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Drew Scott 05-24-2005 02:01 PM

Howdy from a Chicago Aikikai student.
Hi all. I'm originally from Monmouth, Maine, now living in Chicago, Illinois in the US of A.

I've always had a moderately physical lifestyle, though as a kid it was mostly chopping wood, hiking, etc. Formal training didn't really come into it until high school when I started training in competitive Epee fencing (did that for 9 or 10 years). Started doing some "Stage Combat" as part of my theater program in college then moved to Chicago and eventually met some Aikido folks in the stage combat community who got me interested in Aikido (and led me to becoming a student at Chicago Aikikai).

I have very little experience in the greater world of Aikido. I've been training at Chicago Aikikai for almost 3 years, but it's been on and off due to other commitments. Still haven't tested for 6th kyu yet. I know, lame lame lame.

Aikiweb has been a great source of inspiration for me, as well as making me wrestle personally with some of the hard questions that have been debated here about the nature and purpose of Aikido, the reasons for training, ethics of self-defense, etc etc. I appreciate the work that has been done to make this site live and breathe, and I hope some day I'll have something to contribute from my own experiences.

Thanks to all who keep this site healthy! I'll strive to be a good netizen.


akiy 05-24-2005 02:08 PM

Re: Howdy from a Chicago Aikikai student.
Hi Drew,

Thank you for your introduction and welcome to AikiWeb.

-- Jun

Kevin Kelly 05-24-2005 02:09 PM

Re: Howdy from a Chicago Aikikai student.
Hi Drew. Welcome to Aikiweb. Come on, test already....:)

Terry Troutman 05-24-2005 03:07 PM

Re: Howdy from a Chicago Aikikai student.
Hello, Drew!

This also is my first post although I've been lurking on this site for about a year. I've been practicing with a Seidokan dojo for about 3 years and prior to that, I practiced off and on with Ki Society, Aikikai and Hombu styles (never testing) for twenty years or more before I picked it up again with our university club. My first introduction to aikido was also through a stage combat class which included epee and sabre practice as well as juggling and tight-rope walking. The instructor was a brown belt in a Yoshinkan/Hombu style. I can't believe that was 25 years ago! I more recently trained as a competitive figure skater and udefuri choyakus have a slight tendency to look like waltz jumps!

I dislike testing because of the ego problems it creates although some wiser than I would say that developing an ego problem or "shodanitis" (I've seen it happen to others as early as "fifth-kyuitis") then becomes a challenge to overcome as in, an opportunity to get over one's self when you've become you're own (and everyone else's) worst uke. There's a T-shirt I saw in a catalog that exemplifies this improper use of ki: "I now have scientific proof that the universe really does revolve around me!" I hate to see it when the color of a belt becomes that "scientific proof."

One way our club keeps members humble is by inviting the tae kwon do club in to practice and we all leave the dojo with greater levels of mutual humility and respect.

So, what is your lame, lame, lame excuse for not testing? Mine is a misguided sense of perfectionism. I have tested and promoted twice although I can tell of a college test session I was in once many years ago (I declined to test myself but participated as uke) that went so poorly that the sensei walked out in the middle without comment. No comment but w:-0w! was he mad! The test was not only for rank but for a semester grade and I never found out if those who chose to test failed the class. I got a "c" after doing some extra credit work.

I just signed up for AikiExpo... all three days... (what have I gotten myself into?) My sensei said I should be prepared to take some hard breakfalls. I've grown use to our university's nice, soft and bouncy gymnastic floor and those zebra mats usually tear my feet up. Yet, as the little, blue engine sensei once said, "I think I can... I think I can... I know I can... I know I can..."

Anyway, I look forward to communicating more with you, Drew and other aikidoka here.


Rod Yabut 05-24-2005 03:30 PM

Re: Howdy from a Chicago Aikikai student.
I see where you are coming from Terry (testing raises the ego) but there is always a flipside to this. IMHO, testing MAY lead to this depending on the intention of the person when they began aikido. It is your perogative not to test and that is your choice.

But also remember that you honor your teacher and your sempai (not to mention your dojo) who "bring you up the ranks" as you continue your practice. Test if your sensei tells you, don't test if your ego tells you to.


