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Old 04-10-2015, 12:37 PM   #1
kelly.steveson76
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Ki Symbol Recommendations

I have been training in Aikido for over 7 yrs and had a question. I started training in Japan with Sensei Muki 8th Don, and found out as I returned to the states that there is no way to prove that a Sensei is a Black belt in the style of Aikido they claim to train in. I have seen these Sensei's take a student from 6th Kyu to Nidon in 2 yrs. And have talked to some who claim to teach many styles of Aikido. IE.. sandon in one style, nidon in another style and 6don in another style. So my question is can a sensei move a student to nidon so fast and who do I contact to make sure that a Sensei has the black belts they claim to have? My Sensei in Japan just tells me to be careful because there are many of fakes around. I tried calling the Aki headquarters in Tokyo and they did not have any names I asked about. Thank you in advance for your help
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Old 04-10-2015, 01:56 PM   #2
Cliff Judge
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Re: Recommendations

Quote:
Kelly Steveson wrote: View Post
I have been training in Aikido for over 7 yrs and had a question. I started training in Japan with Sensei Muki 8th Don, and found out as I returned to the states that there is no way to prove that a Sensei is a Black belt in the style of Aikido they claim to train in. I have seen these Sensei's take a student from 6th Kyu to Nidon in 2 yrs. And have talked to some who claim to teach many styles of Aikido. IE.. sandon in one style, nidon in another style and 6don in another style. So my question is can a sensei move a student to nidon so fast and who do I contact to make sure that a Sensei has the black belts they claim to have? My Sensei in Japan just tells me to be careful because there are many of fakes around. I tried calling the Aki headquarters in Tokyo and they did not have any names I asked about. Thank you in advance for your help
There are lots of different opinions on this, but I think the only real purpose a black belt serves is to certify that you have been training for a certain length of time, and to a particular level, within the context of a particular organization.

So you can stick with one group for six years and get a shodan, but that doesn't mean some other group will respect it. Even if the two groups are reputable and know each other, there may be compatibility issues, e.g. you may be expected to take harder falls in one group, or perform a certain technique in a less safe way in another.

Smaller groups which have a definitive leader may regard the black belt as a personal confirmation of a transition between a "provisional" student and an "actual" student, which is a little bit different than in the larger Aikido organizations where there are open seminars, but it essentially means the same thing.

So basically, these things are awarded based on rules and requirements that are local to a particular group. There is no absolute meaning or status, and no organization has to recognize rank granted by somebody else.

Standards are widely different, too. And in non-competitive arts with small curricula like Aikido they might be awarded on a case-by-case basis.

As far as your concerns about how to verify a teacher's reputability, here are some thoughts:

- Who was this teacher's teacher? If they are not extremely comfortable answering that question publicly, there should be some very good story that they are comfortable sharing publicly.

- What organization is this teacher a part of? Who gave them their rank? This should either be extremely common and easily-accessible knowledge, or they should be very upfront about what organization they used to be with, and why they struck out on their own.

You can either confirm the rank with the former teacher, former training partners, or the organization's headquarters.

Not every teacher who has struck out on their own is disreputable. Not every organization enforces high quality among its ranked students, either.
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Old 04-10-2015, 02:00 PM   #3
kelly.steveson76
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Re: Recommendations

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
There are lots of different opinions on this, but I think the only real purpose a black belt serves is to certify that you have been training for a certain length of time, and to a particular level, within the context of a particular organization.

So you can stick with one group for six years and get a shodan, but that doesn't mean some other group will respect it. Even if the two groups are reputable and know each other, there may be compatibility issues, e.g. you may be expected to take harder falls in one group, or perform a certain technique in a less safe way in another.

Smaller groups which have a definitive leader may regard the black belt as a personal confirmation of a transition between a "provisional" student and an "actual" student, which is a little bit different than in the larger Aikido organizations where there are open seminars, but it essentially means the same thing.

So basically, these things are awarded based on rules and requirements that are local to a particular group. There is no absolute meaning or status, and no organization has to recognize rank granted by somebody else.

Standards are widely different, too. And in non-competitive arts with small curricula like Aikido they might be awarded on a case-by-case basis.

As far as your concerns about how to verify a teacher's reputability, here are some thoughts:

- Who was this teacher's teacher? If they are not extremely comfortable answering that question publicly, there should be some very good story that they are comfortable sharing publicly.

