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Old 11-18-2007, 03:33 PM   #51
Amir Krause
Dojo: Shirokan Dojo / Tel Aviv Israel
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Thumbs down Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Quote:
Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
Quote:
Conrad Gustafson wrote: View Post
I was told by a shihan that there is value in the process of testing. Preparing for a test and the event of the test itself are a chance to practice aikido under pressure, which is very different from just doing keiko all the time with no real scrutiny or consequences.

He said that a single test is worth something like two months of practice in terms of aikido lessons learned.

He didn't particularly emphasize that it was the rank that was important, but the process.
That's a good point. Most people in aikido usually train in a fairly low-pressure environment where uke always takes a nice fall and there's never any (overt) conflict allowed on the mat (this environment is often what people in aikido mean when they talk about "harmony"). For them the pressure of getting up in front of people and being scrutinized can be a challenging experience. However, if all of those testing are going to pass their 'test', then what purpose does this alleged test serve that a simple demonstration in front of the same people would not serve?

Does the potential, however remote and inconsequential, for failure increase the pressure? If so, would the process not be even more beneficial if the possibility of failure was greater (ie, if it was really a test)? What about if it were a competition where two people were being tested against each other? Wouldn't that be even more pressure? What about a real fight, on the mat but outside the bounds of training rules and customs, where the consequences of failure are much greater than just a little public embarrassment? Surely one would learn even more from such an experience than they would from a test that they are almost certainly not going to fail (and even if they do the consequences are not that great).

I would agree with your shihan that increasing the pressure and consequences to a level above what is found in the typical aikido dojo is a valuable and perhaps even essential training device. However, I don't consider the so-called tests I have seen in aikido, almost always with a very compliant uke, to be anywhere near adequate for this purpose.
Are you sure you are not spinning that Shihan's words way beyond his intention?
There is a huge difference between testing skill under pressure and learning under pressure. The first can provide an indication for a slow in depth study, the latter is the hurried approach. And I am not sure both climb the same mountain.

Increasing the pressure as you kind of suggested is not constructive to the learning process. In a fight, one is fighting, not learning (the modern science of sports training even talks about maximal levels of acids in the blood for efficient learning). I doubt the purpose of being tested under pressure is to crash the person, I would think one who feels he succeeded would gain more from it, psychologicly, then the one who continously fails after crashing from the pressure. After one coupes successfuly, it might be possible to gradually increase the requiemnts from him, and the level of pressue, and it would work, but only up to some point.

A test only happens when the person is ready for it(in the eyes of his teacher). The person is expected to succeed, since he only approaches the barrier after his teacher believes e can pass it. Hence, one should expect rather high success ratios. From my own experiance in our dojo, most failures happened due to over pressure, and not due to lack of abilty. And almost everyone, have passed two months later.

A contest is not a test, the buildup is different. The controlebility of the experiance is not the same.
Further, competitions tend to change the M.A. which uses them (this definitly applies to Judo, Kendo , TKD and most probably to Tomiki Aikido as well). People start practicing only to win the competition, some technical variations are found to be too dangerous to be used full force. Etc.

Quote:
It would be interesting to compare the failure rates of dan test in various organizations. For example, the failure rate (in 2005) of the ZNKR 8-dan exam that I mentioned earlier was 99.1% (12 applicants passed out of 1357 -- keep in mind the requirement to test for 8-dan is having been 7-dan for at least 10 years). My guess would be that in the USAF the failure rate over the last several years for 1- through 3-dan (these are the only dan ranks for which they test) would be close to zero. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it is exactly zero, though I would be very surprised if it was even as high as 5%. I would also guess that the ASU numbers are similar, though I don't expect either of these groups (or any other aikido groups) to release that kind of information. Of course, anyone who knows for sure or cares to speculate about their own organization is welcome to do so.
Can you seriously compare 8th dan failure rates to Shodan to Sandan failure rates???
Why should the results be similar???

Mr. G DiPierro
What is your beef with Aikikai? You seem to try and blacken them at every opportunity, and I start wondering why?
I would like to mention I am not of Aikikai affiliation, or even Ushiba Aikido affiliation. If I have this feeling, what do members of that organization feel?

Amir

Last edited by Amir Krause : 11-18-2007 at 03:35 PM. Reason: errors in format
 
Old 11-18-2007, 05:56 PM   #52
Keith Larman
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

If your organization has a ranking system and you're within that organization you'll understand how "valid" the ranking is, how useful it is (or isn't), etc. after you've been there long enough. The irony is that most who get into the higher ranks begin to realize that ultimately it isn't about rank -- most are just there because it is what they do and they like doing it. So you keep doing it. And then one day you get asked to test. Or you get far enough where you can't test anymore and someone hands you the next one. You say thank you and life goes on. The value will depend on the group, where you are and what you're looking for.

I remember having the realization hit me partway through my sandan test that this was going to be my last formal test (we only test up to sandan in Seidokan). "Hmmm, how did I ever get to this point? Where did the years go? Oh, well, no matter. I'm having fun..."

