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Paula Lydon 02-01-2003 08:05 AM

why?
 
~~Why have a ranking system in Aikido? Most other MA hold certain info. at certain ranks and you can't practice that material unless you achieve that rank. But in Aikido we all practice the same things, over and over, nothing is withheld (as far as I can tell) and you're free to ask any question at anytime and get material. Everyone just pracices from exactly where they are--which is all you can do anyway. So...what's the point?:freaky:

Bogeyman 02-01-2003 08:28 AM

In my dojo we have a separate advanced class for just the upper ranks so some technique is held back until we feel that the student is ready for it. There are a couple of reasons I can see for having ranks. One is that a lot of people need some form of structure, to know where they stand compared to others. Right or wrong that is just how some people are. Second, some need to have something to give a sense of accomplishment or improvement. Improvements in aikido can be so minor that they person may not notice but can when compared from one test to the next. I always try to refer to improvements from prior tests in test evaluations. Another reason (and I am not saying that this is a good reason) is that many dojo use kyu testing as a way to bring in money as they charge testing fees. We are lucky at our dojo not to have to pay testing fees until the dan ranks. That being said I am not convinced that I like the testing process myself but it does give some sense of order.

E

jimvance 02-01-2003 01:37 PM

Re: why?
 
Quote:

Paula wrote:
Why have a ranking system in Aikido? Most other MA hold certain info. at certain ranks and you can't practice that material unless you achieve that rank. But in Aikido we all practice the same things, over and over, nothing is withheld (as far as I can tell) and you're free to ask any question at anytime and get material. Everyone just pracices from exactly where they are--which is all you can do anyway. So...what's the point?:freaky:

Martial arts at a certain point in Japanese history were not for everyone: most didn't have the time, the money, or wanted the obligation that went with the practice. The ranking guidelines followed very closely to the artisan-apprentice model that had formed the cultural bedrock of "Old Edo" society. That is, the apprentice spent many years with the "craftsman" learning through a slow process of osmosis every little detail of the craft. It took a long time, but imbued the student with a very exquisite and competent ability that most people in Western society aren't aware of.

After the removal of the class system propagated by the Tokugawa shogunate, people had more options. Technology changed, assumed a more Western bent. Education did too. Jigoro Kano introduced the kyu-dan ranking system in his new form of jujutsu as a way for the "new society" to assimilate the budo using Western educational methods, having an objective syllabus and an honest criteria devoid of class interest. Other "new" martial arts (gendai budo) followed suit, including Aikido.

Aikido did not always use the kyu-dan system. Before WWII, most students received densho like other koryu; after the war, they received kyu-dan ranks. Aikido had a different training philosophy, relying less on objective criteria and a Western approach, and leaning to a more mystical and "Founder-driven" approach. This "Founder-centric" model persisted in spirit, if not in actual reality with Ueshiba's students who have now become teachers. The then-students-who-were-in-charge made up the criteria for the younger ranked members, making sure rank was being passed along as it should, but this criteria was never formally defined by Ueshiba. It all revolved around and depended on him, so that as his aikido changed, so did the methods his students used to teach it and the criteria they used to judge competency. As people like Gozo Shioda were approached by the Tokyo Metro Police for instruction, the method changed to fit the audience. The same applied to Tomiki at Waseda University, and so on.

As far as I know, the idea of showing/instructing all techniques regardless of ability or rank is unique to Aikido in the Budo world, and is a direct translation of the Founder's educational method. Whether or not it is effective is up to debate, and is a touchy subject to some. What's the point? Make up your own, I guess. It is kind of interesting though.

My own take on Ueshiba's motivation is not that he simply wanted to be the head of a cult of personality (though there is a lot of evidence to the contrary that supports his egocentric nature), but that he was trying to change Japanese society and make it more "free" much the same way Jigoro Kano was, but utilizing the religious and martial insights he had gained from his teachers. Perhaps he was looking for a revolution from within the culture rather than an assimilation from the outside world.

I know I probably didn't answer your question, but then again, who really could? We all take what we want from this practice based on our own motivations.