Drew Scott 05-24-2005 04:20 PM

Re: Howdy from a Chicago Aikikai student.
Thanks for the replies! My lame excuses for not testing have been (in no particular order):

1. I'm here for the training, not for some "badge of honor". It's about process for me, not product.
2. Every time I start to build momentum in my training, I'm called away for a while, so I honestly don't know how much I've learned.
3. I don't feel that I've gotten a systematic training in the basics enough to do these tests. What are all these Japanese words???

Maybe I'm maturing, or maybe I'm just tired of making the excuses, but I'm realizing that although each of those is true in some ways (I AM about _process_, my training schedules have been irregular, and I've gotten a much better training in principles of aikido technique than the vocabulary), they are all forms of excuses I've used throughout my life to keep from being "tested". The sporadic training was a choice, the lack of investigating the terms for things was a choice, and the baggage I've put on "ranking systems" is my own. I've always had a knack for almost anything I put my mind to... and I've never worked hard enough to be stellar at anything. I've always liked being a "jack of all trades", but I'm looking at that behavior more critically now.

I think at the heart of this behavior is a fear of SOCIAL FAILURE, rather than fear of any particular thing that may go wrong in the test. The scariest part of Aikido and Iaido training were, and still are, the etiquette, unfamiliar rituals, and unwritten rules. I often feel as though I'd rather get punched in the head than fail to do the "correct etiquette". Funny thing to realize after all this time, how much fear of "shame" has informed my choices. I suspect I'm not alone in that.

So now I'm choosing to face it. I'm preparing for my first test, which I've just discovered is less than a month away. Fortunately, I have a very generous sempai who is helping me face it by alternating between informative training and mock-making. :-)

Terry, if I may ask, where and with whom did you take stage combat classes? It's a fairly small community, and it would be fun if it was someone I know.


Terry Troutman 05-24-2005 05:08 PM

Re: Howdy from a Chicago Aikikai student.
Hello, Rod Y.!
Cheers to you, too, and thanks for the response.
For me, the flipside is being asked to test, honoring the sensei and the style but then failing. In a perfect world, a sensei wouldn't ask a student to test if he or she didn't feel that the student was ready. Yet, sometimes this is not the case. Some students will ask to be tested and, in some styles and some dojos, if a student has put in the time and practice, the sensei may feel obliged to offer the test regardless of the level of mastery. Just having a test date set forces many students to rise to the challenge. Some students will test horribly and still pass ("no uke left behind") while some aikidoka I've seen really amaze me in that they can test better than they actually practice.
However, I am not one of either those two categories.
I have test anxiety. My mind goes blank. It's that misguided perfectionist in me. It then becomes the opposite ego issue of the person who thinks that testing well to a higher rank and spiffier belt entitles them to a new respect not necessarily based on competency. The hard work and practice can dissolve away when mind and body suddenly fall apart under exam conditions. There's a commercial on for a show called "Sports Moms and Dads" that reminds me of my own experiences. If (the skater) lands his jumps, he's done a good job. If he falls, he sucks." In the dojo, a year's worth of study and suddenly, reality check, you are a dissapointment to yourself and your sensei and you don't get to wear that nice, new belt and you have to explain to everyone what went wrong...
Okay, all of that is ego but different than shodanitis. If you are right (and I believe you are) if a person chooses to study a martial art like aikido for mastery (unlike a sport which is done for contest and trophy) why do so many senseis and students treat rank like a prize that is won? Even in sports, winning a prize is limited to the best of one contest. If you don't consistently win over time, you're not considered a true master of your sport (for example, Michelle Kwan couldn't get Olympic gold but she is a master of her sport because she consistently wins top events.) And once you stop winning, you retire. In martial arts, a student can promote and then stop practicing but still outrank all those below him until they promote above him. The reason I really enjoyed coming back to aikido was because of the lack of contest but I've found it's still there... in the form of tests and ranking and ego battles.

Terry Troutman 05-24-2005 05:19 PM

Re: Howdy from a Chicago Aikikai student.
Hello, again, Drew!
His first name was Jeff. I'd have to find my transcripts for his full name. We both studied with David Dye, (when he was a brown belt) at Orange Coast College in southern California, way back in the early eighties. Dye Sensei is going to be at AikiExpo, so I'll get to see how his practice has evolved over the years. He was not the sensei who walked out with utter disgust during the kyu test (but he was there...)

Drew Scott 05-25-2005 01:59 PM

Re: Howdy from a Chicago Aikikai student.
Good stuff. Thanks for the posts!

Amazing how much of this stuff comes down to ego... over inflated, underinflated, delicate... etc.


Keep on keepin' on!


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