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Old 04-01-2013, 11:15 AM   #26
Basia Halliop
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

I.e., 'bachelor of applied science' and 'bachelor of engineering' have a specific and strictly defined and even legally controlled meaning. I just don't see how the word 'shodan' has any kind of definable meaning comparable to that. It's just a word, and it means whatever one teacher or another is used to it meaning, or decides it would be convenient or useful for it to mean.

The kyu and dan ranks in aikido are like the coloured belts we use in kids' class - they're just a pedagogical tool, with no defined meaning or consequences.
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Old 04-01-2013, 11:29 AM   #27
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

Just to understand the criticism better, are people proposing that:

1) There's a pedagogical benefit to frequent testing, and longer periods with no test literally limit or slow down the learning opportunities?

Or

2) Long periods to a given grade are sometimes used, by teachers or students, to excuse unecessarily slow skill development caused by something else? I.e., instead of improving their teaching (or for students, their training) so students progress faster, they just extend the time?

Another question that inevitably comes up is whether pretty much anyone who joins should be capable of reaching a given rank (and in a given time) or whether only some people will. That's a big part of what makes standards in academia possible - entrance requirements, failures, and drop-outs.
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Old 04-01-2013, 12:00 PM   #28
Cliff Judge
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

Quote:
Dan Richards wrote: View Post
Not at all, Cliff. In fact, I think 300 days and three years is healthy. A good pace. And right in line with most organizations. I am pointing out shodan programs that approach near four times that amount need to be examined. At present USAF requires a total of 1140 days.

I think as we move into the future, I, at least, would say that anyone who's having to train over 1000 days for shodan - is having their time and money wasted. A student training 3 days a week would train 156 days a year. In 6.4 years they would accumulate 1000 hours. That really should put someone into a serious solid sandan by then. And a good school should be able to deliver that.
Are you criticizing the organizations for delaying awarding a certificate past a timeframe that you think is appropriate? Or are you saying that these organizations aren't offering decent training, such that a trainee can go longer than 300 hours over three years and still not be up to some level?

if the former...I am not sure what the substance of that criticism actually is. You are basically saying some organizations sandbag and turn out yudansha with higher levels of skill than other organizations. Big whoop? In BJJ a blackbelt is equivalent to a sandan or yondan in Japanese gendai art terms.

If the latter, then I think that's a very different discussion than the one we are actually having. It would involve proposing what makes a shodan, analyzing or even just speculating on what different organizations emphasize in their training, talking about what qualities that are entirely separate from mastery of the art go into being a yudansha in different organizations (personal qualities, whether they show up for seminars, whether they are on a track to be an instructor, how frequently they show up on volunteer days to clean the dojo, etc).

It seems like you are arguing over whether or not a piece of paper is handed out without articulating an opinion as to what the piece of paper can or should mean.
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Old 04-01-2013, 12:06 PM   #29
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

Quote:
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OK, flexibility. I'll give some, but only to a degree. Because the requirements, worldwide, are not that far apart in "most cases." There are "standards." I didn't make them up. AIkido has them. They're in place. I'm totally up for flexibility, and anything anyone wants to add to this topic. Seriously, I'm all ears.
Well, I'm not sure how we're going to proceed at all, because you seem to me to be firmly stuck on a couple of points that basically preclude a useful discussion. The first is your insistence that the "requirement" are "not that far apart" in "most cases". As long as you avoid defining what you mean by "requirements", "not that far apart" and "most cases", there's really no basis for discussion: sure, Mr. Humpty Dumpty, "requirements" means "hours of attendance", and "not that far apart" means "within two orders of magnitude", and "most cases" means "in two examples that I can think of, and let's ignore the two counter-examples staring me in the face", you're absolutely right. As, indeed, you will be in any argument where you define the terms. I don't recommend it as a method of arriving at consensus, much less truth, but to each his own.

The second point is your insistence that aikido ranks and academic degrees are analogous. They are not, and as long as you insist on using this analogy, the conversation will simply run on the rocks.