Jim Vance

Kung Fu Liane 02-18-2003 05:23 AM

maybe because competitive spirit is encouraged by society - people like to know where they stand compared with others. grading wasn't originally included in the traditional styles, but when they were brought over to the west there became a need for grades. parents like grades, it encourages their children (a form of reward that chilrden can hold onto) - also a few martial arts parents i know like to be able to tell their friends that their child has received X grade.

personally i don't believe grades are necessary once you have realised that the best reward is what you get out of training, rather than the physical 'belt'

like bruce lee said - belts are for holding up your trousers :)

erikmenzel 02-18-2003 06:21 AM

If one is to quote Bruce Lee, the oracle of all oracles then one should at least do this rightly.

Quote:

Liane Guillou (Kung Fu Liane) wrote:
"Knowledge is not enough, we must apply.

Willing is not enough, we must do."

-Bruce Lee

Probably Bruce Lee said a lot, but I am very very certain the following quote is from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832): Es ist nicht genug zu wissen,man muß auch anwenden;es ist nicht genug zu wollen,man muß auch tun.

Kung Fu Liane 02-18-2003 07:15 AM

Fine, just thats what he wrote in one of his books. obviously it had not been made clear that we was quoting someone else.

as to whether he is the 'oracle of all oracles', i do not believe, nor meant to infer that he was.

Kelly Allen 02-20-2003 01:05 AM

So long as I can leave a few inches of my waist at he dojo evey year, and walk off the mat huffing, puffing, and sweating I'm happy.

paw 02-20-2003 05:21 AM

Quote:

Why have a ranking system in Aikido? So...what's the point?
Positional power (authority) comes to mind. So does money.

Off the top of my head: Sambo/Sombo, San Da/San Shou, boxing, kickboxing, muay thai, wrestling (freestyle, folkstyle, greco, catch-as-catch-can) don't have rank at all. For the most part: bjj, aikido (as you noted), jkd and judo don't have rank specific technique.

Regards,

Paul

ian 02-20-2003 05:37 AM

When you've been doing aikido for a while you can see who is good and who is not, and what they are good at. However beginners are not aware of this - ranking (and the restriction of hakama use) I think is useful to say, I think what this person has to say about aikido has some validity.

Also, like it or not, grading helps to encourage people to progress; it enables students to focus on certain aspects. In addition, although we all do the same techniques, there are some techniques I consider absolutely fundamental to aikido (e.g. ikkyo, irimi-nage), whilst others are useful but less flexible in their application (e.g. aiki-otoshi).

I think we need to formulate aikido initially, and once the individual techniques are there we can break them down and become more fluid. Starting by saying, 'there are no techniques, just blend' would result in slow progression and many injuries.

Ian

ian 02-20-2003 05:40 AM

P.S. with this in mind, early grades in our affiliation are technique orientated (i.e. learn a FEW basic techniques) whereas later grades are increasingly about jiyu-waza (freestyle) and the blending, adaptation, timing and fluidity is far more important than a long list of techniques.

(in fact I find that certain ukes tend to be more susceptible to certain techniques because of the way they hold their body so it is pointless doing lots of different techniques on the same uke; unless they try to change!).

Peter Goldsbury 02-20-2003 06:10 AM

Re: why?
 
Quote:

Paula Lydon wrote:
~~Why have a ranking system in Aikido? Most other MA hold certain info. at certain ranks and you can't practice that material unless you achieve that rank. But in Aikido we all practice the same things, over and over, nothing is withheld (as far as I can tell) and you're free to ask any question at anytime and get material. Everyone just pracices from exactly where they are--which is all you can do anyway. So...what's the point?:freaky:

Paula,

Can I ask you a question? Why are you a member of the Boulder Aikikai? Because Hiroshi Ikeda embodies all the martial virtues as you see them, or because you happen to live in Boulder and it is the 'best' place to train, or because you have never really thought about it and it is the most convenient location, all things considered.

You might well live out your entire aikido career in Boulder and never need to take a grading. And this would be fine: you know yourself, your Sensei knows you, you learn the 'secrets' as they come, so there is no need to worry. Probably aikido 'globalization' is the problem.

To my mind there are no secrets in aikido, but there are degrees of understanding which come with the pace of training. You can artificially mark these degrees of understanding with some public affirmation, or clothe students in white belts, coloured hakama, or whatever, or simply ignore rank altogether and make no differentiation at all as to experience or technical expertise.

But I have seen students work very hard to earn a rank, and also students who mature into the rank they have been given. You give a promising student a shodan with the admonition, "Now live up to your rank", and they do so.