- What organization is this teacher a part of? Who gave them their rank? This should either be extremely common and easily-accessible knowledge, or they should be very upfront about what organization they used to be with, and why they struck out on their own.

You can either confirm the rank with the former teacher, former training partners, or the organization's headquarters.

Not every teacher who has struck out on their own is disreputable. Not every organization enforces high quality among its ranked students, either.
Awesome Thank you
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Old 04-10-2015, 05:30 PM   #4
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Re: Recommendations

Hmm.... All I could do to "prove" that I'm the rank I am is to show the person the certificates on the wall.... but in the end they are just paper with pretty symbols and writing, so...

I think you'd need to "prove" rank in another way. Like putting hands on someone, that's a surefire way to find out.

I find it interesting that the kanji character for kuzushi illustrates a mountain falling on a house.
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Old 04-11-2015, 03:38 AM   #5
kelly.steveson76
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Re: Recommendations

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John Powell wrote: View Post
Hmm.... All I could do to "prove" that I'm the rank I am is to show the person the certificates on the wall.... but in the end they are just paper with pretty symbols and writing, so...

I think you'd need to "prove" rank in another way. Like putting hands on someone, that's a surefire way to find out.
John, that is a good point about the certificates however, if a person has been approved through the Aki headqtrs in Tokyo there name is tracked and rank ie shodon, nidon. What I am finding is names are not on the list. I know some I have been a student of have had there Sensei close like Sensei Goldsmith in VA, or Sensei Yap from FL all high ranking and all showing there rank from students of O'Sensei. I do wonder what you mean by "placing hands on some one" I hope that is meant in training because we all know Aikido goal is not place hands on people unless forced to.
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Old 04-11-2015, 07:32 AM   #6
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Re: Recommendations

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Kelly Steveson wrote: View Post
John, that is a good point about the certificates however, if a person has been approved through the Aki headqtrs in Tokyo there name is tracked and rank ie shodon, nidon. What I am finding is names are not on the list. I know some I have been a student of have had there Sensei close like Sensei Goldsmith in VA, or Sensei Yap from FL all high ranking and all showing there rank from students of O'Sensei. I do wonder what you mean by "placing hands on some one" I hope that is meant in training because we all know Aikido goal is not place hands on people unless forced to.
Hello Kelly,

I think that "placing hands" refers to "getting hands on with" or actually experiencing a teacher's aikido directly. The previous comments on valid ranks and experience are relevant, but even with all the legitimacy boxes ticked, the teacher might still be a dud. Then again, a teacher might somehow get the goods with nothing to show for them and then chosen to let the skills do the talking.

As it happens, I once trained with Mukai Sensei, so that gives me an idea of what you might like yourself, but actually training together would be the best, right?

I hope you find what you're looking for.

Carl
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Old 04-11-2015, 08:16 AM   #7
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Re: Recommendations

Quote:
Kelly Steveson wrote: View Post
John, that is a good point about the certificates however, if a person has been approved through the Aki headqtrs in Tokyo there name is tracked and rank ie shodon, nidon. What I am finding is names are not on the list. I know some I have been a student of have had there Sensei close like Sensei Goldsmith in VA, or Sensei Yap from FL all high ranking and all showing there rank from students of O'Sensei. I do wonder what you mean by "placing hands on some one" I hope that is meant in training because we all know Aikido goal is not place hands on people unless forced to.
You have mentioned "Aki," twice now. Are you referring to Aikido Kenkyukai International?
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Old 04-11-2015, 10:54 AM   #8
kelly.steveson76
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Re: Recommendations

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Carl Thompson wrote: View Post
Hello Kelly,

I think that "placing hands" refers to "getting hands on with" or actually experiencing a teacher's aikido directly. The previous comments on valid ranks and experience are relevant, but even with all the legitimacy boxes ticked, the teacher might still be a dud. Then again, a teacher might somehow get the goods with nothing to show for them and then chosen to let the skills do the talking.

As it happens, I once trained with Mukai Sensei, so that gives me an idea of what you might like yourself, but actually training together would be the best, right?

I hope you find what you're looking for.

