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Old 05-15-2009, 09:11 AM   #1
ruthmc
Dojo: Wokingham Aikido
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Question Relative rank and learning more

Leaving the instructor out of the equation for the time being (Sensei cannot be everywhere at once!), please consider the following:

1. Just because a student is senior in rank to you, s/he does not always know how to perform a given technique better than you.

2. Just because a student is junior in rank to you, s/he does not always have less understanding of a given technique than you.

The traditional system of junior ranks not correcting senior ranks would seem to be a barrier to learning here. If transmission can only go from above to below, are we perhaps limiting our options to improve our ability and understanding?

Please discuss

(If corrective suggestions are given, it is best done respectfully and politely, whatever the relative rank of the two students!)

Ruth
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Old 05-15-2009, 09:51 AM   #2
MikeLogan
 
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

Sometimes our teachers try to convey something other than what we are interested in learning. If all of my professors told me exactly what I wanted to know, I would know very little.

Rank in it's most functional form provides for an apparent and primary direction of learning/teaching. That doesn't mean the higher rank is parroting info automatically, they (hopefully) are paying attention to flaws in their own technique and the very act of working with someone teaches them.

It is a 2 way street, but the flow of traffic starts 99% in the direction of the newcomer, and will eventually approach 50/50 both ways.

michael.

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Old 05-15-2009, 09:59 AM   #3
Janet Rosen
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

Where I train, the sempai/kohei relationship is taken very seriously in terms of the seniors responsibility to provide guidance and set an example. But it is not used as an excuse for juniors to tank for seniors. And I learned a great deal of the weapons kata new for me, having transferred in, from a student considerably junior to me in both age and rank, who was cheerful, patient, and respectful in sharing his knowledge.

Janet Rosen
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Old 05-15-2009, 03:42 PM   #4
Carsten Möllering
 
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

Hi
Quote:
Ruth McWilliam wrote: View Post
1. Just because a student is senior in rank to you, s/he does not always know how to perform a given technique better than you.
Then how did s/he become senior in rank???

Quote:
2. Just because a student is junior in rank to you, s/he does not always have less understanding of a given technique than you.
Then why s/he ist junior in rank???

Quote:
If transmission can only go from above to below, are we perhaps limiting our options to improve our ability and understanding?
"above" / "below" ???
A junior rank isn't below. A senior rank isn't above.

A senior just has experienced things, knows things, can do things the junior still wants to learn. Thats all.
Sometimes roles are changing and that will be expressed by the graduation some day.

Don't you have grading standards?

Carsten
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Old 05-15-2009, 04:22 PM   #5
Sy Labthavikul
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

I'm going to assume by senior and junior we are comparing ranks here, and not necessarily experience. I.e., comparing 2nd dan vs 3rd kyu, rather than 30 years experience doing fluffy buddy aikido in a white collar neighborhood vs. 4 years training in Army Rangers or something like that, since the latter is so subjective.

Quote:
Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post
Then how did s/he become senior in rank???
Lots of possibilities; you imply they are senior because they have the experience. It could also be politics (I know a rokudan who's a rokudan only because he's drinking bodies with the organization shihan, and who can't really hold his own in terms of real martial experience against the lowly shodan who's 20 years his younger, but is a certified combatives trainer in the Army, done a bunch of vale tudo matches when he was younger, and works as a security professional for some singer I don't like). There might also be different grading standards; senior rank /= greater experience

Quote:
Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post
Then why s/he ist junior in rank???
Lots of possibilities. Again, there's politics: I know a certain nanadan who's only very recently attained that rank, despite many decades of having been at par or better than last generations schlew of nanadans, who happen to be his contemporaries (or even students). Certain individuals simply may not be interested in rank; I know a gentleman who could put the serious hurt on anyone, or completely shut them down and control them with minimal damage, trick he learned from being in SWAT for so long, but he's 5th kyu because his favorite tactics wouldn't be considered aikido. Does he care? Not in the slightest, he hasn't tested in many years. So again, junior rank /= lesser experience.

Quote:
Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post
"above" / "below" ???
A junior rank isn't below. A senior rank isn't above.
Agreed.