Best regards,

Paula Lydon 02-20-2003 09:12 AM

~~Thank you all for your feedback; I am always appreciative and intrigued by the range of thought projected.

~~Peter G., was that a rhetorical question? If not, I'd be happy to answer but didn't want to waste your time if it was but a segue into your response :)

happysod 02-20-2003 10:33 AM

Debated on whether to reply to this one as it's a bit of a sore point for me at the mo, but then decided you're all such nice people...

The main reason I can see for the ranking system is twofold:

a) quick way to establish some sort of pecking order in the dojo

b) some benefit from the structure of ranking to not only measure their own progress in the art but also to better understand what they're aiming at.

Now I'm not saying it's all bad, as knowing who's advice to ask (and follow) is a good thing. Also, (as the Chinese army found) no rank markers in a structured hierachy such as a dojo is almost impossible unless you have only one teacher and the rest are oiks.

I found Mr Watts comment interesting as certainly most of the arts he mentioned that had no ranking system do have a strenuous competition format, which by definition will provide the necessary information to determine "rank", perhaps aikido is compensating for its lack of competition (I know, doesn't fully explain tomeiki..)

Oh yes, why is this a touchy subject? After many successful years of avoiding all gradings, I've been put in position that I couldn't find a polite way to refuse to grade (without probably leaving my current association). I also found the more junior grades were uneasy with my lack of rank vs time in the dojo.

paw 02-20-2003 11:51 AM

Ian,
Quote:

I found Mr Watts comment interesting as certainly most of the arts he mentioned that had no ranking system do have a strenuous competition format, which by definition will provide the necessary information to determine "rank", perhaps aikido is compensating for its lack of competition (I know, doesn't fully explain tomeiki..)
Please....Paul is fine. People say "Mr. Watt" and I start looking for my father.

Yes, for the most part the arts I mentioned have a competition format which does provide a system of "rank" of sorts. I think it's also fair to say within those arts rank is heavily performance based, not knowledge based. (By this I mean that no one cares if the the HWY boxing champ is a good boxing coach, or knows the history of boxing .... They only care about the individual's performance in the ring).

It's fair to say that this type of environment has different issues but I suppose that's a topic for another thread.

Regards,

Paul

George S. Ledyard 03-03-2003 10:53 AM

Practical
 
Hi Paula,

I think the answer is simply practical. Since we have no competition in most styles of Aikido, there is seldom the opportunity to get out there, under pressure, in front of your peers, and have to walk your talk. Most keiko is done in a "learning" mindset but testing is a time for "doing".

Most people like to have feedback about what they are doing. The person described by Goldsbury Sensei who can simply train for years with a Sensei without worrying about tryingto mark or evluate their progress is rare. For some people their stated belief "I am not INTO testing" is really an avoidance reaction against something which they were scared of doing. Simply training is a lot easier than periodically having to put it all on the line.

I think that the hierarchical nature of ranking makes it easier to run a dojo smoothly. Even in a dojo which does not make a big deal about rank, the emebers are generally aware of who is senior and who is junior. This gives the interaction between the memebrs a bit of structure that can serve to ease some of the tension that can come with people of different preferences and abilities train together.

On a very small but important note, I think that testing for various ranks forces the typical student to accept responsibility for knowing the technical details of what he or she is studying. Many, if not most, students do not really get the names of the techniques in to their long term memory until they are forced by an immenent test to do so. The same is true for weapons forms, the differences between omote and ura variations on techniques, etc.

Finally, we are a very mobile culture. Many of my students have moved away and now train in other dojos around the country. I have students who have moved to the Seattle area and now train at my dojo. It is hard enough to come into a new school with its own set of seniors and juniors etc. without doing so without any reference point, any acknowledgement of what work one has done before.

I recognize the rank of any student who comes to our dojo from elsewhere. The understanding is that when they next test they have to know everything that someone from our own organiztion would be expected to know. Then at least the new student gets recognition for the work that was done before they arrived at our school. After that they have to be able to hold their own in practice.

The classical systems didn't use Dan ranks, they simply had various levels of teaching certificates. But they did have systems of kata which provided people with a sense of where they stood in their training. You didn't get do, in some cases even see, the next set of forms until you had acheved some competence in the previous set. So everyone training had a pretty good idea of where everyone else stood technically. I think kyu ranks and Dan ranks fill the same function.


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