Carl
Carl. thanks for the info. Great to hear you also have had time learning from Mukai Sensei. I plan to return to live in Japan with my wife next year and will continue with him at Camp Zama. I will e-mail him tonight. I can say hello if you like
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Old 04-11-2015, 10:57 AM   #9
kelly.steveson76
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Re: Recommendations

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Robin Boyd wrote: View Post
You have mentioned "Aki," twice now. Are you referring to Aikido Kenkyukai International?
Robin, no sorry I was talking about the AKI headqtrs in Tokyo. Aikikai Foundation
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Old 04-11-2015, 07:03 PM   #10
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Re: Recommendations

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Kelly Steveson wrote: View Post
Robin, no sorry I was talking about the AKI headqtrs in Tokyo. Aikikai Foundation
No worries. I have never heard of the Aikikai Foundation or Aikikai Hombu referred to as AKI before, especially as there is another organization called AKI.

Anyway, asking Aikikai Hombu is only valuable if the teachers in question claim to have received their gradings through Aikikai Japan. What organization is the teacher in question affiliated with?
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Old 04-11-2015, 09:04 PM   #11
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I've been trying to make sense out of your question, and having looked at your introductory post, this is the best I can come up with. Please let me know if I'm right.

You are looking into the background of Luca De Mario, having moved to Italy, and you haven't been able to confirm his (or presumably his teacher, Alessandro Tittarelli's) qualifications with Aikikai headquarters. This actually makes since as there was a bit split in Iwama aikido after Saito Sensei died, with his son, Hitohiro splitting from the Aikikai with some acrimony. A bit of internet research as shown that your previous dojo in the US stayed with Aikikai, whereas Mr Tittarelli went with Hitohiro Saito, so it would not surprise me at all if the Aikikai had deleted all records of people who went with the other organisation. Your best bet would be to contact Iwama Shin Shin Aiki Shurenkai (Hitohiro's organization) if you are concerned, but from what I can see on the web, it looks as though Mr Tittarelli is above board. I can't find a lot about Mr. De Luca, though.

As for ranks in multiple styles, usually what happens is a person moves to a location where there are no dojos of the style they practice, so they start practicing in another style. Once they start grading in the new style, they have ranks in both styles. I have ranks in 3 styles through exactly this process. The other mechanism is if a style breaks away and although a person trains with the same teacher, they end up with certificates issued by various organizations. It would make sense that a person who started training in Iwama style before Saito sensei passed away would be in this position.

I hope this helps.
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Old 04-12-2015, 05:05 AM   #12
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Re: Recommendations

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Robin Boyd wrote: View Post
I've been trying to make sense out of your question, and having looked at your introductory post, this is the best I can come up with. Please let me know if I'm right.

You are looking into the background of Luca De Mario, having moved to Italy, and you haven't been able to confirm his (or presumably his teacher, Alessandro Tittarelli's) qualifications with Aikikai headquarters. This actually makes since as there was a bit split in Iwama aikido after Saito Sensei died, with his son, Hitohiro splitting from the Aikikai with some acrimony. A bit of internet research as shown that your previous dojo in the US stayed with Aikikai, whereas Mr Tittarelli went with Hitohiro Saito, so it would not surprise me at all if the Aikikai had deleted all records of people who went with the other organisation. Your best bet would be to contact Iwama Shin Shin Aiki Shurenkai (Hitohiro's organization) if you are concerned, but from what I can see on the web, it looks as though Mr Tittarelli is above board. I can't find a lot about Mr. De Luca, though.

As for ranks in multiple styles, usually what happens is a person moves to a location where there are no dojos of the style they practice, so they start practicing in another style. Once they start grading in the new style, they have ranks in both styles. I have ranks in 3 styles through exactly this process. The other mechanism is if a style breaks away and although a person trains with the same teacher, they end up with certificates issued by various organizations. It would make sense that a person who started training in Iwama style before Saito sensei passed away would be in this position.

I hope this helps.
Sorry about the several spelling mistakes etc... I was in a hurry.
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Old 04-12-2015, 09:28 AM   #13
Carl Thompson
 
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Re: Recommendations

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Kelly Steveson wrote: View Post
Carl. thanks for the info. Great to hear you also have had time learning from Mukai Sensei. I plan to return to live in Japan with my wife next year and will continue with him at Camp Zama. I will e-mail him tonight. I can say hello if you like
Hi Kelly,

I only had Mukai sensei as my training partner for a short time at a seminar with Isoyama Shihan, I caught him all alone at the last IAF Congress Seminar in Tokyo, and recognising him, I of course grabbed hold of him for a fun few minutes. I've seen him around outside of training a couple of times, but I doubt he'd remember me.

