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Old 11-21-2007, 11:14 AM   #76
G DiPierro
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
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.
And despite that, he still felt that he had to go outside of aikido to find what he considered the keys to aikido. What does that tell you?
 
Old 11-21-2007, 11:20 AM   #77
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Tells me had the rank, time in grade and true validity to make such a decision.
 
Old 11-21-2007, 11:43 AM   #78
Keith Larman
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

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Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
And despite that, he still felt that he had to go outside of aikido to find what he considered the keys to aikido. What does that tell you?
The better question is to ask why he stayed for decades before doing it...

And I am genuinely curious to hear how your dan exams went. You've got such strong opinions about how they should be done I can't help but wonder how yours went. Were the uke's that terrible?

And in the interest of fairness, here are my experiences. I enjoyed mine. Shodan was tough as I picked a very strong uke and I think his power showed up my limitations at that time. He had a college wrestling background matches up with me in terms of size and strength. And he gave it everything he had to give me strong attacks. And since I'm a big guy all the big guys lines up for my randori and came full power. So it was a good test as it did show exactly where I was and it also impressed on me the amount of work I still had to do.

My Nidan was better in my mind -- same uke, strong attacks, and I did better on my randori. The test really solidified in my mind that I had improved in a lot of the subtler ways. Less brutal, more flowing, easier, and more fun actually. I was recovering from a partially torn ACL on the right and was in a full non-rotational knee brace which slowed me down a bit, but it was a blast.

Sandan was a great experience but it could have been better -- I had a new uke (my pal Brent had moved out of state) and he wasn't as big as me and was frankly feeling under the weather. Also, my left patella has a tendancy to subluxate periodically and it did it halfway through my test. Not pleasant. I felt like I rather underperformed because my uke wasn't totally on his game and I was in pain. My randori was a blast, however. By then the realization had hit that this was my last test and it was about over so I just went out there and went for it. I paid for that over the next few days laid up with a swollen knee, but it was worth it.

So I have positive feelings about my dan exams and I learned a lot about myself from each of them. Which is what it is all about at least in our organization.

 
Old 11-21-2007, 11:45 AM   #79
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

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That statement would seem to indicate he has no rank. Especially the first sentence.
Oops, didn't see this before my last posts. I should remember not to automatically go to the last page.

Nevermind then. It speaks volumes.

 
Old 11-21-2007, 12:07 PM   #80
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

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Keith Larman wrote: View Post
Oops, didn't see this before my last posts. I should remember not to automatically go to the last page.

Nevermind then. It speaks volumes.
Well, I was working on an answer to your question but if you would rather I didn't post it that's fine too. I just want to be clear that I'm not avoiding your question. I usually ignore the people who just want to play games but when someone asks a polite, sincere question, as you did in your previous post, I will respond. But since you're not interested anymore I won't bother.
 
Old 11-21-2007, 12:43 PM   #81
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

in general, i think the more a person says they don't want rank, or the more they say its not important, the more that person is itchin for rank.

just itching to be called a master. by someone
 
Old 11-21-2007, 12:58 PM   #82
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

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Jerome Cervantes wrote: View Post
in general, i think the more a person says they don't want rank, or the more they say its not important, the more that person is itchin for rank.
That's an interesting theory. By your logic, I suppose the more you (and others) say that I don't know what I'm talking about, the more you actually agree with me.

If rank is so important to you that you cannot imagine why someone would not care about rank, then I suppose the only way my statements would make any sense to you is if I did not actually mean them.
 
Old 11-21-2007, 01:04 PM   #83
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

I'm genuinely interested in how your tests went and am asking nicely.
 
Old 11-21-2007, 02:39 PM   #84
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

http://senshincenter.com/pages/writs...nsmeaning.html

 
Old 11-21-2007, 02:58 PM   #85
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Actually, nevermind. It really isn't worth the effort. Bowing out.

Last edited by Keith Larman : 11-21-2007 at 03:05 PM. Reason: Life is too short.

 
Old 11-21-2007, 03:05 PM   #86
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Neat article -- I enjoyed the read.

 
Old 11-21-2007, 09:44 PM   #87
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

An afterthought on this thread.

Quote:
There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when it's convenient. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.
By Kenneth Blanchard

FWIW

 
Old 11-22-2007, 03:04 AM   #88
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
Quote:
John Riggs wrote: View Post
That statement would seem to indicate he has no rank. Especially the first sentence.
Oops, didn't see this before my last posts. I should remember not to automatically go to the last page.