Quote:
Dan Richards wrote: View Post
Let's start with what it almost universally required for a shodan degree: It's around 300+ days of training - give or take a few.
No, let's not. Let's start by having you substantiate your assertion that this is "almost universally required". If your assertion is correct, this should be trivial. Well, not trivial - "almost universally required" is a very, very big assertion, but then, you made it, not me. So I think it's on you to show that this 300 hours you claim is, in fact, "almost universally required".

By the way, before you disappear completely down this rabbit hole -- remember, I'm not the one who claims that all of this matters. You are. So, since the entire basis of this argument about which you are so passionate rests on these premises, you must first establish your givens before you can advance your proof.

As an alternative, perhaps you could explain just why you care. Because some organizations require far more than 300 hours for this thing called "shodan", which you have not defined? Go train with a different organization, then - one that will give you a "shodan" in 300 hours. Or go online and buy yourself a black belt and award yourself a "shodan", and you can have it tomorrow with next-day delivery from Amazon. Why even spend the 300 hours?
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Old 04-02-2013, 02:03 AM   #30
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

Hi Dan

Mary asked: "What's a shodan?"
I asked in another thread: "How do you define 'shodan level'?"

You did not answer me.
Your did not answer Mary.

Quote:
Dan Richards wrote: View Post
" There are "standards." I didn't make them up. AIkido has them. They're in place.
In my country there are two big federations connected to aikikai via Japanese shihan. Standards and requirements of shodan grading are clearly different.

We also have two other big federations here, which are not longer connected to aikikai, but originally come from this root. Again: What each of them requires for shodan is totally different: Different from each other and different from what each of the aikikai - affiliated federation require.

So at a seminar here you can have four people who wear a black belt. But on very different levels each.

So: What's a shodan?
What are those standards, you mention?
What are the requirements for shodan in your eyes?
What are we talking about?
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Old 04-02-2013, 02:14 PM   #31
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

Well I know in my dojo it would take 5 or more years to obtain a ShoDan. Guess if a class was offered 5 days a week 3 hours a day it could be done in less time, but the more time you spend working the basics and techniques up to your current level the better you will be at them. My humble opinion only.
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Old 04-02-2013, 04:16 PM   #32
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

Hey, some of this is just like randori. Fun! Keep those shomenuchis and tsukis coming! Weapons attacks are welcome as well.

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Old 04-02-2013, 07:27 PM   #33
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

Quote:
Dan Richards wrote: View Post
Hey, some of this is just like randori. Fun! Keep those shomenuchis and tsukis coming! Weapons attacks are welcome as well.
Nah, don't think so. I've said my piece as clearly as it's possible to say it, and if it still doesn't make any sense to you, repeating myself won't change things. And if you view it as an attack, well, then there's really no more to be said.
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Old 04-02-2013, 09:11 PM   #34
Walter Martindale
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

I'll agree with Mary.. It took me longer to get my shodan (but that's partly because I switched dojo a lot) than it did to get both my degrees.
Degree granting universities have standards that are fairly strictly controlled. Professional associations also have pretty strict standards.
Different organizations can set up a "dan" grading system that's fairly arbitrary. What I've noticed is that "shodan" in Japan is usually something you finish high school with, and higher ranks come after (particularly in judo). Most of the time (mentioned elsewhere) shodan is merely an indication that your sensei and/or shihan figures you know enough about the activity to be really worth teaching. In North America the shodan are usually a lot harder and more physically mature than Japanese shodan, it seems to even out at nidan, and then a Japanese-trained sandan plays with a North American sandan like they were children - unless the NA sandan was also trained and earned the rank in Japan.
That's my observation in judo, primarily, but even the Aikikai sandan I see trained in Japan GENERALLY (there are always exceptions) move more quickly, and have to think less about what they're doing, than "we" do. It could be because, when they're developing from shodan to nidan to sandan, they're surrounded by other shodan, nidan, sandan, yondan, and godan with whom to practice, and have access to that up to 7 days/week, whereas in Canada (can't speak for the US) it's harder to find a concentration of experienced black belts with whom to train, and train hard. - part of that is because a lot of the higher ranked Canucks are getting old. Back to judo, a Japanese sandan is usually a third or fourth year university student - young, very strong, very tough, very skilled, and (my observation) ready to work til he drops, and not so worried about getting injured because - well - they're judoka, and fear doesn't enter the equation.