Quote:
Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post
A senior just has experienced things, knows things, can do things the junior still wants to learn. Thats all.
I agree with that, but that doesn't negate the case that the junior has experienced things, knows things, can do things the senior still wants to learn.

Quote:
Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post
Don't you have grading standards?
Who's grading standards?


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Old 05-15-2009, 06:30 PM   #6
Michael Hackett
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

In our dojo, Sensei teaches and sempai do in order to assist junior students. That is the norm and what one would usually experience. One of my fondest memories of training was when I was training with my first instructor, a very skilled and talented shodan (and waaaaay overdue for testing due to an off-the-mat injury and business necessity) asked me to go first as he wasn't familiar with the technique being shown. I was pleased to do so and he immediately "got it" and did it far better than I could. Sometimes it just goes both ways. Even then he gave me a lesson worth receiving.

Michael
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Old 05-16-2009, 05:56 AM   #7
ruthmc
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

Quote:
Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post
Hi
Then how did s/he become senior in rank???

Then why s/he ist junior in rank???
As Sy said, ranking is not always a straightforward thing! Somebody may be ungraded in Aikido yet hold a dan rank in Judo or another MA, enabling him to do a lot of things a complete MA novice (and somebody technically senior to him) may not be able to do.. Somebody may start training in a different style of Aikido, but his 10 years of Ki Aikido won't necessarily have taught him how to do a technique Yoshinkan style (or vice versa). Some folk (like me) are just slow at picking up all this co-ordination stuff and need more help sometimes.. the list goes on...

Quote:
Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post
"above" / "below" ???
A junior rank isn't below. A senior rank isn't above.
Ok, poor choice of wrods on my part. I could have said "higher to lower" or "senior to junior", for that is what I meant. Absolutely no value judgement intended!

Quote:
Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post
A senior just has experienced things, knows things, can do things the junior still wants to learn. Thats all.
I would disagree with this - it is too simplistic to suggest that a senior rank always has more experience in the MAs - see my first paragraph above.


Quote:
Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post
Don't you have grading standards?
Indeed we do, and very strict they are too. However, basing someone's ability to transmit information purely upon their rank is somewhat short-sighted. I have known ungraded folk who could pick up and apply new techniques when sandans couldn't!

Ruth (who was very glad to learn things from those technically junior in rank to her last night )
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Old 05-16-2009, 12:41 PM   #8
Joseph Madden
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

Ruth,
Anybody who believes that they cannot learn SOMETHING from one another should not be taking any form of martial arts in my opinion.

Wisdom is not something that comes with age or experience necessarily IMO.

Teachers learn from their students as their students learn from them.

Just because you passed your shodan doesn't mean that you know everything about aikido.

There's an old saying that's often quoted;
From white belt to black belt you shape the tool.
From black belt on you learn how to use it.

Difference is; some of us know how to use a lathe...others don't.
They have to make do with what they have. Does that make a better tool?

I...have.....to.........stop.......Getting.........tooo........zen..........:hyp no:
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Old 05-17-2009, 08:39 AM   #9
Amir Krause
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

Quote:
Joseph Madden wrote: View Post
Ruth,
Anybody who believes that they cannot learn SOMETHING from one another should not be taking any form of martial arts in my opinion.

Wisdom is not something that comes with age or experience necessarily IMO.

Teachers learn from their students as their students learn from them.

Just because you passed your shodan doesn't mean that you know everything about aikido.
What he said.

AND:

An advanced student can often learn from a beginner, without the beginner even knowing he gave a lesson.

Ranking is limited to theparticular system, it does not indicate anything beyond that scope. Still, most times, if you wish to learn a particular system, you had better listen to your vetrans and seniors in rank in that system. Otherwise, you may have solutions, but you are not learning the that system.

Amir
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Old 05-17-2009, 09:52 AM   #10
Carsten Möllering
 
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

Hi
Quote:
Ruth McWilliam wrote: View Post
As Sy said, ranking is not always a straightforward thing!
Hm, in our organisation I think ranking is standardised very well.
There is no "politics" in ranking. At least up to yondan: We have a national commitee, the grading tests can be looked on by everyone who wants and the tests are filmed.