Nevermind then. It speaks volumes.
There is one person in my dojo that has been practising for about 4 years with us. He does not hold any rank, because he is not interested in them. If he would be asked to take a 6th kuy exam, he could not tell what name goes with what technique.
But I can tell you this about him, all the things I know about aiki (the aiki as I believe Mike Sigman and some others are talking about, certainly not at the same level, but you need to start somewhere), I learned from him. And he is getting it from outside of aikido.

Just to tell you, never judge a man by his rank, but by what he can do.
 
Old 11-22-2007, 06:49 AM   #89
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

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I'm genuinely interested in how your tests went and am asking nicely.
OK, since you asked nicely, here is an overview of my experiences with rank and testing in aikido that have led me to my current opinions on rank.

I tested once in aikido: in 1998. The test itself was fairly standard and uneventful, but the experience as a whole fundamentally transformed my understanding and opinion of rank. Prior to the test, I had thought that having rank was relatively important and that I should take steps to seek it out and ensure that I had it. At the first dojo where I had trained, there was very little awareness or concern for rank, and as far I as know tests were not even held during the year that I trained there, so I did not worry about it much. But at the dojo to which I had then recently moved, there was far more consciousness of and interest in rank among the general membership, and since almost everybody had it and took some measure of pride in it I naturally assumed that it must be something important and that I too needed to have it.

Once I had actually tested I found out that nobody else really cared that much about my rank after all and that my teacher was not impressed by it in any way. Taking the test had entirely the opposite effect on him from what I had intended: he seemed disappointed that I was spending my time worrying about some ultimately trivial rank rather than focusing on the much more important matter of what he was trying to teach me. I realized then that rank is the teacher's responsibility, not the student's, and that the pursuit of rank is actually just a distraction from the things with which a student should be concerned.

When I later trained at other dojos, I noticed that the people in charge of these dojos put significantly more importance on rank as a measure of status and ability in the dojo than my previous teachers had. I think that if you are going to put a lot of emphasis on the ranking system in a dojo then you need to be prepared to deal with the problems that this might cause, particularly if you don't bother to do what is necessary to make sure that everyone is at a rank that is roughly appropriate for their relative level of skill. Instead, what I found was that these people, despite making such a big deal out of rank, were unwilling to properly maintain their ranking system or to deal with the issues that their refusal to do this was causing.

If you must have a ranking system in a non-competitive art like aikdo, then I think it is better to de-emphasize the importance of rank in everyday practice, as the teachers at the first few dojos I trained in did. Even then people will occasionally find a way to become attached to rank, so I don't think it is possible to eliminate rank-related problems entirely while still using a ranking system. The best approach I have seen is to not have any ranking system at all but just let students progress in their own ways and at their own paces. The differences between the groups I have worked with that have no ranking system and what I experienced in various aikido groups over the years are significant.

Last edited by G DiPierro : 11-22-2007 at 06:55 AM.
 
Old 11-22-2007, 08:46 AM   #90
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

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Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
OK, since you asked nicely, here is an overview of my experiences with rank and testing in aikido that have led me to my current opinions on rank.

I tested once in aikido: in 1998. The test itself was fairly standard and uneventful, but the experience as a whole fundamentally transformed my understanding and opinion of rank. Prior to the test, I had thought that having rank was relatively important and that I should take steps to seek it out and ensure that I had it. At the first dojo where I had trained, there was very little awareness or concern for rank, and as far I as know tests were not even held during the year that I trained there, so I did not worry about it much. But at the dojo to which I had then recently moved, there was far more consciousness of and interest in rank among the general membership, and since almost everybody had it and took some measure of pride in it I naturally assumed that it must be something important and that I too needed to have it.
Obviously Kyu rank.

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Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
Once I had actually tested I found out that nobody else really cared that much about my rank after all and that my teacher was not impressed by it in any way. Taking the test had entirely the opposite effect on him from what I had intended: he seemed disappointed that I was spending my time worrying about some ultimately trivial rank rather than focusing on the much more important matter of what he was trying to teach me. I realized then that rank is the teacher's responsibility, not the student's, and that the pursuit of rank is actually just a distraction from the things with which a student should be concerned.
Maybe because you were overly emphasizing your abilities or thinking yourabilities werebetter than demonstrated.

