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-   -   Does Rank Really Matter? (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=4636)

Nafis Zahir 11-12-2003 11:18 PM

Does Rank Really Matter?
 
I was speaking with a friend of mine who I have trained with for 8 years. We were discussing how some people get pushed thru the ranks quickly, even though their technique is not up to par. This causes alot of jealousy and anomosity in dojos all around the country. I tell people not to worry about it and to just train. Your technique is what really matters. I am a Shodan and have trained with San Dans who could not give me a Nikyo! Does rank really matter? My Instructor wears a white belt! He says that he always wants to maintain a beginners mind. I respect that. He's a 6th Dan by the way. He may wear a white belt, but his technique speaks for itself. I hate the ranking system myself and all the politics behind it. I may put a white belt on! Does it really matter? I'm not talking about testing either, just the level of ones ability. Anyone?

aubrey bannah 11-12-2003 11:34 PM

Really it's only between you and your teacher.

It can make a difference if your teacher introduce's different aspects of Aikido knowledge at different rank levels & you are expected to abtain a certain rank before you are given or lead into so called higher aspects of Aikido

Aubrey

sanosuke 11-13-2003 12:00 AM

Quote:

how some people get pushed thru the ranks quickly, even though their technique is not up to par. This causes alot of jealousy and anomosity in dojos all around the country.
politics...politics.....:grr:
Quote:

I tell people not to worry about it and to just train.
i did the same, because i feel the higher the rank the more burden you have to carry. For example, being a yudansha you have to be able to take ukemi from shihans, because from there those shihans sees the quality of our techniques. Being or looked bad in front of the shihans may bring bad image not only to yourself, but to your dojo and your sensei as well.
Quote:

Does it really matter? I'm not talking about testing either, just the level of ones ability. Anyone?
not to me, but for some people it really meant a lot. i even knew someone who tried to lobby a sensei from different dojo to take him as a student after the person being rejected to take shodan test. I feel pity for this person, as i already felt that there's more and more in aikido to explore/pursue besides a black belt and a hakama. Currently i'm a sankyu, and don't know when i get my shodan, but i felt that when the time comes, i'll take it somehow.

Kelly Allen 11-13-2003 12:06 AM

I'm in it mostly for the exercise and the fun anyway. I'd like to, for sure, rank to be able to wear the Hakama. Sensei tells me that the weight of the hakama sure helps to feel your center as you perform techniques. With me every little bit helps. Not to mention they look cool. He he!

Clayton Drescher 11-13-2003 01:28 AM

*Does it really matter? I'm not talking about testing either, just the level of ones ability*--Nafis Zahir

Of course I think that level of ability matters when training in general so that you know how "hard" to do a techinque to do with an uke...if that's what you meant Mr. Zahir. Personally I have never met a yudansha that has been incabable of solid aikido, nor anyone ranked above me in general that has not been "better" at aikido than me. But I hear this kind of problem alot in these forums, it makes me curious about the state of some dojos and/or senseis.

I have just been asked to test for a kyu rank a couple above what I thought I was due for if one were to strictly follow the "rules." I don't doubt my ability to actually do any of the techinques, I just don't know if I would have time to learn some of the new ones adequately before the test date, especially since this would be my first aikido testing. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I won't be able to make this round of tests anyway, and will hopefully test later next year.

So maybe this is part of what you're thinking about Mr. Zahir? In addition, I have to think about the feelings of my fellow kyu-rank dojo-mates who I would surpass after just one test, but with equivalent time training in straight aikido, though I've done other martial arts before.

Not a real fun position to be in, kinda thankful I've got a few extra months to practice.

Best,

Clayton

Nafis Zahir 11-13-2003 02:09 AM

That's part of what I mean. You may do well on your test, but some of your fellow students may be resentful especially if you don't perform up to their level. But if you don't, does it matter that you out rank them? What difference should it make if your not up to their level. Rank now adays is all about money, politics, and favoritism. Just ask Chiba Sensei.

Michael Karmon 11-13-2003 05:28 AM

The good old ranking problem
 
There are two miss-ranking options. The one is over-ranking. A person is given a rank that is higher then what he deserves. This issue usually solves itself, the person will hit the glass ceiling and will stay in his current rank until he gets to the required level (or leave in frustration). This of course is bad for moral and order in the dojo.

