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Old 05-30-2007, 06:59 PM   #1
"omyt"
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It's not a democracy, I know.

I know it shouldn't bother me that my Sensei seems to favor certain students over others. I know it shouldn't bother me that people who joined the dojo after me have passed me in rank for no apparent reason. I know it shouldn't bother me that these students will most likely reach shodan before me even though I have been training longer than they have. I know it shouldn't bother me that one of my sempai has expressed to me that they don't understand why this is the case, based on his judgement of my ability. I know these things shouldn't bother me, but they do. I'm not going to pretend like I'm not concerned about reaching goals in my training(rank) because that would be a lie. I'ts not that I want my ego stroked, I just want feedback from my sensei. I want to know why my training has taken this path. I dare not ask him because I don't think that would be appropriate.(I don't want to sound like a whining baby, which is probably what I sound like right now,huh?) I love my dojo and I love all of my partners, I just needed to vent. comments will be appreciated.
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Old 05-30-2007, 09:07 PM   #2
Janet Rosen
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

If you cannot in a gentle way ask him for feedback in terms of what his perception of your training progress and of your attitude/spirit are, then why are you training with him?

Janet Rosen
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Old 05-30-2007, 09:08 PM   #3
gdandscompserv
 
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

I think it would be appropriate to ask your sensei.
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Old 05-31-2007, 12:02 AM   #4
Larry Cuvin
 
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

omyt,
Are you paying to be trained? Ask for an explanation why this is so. You need to get a feedback from your sensei. It is his job to steer you on the right path, to learn, and part of this is making progress and with it the appropriate ranking. You are spending both your time and money so go ask with the proper respect.

Larry

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Old 05-31-2007, 05:23 AM   #5
Amir Krause
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

Some very simple suggestions:

1/ Ask you Sensei for feedback, talk with him in private and ask for the things you should improve as an Aikidoka. Do not ask him about ranks and promotions, you could ask him to give you more attention and correct your mistakes more often (I always ask this of my sensei, whenever we talk).

2. Forget about rank, and learn to value the knowledge and ability instead. And definitely do not compare yourself to others. Perhaps, you do not know it, but they have a problem making progress much more difficult, and your sensei sees how they practice more diligently then you even though their progress is slower. Ranks are often given also for effort, not only for quality.

3. It is allowed to be human. Feeling some disappointment at various times, and even having petty feelings is normal. Dowloading those emotions somewhere is legitimate, Letting these emotions to take you too far is the only mistake and it seems you are aware of it.

Amir
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Old 05-31-2007, 06:55 AM   #6
Dirk Hanss
 
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

Dear Omyt,
maybe that is not new, butprobably in other words.

1) While a dojo is not democratic, there is one very important aspect of democracy in: everybody can leave, whenever he wants to.
2) Aikido is more than technique. Obviously there are some lessons, you still have to learn.
a) Care about yourself - not others.
b) Stand up for your rights, if you feel wronged.
c) Talk to your sensei in good mood, if you do not understand him. Probably he can explain it to you.

If you can do all at the same time and your technique is as good as you and your sempai judge it, You wil be ready to get your shodan - in your current dojo or in an other one.

Best regards

Dirk
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Old 05-31-2007, 07:25 AM   #7
gdandscompserv
 
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

If one of my students asked me that question the answer would be simple:
I don't give rank.
I offer a place to train and learn. If rank happens, it happens depending on the circumstances. That is not to say that I have no regard for rank, because I do. I proudly display my rank certificate on the wall of my dojo as I am am the sensei and owner. It so happens that I am not in a position to offer rank. We train in the techniques required to test for rank because they represent a good foundation in aikido waza and I would like my students to test for rank when given the opportunity, but no rank from me.
IMO, the thing that you must have to learn true budo is a good teacher/student relationship. You don't seem to have that with your current sensei. You can try to nurture that relationship or look elsewhere. If there are other dojos you might try a different one. It is your path and so you probably should enjoy it.
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Old 05-31-2007, 08:55 AM   #8
jennifer paige smith
 
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

I agree with Mr Woods, above. But It seems that our friend here does belong to a dojo that offers rank and that it is part of the steering process and package of their dojo product (that which they provide). My advice, ask your Sensei. If you are told it is an inappropriate question, get the hell out of there. That gap is where emotional and political abuses fester and the spirit(morale) suffers. Simple guidelines help students advance in the process presented by their particular dojo. In a healthy dojo it is consistent and easily dilineated; i.e. how many hours you train, how proficient you are in demonstrating the principles (a 'ranking' dojo are responsible for defining.) Just as a math teacher in school can't say, "well, you got a 100% on your tests and you've been to all the classes, but I think we're going to hold you back a grade until next year." Say What?