So - Aikido ranking standards? They're published by most federations, but the results depend on the judgement of the examiner.

All that's missing is the panel of judges with their number cards "award for technical merit, 5.5, 6.0, 3.4 (oh, the judge from that dojo is being harsh, but the bottom score gets thrown out along with the high score), 5.7, 4.9; Award for artistic interpretation, 3.9, 4.0, 4.5, 5.0, 4.2 - oh, the judges punished this candidate for being a little rough around the edges and slamming his uke to the mats instead of having flowery movements - I think this one's going to fail his test."

Most sensei I've dealt with have considered a grading test to be more a test of the teaching than of the student going through the test. I've seen Kawahara turn to a sensei and ask who the hell taught the student to do "that" (whatever it was), was that you? What are you doing in this dojo? That was one of the fun things about the late shihan. Very soft spoken, but one "What are you doing?" had various sensei trembling.

Oh, sorry, off topic ramble..
W

Last edited by Walter Martindale : 04-02-2013 at 09:14 PM.
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Old 04-02-2013, 11:03 PM   #35
Janet Rosen
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

I notice the OP hasn't come back in...and you know...his OP said that the dojo does testing every six months. A LOT OF DOJOS "do testing" every six months but that doesn't mean everybody qualifies to test every six months - it means there is a schedule for when they are offered to folks who qualify. I wonder if his silence meant he stayed at the dojo long enough to learn this applies where he trains and had a "oh, never mind..." moment ???

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Old 04-03-2013, 02:39 AM   #36
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

Quote:
Dan Richards wrote: View Post
Hey, some of this is just like randori. Fun! Keep those shomenuchis and tsukis coming! Weapons attacks are welcome as well.
I don't understand this comment.
I would apreciate very much if woud explain to me why you don't answer my questions.

They were meant seriously.
I didn't mean to be impolite, ot offend or even attack you.
I was interested in getting your point.
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Old 04-03-2013, 06:09 AM   #37
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

I'm just a beginner in aikido, but I did shotokan karate previously. My take on the belt system is that it is a big mistake to compare it with academic achievement. Better to go back to what preceded it--the menkyo certification, which was based on ability level and understanding of the underlying principles of the system. Shodan is not equivalent to menkyo, but the principle that it is based on ability and understanding should still apply. This won't be a popular view because we don't use ability-based systems in education in modern democracies. However, it is the most sensible system.

Quote:
Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post
Hi Dan
Mary asked: "What's a shodan?"
I asked in another thread: "How do you define 'shodan level'?"
The belt ranking system was adopted by the Butokukai of Japan for standardizing martial arts. I don't know what their original rationale was for shodan rankings. However, the original belt system was from Kodokan Judo, where the black belt was meant to indicate a student to whom beginners could address questions--one who had adequate understanding of the techniques. This is still how I think of it.

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Old 04-06-2013, 06:15 PM   #38
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

I've found that not only each country, but each association can have a different time in grade requirement for their rank progression. For example, it has appeared to me that reaching shodan, or 1st degree black belt is a quicker progress in my own Tomiki brand, than it seems to be in Aikkikai schools I've visited, by a rather significant ratio. However, what the shodan seems to represent are also different in concept. In Tomiki, we generally look at shodan as sort of the beginning, "OK, now you know the basics." In other systems, I understand it is different.

The slowest I've seen ever is what the BJJ guys do, most averaging something like a decade to progress from beginner to black with steady practice.

I find it interesting that the kanji character for kuzushi illustrates a mountain falling on a house.
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Old 04-07-2013, 05:50 PM   #39
Tore Eriksson
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

The fastest I've seen was the university Shorinji kenpo club I spent some time with. They did one dan rank every year, reaching 4th dan when they graduated. They trained a lot though.
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Old 04-08-2013, 04:26 AM   #40
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

Quote:
Tore Eriksson wrote: View Post
The fastest I've seen was the university Shorinji kenpo club I spent some time with. They did one dan rank every year, reaching 4th dan when they graduated. They trained a lot though.
If I remember correctly, the shotokan karate club at Takushoku University in the mid-20th century would take you to 2nd-dan in four years if you trained regularly.