Just Yesterday I attended grading tests of shodan, nidan and sandan. And each level could clearly be recognized.
Every rank in our system is defined through a certain technical level. The criterions can be read in our in our testing regulations.
It is very clear.

Quote:
Somebody may be ungraded in Aikido yet hold a dan rank in Judo or another MA, enabling him to do a lot of things a complete MA novice (and somebody technically senior to him) may not be able to do.
I have often trained with yudansha of other MA. Judoka, Karateka actually train with us. They don't wear their black belt and they hold kyu ranks in Aikido because they can do a lot, but they do aikido on another level.
Their rank in aikido follows their ability to do aikido an can be compared with the other aikidoka of our organization.

Quote:
Somebody may start training in a different style of Aikido, but his 10 years of Ki Aikido won't necessarily have taught him how to do a technique Yoshinkan style (or vice versa).
That's obvious. Ranks of different arts, styles etc. never can be compared. That isn't possible.

We often have Yudansha of other Aikido Styles training in our dojo or in seminars.

And I myself was shodan when I changed the Aikido Organization. Sure I was allowed to wear my black belt, but my graduation formally had to be recognized by the aikikai. And my waiting period for the next grading didn't count from the day of my testing but from the day of my recognition.

Quote:
Some folk (like me) are just slow at picking up all this co-ordination stuff and need more help sometimes..
Don't understand this point.

Quote:
I would disagree with this - it is too simplistic to suggest that a senior rank always has more experience in the MAs - see my first paragraph above.
Ok, maybe I misunderstood you: As I said it is obvious to me, that ranks of different styles or arts can't be compared. I just talk about ranks in one certain art. And there a senior should have more experience than a junior.

In our German Aikido Federation you are not allowed to take a person of higher rank as an uke in dan gradings. Because it ist expected, that a junior can not throw a senior.

Quote:
However, basing someone's ability to transmit information purely upon their rank is somewhat short-sighted.
Well, yes. That is very true. The rank is only a coordinate in a certain given system. Not more - but also not less.

Quote:
I have known ungraded folk who could pick up and apply new techniques when sandans couldn't!
First: In my context it is very very unusual that you stay ungraded or stop grading with shodan or something like that.
Second: Is picking up a new technic a criterion for grading? In our testing regulations it is not.
Third: But I expect a sandan to do so.

Quote:
Ruth (who was very glad to learn things from those technically junior in rank to her last night)
I learn a lot from my juniors. I have no teacher in our dojo. Only dohai and kohai. I see my teacher only every two or three month.
If I couldn't learn from my dohai and kohai, I couldn't learn at all.

Carsten

Last edited by Carsten Möllering : 05-17-2009 at 09:56 AM.
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Old 05-17-2009, 09:54 AM   #11
Joseph Madden
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

Quote:
Amir Krause wrote: View Post
What he said.

AND:

An advanced student can often learn from a beginner, without the beginner even knowing he gave a lesson.

Ranking is limited to theparticular system, it does not indicate anything beyond that scope. Still, most times, if you wish to learn a particular system, you had better listen to your vetrans and seniors in rank in that system. Otherwise, you may have solutions, but you are not learning the that system.

Amir
Well said Amir.
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Old 05-18-2009, 06:17 AM   #12
ruthmc
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

Excellent points form both Joseph and Amir

Quote:
Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post
In our German Aikido Federation you are not allowed to take a person of higher rank as an uke in dan gradings. Because it ist expected, that a junior can not throw a senior.
Really?? Not so here! Often nidans and sandans take ukemi for shodan gradings. I think this is very sensible, because shodans are expected to show their absolute best and the skill and speed of their technique can be beyond the ability of a 1st or 2nd kyu to safely take ukemi from...

During the weapons portion of my nidan test, I had a sandan and a yondan take ukemi for me as the complexity of what I was showing required it

Ruth
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Old 05-18-2009, 09:56 AM   #13
Sy Labthavikul
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

Thats also the case at our dojo; for tests its usually the sempai who take the ukemi.