As a Sensei and a high school teacher , this is my perspective.

Last edited by jennifer paige smith : 05-31-2007 at 08:58 AM.

Jennifer Paige Smith
Confluence Aikido Systems
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Old 05-31-2007, 09:16 AM   #9
Murgen
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

I would ask him where you could most improve in Aikido, on and off the mat. If your fairly young it might be one reason he is holding back on testing you for higher ranks. He may want you to learn to control your ego better. I'd look at this as a test. Show him rank means little to you and that learning Aikido does.

I would study the other people that have passed you in rank and see what their attitude is. Do they give a lot of personal time outside the dojo to studying Aikido and/or help in dojo affairs? Your right it's not a democracy, and showing genuine interest in learning about Aikido outside of technique goes a long way with a Sensei.

If your Sensei is just ignoring you completely, or always pairing you with another student (who isn't progressing and is ignored).....that might be a message that for whatever reason he doesn't really want you as a student and you should look at moving on.

Last edited by Murgen : 05-31-2007 at 09:27 AM.
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Old 05-31-2007, 11:49 AM   #10
Brian Vickery
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

I'll respond to this issue from an instructor's perspective. And this is in no way a knock to you, it's just my personal opinion.

You know, there are some students from the very start that you see a special spark in, they already seem to have the attributes to be a shodan from day one. Those students get more of my attention, move along faster than the average student. You just don't want that type of student to get bored & leave.

And there are those students that I just click with on a personal level better than other students ...I like them! They too get more of my attention.

I'm not saying that this is fair or that I'm right all the time on my assessment of all these students, in fact I've been wrong many times in both overestimating some students & underestimating others!

Just remember that your instructor is as human as anybody else, having the same weaknesses & prejudices.

Just stick with it & show him that you're one of those worth more of his attention!

Regards,

Brian Vickery

"The highest level of technique to achieve is that of having NO technique!"
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Old 05-31-2007, 08:32 PM   #11
"omyt"
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

Thank you all very much for your insight, I appreciate it. Please understand that I still feel like I am gaining a lot from my training, it's just that lately I've been getting bummed out at keiko. The reason I wouldn't talk to my sensei about this is because he has addressed issues of ego, the importance of rank, comparison to other students, etc. during class many times. His position is clear; get rid of such thoughts! I am trying, but it is difficult for me and I just wanted to express my frustration somewhere. Again, thank you all very much for the thoughtful replies.
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Old 05-31-2007, 09:44 PM   #12
Adam Alexander
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

If I was posting what you were posting, I'd hope that someone would say,"Do what you believe to be right."

If you're following this person because you believe in them, then the lesson you're learning (whether it be to keep your mouth shut or when is the right time to voice your concerns) are lessons that you're seeking.

Then again, maybe you're just posting just to post with no feedback...I don't know.
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Old 06-01-2007, 06:03 AM   #13
grondahl
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
I know it shouldn't bother me that my Sensei seems to favor certain students over others. I know it shouldn't bother me that people who joined the dojo after me have passed me in rank for no apparent reason. I know it shouldn't bother me that these students will most likely reach shodan before me even though I have been training longer than they have.
When I read this the expression "Itīs the miles, not the years that count". Do you average the same hours of training (in and outside of the dojo) as the students that have passed you in rank?
There is for instance a big difference in development between someone who trains 3-5 times a week and goes to seminars and intensive training sessions on regular basis and those that average 2-3 times a week.

Last edited by grondahl : 06-01-2007 at 06:17 AM.
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Old 06-04-2007, 01:27 PM   #14
Edward
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

It could also be that some instructors of the old school would intentionally ignore students who seem to be more gifted than others and more eager for rank, as someone very wise told me once, to hammer down the nail that is sticking out. Sometimes it would be wiser to be discrete in showing one's abilities.
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Old 06-05-2007, 12:15 PM   #15
Hanna B
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

Quote:
Brian Vickery wrote: View Post
And there are those students that I just click with on a personal level better than other students ...I like them! They too get more of my attention.
Most teachers do this unknowlingly. A little of it is normal. But, when teachers allow themself do openly do this very unhealthy things develop.
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Old 06-05-2007, 12:21 PM   #16
Hanna B
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

The anon here might be over estimating his or her abilities, but I will respond assuming xe does not.

