of this happening. I.e., that a student who...

is more athletic, picks things up faster, is more dedicated (both to training and maintaining the dojo), has been lucky (or skillful) enough to avoid downtime due to injuries, etc, etc.

... is held back in the name of "maintaining dojo harmony".

I think this sucks mightily!!!


Ta Kung 12-05-2002 09:17 AM


I think this sucks mightily!!!
I agree 100%.


flip_side 12-05-2002 10:03 AM

ohhh i dont' know. i've been catching up to my seniors . circumstances are different for everyone and in my dojo this has been recognized. You see, I haven't had a baby lately ; nor been sent to Afghanistan; nor have I torn my Acl, ETC. SO I have logged time and had the opportunity to catch up.

it's been not necessarily good for me, and not so good for the dojo/harmony. It's hard to keep things in perspective , because reality is those people who've trained longer than me, in general they're better than me at this. They just haven't been able to have the continuity, and in some case the interest in the testing itself.How do you feel about ranking over someone whose abilities you sense are more polished than yours?

nothing's perfect.

My only consolatioin when I think about this, is that this is a private journey with no end (in sight) , so it shouldn't really matter

I'm sure though I'd be griping if I felt being held back artificially

MikeE 12-05-2002 11:20 AM

You are not responsible for anyone's training but your own.

Unregistered 12-05-2002 04:03 PM

You are not responsible for anyone's training but your own.

True, but as such, nobody should be held hostage to someone else's training or progress, either.

Flip_Side--I see your point I guess, but I think I'd be more worried about the situation Greg describes above--someone who has done the time, done the right number of hours, has the repertoire and the technique down, but is then required to "wait" because his senior isn't ready? That just doesn't seem right. It's not the guy's fault who's ready that someone had a baby, or got injured, or decided to take a break from training, or went to Afghanistan. There may be a lot of that last thing happening soon, will everyone in dojo worldwide have to put testing on hold until those folks get home and catch up?

IMHO, "sucks mightily" sums it up right nicely.

Chris Li 12-05-2002 04:15 PM


Greg Jennings wrote:
... is held back in the name of "maintaining dojo harmony".

I think this sucks mightily!!!

Reminds me of a story:

Mitsugi Saotome's been training for a number of years and finally grasps something about kokyu. M. Ueshiba calls him over and says "Do you understand?". Saotome answers "Yes, I understand", and M. Ueshiba says "Good, I'll make you an 8th dan.".

K. Ueshiba, however, has a number of objections - Saotome's too young, other people are ahead of him, there's the structure of the organization to consider, etc..

Anyway, he didn't get the promotion :).



pointy 12-06-2002 03:06 AM


Christopher Li (Chris Li) wrote:
Anyway, he didn't get the promotion

yeah but all those guys were/are very political about that stuff.

it doesnt mean we have to all follow the same dopey example, even if we do "steal" their aikido :) .

it would stink to put in the hours and money, and not get your recognition (if you're into that sort of thing) because of some slow person taking their time at the top.



Unregistered 12-06-2002 05:13 AM

I would like the original poster of this thread to write back and clarify if there really is a system where you cannot be promoted until the person senior to you is promoted. I know of one organization that did this (maybe still does), and it left a number of aikidoka with 30 years of training at 2nd Dan. Is it that extreme, or is it possibly that the poster is some young upstart who has his/her required minimum hours and is not being allowed to test because the minimum is just that?

While I don't agree with the system of holding folks back to wait for their seniors, I also don't agree with letting folks test immediately because they have enough hours/days. It is important to have real time into aikido to be testing for more senior ranks (2nd kyu and above in this instance), instead of just rushing for the rank. I had an instance a number of years ago when a highly competitive young aikidoka told me that she was going to reach shodan before me, and she had been training for 8 months (had already reached 3rd kyu if you can believe it), and I had been training (3 times a week, consistently) for 13 years. I was appalled by that competitive attitude, and it was fostered by a system that allowed for testing after minimum hours. I had trained elsewhere for 8 years, had lost all my rank when I started at my new dojo, and took the tact of waiting for the teacher to "ask" me to test instead of signing up when I had the hours. That certainly didn't mean we were at the same level after her 8 months of training (BTW, she quit training after 1.5 years, and 8 years later, I am still training). Anyway, it might be that kind of competitive attitude that the dojo-cho is trying to avert.