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Old 04-09-2013, 08:56 AM   #41
Dan Richards
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

I'm a bit at a loss at the resistance to the idea of the comparison of aikido and educational systems. Post-war aikido was established, along with all the other martial ways in Japan, as part of the educational system. In the outer-form school of aikido, how does one advance? By attending X amount of courses, understanding and being able to demonstrate X number of skills and techniques, by proceeding from one degree to the next, by putting in X amount of time, and passing X number of examinations.

What other model does that point to other than education? There is the model of fiefdom, which we could consider here or in another topic. But we could also argue that fiefdom is at the heart of institutional education.

There are many other models of participation and advancement that post-war aikido does not include. Boxing, tennis, and other competitive sports allow for an unfettered rise - as well as fall - in rank and status based purely on end results. The business world is often similar.

The world of art, music, and literature, within the open market can certainly have a broader range of expression and opportunity. JK Rawlings didn't need a PhD or a 7th dan to be given permission to write and succeed. She was actually on welfare.

I'm open to any other input of reasonably comparable models to aikido. But up until now, all I'm really seeing is institutionalized education. And in some respects, there's even an indentured framework. Stefan Stenudd made an astute observation that with the ranking system, in his blog The Gordian Knot of Grading, I've always felt rather ambiguous about grades. They take you back to school, where grades are primarily a measure of one's conformity. I'd add, that even outside of grading, the structured and often rigid classes that is so predominant within post-war aikido, smacks of a continuous classroom environment.

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Old 04-09-2013, 10:15 AM   #42
Dan Richards
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

There's another interesting topic that's intersecting with this one, as well as the recent open letter topic.

dominance hierarchies and crossing the line contains a stunningly declarative quote:
Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
I am sick and tired of the unhealthy co-dependent relationships that seem to develop in sports and dojos that alot of folks accept as acceptable adult behavior, but in other areas of their lives would be seen as a perversion and unhealthy.

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Old 04-10-2013, 12:05 AM   #43
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

Quote:
Dan Richards wrote: View Post
I'm a bit at a loss at the resistance to the idea of the comparison of aikido and educational systems.
In his Tenshin shoden katori shinto ryu budo kyohan Sugino Yoshio has a separate chapter named: "budō as part of the educational system" where he emphasizes that the purpose of true budō is not "to advance". (i.e. "... attending X amount of courses, understanding and being able to demonstrate X number of skills and techniques, by proceeding from one degree to the next, by putting in X amount of time, and passing X number of examinations.").
This was written 1941.

And I share his opinion. Being part of the educational system as a "school"-teacher and being part of the transmission of aikido by teaching aikidō, I see a fundamental difference of the main purpses:

The educational system (Kindergarten, School, University as it is here) try to build the knowledge, the culture of a person.
The keiko, renshu, ... (there ist no translation of "learning" in those words but some meanings of doing, repeating ... ) of aikidō tries to build the person itself.
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Old 04-10-2013, 05:43 AM   #44
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

Quote:
Dan Richards wrote: View Post
I'm a bit at a loss at the resistance to the idea of the comparison of aikido and educational systems.
Piggybacking on Carsten's post. The practice is goal not a means to a goal. Tests and rank aren't why I attend class. I attend so I can practice. The act of practice is what is enjoyable and fulfilling.

Although they have advanced in rank over the years there are multiple people in the dojo I attend that have been there 20+ years. They aren't trying to "graduate", they just like the practice.
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Old 04-10-2013, 06:56 AM   #45
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

Quote:
Dan Richards wrote: View Post
I'm a bit at a loss at the resistance to the idea of the comparison of aikido and educational systems. Post-war aikido was established, along with all the other martial ways in Japan, as part of the educational system. In the outer-form school of aikido,
Then was then, and now it's now. I'm at a loss to understand your resistance to THAT idea. Once all fruits were apples, and so easy to compare, and then someone invented sailing ships, and now we have these pesky orange things. You seem to be in complete denial of the facts on the ground, and want to know why we're not judging all fruit alike, since hey, it's all fruit, right?
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Old 04-10-2013, 09:12 AM   #46
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

This topic isn't about whether or not anyone thinks ranking is important. There are other topics for that, or we can fire one up. This topic is about ranking systems.