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
I know it shouldn't bother me
Why the heck shouldn't it? Rank is you teacher's way of giving status to his pupils. He offers you lower status than your peers - and tells you you have no right to worry about it?

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
The reason I wouldn't talk to my sensei about this is because he has addressed issues of ego, the importance of rank, comparison to other students, etc. during class many times. His position is clear; get rid of such thoughts!
I.e., the favoured ones are entitled to their pride, but you are not entitled to yours. You know, people who are not very concerned about rank matters don't have to talk all the time about how unimportant they are...
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Old 06-05-2007, 01:06 PM   #17
David Paul
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

I believe that I am experiencing the same thing in my dojo. Its a little frustrating-but my own personal choice is to forego rank altogether and just train. My thought on that is I refuse to let someone else make decisions for me regarding what rank I am or when I should test. I came to this decision after recently being passed over for a test (5th kyu) for which I had the necessary hours and knew the techniques. This has happened to me before at a different dojo-but under the same governing body (USAF) and therefore I have decided that I will not let rank be important to me-therefore I will not test. Just my decision--dont know if that works for you.
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Old 06-11-2007, 05:55 AM   #18
DonMagee
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

I was talking with my aikido instructor a few days ago. He mentioned in passing that he will never give me rank because I am not his student, I just train with him and his students. This didn't bother me, because I think he is right. I will keep training there though, I have no problem with never getting ranked. Maybe he will change his mind, I doubt it, but a bit of new color has never been a driving factor for me. If it was I'd still be doing TKD and probably be a 8th or 9th degree by now at the rate I was going.

- Don
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein
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Old 06-11-2007, 09:14 PM   #19
G DiPierro
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

Quote:
David Paul DeIuliis wrote: View Post
I believe that I am experiencing the same thing in my dojo. Its a little frustrating-but my own personal choice is to forego rank altogether and just train. My thought on that is I refuse to let someone else make decisions for me regarding what rank I am or when I should test.
Why would you think that you have the right to determine what your rank should be? Rank is a measure of your political status within a particular organization -- nothing less, nothing more. The only person who has the right to make decisions about that is the person who runs the organization.

If you really don't care about rank, then neither ask nor refuse to test, and accept whatever rank your teacher gives you. That doesn't mean you won't have problems associated with rank, because even if you don't care about it (although I suspect you actually do), most other people in the dojo will. It is a natural tendency for humans to be concerned about our status relative to our peer groups.

I've never seen rank have a positive impact on the training within an individual dojo, other than to increase its membership, which could be seen as either positive or negative. More people get into martial arts to have someone else validate them then to actually become skilled martial arts, so those arts that give out ranks tend to attract more people than those that don't, even when there is a significant difference in the quality of practice.

In an ideal world, rank would correspond perfectly to one's skill and development as a martial artist, so there would be no problems with people not having the correct official status for their level. However, in the real world this is frequently not the case, particularly in aikido where the criteria for rank is, even officially, now only very loosely based on skill. Rank in aikido and most other modern martial arts is more than anything else a tool for building and maintaining large and powerful organizations.

What ends up happening in these arts is that the practice adapts to fit the hierarchy rather than hierarchy adapting to fit the practice. The art gets watered down to the level of those who climb the organizational ladder, and any kind of advancement that does not reflect the formal ranking structure is not tolerated. In exchange for having a larger group, the practice is limited by what the hierarchy can accommodate, and in aikido that's often not much.

Even good teachers in aikido who don't care about rank themselves are still handicapped by the system in which they operate. The attachments to rank held by so many others in their organizations constrain who and what they can teach in very real yet often unseen ways. Compared to my experience in aikido, training in disciplines that have no formal ranking systems has been both liberating and refreshing, and I would have a hard time going back to an art with such an artificial structure at this point. But, to the original poster, if you really like the practice you are getting there, then just accept the problems that the ranking system is causing you as one of the prices you have to pay in order to train there. If the practice there is not worth dealing with that, then look elsewhere.

-G DiPierro

Last edited by G DiPierro : 06-11-2007 at 09:22 PM.
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Old 06-12-2007, 05:58 AM   #20
DonMagee
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

Rank can be a good thing. Used properly it can allow you to find partners who can train at the level you wish to train. I have not found this to be true outside of sport based arts however. But in judo and bjj I can find training partners with skills very close to my own by looking at their rank. I know if I want to be worked over to look for a bjj purple belt for example. I know bjj blue belts are usually at my level. Performance based rankings are very useful. Political based rankings are useless.