Just my $.02

Unregistered 12-06-2002 07:06 AM

"I would like the original poster of this thread to write back and clarify if there really is a system where you cannot be promoted until the person senior to you is promoted."

I don't know. I was talking to some friends and this came up. The conversation got hypothetical, "what if there was this really fast learner and he was being held back by such a system" that kind of thing. Someone said they knew of a situation like that, but I don't actually myself, so I don't know the details or if it's even real. I got to thinking about the concept, though, it seemed a little odd to me, and I wondered what others might think; hence the post.

I agree completely with you in the situation you cite below, and I agree that minimum hours or minimum time don't and shouldn't, all by themselves, make someone eligible for promotion. I agree the kind of attitude and competition you experienced would be counterproductive at the least, but that wasn't part of what started the thread. The discussion/situation that provoked the post was more along the lines that some folks have mentioned above and which you allude to when you said "While I don't agree with the system of holding folks back to wait for their seniors,".

Unregistered 12-06-2002 07:31 AM

Thank you for your response. It was a good post and raised interesting questions and responses.

I like the method personally, of waiting to be asked by the teacher to test, and having that the mandatory system within the dojo. Unless the teacher plays favorites, it works very well.


Bruce Baker 12-06-2002 08:21 AM

bucket of rocks
What in the world are you training for if you are training for rank?

That should be the last thing on your mind. Rank is merely the acknowledgement of having gained proficientcy. As far as the pecking order is important, it is merely a way to maintain order. If your skills are progressing, who cares what others think?

Get a grip! It is both the way of society and the way of humanity to create some kind of order to prevent chaos ... although I do believe a shot of choas now and then does bring many a swelled head down to earth again.

Ain't no colored belt, or telling people you trained in this or that gonna save you when the line is drawn in the sand, at that point ... what you do will speak for itself. That, and that alone, is why you train ... to be ready, and able to deal with the situation at hand.

I shouldn't talk, it has taken me ten years to learn how to use technique over bodily strength, and that was only due to an illness that nearly left me beddridden. The physical authority of mastering martial arts, Aikido or any other art, is the easy path to bypassing the more important issue of polishing the stone of ones internal well being, as well as using the distraction of physical practice to force one to connect to the body and mind.

I would be happy to give you a bucket of rocks if you feel you must throw stones at the glass ceiling, but make sure it is not your own house, or the illusion of grandure that brings these thoughts and visions to your mind?

Yes, we are imperfect beings, and yes, there will be those dojos that have implimented the very system you are alluding to, but who cares?

It is your determination that lets you persevere to learn all you can from who ever you train with, and your awareness that allows you to move on when that training is done, or is going nowhere fast.

You want a black belt? I can name at least four martial arts within twenty miles of my home that will accomandate your wishes, but does that make you a practitioner of martial arts, or a short term street punk who can punch and kick a few rounds of practice sparring?

Don't be too upset, the thinking of the glass ceiling is quite normal in younger years before you approach the half century mark in age, just don't let it rule your life, or you truly will create the environment that you are alluding to.

Unregistered 12-06-2002 09:43 AM

"Thank you for your response"

You're welcome, thank you for the question.

Your post made me think about "competition" and what a dojo-cho who imposed a "glass ceiling" sort of policy might achieve. I'm thinking out loud here so bear with me. These are just some thoughts that I don't have a lot invested in one way or the other.

Seems to me it could cut both ways. On the one hand, it might do good by teaching students that their training and progression are their own, so they should not compete with others even in their own heads. On the other hand, this (I'm in the US in case that isn't obvious) isn't Japan (I've never been), and competition is part of our culture, like it or not.