If you're in an organization that doesn't award rank, great as well.

If you try to compare ranks across organizations, well, best of luck to you.

If you're trying to compare testing methods across groups, ha!, well, enjoy yourself. That's kinda like comparing apples and zambonies...

Frankly those without rank who complain that ranking is meaningless often sound about the same to me as those with bloated and often made-up high ranks who boast about how great it is. Two sides of the same close to worthless coin. I can't count how many guys have shown up in the dojo over the years who have read all the books and then tell us how many different martial arts styles they've studied. Gone from one to the other. Or the dojo-hoppers. Those who never stay long enough to really get all that good at anything. Usually under 30 year old guys who claim "proficiency" in 5 different arts already. I'm in my mid 40's working on feeling passable in one. Maybe I'm slow. Anyway, these guys usually have an overabundance of confidence with a complete lack of ability to compensate for it. And after a few weeks (rarely months) they wander out never to return again adding yet another style to their "resume" before they go and start up their own dojo with their own "eclectic" style of whatever it is they're doing. A gigantic, wide pool that's exactly 1 mm deep that will not be able sustain life... A little of everything but no depth whatsoever.

Anyone who trains any amount of time knows full well that ability is not reserved for the high ranks. Nor is intelligence, humility, or anything else. But rank within many groups does mean someone has been around a while, has trained hard, has passed tests, and has as a result demonstrated ability on different occasions. Those without rank may have done as much work, but just without the tests. And there are those without rank who have never demonstrated anything other than the ability to type on internet forums and hop from one dojo to the next.

But rank within some organizations means precisely what it does within that group. And for many groups it is a sign of progress, ability and contribution. And that and $5 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbuck's (no, wait, sorry, that would be a venti mocha blah blah blah blah).

Frankly I just look upon it as time on the path. Some move faster, some move slower, but progress is something else entirely. And ultimately we're all on the same path, some have just been there longer. Ideally rank helps us understand some of that within the context of your own organization. No guarantees, no absolutes. It is silly to take it too seriously. It is equally silly to just toss it out as worthless.

Much ado about nothing.

If an organization doesn't have rank, so be it. However, even the koryu organizations have structures. It might be simply kohai/sempai style, but they also have various things like menkyo, etc. The rankings may not always be overt, public and formalized, but they're always there.

So just train and figure out what it is where you are. And then train more because nothing really changes.

More mat, less chat...

Frankly, however, sticking with my Shakespearean theme, I do think some doth protest too much sometimes...

 
Old 11-18-2007, 06:42 PM   #53
Michael Hackett
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Keith,

Your writing is as sharp and polished as your blades. Well said!

Michael
"Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli."
 
Old 11-18-2007, 06:54 PM   #54
Avery Jenkins
 
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Keith,

Great post. I've never heard it explicated better.

Avery Jenkins
www.docaltmed.com
 
Old 11-19-2007, 10:16 AM   #55
G DiPierro
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Quote:
Amir Krause wrote: View Post
Mr. G DiPierro
What is your beef with Aikikai? You seem to try and blacken them at every opportunity, and I start wondering why?
I would like to mention I am not of Aikikai affiliation, or even Ushiba Aikido affiliation. If I have this feeling, what do members of that organization feel?
You're a little late to this here party. Most everyone else packed up and went home a couple of months ago. But if you really want to know, I talk about the Aikikai the most because that is the organization I have the most experience with, having been a member of several dojos affiliated with that organization and also having attended many other classes and seminars with top-ranking teachers in that group. I have my criticisms of other organizations as well but I don't mention those as much because I don't have as much experience with them.

The Aikikai, specifically through a couple of US-affiliated groups, was a significant part of my life for a number of years. I left, gradually in small steps over time, mainly because they would not allow me to continue down the path I was going while continuing my relationship with them. It was their choice, and while I don't have any problems with that choice (honestly it probably has worked out better for me this way, though I'll never know for sure what might have happened had things been different), I found a lot of the behavior I encountered over the years in that group to be very hypocritical, with many people both in and out of positions of authority trying to claim the moral high-ground all the while taking actions for no other reasons than aggrandizing their own egos and advancing their petty political agendas. That's the part that I found sickening. If they had been more upfront with me I'm sure that I would have a lot more respect for them now.
 
Old 11-19-2007, 02:20 PM   #56
Daniel Blanco
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Rank shows a persons/self progression through aikido,but sometimes it just builds egos for people.
 
Old 11-19-2007, 03:31 PM   #57
Keith Larman
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Quote:
Daniel Blanco wrote: View Post
Rank shows a persons/self progression through aikido,but sometimes it just builds egos for people.
I would disagree. Rank doesn't build ego. Rank is just what it is - nothing more, nothing less. Some develop big egos after being given certain ranks, but often they develop those egos independantly of it. Heck, some have the ego with very little rank. Some have the ego the day they begin and are never able to adequately empty their cups to learn what is being taught. Lots of those around even on on-line forums.