Quote:
Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
When I later trained at other dojos, I noticed that the people in charge of these dojos put significantly more importance on rank as a measure of status and ability in the dojo than my previous teachers had. I think that if you are going to put a lot of emphasis on the ranking system in a dojo then you need to be prepared to deal with the problems that this might cause, particularly if you don't bother to do what is necessary to make sure that everyone is at a rank that is roughly appropriate for their relative level of skill. Instead, what I found was that these people, despite making such a big deal out of rank, were unwilling to properly maintain their ranking system or to deal with the issues that their refusal to do this was causing.
Which Dojos? Many claims have been made about people that you have been studied with, only to find out that you studied with them at a seminar.

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Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
If you must have a ranking system in a non-competitive art like aikdo, then I think it is better to de-emphasize the importance of rank in everyday practice, as the teachers at the first few dojos I trained in did. Even then people will occasionally find a way to become attached to rank, so I don't think it is possible to eliminate rank-related problems entirely while still using a ranking system. The best approach I have seen is to not have any ranking system at all but just let students progress in their own ways and at their own paces. The differences between the groups I have worked with that have no ranking system and what I experienced in various aikido groups over the years are significant.
This is a very convient approach if one wants to call themself a Chief instructor but at the same time not have any rank above kyu.
Seems like in Houston one such person on their waver put Chief instructor for rank. Chief instructor is not a rank! Would look funny to put 5th kyu Chief Instructor!

It seems that people have a tendency to attach no importance to having rank or to downplay it's signifigance, when they do not have any rank themselves.

Like someone claiming to be a doctor when they have not been to medical school or to have taken thier medical exams. Wouldn't trust that type of "doctor."
 
Old 11-22-2007, 09:09 AM   #91
aikidoc
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Thank you for the response. I agree that an emphasis on rank is detrimental for training. That's why I never teach for tests. It limits the mind's focus to the specific technique and loses the big picture. I work on principles and concepts 99% of the time and right before a person is eligible for testing then I have them work on their test material. I will teach test criteria right before an exam. That does not mean they won't see the material before hand. It is just not focused on as being test material. The focus is on learning the intricacies of the technique not on it being a test criteria. Of course, I do occasionally get people that focus on rank. I usually can tell who they are since the day they sign up that ask how long it takes to get to this and that rank. They rarely ever stay long enough for a test. The ones that stay stay because they want to learn the intricacies of the art and are willing to pursue the process necessary to accomplish it. Rank comes as a result not as a goal.

When I trained more and taught less, my focus was not on the rank so much as on the skills the black belts were demonstrating. I knew if I attained their level of commitment, skill, consistency and connection then the rank would come. When I practice technique I focused not just on the rudimentaries of the technique but on the subtleties of making it work. Fortunately, I had a good instructor that pointed me in the right direction-teaching me how to study the intricacies or figure them out. I learned to model not only the biomechanics but the physiology of what was being shown: things such as rhythm, breathing, focus, etc.

My only focus on rank for my students is to encourage them to test when eligible and ready. I have seen too many people go through the process of training and not obtaining rank and then moving to another area. Then then decide rank is important and have to start over since they never bothered to test in the beginning. It may have no meaning to them in the present but down the road they may change their minds. Therefore, I encourage the process. Do I fail people-rarely. I won't let them get up in front of a test committee unprepared. Also, I am testing them for at least a week or longer as they approach the test. Are they focused, do they know the technique when not under the eye of a test committee, etc? I agree with Kato sensei when he says he does not like tests because people are at their worst on them.

Last edited by aikidoc : 11-22-2007 at 09:12 AM.
 
Old 11-23-2007, 12:28 PM   #92
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

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John Riggs wrote: View Post
Thank you for the response. I agree that an emphasis on rank is detrimental for training. That's why I never teach for tests.
...
My only focus on rank for my students is to encourage them to test when eligible and ready.... I agree with Kato sensei when he says he does not like tests because people are at their worst on them.
You seem to be equating tests and rank, which is a common enough sentiment in aikido. However, they are not the same thing. It is possible to have rank without testing. This is the case for all aikikai promotions over 3- or 4-dan, and I've read that Gaku Homma, an independent teacher in Denver, administers his ranking system without any formal testing at any level. He just promotes people when he thinks they should be promoted.

