Thread: A fresh face :)
View Single Post
Old 01-26-2017, 02:40 AM   #8
Peter Goldsbury
  AikiWeb Forums Contributing Member
Peter Goldsbury's Avatar
Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 2,218
Re: A fresh face :)

Cassia Rose Heatley wrote: View Post
Thank you everyone for the warm welcome!
PAG. AikiWeb is a friendly website and Jun Akiyama is very accommodating. He very kindly agreed to publish my own research on the history of aikido here and this saved me the trouble of starting my own site.

Cassia Rose Heatley wrote: View Post
That's an interesting question actually, we don't do changes in belts or do tests at all before 1st kyu. My sensei believes that before 1st kyu it is more productive for beginners to focus on getting the feel for aikido rather than memorizing moves for a test. As I mentioned women get their hakamas at 3rd kyu and men at 1st, so women know where they stand before men do (and once you hit 2nd you are invited to come to the 1st kyu/shodan prep classes). As for how the students receive this, it varies. On the one hand there is no stress for memorizing everything, you just watch and repeat moves without having to recall any japanese. However it does make it more complicated if a visiting sensei comes that refers to techniques by name, as most before 2nd kyu are not very familiar with the terms.
PAG. Well, I am the chief instructor at a fairly large general dojo in Japan and, of course, everything is done in Japanese. The students find the names just as difficult as anyone else in my experience (of the UK and the US, as well as Japan). For belts there is a broad distinction made between children and adults. Children start at 10th kyuu and work down (with coloured belts) to 5th kyuu, which is the first adult kyuu grade, where the belt -- and belts for subsequent kyuu grades -- are white. All students take tests and right from 10th kyuu the diplomas are signed by Doshu and are issued by the Aikikai.

I was once given a reason by a Japanese instructor in the UK why women wear the hakama from 3rd kyuu, which was that the keikogi worn in aikido is really intended for men, not for women. Well, we do not do this here: students of both sexes start wearing the hakama on reaching shodan and I think the belt and hakama are given by the dojo, along with the diploma and yudansha book. So it is really a clear rite of passage.

Cassia Rose Heatley wrote: View Post
Competitiveness I believe exists in all dojos to a certain extent and removing the belt/testing system doesn't get rid of this tbh. If anything it can add a bit of a tense dynamic as nobody knows definitively how "good" the other aikidoka is, which can lead to friction with people with less experience trying to explain to others how to do things. In particular this happens when men from other dojos or that return to aikido partner with female aikidoka, I'm not really sure why. At seminars it can also be a bit confusing, partnering with a yudansha that has no idea where you are at can be daunting, if you are fluid in one technique they can assess you too highly and overwhelm you on another that you are less familiar with etc. We have beginners classes which you are kept in from anywhere to 4-10 months depending on the speed of your progression though, so that's another indication of your level, when you are permitted to enter the mixed class.
PAG. I do not really agree with you here. In my own dojo visitors are conspicuous and in general all the members have a pretty good idea where everyone is, in terms of level. We do have joint training seminars with other dojos, but I have found that the general while / black belt distinction, or hakama / no hakama is a reasonable guide to level of proficiency. We do have a few members who feel the need to 'explain' things, but these are yudansha and it is practically unheard of for a non-yudansha to explain a waza to a yudansha.

Cassia Rose Heatley wrote: View Post
Despite these problems though, I like the system, as I believe it allows aikido to be more "pure" in that you aren't getting anxious about testing and it does remove a bit of the ego because not knowing for sure who is "better" makes it a more level playing field (unless you have an arrogant beginner, but well..). I think my sensei tends to keep people in line a bit as well, if he senses someone is feeling "mightier than thou" he will use them as uke more and correct minor issues in their technique more aggressively, so that tends to keep people humble :P.
PAG. If I see a yudansha explaining a waza incorrectly to a beginner, I will usually stop the class and demonstrate the waza again, sometimes using the erring yudansha as my uke.

Best wishes,

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 01-26-2017 at 02:43 AM.

P A Goldsbury
Hiroshima, Japan
  Reply With Quote