Some seem to look down on the concept of ranking. Frankly I find peoples' *reaction* to attaining higher rank more of the issue and vastly more indicative of problems. It has nothing to do with the rank per se. It has everything to do with human frailties. If someone earns their rank, they earned it, ego or not. I regularly train with two shichidan. Both humble, nice guys. No pretense. We train, get beers, go cut up tatami, and basically enjoy ourselves (not necessarily in that order -- no beer before cutting).

Of course it doesn't mean I'll have any respect for a person with an inflated opinion of themselves solely due to having attained a high rank. I will, however, respect the rank and position the person has earned. There is a difference.

 
Old 11-20-2007, 08:06 AM   #58
G DiPierro
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
Rank is just what it is - nothing more, nothing less.
Ahh, but what is it? That is the real question.
Quote:
Some seem to look down on the concept of ranking.
I don't have any problems with the concept of ranking. We rank things all of the time. Any time you make any kind of decision you have to first rank the possible choices according to some criteria.

The problem lies in how that concept is applied within aikido organizations. What are the criteria for ranking people in a non-competitive art like aikido? Every group has some sort of list of techniques that must be performed, but beyond that there is no specification of how they must be performed. Typically, they are done on a fully compliant, non-resisting partner of sufficient experience to know the ukemi well enough to make the nage look good. Rather than requiring some objective level of skill, aikido tests are usually look more for how well someone conforms to the particular style of their organization.

The other formal criterion is practice days, which usually have to be within a dojo in the organization you are testing in. This is more a measure of loyalty than anything else. And of course, given the subjective nature of performing techniques with a fully-compliant partner, often for one judge who will ultimately make an entirely subjective decision on his own, politics factor heavily in all aikido promotions. In fact, above 3- or 4-dan even the pretense of testing is done away with in most aikido groups and all aikido promotions become political.

So rank "is what it is," but what it is in aikido is not what people think it is. It is by no means an objective measure or guarantee of skill, even within one group, and certainly not within the general martial arts community. Nor is it a necessary or even sufficient requirement to teach anyone anything. It is nothing more than a measure of one's political position within one particular organization.

If people understood that and did not try to make rank into something it is not then I suspect there would not be so many problems. However, I think the organizations actively encourage a misunderstanding of what rank is because it increases their power over their members when people consider political status (ie, rank) within an organization to be more important than actual skill, as many, if not most, people in aikido do.
 
Old 11-20-2007, 10:37 AM   #59
Keith Larman
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Your posts read like the writing of a very bitter man who only sees things in very black and white terms.

What makes you think everyone always trains with only fully compliant partners? You've got a lot of balls to make these sort of sweeping generalizations. As I was initially learning back when I remember being helped along the way. Not much resistance but enough to help me understand what I was learning. But as I got better the resistance became stronger, faster and more subtle. I guess you never had that experience. Or else you're so bloody sure of what you "know" that you've never given anyone the chance to get you there. No, it doesn't happen right away, but over time the resistance starts to increase as the higher ranks begin to understand your ability to handle the increased resistance and intensity. To the point where the higher ranks quite frequently have classes where we go all out. Right down to combination punches, attacks, etc.

I must say I find your sweeping generalizations absurd, small minded, and indicative of your not being anywhere long enough to find a group of people willing to train with you at intensity. Not to mention somewhat insulting to those who train very hard. You like to paint the whole of Aikido in terms that you've apparently long decided is the way of all Aikido. And then you start writing like some pissed off old fart grumbling that no one does it the right way.

And while I'm typing, what makes you think the board on a test isn't capable of seeing when an uke is "giving it up" for a nage? When we test we're also evaluting the uke's performance on the test. And we *demand* attacks of intensity and sincerity commensurate with their ability. No, I'm not going to ask some nidan to go out on a test and try to decapitate a gokyu. But if the person giving the gokyu the punch isn't putting something into it and really trying, well, we'll have them sit down and we'll call up someone who will. And that expectation grows with each and every test. I've seen tests that haven't gone very well because the uke was trying too hard to "help out" but just laying things out there.

Of course there will always be politics. There are politics in each and every organization. How much varies. But you seem to see things only through your rose tinted glasses. So everything looks the same to you and I submit it is more about you than the world outside.

Or at least it is at total odds with my experience, goals and training within my group. Sure, there are some who are no where near as effective as others. Just like everywhere and everything else. Obviously not everyone is as fire breathing effective a uber martial artist as you. But it may surprise you to find out that many people within aikido *do* train with resistance, intensity and the notion of martial effectiveness in mind.

There are lots of people in Aikido. Some are doing stuff that looks no more martially viable than Yoga (thanks for that comparison Toby). But others take it *very* seriously on *many* levels. Everything from understanding o-sensei's doka to understanding the notions of blending to understanding ki to understanding that a technique doesn't matter if its pretty if it doesn't protect you.