The other issue is under-ranking. I have in my Dojo two outstanding Aikidoka with ten years of experience at Q level, who had to be literally forced into Shodan tests. This is just a big a problem as over-ranking. Ranks were designed to represent your level of Aikido. When a 3rd Q performs just as well as a Nidan it has a bad effect not only on the Yodansha but also on his peers at Q levels because they think "is this the level I am expected at Q3?" it causes a lack of confidence in ones abilities and expectation.

I find over-rankers to be ambitious and somewhat aggressive types whereas under-rankers to be slightly on the arrogant side.

happysod 11-13-2003 07:11 AM

Michael, speaking as a "forced" shodan, I feel it behooves me to arrogantly disagree with you on a couple of points:

1. "Ranks were designed to represent your level of Aikido" - I think you may want to read some of the various views on ranking in aikido, beyond teacher/student they're really just an artificial way of dealing with particular organisational problems.

2. "bad effect.. peers at Q levels ", sorry but if you're the type of person to do these types of comparison, you're always going to find something to be upset about. Not all in a single rank (whatever it is) are equal in ability, then there's the wonderful "my dan grades vs your dan grades" across associations...

I have to agree with other posters who intimated rank is only important as you let it be, with one caveat. If your association has any ceilings on the types of training you do dependant on rank, you must be allowed to go for these grades.

philipsmith 11-13-2003 07:18 AM

Its important to realise that rank and ability are not always directly related.

Sometimes a person may be awarded a higher rank for reasons other than their technical proficiency; for example if they have significantly contributed to the development of an association or are an outstanding teacher.

On the other side some people are "held back" for reasons of attitude or even as a test of charachter.

Michael Karmon 11-13-2003 08:15 AM

Quote:

Ian Hurst (happysod) wrote:
, beyond teacher/student they're really just an artificial way of dealing with particular organisational problems.

Well, I believe that if you are the kind of guy that trains only of the sake of rank then you will be weaded out very quickly from any type of respectable martial art. However, IMHO ranks are an important factor within the dojo. I expect that within the dojo the avarege Q1 will be a better performing, better mannered, assuming more responsabiliteis Aikidoka then the avarege Q2-3. (keyword being "avarege")

You are absoluly right that that Q levels can not be compaiered across Dojos
Quote:

Ian Hurst (happysod) wrote:
2. "bad effect.. peers at Q levels ", sorry but if you're the type of person to do these types of comparison, you're always going to find something to be upset about.

I feel that I did not explain myself very well. We all want ot improve ourselves, a legitimate way is by looking around and saying 'Gee what a nifty throw ,and, I would like to be able to highfall like that" and then we go and imitate until we learn. I, in my level, can not imitate (although I would love to) the technique of the SanDans in my dojo. but I can relate to the guys on my level or one or two Q's ahead of me because they are just one year (performance wise) of hard training ahead of me. If I had to give ukemi as a some of the Yodansha give-I would probalby run for dear life but some day I want to be there, Ukemi wise.
Quote:

Ian Hurst (happysod) wrote:
I have to agree with other posters who intimated rank is only important as you let it be, with one caveat. If your association has any ceilings on the types of training you do dependant on rank, you must be allowed to go for these grades.

Ranks are checkpoints in order to ensuer that you got all your i's dotted and your t's crossed. It is an oppertunity for teacher and student to figure out weak spots and places to improve. My Q rank is exactly what it means MY rank but I also belive that the ladder should not vary too much.

As for people who completel reject the rank system I can only say that you may be right but as long as it there - lets do it the right way.

Greg Jennings 11-13-2003 08:41 AM

It's up to the teacher to give rank as he sees fit.

Let me pose a case study.

Let's say we have two people in some dojo.

The first is an excellent technician and has ukemi to die for. OTOH, this person is a total jerk. He/she over-cranks his/her partners, refuses to train with beginners, as uke tries like everything to block everyone's technique, and won't support the dojo with upkeep or maintenance.

The second is a OK technician, but their ukemi isn't up to par. They've got good ikkyo-yonkyo, but shihonage totally escapes them. OTOH, they are respectful to their partners, they are terrific with beginners and go above and beyond to support the dojo. They are the first person in the dojo and the last to leave.