Brian, you used the word "class." Where do we have classes? In schools.

I do agree, as Carsten stated, that even the ultimate purpose of education is not to "advance," but to enrich the life of the student.

Look at other enriching activities, such as skateboarding, skiing, tennis, etc.. People might take initial classes to get them started, but after that they're left to their own devices. Of course, being around people who are more "advanced" (there's that word) can certainly help them learn. But most of their participation is on their own time, and they freely enjoy the activity, and progress as they go along.

The way most people train aikido are in scheduled classes, dressed in regulation uniforms, the students sitting in a classroom formation, the teacher in the front demonstrating. The students, during the class, are told when to stand up, when to sit, when to stop, etc.. Most people do test and rank. Most people do find it important. And those who don't could be said to be doing a sort of "auditing" of the classes.

How many people here [obviously who might be reading this] regularly "play aikido?" Not "practice" aikido. But just get together with other people, whether on the mat, in their house, outside in the park - and just play around - like getting together to surf, or hike, or cook together. Where there's no "instructor," no "students" - just people enjoying the activity together. It could even be playing around with people from other martial arts.

Have you ever played around with your art in a business suit? A dress and high heels? While buzzed a bit on a nice wine or beer?

How many people freely enjoy the activity of aikido and martial arts outside of a scheduled classroom setting? Outside of the quasi-military, rank-and-file, structured educational system of aikido.

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Old 04-10-2013, 09:31 AM   #47
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
Then was then, and now it's now. I'm at a loss to understand your resistance to THAT idea. Once all fruits were apples, and so easy to compare, and then someone invented sailing ships, and now we have these pesky orange things. You seem to be in complete denial of the facts on the ground, and want to know why we're not judging all fruit alike, since hey, it's all fruit, right?
Mary, I agree now is now. You're preaching to the choir.

The aikido that most people participate in and are taught is still based on the post-war model that was essentially slapped together ad hoc, and run within the Japanese educational system - including the issuing of degrees/ranks - which puts us in this topic.

The model is tired, outdated, archaic, inefficient, top-heavy, uninspiring, competitive, manipulative, abusive, conformist, red-taped, non-advancing, non-innovating... sort of like a barrel of bad apples.

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Old 04-10-2013, 10:14 AM   #48
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

Quote:
Dan Richards wrote: View Post

How many people here [obviously who might be reading this] regularly "play aikido?" Not "practice" aikido.
My wife told me to cut it out in public.

I do get what you saying though. There is the trap of Aikido in the dojo but not out here. It's kind of missing the point imo. It is the actual practice that's important. Like playing music. Jamming is awesome but if you have a regular group, you start to know the same songs and the opportunity to get deeper in to the music and take it interesting places opens up. The waza are the songs we all know, playing around within the structure of the waza is the fun part imo. You don't graduate from art. You learn the techniques and then you play with them. It carries into the other parts of your life and you see the world through that lens.

I can't recall any social gathering of Aikido practitioners that someone wasn't grabbed by the wrist. It's a shared interest, it's going to come up.
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Old 04-10-2013, 10:53 AM   #49
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

Quote:
Dan Richards wrote: View Post
Mary, I agree now is now. You're preaching to the choir.

The aikido that most people participate in and are taught is still based on the post-war model that was essentially slapped together ad hoc, and run within the Japanese educational system - including the issuing of degrees/ranks - which puts us in this topic.
It's long since become your topic, not OP's question. I'd think you should start your own thread. And here, once again, we have another unproven assertion about how "most people" practice. As long as you will not even make a token attempt at substantiating your assertions, this is a farce, not a discussion.
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Old 04-10-2013, 10:56 AM   #50
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Re: Ranking systems in different countries

Quote:
Dan Richards wrote: View Post
Look at other enriching activities, such as skateboarding, skiing, tennis, etc.. People might take initial classes to get them started, but after that they're left to their own devices. Of course, being around people who are more "advanced" (there's that word) can certainly help them learn. But most of their participation is on their own time, and they freely enjoy the activity, and progress as they go along.
Dan, are you speaking from an extensive background in skateboarding, skiing, tennis and et cetera? How do you know that people in these activities are "left to their own devices"? For that matter, how do you know that they don't have ranking systems?
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