Man, you remind me of the guy with the shirt that says "There are only 10 people in the world -- those who understand binary and those who don't". There are a lot of shades of grey out there. And a *lot* of people doing aikido in all sorts of different ways.

And quite frankly you're not going to see much in the way of full on total resistance at seminars. Heck, I've been lucky enough to get invited to training in koryu arts that are usually closed to outsiders (fringe benefit of doing swords for a lot of people). Even in those events there is precious little in the way of active resistance -- people are too busy learning how to do new things. The harder training comes later once they're integrated the lessons into their skill sets and they start working on it privately among those they can trust to do it with enough control not to cause injury.

Argh, enough. Like I said before, rank it what it is. And it varies. It seems you like to be on the outside looking in saying everyone else is stupid. Must be nice to have such a strong hold on the absolute truth and reality.

Now where are the ignore controls...

 
Old 11-20-2007, 10:45 AM   #60
G DiPierro
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
Your posts read like the writing of a very bitter man who only sees things in very black and white terms.
...
You've got a lot of balls to make these sort of sweeping generalizations.
...
And then you start writing like some pissed off old fart grumbling that no one does it the right way.
...
But you seem to see things only through your rose tinted glasses. Man, you remind me of the guy with the shirt that says "There are only 10 people in the world -- those who understand binary and those who don't".
...
Must be nice to have such a strong hold on the absolute truth and reality.
You might want to see a psychologist about your projection issues. Seems to be a common problem with aikido people for some reason.
 
Old 11-20-2007, 10:54 AM   #61
Amir Krause
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

I think Rank is exactly as important as you (the one who hears about it) make of it. The only thing rank is really important for, is within the organization which recognizes it, such as in seminars of that organizations, or "advanced classes" in a group (and even then, there are exceptions).

Some people, hearing someone has a B.B. will immediately consider him an awesome fighter. Others will wait to hear more details: how long did he practice, where. Some may be more impressed of ones ability to dedicate himself for over a decade then by the belt color or rank.

In fact, each group has its own ranking and testing approach:
With some, testing and ranking is a must, with others, an option.
For some, the tests stop at some particular level, for others, the tests continue further and others yet, do not test at all, or they are being tested and evaluated constantly by their teacher.
Some people can decide if and when they wish to test, others are told by their teachers, and others still are tested unknowingly (this was done to me once, and I passed).
Some places practice all round the clock to prepare for the next test, in other groups, only the testee prepare, and in others, if you wish to prepare you should do it outside of the usual class.
For some, the test has a fixed form, with fixed techniques at prescribed situations; others may change the techniques and\or situations from some larger least. Some tests may include some forms of free-play and or Randori, others do not.
The pass criteria also vary, some testers would place more importance on performance, and other testers may put more on the effort for getting there. Some would care about your age, physical state etc. others would not.

There is nothing uniform about tests and ranks
Thus, I do not get the point of putting so much importance into the testing and ranking procedure of others, unless you wish to plan your own.

Quote:
Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
Rather than requiring some objective level of skill, aikido tests are usually look more for how well someone conforms to the particular style of their organization.
How can you measure skill in an objective level?
I am not even sure this is the right thing. I think ones efforts in obtaining his skill should also be recognized.

Quote:
Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
The other formal criterion is practice days, which usually have to be within a dojo in the organization you are testing in. This is more a measure of loyalty than anything else.
Rank is inside an organization. Your loyalty and effort inside the organization are therefore of importance.

Quote:
Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
And of course, given the subjective nature of performing techniques with a fully-compliant partner, often for one judge who will ultimately make an entirely subjective decision on his own, politics factor heavily in all aikido promotions.
Guess what, many tests are done in very similar fashion, including driver licensing in most countries I have heard of (only a single tester with you in the car).
Having had the honor of sitting with my teacher while he decides on awarding junior ranks after several tests, I can state he does have his own criteria, and he knows exactly what is he willing to give up, and to whom (a fully abled 20 yrs old would get less lenient treatment compared to some 50 yrs old who works hard for every move). You may call this politics, I will disagree and consider elements beyond the mere technical performance to be of significant value.
It is true, one can twist anything as he wishes, including test results, or ones impressions of some organization.

Quote:
Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
In fact, above 3- or 4-dan even the pretense of testing is done away with in most aikido groups and all aikido promotions become political.
While my Nidan test was performed without informing me at all, letting me know about it only afterwards while telling me I passed. I never had a Sandan test, yet, after some point in time, my sensei reached the conclusion I have reached the relevant level and neither of us found the right time for a test.
Politics was not involved in it. Since my teacher knew I had no interest in higher ranks (I more then implied I am not worthy of any and suggested very high criteria I am not likely to ever pass). Thus, no one had any interest in this topic, except for my teacher feelings of obligation.
I should mention my teacher is authorized (in Korindo Aikido) to test up to Sandan or Yondan, and recommend his students for higher ranks. And that most of the system dojos are small enough to make the teachers decision, the most important factor. I would also have to admit I am not the only one who was tested without asking him.