Robin seems to have done much of the research you needed - sorry I did not help so much myself. As Robin pointed out, AKI refers to a specific organisation, which is a line within the Aikikai. The situation with various sensei splitting from lineages from Iwama also complicates things. The good thing is that from my experience at least, most of us just want to train and as I said, once people get hold of each other, you can feel what they got, from the line or from their own genius.

I hope I can catch you around here some time when you come back to Japan.

Regards

Carl
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Old 04-12-2015, 12:22 PM   #14
JP3
 
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Re: Recommendations

Quote:
Kelly Steveson wrote: View Post
John, that is a good point about the certificates however, if a person has been approved through the Aki headqtrs in Tokyo there name is tracked and rank ie shodon, nidon. What I am finding is names are not on the list. I know some I have been a student of have had there Sensei close like Sensei Goldsmith in VA, or Sensei Yap from FL all high ranking and all showing there rank from students of O'Sensei. I do wonder what you mean by "placing hands on some one" I hope that is meant in training because we all know Aikido goal is not place hands on people unless forced to.
.
You have the correct meaning. One places their hands on their friends and training partners all the time while on the mat/during practice and it's a positive thing even if some of the stuff we do looks/feels horrible, yes?

I must say that in several decades of being involved with martial arts associations from Japan, Korea and the USA... there is a lot of politics, bickering "who's the top dog" stuff that goes on that many of the student body is only aware of in/on the fringes. Entire chains of schools under a particular top instructor have had names stricken from official rols of awarded rank due to this type of thing. Perhaps that is why names do "not show up?"

Or, in some cases, there are those unethical persons who simply sell rank in order to make a living doing so. You can bet that if you laid hands on such people you'd not have the same sort of smoothly-fluid feebback you'd get from someone who had achieved dan rank in the traditional way, i.e. earned it through many years of practice.

Sensei Raymond, my first later in life aikido instructor, confided to me once that he has so many people come up to him all the time and introduce themselves to him (8th dan Tomiki under Geis Sensei's Fugakukai International Association ) that he no longer even pays attention to the rank they say, he simply listens for the number of years they've been doing what they do. For example, we have one demon judo comptetitor at our old club who was a ikkyu, last tier brown belt before shodan.... and he had been one for more than 20 years simply because he did not care to go through the formal stuff for the demo. He scares the whiz out of brown belts, let me just say, but in Judo, he doesn't even compete in the brown-belt only tournaments, he knows who/what he is, so he only competes in seniors and opens against whoever wants to try themselves in that venue.

I'm diverging, apologies. But, to the point of laying hands on people, if one walked into this particular school and put hands on the judo player mentioned above, you'd find that your eyes, seeing the brown belt, would have been incorrect, you see. You can't hide the "feeling" of competence. That's what I mean.

I find it interesting that the kanji character for kuzushi illustrates a mountain falling on a house.
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Old 04-14-2015, 01:24 AM   #15
kelly.steveson76
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Re: Recommendations

[quote=John Powell;343139].
I must say that in several decades of being involved with martial arts associations from Japan, Korea and the USA... there is a lot of politics, bickering "who's the top dog" stuff that goes on that many of the student body is only aware of in/on the fringes. Entire chains of schools under a particular top instructor have had names stricken from official rols of awarded rank due to this type of thing. Perhaps that is why names do "not show up?"

You hit the nail on the head with that one! Politics is a huge part of Aikdio. I have been to Seminars where I had to pay 70-150 to attend and train and just ended up heraing the person talk way to much and had all the others around me treat them like they were "GODS" was way to much for me. When I first moved to VA back in 2009 I started training in a dojo that at first seemd ok but, then I started seeing that the Sensei (dojo cho) was staying later every day and having the students buy him smokes and beer, as well as telling his kids class "if you bring Sensei coffee it would show you respect me" It was time for me to move on and I did to another Dojo in VA under Sensei Bruce Williams who was awesome, I do miss the training in Japan though. Muki Sensei was tough but made sure we got the training. Thanks for your replys it is good to know others have seen what I have.

Last edited by kelly.steveson76 : 04-14-2015 at 01:36 AM.
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Old 04-14-2015, 01:28 AM   #16
kelly.steveson76
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Re: Recommendations

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Carl Thompson wrote: View Post
Hi Kelly,

I only had Mukai sensei as my training partner for a short time at a seminar with Isoyama Shihan, I caught him all alone at the last IAF Congress Seminar in Tokyo, and recognising him, I of course grabbed hold of him for a fun few minutes. I've seen him around outside of training a couple of times, but I doubt he'd remember me.