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Old 05-18-2009, 11:32 AM   #14
Janet Rosen
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

In the different dojos I've trained, different affiliations/styles, your ukes when up for rank were at least peers and usually seniors.

Janet Rosen
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Old 05-18-2009, 01:12 PM   #15
Rob Watson
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

I learn more about zanshin and situational awareness while participating in kids class than any other time. Sometimes it is too difficult because the risk is too high that I might crush one of the little tykes by simply shifting my weight in the wrong direction. I can't always operate on the level I expect to ensure the safety of my dojo-mates so I sit.

Saturday morning kids class is for 3-6 year olds.
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Old 05-18-2009, 03:21 PM   #16
Carsten Möllering
 
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

Hi
Quote:
Ruth McWilliam wrote: View Post
Often nidans and sandans take ukemi for shodan gradings.
It was the same in my former aikido organization. When I was tested shodan I had uke up to godan.

Quote:
... because shodans are expected to show their absolute best and the skill and speed of their technique...
In my now aikido organization (aikikai) shodan don't have to show speed or something else. They just have to show technique. And how it works.

Quote:
... can be beyond the ability of a 1st or 2nd kyu to safely take ukemi from...
nikyu and ikkyu are expected to take proper ukemi. That's why they wear hakama.

Quote:
Sy Labthavikul wrote: View Post
Thats also the case at our dojo; for tests its usually the sempai who take the ukemi.
Up to ikkyu it's the same with us. And up to ikkyu the testing takes place in the home dojo. From shodan on graduations are tested "nationwide".

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
In the different dojos I've trained, different affiliations/styles, your ukes when up for rank were at least peers and usually seniors.
Up to what rank? If a shodan really can throw a nidan: Why is he nidan??? What makes him or her nidan, if he or she can be thrown by a shodan?

What do you see in a testing if it is uke who decides wether a throw works or not? Shouldn't it be tori, who decides? And can he/her with a sempai?

Carsten
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Old 05-18-2009, 05:06 PM   #17
ChrisHein
 
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

If you are junior rank to someone (in time or actual rank) you shouldn't give advice unless asked.

Everyone should be open to new ideas in a dojo. However, everyone chiming in with their opinions is a distraction to training. If someone has inferior technique to yours, unless he asks you for help, don't worry about it. It's only your ego that wants to talk.

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Old 05-18-2009, 11:32 PM   #18
Blake Evans
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

Rank in intended as a indication of skill and that specific art. however that in no way makes the higher rank better.

My Sensei just the other night at the end of class asked me and another student to attack him at the same tim and try to control or pin his arms down (cutting down sort of like Yonkio). at first this was to show us different techniques, but by the end alot more "fun" was put into it with every one taking turns in using what ever we knew in our martial vocabulary to defend and disengage.

I certainly learnt allot about manipulating another persons movement and "energy" and Sensei got to combine movements he already know in different ways and got to "test" himself. have I not taught him something? perhaps not haha but I did assist in the expanding of his knowledge

all students of any rank is an important piece learning

at least that is my opinion
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Old 05-19-2009, 06:58 AM   #19
ruthmc
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

Quote:
Chris Hein wrote: View Post
If you are junior rank to someone (in time or actual rank) you shouldn't give advice unless asked.

Everyone should be open to new ideas in a dojo. However, everyone chiming in with their opinions is a distraction to training. If someone has inferior technique to yours, unless he asks you for help, don't worry about it. It's only your ego that wants to talk.
Hi Chris,

I was thinking more about the situation where the student just isn't getting the technique at all - a spin off from the 'Tori hurting you' thread..

Obviously if the technique is there but just needs refining that is a different case, and yes I would agree with you there

Ruth

Last edited by ruthmc : 05-19-2009 at 07:04 AM.
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Old 05-19-2009, 07:04 AM   #20
ruthmc
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

Quote:
Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post
If a shodan really can throw a nidan: Why is he nidan??? What makes him or her nidan, if he or she can be thrown by a shodan?

What do you see in a testing if it is uke who decides wether a throw works or not? Shouldn't it be tori, who decides? And can he/her with a sempai?