Quote:
Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
So rank "is what it is," but what it is in aikido is not what people think it is. It is by no means an objective measure or guarantee of skill, even within one group, and certainly not within the general martial arts community. Nor is it a necessary or even sufficient requirement to teach anyone anything. It is nothing more than a measure of one's political position within one particular organization.
Is this a way of consoling people who were not awarded ranks?
While most people simply pass the tests and are promoted (as I wrote, even against their wishes).

Politics and inter-personal relations do play a role, but mostly at very high ranking levels (may be anywhere between 6th to 9th dan, depending on organization). At those levels, rank is mostly a matter of organizational position (and recognized as such), this is also the reason commitment to the organization also plays a role.

Quote:
Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
If people understood that and did not try to make rank into something it is not then I suspect there would not be so many problems. However, I think the organizations actively encourage a misunderstanding of what rank is because it increases their power over their members when people consider political status (ie, rank) within an organization to be more important than actual skill, as many, if not most, people in aikido do.
Skill is not the be all!

I give much more credit to someone who works very hard and only has average technique compared to his friend who succeeded in doing the same thing at the first lesson.

Amir
 
Old 11-20-2007, 10:59 AM   #62
Keith Larman
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Quote:
Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
You might want to see a psychologist about your projection issues. Seems to be a common problem with aikido people for some reason.
Thanks, but I spent 17 years working in psych research and mental skills testing. I've got a pretty good handle on it already...

 
Old 11-20-2007, 11:11 AM   #63
G DiPierro
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Quote:
Amir Krause wrote: View Post
How can you measure skill in an objective level?
In an art like aikido that has no formal competitions, you can't. I'm not sure you would even want to anyway.

Quote:
I think ones efforts in obtaining his skill should also be recognized.
...
Rank is inside an organization. Your loyalty and effort inside the organization are therefore of importance.
...
Skill is not the be all!

I give much more credit to someone who works very hard and only has average technique compared to his friend who succeeded in doing the same thing at the first lesson.
Fine, but then be clear that rank does not correlate to skill. Many, many people in aikido think and act like it does.

Quote:
Guess what, many tests are done in very similar fashion, including driver licensing in most countries I have heard of (only a single tester with you in the car).
A driver's test is designed to ensure a very bare minumum level of competence that almost anyone can attain. Thus, it is not necessary to have an elaborate system to ensure fairness. If for some reason you think you have failed for political reasons, you can always go take the test with another examiner or at another location. Good luck trying to do that if you think you have failed an aikido test for political reasons.

Some people think martial arts ranks are or should be like professional qualifications for lawyers or doctors. The standardized tests for university admissions in this country (administered by the ETS) and also professional exams for lawyers and doctors are specifically designed to measure actual competence and eliminate political influence as much as possible. Martial arts exams, particularly in aikido, are not. When you need an exam to be a good measure of skill, you want to make sure it is as fair and objective as possible. Among martial arts, kendo at least does a better job of this than aikido, although politics still can play a role there.

If you think rank in aikido is and should be only as meaningful of an accomplishment as passing a driver's test, then that's a good model to use. But if you want it to be as meaningful as professional qualifications, as some people do, then you need to be looking at how institutions like the ETS, AMA, and ABA examine people, not at how the DMV does it.

Last edited by G DiPierro : 11-20-2007 at 11:18 AM.
 
Old 11-20-2007, 11:32 AM   #64
Will Prusner
 
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Quote:
Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
So rank "is what it is," but what it is in aikido is not what people think it is. It is by no means an objective measure or guarantee of skill, even within one group, and certainly not within the general martial arts community. Nor is it a necessary or even sufficient requirement to teach anyone anything. It is nothing more than a measure of one's political position within one particular organization.
Okay, I have no rank. I am also not particularly impressed by rank, in and of itself. I also do not belong to any particular martial arts organization, nor am I much impressed by them, either. I'm also not upset that other people DO have rank. And it doesn't bother me at all that some people look up to those with rank, misguided or not. Whatever gets you through the night.

However, to be perfectly honest, the above quote sounds a lot like a "Sour Grapes" approach to ranking. GD, If you're upset about not holding rank, and it is as easy to obtain as you say, then by all means, join up and put in the work. Otherwise, just take it easy, don't worry so much about what other people are doing and thinking. Just do your own thing and be comfortable with not fitting in to the mainstream. But also be aware that some of those people in the mainstream may talk down to you, underestimate you, even attempt to repress, silence and discredit your opinions. That's good, anticipate it, expect it, grow from it, consider that they are the hammers beating the impurities from your matrix, helping you to become stronger and sharper than before. And after all, don't their actions and statements say more about them than they do about you? But why put so much energy into discrediting the ranking system of an organization that you supposedly don't care for in the first place? It just don't jive. If you don't care about rank, then act like it.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration...

