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Old 12-12-2005, 10:20 AM   #26
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
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Re: What's your thoughts?

Just to present an alternate viewpoint, even though I generally agree that knowledge learned can't be taken away by the instructor.

Rank in aikido is sometimes thought of as more of a symbol of the relationship between you and your instructor. Even in the same dojo, two people of different levels of physical ability may well hold the same rank. Rank does not travel well between different organizations, or even sometimes different dojo in the same organization. So the most significant factor in rank in an art without competition is probably the relationship to the instructor. As such, if the relationship deteriorates to the point of becoming antagonistic, of what value now is the rank?

This is just meant as food for thought, nothing else.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 12-12-2005, 11:24 AM   #27
senshincenter
 
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Re: What's your thoughts?

I think Ron makes in interesting point, only I think I tend to take what he said from a different angle - same meaning, just different angle. Of what value is the rank when it is coming from such a spiritually immature person (which is my personal take on the course of action he opted for)? In other words, who would want that rank? Who would want that relationship in real life or even just symbolically? For me, it would be like earning a medical degree from some school that was later found out to be less than credible - after that, you'd be doing yourself a disservice by going around saying you graduated from that school. Sometimes, for many reasons, it is just best to start all over. I think budoka have to learn how to do that sooner or later - how to start all over - again and again and again. It's a purifying experience that no one can really do without, especially if it is important for a person to gain the perks that can come with playing the political game - in my opinion.

David M. Valadez
Visit our web site for articles and videos. Senshin Center - A Place for Traditional Martial Arts in Santa Barbara.
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Old 12-12-2005, 12:24 PM   #28
MaryKaye
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Re: What's your thoughts?

Your story reminds me of something that happened to me in a non-aikido field:

I had a teacher who seemed to think the world of me, and taught me a tremendous amount of useful stuff. The relationship was very positive up until the point that I was close to her seniority in the organization and began, as a matter of course, to sometimes disagree with her in meetings and discussions. Suddenly I was persona non grata--she tried to have me thrown out, and made my life quite miserable.

I spent a number of months wondering what awful thing I had done to deserve this, and watching my ex-teacher with her new favorite student. When she began to try to get the new student thrown out too, suddenly the pattern became obvious: and asking around I found that I was the third or fourth iteration of it.

Some teachers are only comfortable with their students while the students are too junior to seriously challenge or disagree with them, and become acutely uncomfortable when that line is crossed. If this is the case, moving on is really your best option. Treasure what you learned and find a place of your own. (I'm not good at taking my own adviice, so I was mad at her for years; but it didn't really accomplish a darned thing. Better just to let it go.)

When you do find a teacher whose ultimate joy will be for you to equal or surpass him or her, treasure that person: they are a jewel without price.

Mary Kaye
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Old 12-12-2005, 08:32 PM   #29
Derek Gaudet
 
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Re: What's your thoughts?

Interesting points David and Ron. David after reading some of your post on Oomoto Kyo theology I respect your knowledgeable opinion, not to take anything away from Ron, because you both argue an equally interesting point. However, there are many ways of looking at rank. Rank can be a measure of relationship, skill, status, this field is probably fairly open. If we are talking about kyu ranking and dan ranking designed by Jigoro Kano, then it was implemented in the martial arts as a view of status or achievement in skill. A way to measure a students progress. Much like grades in school, it doesn't measure your relationship with your teacher, but you understanding of the material. Your relationship with your teacher may increase when your grades to but generally your grades don't increase with your relationshop towards a teacher does. To think of rank as a relationship with the instructor, might be stretching things (at least in some situations). Some dojo the students may have very little contact with the instructor, but still hold a significant rank. In large Dojo not everyone can have a form of relationship with the instructor, instead it becomes a corporation process of where you communicate through the "Vice Presidents", if you will. If rank can be achieved through a symbolic relationship and not so much technique, then it would be hard for me to consider the original martial intension of the art. When people demonstrate for kyu or Dan testing I like to think it remains realistic, in a form that the testings are equally challenging regardless of who is on the chopping block. The world doesn't see us as young, old, men, women, it see us as equal, and when confronted in a situation that may become violent or challenging, it doesn't take into consideration that we may be weak, less capable, helpless, it treats us all the same. Therefore we have to put all we have into our training. What I'm getting at is too many differences in what a particular kyu or dan should be, doesn't prepare us for reality. Some argue that it it harder for some to understand then others, this is very true, but it is also true the it all is within our capability to understand, if we put our hearts into it. I may just not be understanding your meaning of rank, but in my former dojo we never looked at rank as a measure of relationship between ourselves and our instructor, but it's an interesting topic to discuss. Perhaps we should start another thread called "Significance of rank" what does it mean to you.
I agree with David, sometimes it is best to start over, and if I have to then I have no choice and will. Keep the ideas coming I find them interesting. And thank you kindly for the advise your giving...

