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Old 08-04-2004, 04:03 AM   #20
Chris Birke
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 258
Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

I'm sorry, no. Not below shodan.

Giving people rank despite their technical ability is dangerous and detrimental to the art.

You can fake Ethics, you cannot fake technique.

A belt should be an indicator of someone's technical ability, both in
giving and receiving technique. It keeps those without skill safe as a
grade of their ukemi, and highlights the advanced students you may learn from. Thus, a belt system with rigor is useful.

Granting belts for non technical reasons destroys this, and a belt
ceases to have any technical meaning. A person with lesser technical knowledge may end up teaching incorrect technique to others on the basis of this false rank. That same person might be unable to handle the techniques of others.

Being proficient in Aikido technique does not automatically make one
ethically sound, nor does it grant perfection to your character judgment.

True, ethics in relation to Aikido is tied to technique, but at an
early stage they are distant, and not indicative or each other.

Moreover, it is very easy to be a bad person, and yet still appear a good one in the limited context of most Dojo. A preacher might not know sankyo, and a murder might. Thinking that their belt is tells anything besides technical ability is a dangerous gamble.

We, as individuals and as a society, all have devoted far more years
to the art of reading people than we have Aikido. Although an average blackbelt
is certainly superior to a whitebelt in technique, their ability to
read people might be perfectly matched. To assume your students should
defer to your social judgement based on belts can lead to dangerous
situations. Also, how a student treats the teacher may be very different from how they treat others when you are not looking.

Creating this "good behavior equals belt" rewards system is a social
mistake. People should be good for the sake of being harmonious with
others. Putting a belt into the equasion clouds that (are they being
nice because it is the best way to be, or because they want a belt?),
and ultimately detracts from one of the fundamental spiritual messages of Aikido. By rewarding students for good behavior with belts, you may actually inhibit their spiritual growth.

Lastly, what about the idea that you simply expect people to be good.
I am fine with refusing to train (much less rank) people on the basis of moral flaw, but there is simply more good in not granting belts for morality than in granting them.

Belts should be for technique, word of mouth should be for integrity. We should make this clear, and stick to it.


"I've seen aikido enriched by participants with Down's Syndrome, transplanted livers, surgically removed sternocleidomastoid muscles (cancer at 70 years of age), excess weight, diminutive size, paralysis, osteoporosis... How to level these playing fields?"

Destroy any idea that you need a belt to determine your self worth.

Those people are good people; perhaps they are masters of spirit already, perhaps they outrank the Sensei. Technique does not make you a good person, it is technique. Training lets you be a good person, it moves you with others.

You need good ukemi to train high level techniques, so having a belt to determine this is prudent.

These people should not feel the need for that, life will have already and clearly demonstrated to them that being able to run fast or throw a baseball does not make you a better person spiritually.

Moreover, if you leave the belts to technique, they will be a much greater reward to those who struggle hard with technique. If they finally acheive it, they have done so purely, and by no other means than their own hard work. Let that be their internal reward, and do not cheapen it by awarding things softly. Let them know how much you appriciate them in other ways - extra training attention. Extra devotion to history. Bake THEM a cake.

You do not need a belt to train Aikido.
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