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Old 06-17-2007, 09:57 AM   #51
G DiPierro
Location: Ohio
Join Date: Mar 2002
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

I'm not sure that feeling under-ranked is ever the sole reason why an above-average student quits, however when rank is made out to be an important measure of success, a student who is feels like he is making good progress but that this is not being recognized while the lesser progress being made by others is getting equal or more recognition has an incentive to find another art where he will be more appreciated. By granting official status to people as if they were all of equal ability, aikido tends to disproportionately reward, and thus attract, below-average students.

It also results in the practice being watered-down to meet the level of the this student. Because the below-average student is ranked as high as or higher than his more competent peers, and because he has been convinced that rank is a good measure of skill, this student erroneously believes that he is equally or more competent to those or the same or lower rank who are actually more skilled than him. Since aikido has no competition, this type of delusion persists on a widespread basis and often becomes entrenched the culture or a dojo or organization. Students of all ranks and abilities are, in most groups, expected to practice in different ways with people who are ranked higher, lower, and equally to them, regardless of the actual relative level of skill.

In many places, there is an unsaid but obvious expectation that lower-ranked students should never make higher-ranked students look bad in any way, and this is particularly true for the teacher. The entire dojo is required to support the myth that rank equals skill by taking ukemi in a way that always makes higher ranks appear more skillful than lower ones. Deviations from this rule are met with sanctions, ranging from violent retribution to political measures, including the threat or reality of withholding further rank or even expulsion from the dojo.

Because most people will never use the art in a real situation, and because they practice mainly for social and entertainment reasons, they do not care that the development of real skill has been replaced by a role-playing practice where people with rank get to pretend that they have skill. Once they make their rank, they expect their lower-ranked partners to make them look good just as they were expected to do (and still are) for their seniors. The notion of skill as a measure of what would actually work on a resisting opponent is completely foreign to them, and they have no interest in learning about such things.

More than anything else, it is this type of degradation of the practice of aikido that leads above-average students to quit in favor of other arts and activities. The days of a young, skilled martial artist joining aikido to train with a leader of uncommon skill and quickly getting advanced in rank and being sent to teach are over, and aikido will likely never attract these types of students again. The skill level seen in the generation of direct students of Morihei Ueshiba is disappearing from aikido not because there are no longer people like that in the world, but because today they have little interest in training in an art like aikido. If aikido continues down its current path, it will eventually become nothing more than LARPing for students who can't make the grade in other arts. Many believe that it has already become this.

Last edited by G DiPierro : 06-17-2007 at 10:02 AM.
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Old 06-17-2007, 10:12 AM   #52
Hanna B
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Join Date: Dec 2001
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

Quote:
Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
I'm not sure that feeling under-ranked is ever the sole reason why an above-average student quits
That talents usually don't stay in aikido is a common observation. I believed it was pretty aikido-specific, but usually discovered this phenomenon is equally common in taekwondo. IMHO the reason why talents quit and us clumsy bastards stay, is the same as the answer to the question why I don't do music, in which I am fairly talented, but martial arts, in which I am not.

In music, I don't have to fight for progress and so I get lazy. When I realise I have been too lazy and not really gotten anywhere, I drop out. In martial arts, I had to fight for progress from day one. When I eventually got progress, it was rewarding. I stayed.
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Old 06-17-2007, 10:17 AM   #53
raul rodrigo
Location: Quezon City
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

Unfortunately, much of Giancarlo says about the current state of aikido is true. I can see many manifestations of this in my own country.
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Old 06-17-2007, 02:08 PM   #54
G DiPierro
Location: Ohio
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

Quote:
Hanna Bj«Órk wrote: View Post
IMHO the reason why talents quit and us clumsy bastards stay, is the same as the answer to the question why I don't do music, in which I am fairly talented, but martial arts, in which I am not. In music, I don't have to fight for progress and so I get lazy. When I realise I have been too lazy and not really gotten anywhere, I drop out. In martial arts, I had to fight for progress from day one. When I eventually got progress, it was rewarding. I stayed.
I would say it has more to do with the fact that you enjoy practicing aikido but do not truly enjoy playing music, regardless of your relative talents for the two. Just because somebody is good at something, it does not mean that they will love doing it, and without that, they won't have enough motivation to stay with it and seek out the kind of challenges they need to progress.

The people who I was talking about are the ones who love martial arts and who are good at it. A good example is someone like Ellis Amdur, who occasionally posts here. He's obviously good at martial arts, since he reached the shihan level in two separate koryu, and although he started out in aikido he quit for some of the same reasons I mentioned, including that the techniques and training method were not sufficiently realistic. He found other similar arts where he could enjoy the same inherent pleasure of movement at a higher and more challenging level of practice, and this was only after he went to Japan to seek out the highest level aikido training he could at the Aikikai hombu. And there's many more like him: look at any of the big Western names in Japanese koryu and you will find most of them explored aikido to some degree or another and were not that impressed. Today in the US this type of talented and motivated person is likely to end up doing BJJ or one of several other arts now available here rather than aikido.

Fact is none of this matters to the people running the aikikai (and, I suspect, other aikido organizations) right now. Catering to the LARPers is good business, and if it results in the art deteriorating, that's not a big deal since the senior people already have their skills and they will only keep looking better relative to future generations. Aikido has already built its reputation on the backs of people like Morihei Ueshiba and his direct students, and they can continue to milk that money machine for many years to come even if the current training method will never again produce anyone near that level.