Last edited by Derek Gaudet : 12-12-2005 at 08:42 PM. Reason: adding to thought

Kind Regards,
Derek Gaudet
Goshin Aikido
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Old 12-12-2005, 09:19 PM   #30
senshincenter
 
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Re: What's your thoughts?

Hi Derek,

I think you've made some good points. I would never really find myself disagreeing with any of them. I think my stuff was coming from a different understanding of what Ron was saying.

I would not want to speak for Ron - he would never need my help - but I see rank as an institutional matter. For me, rank is an institutional matter - and nothing else. This is true, I feel, no matter how it may be presented and/or how someone might wish to represent it. For the most part, rank comes to a deshi via his/her instructor and/or someone else that is thought to be the authoritative source for that instructor (e.g. a panel of instructors, a shihan, etc.). Whatever the case, rank does represent a relationship that one has with the institution that issues that rank. Since the institution often connects itself via "instructors" or via folks that can act as issuers of rank, I don't really see it as too much of a stretch to say that rank represents a relationship between a deshi and his/her instructor (i.e. between a person and the institution he/she wants to be a part of). I'm fine with that description as long as one understands it sociologically/politically - as I have attempted to describe above. I would not be fine with that if one wanted to understand "relationship" in this case as some kind of interpersonal intimacy. An institution can hardly muster that - which is one reason why the institution is antithetical to Aikido's ultimate aims (both martial and spiritual) - in my opinion.

When Ron made his point, I was understanding him to be describing the socio-political foundation of rank - which does in most cases come to the deshi (i.e. a smaller cog in the institution) via the instructor (i.e. a somewhat larger cog in the institution). I did not understand him to be talking about skill or about some kind of interpersonal relationship. Hence, my comments and my question: Who would want to be part of such an institution? Ultimately, for me, it's a question of who would want to sell their soul or at what price would they. Two times I have walked away from the upper echelons of such institutions - in two different arts. Both times, I simply left my rank with the institution, where it was from, etc. This is because while the skill is mine, rank can only be mine as long as I am part of the institution that has attempted to judge and mark me with it - which the institution does for its own purposes.

When I left, what I wanted was to no longer be judged by something that I had no right to judge me, no capacity to judge me, and to not be marked in a way that gave me only more shame than pride. In other words, for me, when you leave, you should leave. And when you leave, you should leave things behind. I have never suffered the worse for it - any struggle that has come my way via the absence of political perks, I feel, has only made my practice more real, more deep, more personal. I have gotten stronger via the challenges of independence, not weaker. The idea of suffering or of getting weaker without the aid of the institution, or of the insurmountable obstacles one is to surely face, the predestined failure, etc., all of that is just part of the myth that institutional folks like to tell their own kind - to keep them all in line, to keep them paying their dues or to keep them thinking all the same, etc. None of it is really real. You learn this once you step out mind, body, and soul - leaving it all behind. The institution is like a ghost; it can only hurt you if you believe in it. You learn that with your first real step outside the institution. From there, you even learn what is real in the institution - because it is real wherever you go and however you are marked: If you train your ass off, if you dedicate your energy and time to your art like few others, if you constantly push and test yourself beyond whatever your current limits may be, your Aikido will be real and it will not need a symbol to have that be known by your own person or by others.