There's a one-liner I heard long ago that goes somthing like "That some should be rich shows that others may become rich," which might apply in the dojo as well. In other words, if a dojo had a really gifted student who was learning very quickly AND/OR devoting a lot of time and sincerity to his training, if his behavior was impeccable, and he/she was a great example to other students, it might serve as a real motivator to the other students to see this one progress according to his talent.

If, instead, it became clear to all the students that someone was being held back, this could be a powerful de-motivator for everyone, and might ultimately sew a great deal of discord as everyone tries to figure out how or if such a policy might affect them as well.

Last--someone above mentioned they'd hate to be the one holding anyone else back because of seniority. I'd bet that's true of just about everyone, including me and I'll bet you, too. In fact, if we could find a person who thinks their seniority ought to be protected somehow in spite of superior ability, sincerity, skill, etc. demonstrated by another student, what would that say about that person? Isn't that also a pretty darned nasty form of "competition" that ought to be avoided? Is this an "aiki" attitude, or plain selfishness and conceit that's harmful to everyone, yet is encouraged if it's rewarded?

Again, those are off-the-top-of-the-head thoughts. I'll appreciate your thoughtful comments!

Young-In Park 12-06-2002 09:46 AM


Bruce Baker wrote:
What in the world are you training for if you are training for rank?

You mean to tell me some people only train for rank? In martial arts? I've never heard of such a thing... (sic)

YoungIn Park

Edward 12-06-2002 10:48 AM

It seems to me that senior students training 2-3 times a week in average do not very much appreciate someone who just started aikido, is dedicated to a 6 times a week practice, doesn't seem to have any problems learning the techniques fast and efficiently, and on the top of that, rightfully climbs the kyu ladder and is quickly catching up with them. It happened to me, and I almost lost my membership at the dojo, had to skip one exam, fail the other (to the surprise of all), so that I could regain some of my seniors' approval, and even now, almost none of my seniors take me as a partner during training unless there are no other options left. Honestly I believe that I really broke the dojo's harmony, and I very much regret that. The Japanese believe that the unity of the group is more important than the individuals forming it. We Westerners find difficulties accepting and understanding this concept, and we readily shout: Injustice. Eventhough I am still bitter about this matter, and lost some of my interest and illusions, I am still practicing 6 times a week, not for the belt, but for my own benefit, and for the fun of it. There is still one problem however: several new members followed my (good or bad)example and started coming to practice diligently every day, and are advancing in rank quickly, hopefully not too quickly...

Edward 12-06-2002 11:06 AM


Rank is just an artificial thing, but people's real value and abilities are fortunately so easily noticed in aikido. It is only natural and human that seniors dislike ambitious juniors. In my opinion, better not to disrupt your group's cohesion and become the black sheep. As I said, every one knows your aikido's worth, so there is absolutely no need to prove it by rank. This is another valuable lesson that you can learn from aikido ;)

paw 12-06-2002 11:59 AM


Rank is just an artificial thing, but people's real value and abilities are fortunately so easily noticed in aikido.
If rank is artificial why have it? What purpose does it serve?

If rank indicates a level of technical skill, why not award it when it is deserved? Why have time in rank requirements? Further, why do some (most?) organizations stop testing for rank and assign advanced rank for reasons other than technical skill?

If rank indicates the quality of the instructor or a body of technical knowledge, why do examinations not indicate this or attempt to measure it?

Why can only certain people assign rank, if it is artificial?

Who tends to get more recognition, someone of high rank, or someone who is technically competant (haven't we all seen a beginner from martial art X --- but unranked in aikido --- perform at a higher level than someone who is of higher aikido rank?)

Judd 12-06-2002 01:01 PM


The Japanese believe that the unity of the group is more important than the individuals forming it
True. However, if the group cannot be happy for your success and support your dedication, perhaps it's their own insecurities they should worry about, and not the rank of others. If the goal is to become one with the Universal, then we all will have a hard enough time with our own faults; there is no need to worry about the faults of others. Afterall, the only true victory is self-victory, right? ;)

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