I suppose it would also be possible to have tests without rank, but what would be the point? Nobody would care about the type of tests used in aikido if there wasn't the carrot of rank dangling out in front of them, and that's actually a pretty good indication that such tests have little value. By way of contrast, a test involving a competitive element, as in judo, kendo, or BJJ, would have interest and meaning even if there was nothing at stake. Any test that does not have such intrinsic usefulness as a martial training tool will not suddenly become endowed with it by virtue of being used as a criterion for awarding rank. All such tests do is turn attention away from the important elements of training to the unimportant ones.

As a teacher, there is nothing a test can tell me about a student that I don't already know. Like rank itself, tests are really are designed to serve groups, not individuals, and one way they do this is to tell people in the community (besides the student's teacher) things about a student that they might not know yet. In large organizations, the person in charge of the organization is not likely to be the student's direct teacher, so tests provide an opportunity for this person to look closely at a student that he otherwise does not get to see. I think an excellent case can be made that this is a poor model for teaching martial arts anyway, since without direct, personal exposure to a teacher it is impossible to learn anything of value. Simply showing up at a seminar and testing in front of someone is not sufficient for this transmission to take place.

Tests also tend to restrict training to the kinds of things that are tested and to discourage growth in directions that are not tested. This also serves organizations by keeping people working in similar directions and preventing them for spending too much time with ideas that might prompt them to seek training elsewhere or even consider leaving the organization. I think these effects are also very undesirable in martial arts, particularly non-competitive ones where there are no standard rules of competition for which people must train. I consider one of the greatest benefits of non-competitive arts to be the freedom from the limitations of a particular rule set, yet the exact point of testing is to restrict this freedom and force people to train in one particular way.

While this tendency of testing to limit training can be mitigated to a certain extent, as you describe, I don't think it can be avoided entirely. Even in the second dojo at which I trained (and the one at which I also tested), the test curriculum had a significant influence on training. There were classes I attended where all the techniques taught were directly from the requirements of a particular kyu test, although nothing was said about it. When I say that rank did not play a major role in the training there, what I mean is not so much that tests were considered unimportant but that everyone was treated equally without regard to rank when training. If someone, perhaps with experience in other martial arts, came in with no formal aikido rank or experience yet could perform at the same level as a mid- or even senior-level yudansha, he would be accorded the same level of respect on the mat. The issue of the difference in their ranks would not be nearly as important as that of their relative skill levels as martial artists.

On the continuum of possible training environments, my experience is that the best ones are those with no ranking system at all. However, of the ones with ranking systems, which includes almost all aikido dojos, there is a very significant difference between the ones that put political status, in the guise of rank, above all else and those do not allow their ranking system to trump the actual martial ability. From what I have seen, the former group is larger than the latter, and I believe the structure of aikido today is leading the art increasingly in that direction.

Last edited by G DiPierro : 11-23-2007 at 12:31 PM.
 
Old 11-23-2007, 12:56 PM   #93
aikidoc
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Although I understand your points, I disagree that the best system is no ranking. I see that deteriorating into utter chaos in terms of transmission of anything. There must be some criteria or standard to measure progress by. Otherwise, everyone beats to a different drummer. Yes, that occurs now as well with different stylistic interpretations. However, if there is no standard everyone will be going off in different directions and the art will disintegrate.

I do not equate testing with a rank seeing the test as only one way to measure. I also disagree that there is nothing of value in a test. It shows me how the student performs under stress or when nervous. That gives me a good indication if they have understood or learned the technique or if they are just attempting to mimic it.

Testing has its imperfections but it also has elements of value. Not everyone will agree-I to hated testing in college but it is one way of demonstrating a student's progress.
 
Old 11-23-2007, 01:33 PM   #94
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

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John Riggs wrote: View Post
Although I understand your points, I disagree that the best system is no ranking. I see that deteriorating into utter chaos in terms of transmission of anything. There must be some criteria or standard to measure progress by. Otherwise, everyone beats to a different drummer. Yes, that occurs now as well with different stylistic interpretations. However, if there is no standard everyone will be going off in different directions and the art will disintegrate.
Have you had any experience with arts with no ranking system? Starting closest to home, koryu did not rank people the way modern arts do. Although they had technical and teaching licenses, there was not necessarily any specific technical testing required. After you learned the techniques to the teacher's satisfaction, he gave you the scroll. To the extent that there were tests to be passed I think they were very different in nature from modern aikido tests: they would probably be something more like going out and challenging someone from a rival school with more experience and defeating him.