ART! - http://birdsbeaks.blogspot.com/
 
Old 11-20-2007, 11:38 AM   #65
Will Prusner
 
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

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Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
...even within one group, and certainly not within the general martial arts community.
Who is the "general martial arts community". Sounds like a good group to stay as far away from as possible. If I see those guys going one way, you can find me in the other! Yipes!

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration...

ART! - http://birdsbeaks.blogspot.com/
 
Old 11-20-2007, 12:19 PM   #66
G DiPierro
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

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William Prusner wrote: View Post
GD, If you're upset about not holding rank, and it is as easy to obtain as you say, then by all means, join up and put in the work.
If I were upset about not having rank, then by all means I would have taken steps to get it. If anything, I've tended more towards to the opposite, though I never tried to specifically avoid rank either. And where did I say that it was easy to obtain? The typical requirements are that you spend a lot of time training in one organization to meet the practice days requirement, although I suppose that having my own dojo I might have been able to join a group in exchange for a quick promotion. Not really interested in doing that, though. I don't care about having the rank and I'm not willing to make the kind of compromises that a group would require in return for an arrangement like that.

Quote:
Otherwise, just take it easy, don't worry so much about what other people are doing and thinking. Just do your own thing and be comfortable with not fitting in to the mainstream. But also be aware that some of those people in the mainstream may talk down to you, underestimate you, even attempt to repress, silence and discredit your opinions. That's good, anticipate it, expect it, grow from it, consider that they are the hammers beating the impurities from your matrix, helping you to become stronger and sharper than before. And after all, don't their actions and statements say more about them than they do about you? But why put so much energy into discrediting the ranking system of an organization that you supposedly don't care for in the first place? It just don't jive. If you don't care about rank, then act like it.
It's actually a lot more complicated than that. I don't care about having rank myself. However, I do care about aikido and even people in aikido organizations (believe it or not, I don't hate everybody that belongs an organization), and for many of those people rank is a very big deal. I write about the things I learned through my experiences with these people and organizations. Maybe it will help others understand their own group better. Maybe not. But it's been an issue that has colored many of interactions I have had with people in aikido since when I first started.

I suppose I could go off and be a hermit and keep to myself, but to interact with people in the greater aikido community is to experience the issue of rank affecting those interactions in one form or another. And I've experienced it in a number of forms that many people probably haven't. I assume that you've seen for yourself how even when I have posted on an issue having nothing to do with rank whatsoever other people have turned the interaction into one focusing on rank. So I can't really get away from it. I prefer to embrace it and shine the light of inquiry on it so that people can see it for what it really is.

Last edited by G DiPierro : 11-20-2007 at 12:22 PM.
 
Old 11-20-2007, 12:37 PM   #67
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

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I do care about aikido and even people in aikido organizations (believe it or not, I don't hate everybody that belongs an organization), and for many of those people rank is a very big deal.
Yes, however, those organizations and the people you care about in them already have their minds made up (otherwise they wouldn't be affiliated with the org, right?). Just as no amount of words or sound arguments from others will convince you that the current ranking system is peachy, no amount of words or sound arguments from you will convince them that it is flawed. So after all of the headbutting, who benefits from the discussion? For some, being a member of an Aikido organization is probably a great thing. For others, not so much. But I don't feel the need to influence their own personal decision toward one outcome or the other. It's really just not such a big deal; if you choose to be in the org and you like it, great. If you don't like it, you can leave. It's not like the mafia, people can afford to find out for themselves.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration...

ART! - http://birdsbeaks.blogspot.com/
 
Old 11-20-2007, 03:00 PM   #68
Ron Tisdale
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Quote:
However, to be perfectly honest, the above quote sounds a lot like a "Sour Grapes" approach to ranking.
I have to admit...if someone gets to 3rd dan or higher, then says, "I don't think rank is a good idea, I'm going to start my own organization, and we won't have rank"...ok, I'll listen to that person gripe about rank in the organization he came out of. He went through the process, he got the goods they have to offer, and he made up his mind that he didn't like it. So he does his own thing.

Seems a little different from what;s being offered here...

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
 
Old 11-20-2007, 04:03 PM   #69
aikidoc
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I agree Ron. Most people also forget that obtaining rank is a process and not an end goal. Achieving it requires one to demonstrate tenacity, discipline, compliance with rules (many of which they may not agree with), and possibly training in a way that they may not agree with. However, to achieve it one must have the martial discipline to stay with something long enough to go through the process-no matter how much they disagree. It reminds me of the initial Kung Fu movie where the adolescent Kwai Chang Cain was required to perform menial tasks in various weather conditions such as sweeping to demonstrate his commitment and discipline before he was even allowed to train. Those who chose not to follow the program will never get to achieve the satisfaction of completing the process, nor will they have the opportunity to explore the possibilities afforded them to learn or be guided to a different level of understanding. They will find it difficult to see the inner workings of the art as afforded by commitment and discipline and the guidance of those who have gone before. If anything, they will miss the chance to learn to learn. If I can give credit to anything I have ever received from a martial arts instructor, I credit the gift of teaching me how to study the art. It was invaluable. It has helped me shorten my learning curve significantly. Sometimes a simple eye contact gesture from my sensei will send me in a new direction. If I had not had the benefit of learning to learn, such gestures would be meaningless. To me, this only comes through consistent, persistent and on-going training. I spent a period where I had no one providing me with teaching. With my previous gift, I was still able to progress-fortunately in the same direction as my current sensei-albeit slowly since i was working things out without the benefit of experience guiding me.