Now, which one do you want to give a shodan to?

Best regards,

Eric Joyce 11-13-2003 08:59 AM

Good topic
 
IMHO, I don't really think rank matters. I remember a similar conversation on e-budo regarding this. Some believed there is a "watering down" effect going on and people are getting promoted rather quickly without fully understanding the basic principles and so forth. Some have argued to get rid of the ranking/dan system and perhaps adopt a menkyo or some sort of licensing system, but the problem could still exist in that type of licensing system. I think the true test is time and how one is measured should be between the student and teacher. It's a tuff call to make and there really is no full proof way to to ensure some sort of quality control to this. But back to the question at hand, no...I don't think that rank matters. Good topic of discussion.

happysod 11-13-2003 09:08 AM

Greg, I'd make the little beggers just practice with each other (and only each other) for a few months, see if we can't get some osmosis going :D (sorry, hate case studies with such an either-or polarity, they just don't exist in real life)

Michael, "Ranks are checkpoints in order ...", nicely reasoned and I can happily accept this one. However, I've had more experience of the emphasis being placed on the rank itself, rather than it's intended function.

akiy 11-13-2003 09:55 AM

Here's an article entitled, "Rank, Stinkin' Rank" by Peter Boylan:

http://ejmas.com/tin/tinart_boylan_0901.htm

Also, here's an AikiWeb poll, "Do you think we should get rid of ranks (kyu, dan) in aikido?" taken three years ago:

http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=23

-- Jun

Nafis Zahir 11-13-2003 10:30 AM

Greg Jennings, you are right, but that situation is the exception to the rule. Just like there are some people who are real jerks to everyone on the mat, but they kiss up to Sensei and still get promoted with bad technique and attitude to match. I say get rid of the ranking system as we know it. I vote for white belt, black belt, and after that, based on knowledge, skill, and dedication to the art, A Shidion/Shihan title and that's it!

Nafis Zahir 11-13-2003 10:38 AM

Quote:

Jun Akiyama (akiy) wrote:
Here's an article entitled, "Rank, Stinkin' Rank" by Peter Boylan:

http://ejmas.com/tin/tinart_boylan_0901.htm

Also, here's an AikiWeb poll, "Do you think we should get rid of ranks (kyu, dan) in aikido?" taken three years ago:

http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=23

-- Jun

Hey Jun,

That was a great article, and he is absolutely right 100%! Everyone on this post should read it!

rachmass 11-13-2003 10:45 AM

I think ranking is important in many respects, and totally agree with Greg Jennings assessment of a situation that does happen often enough. Actually, any comparision in my mind, is to the individual themself. How far have they come in their practice? What do they contribute on the mat and off? No two people are alike, and no two people will be in exactly the same place for their ranks. There is always someone who has outstanding ukemi, and always someone who suffers from perputally being a bit behind the 8-ball on their ukemi. Also, there will always be someone who is incredibly flashy on the mat (with no real substance), who everyone says "wow, look and JoeBob, isn't his aikido terrific" when at the same time you want to vomit. There will always be the very understated aikidoka whose technique is right on, but have no flash, and no one notices. Who is to say what is what, other than the teachers who are grading these folks.

As to teaching certificates and titles; it can the same effect as the rank issue.

holmesking 11-13-2003 10:59 AM

It seems to me that pride and competition can stem from any number of sources.

Who has the quietest ukemi?

Who has the best shihonage?

Who spends the most time training?

Who gets the most of sensei's attention?

Without rank there would still be countless ways for us to feel superior or inferior to our dojomates. Countless ways for us to feel either slighted, or proud. Rank does not create this situation. It is the insecurity of individuals that creates this situation.

My limited experience tells me that rank is a measuring tool...not for how I have progressed compared to other aikidoka, but how I have progressed as an individual-and what I need to work on moving forward, so that my training is balanced and sincere.

My sempai have much to teach me. I respect and appreciate all of their input and advice. My kohai also have much to teach me. Believing myself to be "further along" may rob me of an opportunity to learn from them.

What ever rank sensei feels I am deserving of I will accept with humility, and gratefulness for the opportunity to examine myself, my progress, and my shortcomings.

I think that opportunity is helpful.

Enough rambling.

Back to training.