Moving a bit farther away, Chinese arts, as far as I know, did not traditionally use any kind of ranking or licensing system at all (I'm not including mass-market kung-fu that has copied the modern Japanese system and replaced belts with "sashes"). Yet they are still around and are very distinguishable from each other. Moving further again, over to India, we have yoga, which also has no ranking system. Now you could say yoga has become a bit chaotic with many people creating their own systems -- some good, some not-so-good -- but the fundamental poses and principles are more similar than different between systems. If you see people doing yoga it's easy to recognize what it is, and if you have enough experience it's also not that hard to tell what styles and teachers they have been influenced by.

The reason these things do not descend into chaos despite not having formal tests is that good knowledge is good knowledge, and if you are a good teacher passing on valuable information then people will preserve and continue to pass that on simply because it is good. I would say that it is better for an art to progress this way than by artificially supporting certain kinds of knowledge over others via forcing people to learn and memorize something for a test. When people are able to try ideas out and compare them with competing ideas, choosing and passing on the ones that work best, an art continues to improve and advance. When people are required by an organization to learn and pass on only those ideas that are officially approved, an art decays and becomes stagnant, as I believe aikido has already begun doing.

Quote:
Testing has its imperfections but it also has elements of value. Not everyone will agree-I to hated testing in college but it is one way of demonstrating a student's progress.
You can make a good argument that the much of what is tested in college is not useful in the real world anyway. That would be a fun debate but I think it would get way off-topic. In any case, as education progresses (from high-school to college and then to graduate education) it becomes less about rote memorization and recital than about dialog and the ability to formulate and deconstruct ideas. I would also say that the intrinsic value of testing depends a great deal on the subject. If you take a calculus test, you can say that this knowledge is useless because you are not going to become an engineer, but you cannot debate the correctness of the ideas you are being tested on. They are beyond question. I wouldn't say the same thing about most of the material that appears on aikido tests.

Last edited by G DiPierro : 11-23-2007 at 01:37 PM.
 
Old 11-23-2007, 11:25 PM   #95
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

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Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
Have you had any experience with arts with no ranking system? Starting closest to home, koryu did not rank people the way modern arts do. Although they had technical and teaching licenses, there was not necessarily any specific technical testing required. After you learned the techniques to the teacher's satisfaction, he gave you the scroll. To the extent that there were tests to be passed I think they were very different in nature from modern aikido tests: they would probably be something more like going out and challenging someone from a rival school with more experience and defeating him.
I see that as a form of testing. Whether you do it formally or whether you learn the technique to a teacher's satisfaction I don't see the difference-a test in another format just not as formalized.

Quote:
Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
Moving a bit farther away, Chinese arts, as far as I know, did not traditionally use any kind of ranking or licensing system at all (I'm not including mass-market kung-fu that has copied the modern Japanese system and replaced belts with "sashes"). Yet they are still around and are very distinguishable from each other. Moving further again, over to India, we have yoga, which also has no ranking system. Now you could say yoga has become a bit chaotic with many people creating their own systems -- some good, some not-so-good -- but the fundamental poses and principles are more similar than different between systems. If you see people doing yoga it's easy to recognize what it is, and if you have enough experience it's also not that hard to tell what styles and teachers they have been influenced by..
Really-they why do they use such titles as sifu indicating a rank? Yoga? It's not a martial art so I don't get that comment. It's a stretching system.

Quote:
Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
The reason these things do not descend into chaos despite not having formal tests is that good knowledge is good knowledge, and if you are a good teacher passing on valuable information then people will preserve and continue to pass that on simply because it is good. I would say that it is better for an art to progress this way than by artificially supporting certain kinds of knowledge over others via forcing people to learn and memorize something for a test. When people are able to try ideas out and compare them with competing ideas, choosing and passing on the ones that work best, an art continues to improve and advance. When people are required by an organization to learn and pass on only those ideas that are officially approved, an art decays and becomes stagnant, as I believe aikido has already begun doing. .
You seem to pose more rigidity on a system than I see present. Koryu's have a set of techniques you must learn. Aikido has a set of techniques divided over ranks. You could make the argument that koryus are rigid as well. I see nothing in the present system that stops exploration as long as you meet certain criteria to advance within the system and demonstrate the tenacity and commitment to do so.