Ranking has meaning to me in the above context. It shows I have demonstrated the commitment to pursue something I find worthwhile. I have never found any organization I have belonged to try to stifle my pursuits. In fact, to the contrary. Although they do demand techniques be performed with a certain set of skills or criteria and to a certain level of quality, they have never stopped my pursuits beyond that. I do their stuff on the test and pursue my stuff in the dojo. In one organization, I moved beyond their understanding and needed to change to grow-not their fault, well not totally. There was too much inbreeding with no external pursuits which is sometimes a problem in independent organizations when then become focused on the status quo.. In the other, I was simply not learning anything new and their style of aikido did not fit the direction I was pursuing. Then I found what fit me best and am quite happy with that since I have a lot to learn. I find too that I am more comfortable in a smaller organization with a closer relationship to the shihan. I can host him and he will stay at my home with no issues. In a large group, I would be lucky to talk to him or her. But that's just my preference. Ranking to me is my process of progress and recognition that I am in fact making progress. Testing is one way of validating but not the only method.

Last edited by aikidoc : 11-20-2007 at 04:15 PM.
 
Old 11-20-2007, 06:41 PM   #70
Keith Larman
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

John and Ron:

Agreed completely.

To me it is much like learning anything of value. There is the surface, obvious, "omote" appearances. The ura stuff, however, comes much later. Only after fully integrating everything else.

In aikido you get a few promotions and at around nikyu or ikkyu you develop the dreaded "ikkyu-wisdom" problem. You figure you've got it all figured out. And frankly you're supposed to kinda be at that place when you get to that rank. You should now be familiar with the techniques, with the ideas, with the philosophy, etc. And people get to this point and often go no further. After all, they've got it all now, right?

I'm sure I was a royal pain in the butt at that level. I don't really remember, but I can only imagine how insufferable I must have been (considering how insufferable I am now that should really say something).

Well, all I can say is that in my own experience what happens is that you will hopefully develop some degree of humility along the way as you find out how little you really know. There is no surprise that shodan is really considered a "beginner" in many senses. From now on the focus is on learning how to do all those things well. How to do them with the right spirit. And to start integrating all those things together. Nidan comes and goes, then sandan and you're still wondering if you're ever going to really get it.

In a way all that work to learn the techniques, names, etc. to get to shodan was really in preparation to allow you to see that you've really only now scratched the surface. You can't see it until you get past that point. And many never see it.

In the end rank is about a lot of things. Not the least of which is that it is one measure of some one's ability to "tough it out" and to persevere. It also hopefully shows that the student has never stopped learning. Unfortunately many will stop at the nikyu/ikkyu level because they hit that point where they're in too much of a rush to "get to the good stuff" and jump ship before they're ready to really do it really well. So many leave right at that juncture convinced they've got the essence of it all. When in fact they've missed everything essential and only grasp the outer, most trivial aspects.

Rank is no guarantee that someone "gets it". But getting a high rank is an accomplishment in most organizations and is indicative of someone willing to work through and beyond the cursory and what is ultimately trivial. Sticking it out to get a strong enough foundation to really begin to grasp at the deeper aspects is something precious few ever really do.

Youtube is full of self-appointed "sensei" and "chief instructors" who clearly never toughed it out long term to really learn anything. They're marginally effective, often brutal, and usually sloppy. Me, well, I keep training trying to even begin to approach the level of several shichidan I have the honor of training with fairly regularly. The gulf between them and me is huge even if I can throw regularly and perform adequately. It's jumping to those higher levels that is so difficult. And no, it has nothing to do with rank. But the rank tends to go to those who do...

Last edited by Keith Larman : 11-20-2007 at 06:44 PM.

 
Old 11-20-2007, 08:08 PM   #71
aikidoc
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Good comments. I think the thing I discover the higher I go is how much there really is below the surface that I'm pecking away at. Just as I get comfortable with one thing I get jolted out of my comfort zone. I have ended up feeling like a beginner so many times that I should probably just adopt that feeling as a permanent identity. Training with no mind and no expectations or preconceptions as well as always stepping on the mat with the expectation that I'm going to learn something is what I try to do. I have found that that mindset has never let me down. Even if it is just a subtlety, distintinction or mental note-I always learn something new every time I step on the mat. This is how I define my training-even when teaching.