The real solution here is to learn to leave things behind, and then to train your ass off like few others. If you can do that, all of this "drama" will amount to nothing. This will be true of you seek membership in some other federation or if you seek independence. No matter where you go or whom you are with, hard work and self-reliance are the foundation of everything that is real in Budo. Again - this is true both inside and outside of federation life.

my two cents. :-)

Again - hang in there. The universe is without boundaries, options are countless. Keep faith in these truths and this will pass. For what its worth, I feel for you, and only wish the best for you - this I can say without even hearing the supposed "other" side. Always feel free to write me or to visit us. You will always be welcomed.

dmv

David M. Valadez
Visit our web site for articles and videos. Senshin Center - A Place for Traditional Martial Arts in Santa Barbara.
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Old 12-13-2005, 08:07 AM   #31
Ron Tisdale
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Re: What's your thoughts?

I think David understands what I said extremely well, and also that his experience is very much in line to make his comments on this thread very much worth listening to.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 12-13-2005, 10:24 AM   #32
senshincenter
 
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Re: What's your thoughts?

I forgot to expand upon this notion as I first intended. It is this idea of self-reliance and of working your ass off as few can -- in way this has to be considered the "Gold Standard" in the symbolic and/or cultural economy of Aikido. Rank is like paper money -- a kind of "gold certificate" (or at least it is supposed to be). Like the gold standard of old, self-reliance and hard work are supposed to be what guarantees the paper money of rank issuance. This gold standard is supposed to allow for capital exchange (between federations and even between arts). It is also supposed to work to make the symbolic capital of rank resistant to its own versions of runaway credit and debt expansion. Additionally, this gold standard is also supposed to be the check that prevents "currency" (i.e. rank) being created by some sort of government fiat (e.g. the soke councils) -- thus this gold standard also makes rank resistant to its own kind of inflation. The idea here is that the gold standard of self-reliance and hard work removes currency uncertainty (i.e. What is a black belt?) while it keeps the credit of issuing monetary authority sound. It thus also encourages lending (i.e. folks who want more self-reliance and hard work will come to train with other folks that have self-reliance and hard work). It is the foundation of a healthy economy regarding Aikido's symbolic capital of rank.

However, today, through a multiplicity of different causes, reasons, and forces, this gold standard has been weakened (because gold is becoming more rare as more people need it/because less people train hard in the fac eof the countless multitudes that do not), redefined, and in a great many cases already done away with. Across the board, it is really this redefining that has been the most problematic. I think George Ledyard's latest article is again relevant here. What has happened -- generally speaking -- is that partial gold standards have become acceptable (e.g. "Well you train hard for a woman." "You train hard for a Westerner." "You train hard for someone that works." "You train hard for someone with kids." "You train hard for someone that has a handicap." Etc.) In other words, a partial gold standard is part of a larger effort to see the full gold standard in relative terms. Many problems arise from this -- such as making exchange pretty much impossible. (Today, it is pretty much impossible to go from one federation to another -- for example.) However, most importantly, the real problem with partial gold standards is that they leave some amount of value that is not backed by gold -- they are a mixture of gold and ultimately of paper. Hence, they are in a way, real and not real. For example, you get this fourth dan that has done some work but not all the work. In a way then, seeing the gold standard in relative terms has led to the fetishizing of symbolic capital (i.e. rank) and thus to the possibility for everything we now see in Aikido's cultural economy today. Rank today is a kind of fiat money that has it dropping in value overall, especially in comparison to the few folks out there who are still working on self-reliance and hard work. In other words, rank is a mess. Only newbies, and perhaps a few folks that benefit from not acknowledging this fact, might disagree with this fact.