I'm not trying to convince you one way or the other by the way. People's brains are organized differently and react to things differently. Some migrate toward structure, others abhor it. It is obvious you are uncomfortable in a structured system as you find it limits you. Personally, I don't find them stifling since I do what I need to for conformity while not conforming and pursuing aspects that interest me. Although your critcisms may have some validity, it is unfair to assume that everyone would feel comfortable in a system you feel suits you. It is also unfair to assume that the issues you bring up are not being addressed. I know of others who are addressing such issues as well at several levels. Your tendency however is to lump us all into the same pot.
 
Old 11-24-2007, 03:03 AM   #96
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

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John Riggs wrote: View Post
Really-they why do they use such titles as sifu indicating a rank?
Sifu is an honorific form of addressing a teacher, not a rank.

Quote:
Yoga? It's not a martial art so I don't get that comment. It's a stretching system.
Your post did not mention martial arts, you only said that without ranking you think a system will disintegrate into chaos. In fact, you brought up the idea of testing in an academic setting by means of comparison. Yoga is one example of a system that does not have a ranking system. If you want to stick to martial arts, I gave the example of CMA -- as far as I know, none of them have any ranking system at all. Do some research and see if you can find one that does, barring modern mass-market "kung-fu" that has copied the Japanese belt system. If you want another example, look at the Russian Systema. Also no ranking system. I could give you other examples as well. Your statement that without ranking an art (martial or otherwise) will descend into chaos is clearly contradicted by the several systems that do not have rank. You can choose to ignore this evidence but that doesn't change it or make it go away.

Quote:
You seem to pose more rigidity on a system than I see present. Koryu's have a set of techniques you must learn. Aikido has a set of techniques divided over ranks. You could make the argument that koryus are rigid as well. I see nothing in the present system that stops exploration as long as you meet certain criteria to advance within the system and demonstrate the tenacity and commitment to do so.
Koryu and aikido are very different in their approach to technical knowledge. Koryu are by nature technically rigid in that you are learning certain very specific techniques of the art. A scroll or license means that one has learned some of these techniques, and an advanced license means that the recipient has learned many additional techniques that are not taught to beginners. Once you have learned all of the techniques, you are done. You get the highest level scroll and are considered to have learned the entire art (except for perhaps a few secrets only given to the next headmaster).

In aikido, all of the techniques are taught right from the beginning. Advancement lies not in learning more techniques but in becoming better at the performance of the same basic techniques that everyone else knows. As the ranks get higher, testing becomes more centered on freestyle rather than repetition of specific techniques, and then at a certain level knowledge of specific techniques is no longer required for promotion at all. Unlike koryu, aikido is by nature not technically rigid (in fact, it is far less rigid than other disciplines I have studied that do not have testing or ranking systems).

Quote:
I'm not trying to convince you one way or the other by the way. People's brains are organized differently and react to things differently. Some migrate toward structure, others abhor it. It is obvious you are uncomfortable in a structured system as you find it limits you. Personally, I don't find them stifling since I do what I need to for conformity while not conforming and pursuing aspects that interest me. Although your critcisms may have some validity, it is unfair to assume that everyone would feel comfortable in a system you feel suits you. It is also unfair to assume that the issues you bring up are not being addressed. I know of others who are addressing such issues as well at several levels. Your tendency however is to lump us all into the same pot.
Just because I don't think the contrived and artificial structure imposed by testing in aikido makes sense doesn't mean that I am in any way uncomfortable with or somehow inherently against structure. I practice and teach a koryu that consists of a small number of techniques done over and over again without variation. Also, the style of yoga that I practice is easily the most structured one in common existence. It consists of a fixed sequence (actually 6 of them, although many people will never get past the first or maybe second) that everyone learns and practices the same way. I've tried other styles and learned some useful things from them, but I find that following the highly structured approach of this particular style works well for me right now. What would be a problem for me in yoga is if someone were to tell me that I couldn't practice a certain pose not because I can't physically do it, but because I'm not politically ranked high enough. This sounds ridiculous but it is exactly how people think in aikido.