Last edited by G DiPierro : 06-17-2007 at 02:12 PM.
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Old 06-18-2007, 12:40 AM   #55
Hanna B
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

Quote:
Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
I would say it has more to do with the fact that you enjoy practicing aikido but do not truly enjoy playing music, regardless of your relative talents for the two.
Well, of course you know better than myself regarding me, and regarding how much I like music

I took myself as an example of the explanation I've heard the biggest number of times, and that I believe a lot in. So do a big number of aikido people and aikido teachers around... of course, you don't have to agree.

This thread has strayn far off topic, and I think I've added what I have to add. Peace.
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Old 06-18-2007, 10:54 AM   #56
G DiPierro
Location: Ohio
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

Quote:
Hanna Bj«Órk wrote: View Post
Well, of course you know better than myself regarding me, and regarding how much I like music

I took myself as an example of the explanation I've heard the biggest number of times, and that I believe a lot in. So do a big number of aikido people and aikido teachers around... of course, you don't have to agree.
Of course I don't know anything about you other than what you have posted here, but I've read the same explanation before for why talented people quit aikido, and I think it misses a key point, which is that if someone really loves doing something, they don't need an external motivation to keep them challenged and interested. Their internal motivation will be so strong that they will seek out these challenges wherever they must.

While I don't know your level of achievement in music, I find it hard to believe you could have exhausted all of the possible challenges in the field. Perhaps if you were at the highest level in the world in your specialty, then you could claim there was no more challenges left, but otherwise it is just matter of you deciding that you don't care about music enough to seek out a higher level of performance that will maintain your interest.

When talented people quit aikido, I suspect that it is usually in favor of another similar practice that is more challenging and fulfilling for them. I think a lot of people in aikido would like to believe that these people have quit martial arts entirely so they don't have to look at why aikido is losing these people to other arts, but the idea of someone quitting something that they enjoy doing just because they are too good at it just doesn't make sense. It seems a lot more reasonable to conclude that they have just taken their talents to another art that offers more a challenging and interesting practice for the above-average student. And, as I pointed out, it is not hard to find examples of this.
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Old 06-18-2007, 11:37 AM   #57
DonMagee
Location: Indiana
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Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

I don't feel I've left aikido entirely. But my reasons for abandoning most of my aikido classes in favor of bjj and judo were because of the method of practice.

I love martial arts in general. However, the method of practice in aikido is not one that I can wrap my head around. I have much more success with the method of practice used by judo/bjj. In my first year of aikido, I struggled and was unable to really do much of anything without constant hand holding. In my first year of bjj I became a very strong grappler.

I don't feel this has anything to do with one being to complicated or harder then the other. It simply has to do with how I learn. I've seen people (although rarely) who can not adpot to the method of practice for bjj and suffer horribly. I sometimes wonder how they would do in aikido.

- Don
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein
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Old 06-18-2007, 11:54 AM   #58
Marie Noelle Fequiere
 
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Dojo: Ikashi Dojo, Port au Prince
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Wink Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

My Shotokan Sensei sometimes promoted a lazy student on purpose, when they failed to improve decently after the required number of training hours, to make them discover what it's like to be beaten by a lower ranked student.
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Old 06-26-2007, 10:45 PM   #59
"bitterly anonymous"
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Talking Re: It's not a democracy, I know.

One criticism of the vertical hierarchy of Japanese martial arts is that it is undemocratic. I think that in the West, we sometimes don't really understand the nature and function of the sempai/kohai relationship. However, in a good dojo, this system works. It's not just a case of senior/junior. It doesn't mean "I'm the king and can do as I like because I'm sempai." It's a partnership and being sempai can be hard work. Our teacher takes responsibility for our training. In my anonymous opinion, the original poster's teacher was being irresponsible.

I've also had a similar experience to this. I was fifth kyuu for six years and I only got that because I went independently to a seminar with an instructor higher up in the organisation. I was never officially allowed to grade. The sensei's mates and a few pretty girls were groomed for gradings, but I was training far more than they were. People who started three years after me got shodan within three years because they were mates with the sensei. I was fifth kyuu when they started learning ukemi and I was fifth kyuu when they were getting cut (and cutting other people) with live blades when getting their shodan's three years later. I wasn't so stupid as to stick with the same biased instructor, but sometimes beggars can't be choosers. I trained with others, but this guy was the only option for grading in the area. Aikido isn't always freely available on your doorstep. When I moved, I had some excellent tuition, but every time I came back I would find my old club had got worse. Eventually, I moved away on a permanent basis.

One thing I would like to say that might make anyone who has experienced this problem feel better is that it all works out in the end. I eventually found some good dojos and my second ever grading was for second kyuu. Quite a leap, and I realised I hadn't been wasting my time. It felt like an appropriate level after six years of training that included many years with a dodgy instructor. I got through the 2kyuu grading mainly using the stuff I had learned from other instructors too. The dodgy guy had basically only been teaching how to pass gradings -- for one particular organisation. So getting 2kyuu also made me feel sorry for those people who were given shodan from their local club. Well… actually, not much, but that's my own internal enemy.

My advice is to just train for yourself, for when you find a real aikido instructor.
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