Carsten
Hi Carsten,

If I was utterly unable to throw a sandan or a yondan, I would be not be worthy of my nidan!

In testing, the same applies - at ikkyu and shodan, tori should be able to execute the technique no matter who is attacking, otherwise again I would be questioning his readiness to test for that rank..

If uke is deciding whether the throw works or not during testing, he is changing the parameters of the attack, which is I would say is unfair in a grading!

Ruth
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Old 05-19-2009, 09:50 AM   #21
Janet Rosen
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote:
In the different dojos I've trained, different affiliations/styles, your ukes when up for rank were at least peers and usually seniors.

And Carsten replied: Up to what rank? If a shodan really can throw a nidan: Why is he nidan??? What makes him or her nidan, if he or she can be thrown by a shodan?
...I reply:
It can take a more advanced student to offer the best attack for a given test-taker, first in terms of providing appropriate speed, committment, etc and second in terms of knowing and understanding the junior therefore providing an appropriate amount of pressure for the test.
This assumes the role of uke is not to lock out or resist technique but to provide an appropriate challenge.

Janet Rosen
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Old 05-19-2009, 10:52 AM   #22
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

Hi Carsten. Are you saying that your Dan rankings are competitive?

I believe in judo shiai for rank, if you are shodan, to get nidan, you have to win against the nidan's in your dojo or in shiai outside your dojo. Is that what you do in your aikido dojo?

In regular training, are you saying that your nidans, when training with mudansha, never take falls?

I am not saying there is anything wrong with competitive ranking in aikido...I would just be very surprised if that is what you do.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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Old 05-19-2009, 11:27 AM   #23
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote: View Post
Hi Carsten. Are you saying that your Dan rankings are competitive?

I believe in judo shiai for rank, if you are shodan, to get nidan, you have to win against the nidan's in your dojo or in shiai outside your dojo. Is that what you do in your aikido dojo?

In regular training, are you saying that your nidans, when training with mudansha, never take falls?

I am not saying there is anything wrong with competitive ranking in aikido...I would just be very surprised if that is what you do.

Best,
Ron
I agree here with Ron.
But, I'd do a step further - as the competition in aikido is a big nonsense, the fact that nidan is a uke for shodan is only to increase the difficulty of techniques..Normally it should be more difficult to throw nidan then 1 kyu even in cooperative environment.

Nagababa

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Old 05-19-2009, 11:28 AM   #24
jonreading
 
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

As I understand it, the sempai/kohei relationship is one of respect, supported by experience. In other words, sempai are senior to kohai and provide to kohai a role model in terms of training methods and dojo etiquette; kohai respect sempai for their seniority in training and guidence in learning the dojo culture. Whether or not the students equate in skill is determined by their belt rank.

In our dojo, I expect sempai to serve as a role model for kohai to learn what is expected of them as students. In most cases, sempai should natually have an advantage over kohai in learning and executing techniques, interpreting sensei, digesting intellectual conversation, etc. Then the ex-[insert black ops name here] shows up in class and ruins everything.

Kohai should generally not have a role is transmitting curriculum because the chance is greater they will not transmit it with the thought and follow-through of a senior (i.e. sensei). That is not to say that kohai do not have participation in teaching human interaction or emulating technique for others. There is a difference learning from a painter and learning from someone who paints.
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Old 05-19-2009, 11:58 AM   #25
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Relative rank and learning more

Quote:
Szczepan Janczuk wrote: View Post
I agree here with Ron.
But, I'd do a step further - as the competition in aikido is a big nonsense, the fact that nidan is a uke for shodan is only to increase the difficulty of techniques..Normally it should be more difficult to throw nidan then 1 kyu even in cooperative environment.
I agree, it should be harder...but certainly not impossible, and certainly not in a testing envirment per se. My experience of testing in aikido is not that the instructor calls the waza name, and uke comes out and purposefully attacks while consciously attempting to thwart nage's/shite's technique. I'm not saying milk toast here...but not purposeful blocking of techinque either.

I can imagine a very long ukemi session if that happened...at least in most of the very many aikido dojo I have been in. Not that there is anything wrong with that if that is what you do...it is just different from my understanding.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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