Sure, a lot of folks, most in fact, do fine within this system -- but "fine" has now become a highly relative term and thus often in reality means "not fine". Regardless of how one is doing, the thing is that this system is now no longer secure against calamity -- such as will definitely be experienced when, for example, the Japanese Shihan of the USAF pass on. Folks got a glimpse of what is to come when the Midwest Region suffered the loss of its Japanese Shihan -- only now picture that happening without any other American-based Japanese Shihan there to give authority to the new partial gold standard and/or the fiat-based ranks. Will the folks of the East and the West look to Tokyo then? Hardly. It will not be that easy for them to do so -- they are old federations with some extremely powerful practitioners. Moreover, these federations now have their own slant regarding world Aikido politics (e.g. the Birankai and the inclusion of Mid/South America in the USAF) and even things pertaining to curriculum (e.g. weapons) that for the most part make Tokyo affiliation difficult outside of being anything more than a paper trail. However, because they, like all federations today, suffer in part from relative understandings of the Budo gold standard, when the stuff hits the fan, it is going to go all over. Expect to see huge division and variation; expect to see dissolution and reorganization. Some will go independent, some will group wishing to remain loosely independent, some will still go to Tokyo, some will attempt to keep the old format, etc. Everyone is going to go everywhere and do everything they can to not suffer too badly the pitfalls of having put weight in a symbolic economy that has for the most part lost its gold standard.

What does this mean? In about 10 or 20 years, for a great many people, all across the globe, in federation after federation, it will again not matter what you have -- it will again only matter who you are and what you can do. 10 to 20 years is enough time for anyone to develop his or her own gold standard. For me, this is just one more reason why today folks should work on working hard and not necessarily work on trying to get the most for their rank.

David M. Valadez
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Old 12-13-2005, 11:09 AM   #33
Derek Gaudet
 
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Re: What's your thoughts?

David,
Your post were very inspiring, and I appreciate the time and effort you put into them. I believe now I understand more about this Symbolic Relationship we're talking about. I also enjoyed your economics discussion (Not being a big fan of Economics), taking a year of intro in economics, my experience is limited, but at least now I can relate it to something that is important to me. I agree with what you say about rank dropping in value. And sometimes In the west it is seen as more then it actually is in the east. Talking to people with limited experience in the martial arts you always get that "your a Black Belt, Wow!" reaction, when in reality, in the east, it is seen as a first step into the real training. It means your are comfortable with the basics, so now we can move on. I myself have left behind 3 other systems besides Aikido, so it's not completely new to me, but the first time I was asked to leave. Well as you said, I will continue to train my ass off. Someday I'll be running that Dojo, and I'm going to work hard to do it. Again thank you Valadez Sensei, Your Post are inspiring and I really appreciate the time you put into them. It's good to know I'm making new friends and connections in the Aikido world.

Kind Regards,
Derek Gaudet
Goshin Aikido
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Old 12-31-2005, 09:39 PM   #34
Ed Shockley
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Re: What's your thoughts?

I wish that your story were a rarity but I have heard several such excommunication tales. They all have been from independent dojos so I guess that's a good argument for some federation. The structure in all of them seem less individual driven. My own Sensei and dojo is very welcoming of visitors. Sensei Smith doesn't try to erase someone's past experience unless they arrive with ineffective technique. This means that when the Kanai transplant teaches we do throws grabbing the gi, when the Tohei resident teaches we "disappear" etc. I offer all of this to say, when you find the right dojo they will value your past and assist you toward your future. You needn't rush through the rank in order to teach but rather can start right away in many places once you've demonstrated the quality of your aikido and an attitude of respect. In the long run this round path will make your work more rounded.
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Old 01-10-2006, 02:18 PM   #35
Edwin Neal
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Re: What's your thoughts?

hello all ...
somewhat off topic but i'll get back ... i promise...

i was wondering what your thoughts on testing requirements i.e. curriculum or what techs you needed to demonstrate, as i understand there is no central standard like to be a shodan you must know this and this. I am somewhat amused by some organizations that ask for very little technique. The book dynamic sphere gives requirements for testing at various ranks that i find somewhat lame. My first test in aikido in hindsight was rather lightweight, but in another school the requirements were very extensive. Do you believe a "standard" should or could be developed?

I too had an excommunication experience... had a falling out with some roommates in college and as a result they en masse called my sensei and told him god only knows what about me. Sensei told me he could not allow me back to class because of this incident. No malice or hate on his part, but it was still painful. I still strongly intend to effect a reconciliation and return to this school, i just consider myself on hiatus... just my two cents which may not be worth much in any economy...

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