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Old 03-18-2013, 01:35 PM   #33
Eric Winters
Dojo: Aikido of San Leandro and Berkeley
Location: Emeryville, CA
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 81
Re: An open letter to the martial arts community about conduct in the dojo

Dan Richards wrote: View Post
Ashley, that's based on your expectations. But what if those expectations were changed? What if teachers took a serious look and totally reexamined how they're training students? What if the methods used hamper the student's progress? I think it's totally helpful to have instructors take a hard look at themselves and the environment they're creating.

I know a dedicated student - with a job and a family - can train an average of three times per week for an hour and a half, plus their own "homework" on their own time at home, and reach shodan level in less than two years. I know because as a teacher, I've done it. Getting students to a good solid 3rd kyu in six months is a piece of cake.

Actually, if we're talking "ideal," that would be a teacher and students in a closed dojo, and they did nothing but eat and sleep aikido. Under those circumstances, with the right kind of instruction and conditions, you could have shodan level students in 90 days.

Aikido has been overdue for an overhaul. And whether some people want to see it or not - it's already underway. Even Yamada, a top shihan, is finally coming out and publicly speaking out about not only the lack of quality in aikido, but also organizational responsibility towards that. He went so far as to call the top brass at Aikikai "clerks." You have to understand, this is jaw-dropping stuff.

Here's a quote from George, where he's not only totally reexamining how people are taught aikido, but he's also making a drastic adjustment in terms of the time frame and expectations for levels people could reach. Interestingly, the time frames and grade levels he arrives at closely reflect hombu during aikido's formative years.

From Perhaps the tide is changing.

If we zoom out a bit; a level of 5th dan is essentially the equivalent of a PhD. From an article in the NY Times, it states the average student takes 8.2 years to earn a PhD. And that's average. And that lines up with George's calculations.

Let's play a little more. 3rd dan is right about at a Master's Degree. So, 5-6 years would be about right. 2nd degree would be a Bachelors. I'd consider a shodan to be on the level of a college-entrance exam - maybe we could call it a high school diploma. You need that to get into college. That's essentially what a shodan is; you're in the "school." Before that you're a guest. So, attaining shodan in two years, another year for nidan, and then another two or three years for sandan.

Aikikai's grading system currently requires a total of 300 "days" - whatever a "day" means to them, in order to qualify for shodan. A student averaging 3 classes per week is knocking out 156 classes per year. Two years of training 3 times per week arrives at 312 days of training. So, even by Aikikai's standards, shodan is completely attainable in two years - even for an average student. And let's say a student wants to immerse themselves, and go every day. 300 days of training should get them to shodan in less than a year.

Back to the 3-times-per-week student. Shodan in 2 years, Nidan in 1.5 years, Sandan 2 years, Yondan 2.5 years. That's a total of 8 years to Yondan. We're not that far off. And why that's important is that after Godan, 5th dan, that's when the student really begins to examine and explore and develop their own expression of aikido.

These numbers all line up. My numbers. George's numbers. Aikikai's numbers. Academia's numbers. Old-school hombu's numbers. And that's just dealing with the time frame.

So, we absolutely need ask teachers who are taking 5+ years to train their dedicated students to shodan level to reexamine what they're doing. Because, either they're stalling, or don't have effective pedagogical methods, or their umbrella organization (pyramid-shaped) is bloated. And if we look, it's really a combination of all of those.

We've also got to take a serious look at the level of competence and understanding within those levels. I totally agree with George, that there's no reason really good solid 5th and 6th dans could not be brought up at around the ten-year mark. And the environments for them to do that need to be created.
I think you forgot the 12 years of schooling before college.

Eric Winters
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