-Holmes

rachmass 11-13-2003 11:23 AM

Holmes, you said it better than I did! Thanks for writing rather what I was thinking...

...back to work, then training.

Ted Marr 11-13-2003 11:57 AM

In reply to Greg Jennings' post about which of the two Aikidoka I would prefer gets rank, the nice guy with technical problems, or the *insert nasty expletive here* person with good technique, I can only hope that NEITHER would get to shodan rank before correcting thier problems. After all, these are people who might theoretically go teach somewhere... and you don't really want horribly flawed teachers wandering around out there... it's just no good for the art.

Amassus 11-13-2003 12:44 PM

Amen to that Ted.

Pity that it still happens!

Oh, what I would give for an ideal world ;)

paw 11-13-2003 12:53 PM

Quote:

Here's an article entitled, "Rank, Stinkin' Rank" by Peter Boylan:
I might be mistaken, but I was under the impression that in the US ....

USJI - US Judo, Inc is the National Governing Body to the IJF.

The USJI has two charter members for amateur events, USJA (US Judo Association) and USJF (US Judo Federation).

Participation in individual shiai may require specific USJI, USJA or USJF membership, but rank is, to the best of my understanding, universal, as it is set by the standards of the NGB, in this case USJI. (Which in turn has it's standards monitored ---- ultimately by the IJF)

The "oddball" is the smallest national judo organization in the US, AAU Judo, which awards no rank.

Regards,

Paul

BKimpel 11-13-2003 01:04 PM

Rank is rank (smelley) as Mr.Boylan said in his article (good read Jun).

As much as I agree with a sensei charging for instruction (unless he's a millionaire he needs to work, and if he has to perform a job outside of Aikido as well…he will be available less for me to train), rank has very little value to me the serious practitioner but high value for a club that wants more dues.

The very fact that Aikido rank testing is based on a set period of time (considering every individual on the planet learns at different rates), for example 30 hours for a kyu rank, and that set period of time must be concurrent (i.e. you can't take a year off and then continue where you left off) - what other purpose is there than to garnish regular dojo fees?

Furthermore, most Aikido dojos don't even "credit" (take note of this word) you for the individual hours you train. It is usually 1-hour credit per class attended regardless of whether that class was 1 hour or 3 hours. Reminds me of how mechanics make their money by charging you the full hour even if they only spend 20 minutes fixing your car.

That's just the money stink.

While goal setting is certainly helpful, rank craving and status abusing becomes the norm when someone is ranked (think of the caste system) due to greed, envy and all of the other cool factors usually associated with rank attaining (usually, not always).

The best sensei I ever had was a shodan, and his Aikido was more fluid than most sandan (almost all I have encountered to be truthful, but I am trying not to seem impertinent), his instruction was better than most godan I have trained with, and the principles I learned from him have stayed with me for over 10 years.

Also why is that someone cannot determine your rank without asking you? Is it that rank doesn't really identify anything in particular and just serves as a milestone? I personally have difficulty determining rank when watching Aikidoka if they all wear white belts. That tells me that ranks are simply an arbitrary point in the "I know all the Aikido techniques catalogue".

I haven't seen rank benefit me, just the clubs I am in. They get more money and they can identify my level within their organization (making their job easier?).

rachmass 11-13-2003 01:26 PM

Not to be such a skeptic, but, my guess is that many folks that grumble about rank, haven't got much....

so, question is; what is your rank and how long have you been training, and how many times a week do you train? My guess is that there is a direct correlation with how long and much someone has been practicing with what their rank is.

Just a thought

holmesking 11-13-2003 01:43 PM

Rachel,

I have been training for 8 months, and rumor has it I am testing for 4th kyu sometime soon.
We have class 2 nights a week and Saturday mornings. My wife and I usually train by ourselves a third night.

Regarding Bruce's post-

Our dojo has no dues, and does not seem to be overly concerned with advancement after x number of hours. We are also a rather small dojo (8 or 10 people that are "always there", and then a few who come and go) so there is not a lot of politics that get into the mix. We also do not line up according to rank.

Maybe these circumstances have colored my view in a different way than yours have.

It would be interesting to know if there is a relationship between people's preference as to ranking, and the amount of emphasis their respective dojos place on rank. (ie colored belts vs just white and black, lining up according to rank, etc.)

Just a point of curiosity.


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