Toughing it out is about pursuing that CANI (constant and neverending improvement) concept. To do so though, one needs the tools. It is a rare individual indeed that can develop the tools without guidance-not just through random seminar participation-but the guidance one gets by training under a mentor. Hopefully, one that has had to work things out over the years as well. I have found mine and I hope others have that chance as well. Most of the shihans who studied with O'Sensei have commented at various times that they spent their lifetime trying to figure out what he was doing, i.e., they too are students of a sort.

Last edited by aikidoc : 11-20-2007 at 08:13 PM.
 
Old 11-21-2007, 01:12 AM   #72
G DiPierro
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Quote:
John Riggs wrote: View Post
In one organization, I moved beyond their understanding and needed to change to grow-not their fault, well not totally. There was too much inbreeding with no external pursuits which is sometimes a problem in independent organizations when then become focused on the status quo.. In the other, I was simply not learning anything new and their style of aikido did not fit the direction I was pursuing. Then I found what fit me best and am quite happy with that since I have a lot to learn. I find too that I am more comfortable in a smaller organization with a closer relationship to the shihan.
Good post overall. Although I did have similar experiences to the ones you describe in your first paragraph with one aikido teacher that I studied with, albeit off and on, over the course of six years, I suppose the point I am at right now in aikido is probably closest to what you describe here. Over the past several years, I have made it a point to seek out several aikido teachers that I had never worked with before to see if the were doing anything I wanted to do, and each time I have been disappointed.

While I think that each does have something to offer, I find that the training method they employ is not useful for me. I don't get enough get out of doing compliant practice with their students to cause me to want to practice that way a regular basis, and I also don't get much out of taking compliant ukemi for them either. If I could do more resistance training, particularly with the teachers themselves, then I would be interested, but since I have not found anyone in aikido willing to train this way with me I have moved on.

The martial arts I have been getting involved in lately afford me the opportunity to work in a resistance training scenario both with other students and directly with the teacher on a regular basis. They are non-competitive and do not have a ranking system, and my opinion, based on what I have experienced in groups that do have such systems, is that if they did it would be detrimental to the quality of the practice there. One of these arts is somewhat like aikido, however I have not trained in that art very much yet though I might do so in the future. The other is very different physically but in many ways philosophically similar.

I still believe in aikido both as philosophic and physical approach to martial arts, I just have not found anyone in aikido doing the type of things I want and need to do. Instead, I have had to look to other martial arts and movement disciplines (such as yoga) to find the training I am looking for. And I'm far from the only person who has had this kind of experience in aikido. There's a long line of people who have had to go outside of aikido looking for aikido, starting with no less than Koichi Tohei. So I think I'm ultimately in good company in this pursuit.
 
Old 11-21-2007, 02:25 AM   #73
Perry Bell
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Good evening

In relation to gradings or tests, it is agreed that some dojo instructors use gradings as a way of gaining extra income etc.

However gradings are important for the teachers to see that the student is learning what they are teaching, it also places the student under a certain pressure, enabling the teacher to see if he can cope and communicate his techniques if he had to in a real situation.

When a student of medicine finishes his schooling there is always an exam at the end to make sure he understands what he has been taught, imagine if you only had to turn up to the classes and became a doctor when they were finished, with out some sort of test, I know I would not be comfortable to see a doctor that practices like that.

Regs

Perry
 
Old 11-21-2007, 11:40 AM   #74
Keith Larman
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Quote:
Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
...And I'm far from the only person who has had this kind of experience in aikido. There's a long line of people who have had to go outside of aikido looking for aikido, starting with no less than Koichi Tohei. So I think I'm ultimately in good company in this pursuit.
Wow, you're putting yourself in extraordinary company. However, it seems to me that Tohei had a virtual lifetime of experience in Aikido including being the Chief Instructor at Honbu. One of those guys with high rank earned over decades. So he had a amazingly powerful foundation upon which to build. Same with Tomiki. Same with... Heck, my organization's sensei left with Tohei and himself eventually broke away from Tohei as well. But R. Kobayashi sensei was ranked in both the aikikai organization as well as shinshintoitsu before he split to do his own version. Again, strong foundation.

So since this thread is about rank and testing, how did *your* dan exams go? Where they overcompliant? Or were you expected to perform with non-compliant attackers on your dan exam(s)? Were your dan exam(s) all that you expected? Or were they just formalities along the way?

 
Old 11-21-2007, 11:56 AM   #75
aikidoc
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

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Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
If I were upset about not having rank, then by all means I would have taken steps to get it. If anything, I've tended more towards to the opposite, though I never tried to specifically avoid rank either. And where did I say that it was easy to obtain? The typical requirements are that you spend a lot of time training in one organization to meet the practice days requirement, although I suppose that having my own dojo I might have been able to join a group in exchange for a quick promotion. Not really interested in doing that, though. I don't care about having the rank and I'm not willing to make the kind of compromises that a group would require in return for an arrangement like that.

It's actually a lot more complicated than that. I don't care about having rank myself. However, I do care about aikido and even people in aikido
That statement would seem to indicate he has no rank. Especially the first sentence.
 

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