In yoga, there is a fundamental honesty that I find lacking in aikido: if you can do a pose, it is obvious that you can do it, and if you can't it is obvious that you can't. It has nothing to do with who you are or how long you have been practicing and certainly nothing to do with politics. There are people who might practice yoga for 10 years and never be able to advance past a certain basic level of practice, and there are people who will practice for less than half that time and already be moving on to very advanced sequences. People progress at their own paces and in in their own ways, and although everyone would probably like to be able to do the crazy advanced stuff, a big part of the practice is learning to accept and work with your own body and its limitations. Everybody knows how advanced they are relative to someone else just by watching them practice, not that it really matters unless you are considering someone as a possible teacher. Unlike in aikido, there are no cooperative ukes to cover up for your shortcomings and make you look good because you are politically important.

The problem that I see with testing in aikido is not that it imposes structure, but that it imposes exactly the wrong kind of structure. The standards and criteria that I see being propagated through the ranking and testing system currently used in aikido seem to me to be sapping the art's martial and spiritual vitality rather than maintaining or increasing it. When political rank becomes more important than what people can actually do, as it already is now in many places in aikido and probably will be in more in the future as a result of the trends I have observed, an art has begun what could very well be an irreversible decline into play-acting and pretend martial arts. I'm sorry to see that happen to aikido, which is one reason I take the time to write about this, but that's what seems to me (and some others) to be happening.

Last edited by G DiPierro : 11-24-2007 at 03:10 AM.
 
Old 11-24-2007, 08:09 AM   #97
aikidoc
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

I don't understand where you get the restriction on practicing certain techniques not being allowed. If you are referring to testing, yes that is probably true. However, my beginning students practice everything up to and including henka waza and kaeshi waza as they progress. I have had non-ranked students involved in such classes as well to reinforce their kihon waza.

True there is politics in aikido-one of the reasons I left an organization. However, to me the koryu approach and the kyu/dan system approach are just different themes on the same transmission of knowledge.
 
Old 11-24-2007, 10:13 AM   #98
G DiPierro
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

The fact that people in aikido practice all of the techniques right from the start is your first clue that aikido is very different from koryu. You cannot try to use even a remotely similar standard of transmission for both because they are completely different pedagogical models.
 
Old 11-25-2007, 09:41 AM   #99
Amir Krause
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Some more comments about rank awarding, since some things in this thread seems like very wrong to me:

1. In all the Dojos I know of Ranks do correlate to skill level

Simply, one is only awarded a higher Rank if he shows his own skill level has increased. Thus, there is a clear correlation between rising ranks and improving, but the ranks are not necessarily comparable.

Honorary ranks are an exception to the rule and some ranks (9th Dan -- So-Shihan in my system for example) are honorary by nature. It is perceivable that some organizations will decide all ranks above a certain level will be at least partially honorary.

2. Respect to people who attained their ranks not due to skill

I think there is a lot of sense in respecting a [b]person[\B] who has attained a new rank due to his [b]efforts to improve[\B], much more then respecting a new practitioner who is a better performer but has not worked for it. We respect the personal effort, more than the skill. The same goes for personal dedication, training time and several similar aspects which are under the control of the person in question.

If a person was given Honorary rank, it is most likely since the giver believes he should be respected. Thus, if you respect the giver, you should also respect the recipient. If you do not respect the giver, you can not learn from him, so go someplace else and leave him be (there is no point in trying to educate others who chose a different way to act based on your understandings).

3. Anything can be corrupted

Obviously, this includes rank awarding which can be turned into a profit making scheme.
However, I have rarely heard of "politics" regarding low Dan ranks (1-3 or 4). It is true I do not belong in some large organization, but the large organizations actually have more people at those ranks and should even care less.

4. Ranks awarded without an official test

Typically, those dojo in which ranks are awarded without testing, are places in which the teacher is very senior, veteran and knowledgeable, and yet, he can view his students in a personal manner, thus, he can test them over longer duration of time. Without a test at some pre-scheduled time, that teacher does not have any pressures and can award the ranks when he feels the person is ready.

Amir
 
Old 11-25-2007, 10:20 AM   #100
aikidoc
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Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

Test to a certain level solves some politics but not all. I know of one organization that tests to nidan and then everything after is time in grade and automatic. That one bothers me and it shows in the quality of some of their higher grades since there is no correlation with anything other than time in grade- x number of years bingo you're a sandan, etc. The aikikai at least test to yondan.

Also to me knowing a set of techniques is knowing a set of techniques whether you practice them one at a time or practice all of them as you go. I'm not sure if anyone has ever studied it to see which approach gives the best quality-if that can be measured.
 

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