- Don
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein
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Old 06-12-2007, 08:47 AM   #21
Hanna B
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

Quote:
Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
Rank is a measure of your political status within a particular organization -- nothing less, nothing more. The only person who has the right to make decisions about that is the person who runs the organization.

If you really don't care about rank, then neither ask nor refuse to test, and accept whatever rank your teacher gives you. That doesn't mean you won't have problems associated with rank, because even if you don't care about it (although I suspect you actually do), most other people in the dojo will. It is a natural tendency for humans to be concerned about our status relative to our peer groups.
Very well put! I will probably quote you sometimes, regarding the "political status".
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Old 06-12-2007, 09:10 AM   #22
G DiPierro
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

Quote:
Don Magee wrote: View Post
Rank can be a good thing. Used properly it can allow you to find partners who can train at the level you wish to train. I have not found this to be true outside of sport based arts however. But in judo and bjj I can find training partners with skills very close to my own by looking at their rank. I know if I want to be worked over to look for a bjj purple belt for example. I know bjj blue belts are usually at my level. Performance based rankings are very useful. Political based rankings are useless.
This is exactly the reason that Kano decided to use the numerical kyu-dan ranking system for judo. He did not invent the system himself; it had already been in use for hundreds of years in the board game go, where it was a very quantifiable measure of strength derived from the outcome of games against other players of known ranks. In an even (non-handicapped) game, the odds of a lower-ranked go player defeating one of higher rank, particularly if the gap is more than a couple of levels, are low.

Kano's vision was a martial art where jujutsu skill could be similarly measured through competition. The numerical ranking system he used was never intended for a non-competitive martial art like aikido, and using it in such arts is a corruption of his idea, but martial arts organizations have discovered that it is a very effective political and marketing tool for the type of person who is attracted to martial arts. To compete with judo's success, they all want to use it, even if they have no sound basis for doing so.

-G DiPierro
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Old 06-12-2007, 10:06 AM   #23
Drew Mailman
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

Keep in mind that, in some schools, rank comes with responsibility. Senior students at the school I attend are called on for a lot more than the junior students (our bottom three ranks, including white). Seniors have to know technique, but also need to be able to teach new students the basics, tell visitors about aikido, keep up on class changes (and inform other students!), and anticipate the needs of the school, including water, cups, cleaning, etc.

Our Sensei is a very busy man; he spends most of his days performing therapeutic treatments on clients and students. He isn't too busy to teach every class, but he does require his seniors to be dedicated, knowledgeable, and generous, and maybe your teacher needs to see those qualities from you.
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Old 06-12-2007, 06:18 PM   #24
Lambdadragon
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

At a seminar a few years back the instructor (who is a high ranked dan) related a story about a seminar he had once participated in. The first day he showed up in his hakama and many wanted to train with him. The morning of the second day he arrived only to discover he had left his uniform back at the hotel. A newbie leant him an extra uniform and belt that was still in the package. The same people who clamored to practice with him the day before, now ignored him. The third day he returned with his hakama. Once again many wanted to train with him. One even commented that "yesterday there was a newbie here that looked just like you." The instructor made no public conclusion from the story other than to summarize how interesting that some in aikido rate the value of a person's aikido by their rank.

David Wilson
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Old 06-13-2007, 12:48 AM   #25
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

I guess I've never understood the drive toward status. The only status I ever desired was independence - the state of being free to choose.

Reading about someone's greed and attitude of entitlement for rank, really makes rank and Aikido practice appear silly to me right now. I show up somewhere, put on pajamas, roll around on comfy cushiony mats with other people and get all nitpicky about a ritualized activity that is only obliquely applicable to my life outside. So far it sounds like exactly the kind of kooky thing I might enjoy doing. But, if I were to get all worked up and political about who has been assigned what number, been given what piece of paper or colored belt it wouldn't be very enjoyable any more. It seems like that would be an expression of letting my own mental hangups cause me to lose perspective. If I think the game is unfair, why do I continue to play and continue to care about whether I succeed and how fair it is? Grinding this kind of axe seems almost like the definition of irrationality.

I could see getting something worthwhile out of rank, if I stayed somewhere long enough. For me it would be more about doing it cooperatively along with people there whom I respected and liked, not about 'Gimme one of those! I deserve it.'

Last edited by Kevin Wilbanks : 06-13-2007 at 12:50 AM.
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