Robin seems to have done much of the research you needed - sorry I did not help so much myself. As Robin pointed out, AKI refers to a specific organisation, which is a line within the Aikikai. The situation with various sensei splitting from lineages from Iwama also complicates things. The good thing is that from my experience at least, most of us just want to train and as I said, once people get hold of each other, you can feel what they got, from the line or from their own genius.

I hope I can catch you around here some time when you come back to Japan.

Regards

Carl
Carl. Thank for the help and information. I hope to see you around also. My wife and I own a house in Tokyo so I will be back next year.
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Old 04-14-2015, 01:34 AM   #17
kelly.steveson76
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Re: Recommendations

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Robin Boyd wrote: View Post
Sorry about the several spelling mistakes etc... I was in a hurry.
Robin,

thanks for the help, What brought me to ask about this was a person I just contacted in the states when I asked what style of Aikido he is teaching and he sent me a reply stating he had high ranking BB in 3 dif Aikido forms. I know most of the Sensei I have talked to have been training for over 20-30 yrs and are just now 6-7 Don, so for this guy to tell me he has many it was odd. I also had a question because I watched a Sensei when I was training in VA take a kid in HS and move him from 6 kyu to 2 Don in 2 yrs just because he wanted another BB to help teach the class. I was suprised he could do that and made me wonder who is holding the Sensei feet to the fire to no do things like that, Thank you for helping me.
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Old 04-14-2015, 08:00 AM   #18
Rupert Atkinson
 
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Re: Recommendations

My conclusion, after a lifetime of doing all this, is that rank is just the adult version of boy scout badges and totally stupid. People talk of a traditionally hard test, but in reality, tradition comes from Japan or Korea etc and over there (here) the tests are so easy you get kids with no skill at 2nd and 3rd Dan across all the arts. To me, rank is nothing more than a money collection system. A few people like to make more of it than that, but at the end of the day, it has far less to do with skill and far more to do with money collection. Judo fares a bit better, but even then, in Asia it is quite easy to get black belt. And the guy mentioned above who is/was a 20 year brown belt: If he has any skill then it just reflects the fact that his teachers are stupid and should just grade him to whatever level he is deemed to be at. A grade just shows the skill. If he could walk into a dojo and throw every black belt ... But there you have it - he won't test - he won't pay the fee. Stupid. Ha ha.

So, if you want to train under someone, it is vital to find out who his teacher is and how long he has trained etc. And then, just open your eyes. It really is not that difficult to tell who has and who has not got the necessary skill.

Last edited by Rupert Atkinson : 04-14-2015 at 08:06 AM.

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Old 04-14-2015, 11:29 AM   #19
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Re: Recommendations

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Kelly Steveson wrote: View Post
I also had a question because I watched a Sensei when I was training in VA take a kid in HS and move him from 6 kyu to 2 Don in 2 yrs just because he wanted another BB to help teach the class. I was suprised he could do that and made me wonder who is holding the Sensei feet to the fire to no do things like that, Thank you for helping me.
If you wanted to declare yourself an 8th dan tomorrow, you could do it. There are even organizations that will (for a fee) send you a certificate verifying your rank and shihan-ness. And then you could start handing out rank to your students based on no authority other than your illustrious self.

This is one of the reasons why lineage is so important. If I know who your teacher is, that gives me some idea whether the certificate on your wall means anything, or whether it might as well have come out of a box of breakfast cereal. And, if I know your teacher then I can check with him and see whether he actually issued the rank you claim to have.

Yes, the ultimate test is actually putting your hands on someone and feeling for yourself the ability they have (or not). Not so easy to do that when your untrained friend on the other side of the country wants to know if this or that teacher is worthwhile, though.

Katherine
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Old 04-14-2015, 01:28 PM   #20
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Re: Recommendations

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Rupert Atkinson wrote: View Post
My conclusion, after a lifetime of doing all this, is that rank is just the adult version of boy scout badges and totally stupid.
The boy scout badges may strike you as "totally stupid", but do you regard the skills behind them the same way?
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Old 04-15-2015, 07:48 AM   #21
Rupert Atkinson
 
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Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
The boy scout badges may strike you as "totally stupid", but do you regard the skills behind them the same way?
Of course not; they learn good stuff. Indeed, they will probably have learned more credible stuff than many so called high dan grades. But at some point, being a teenager, most of them grow out of the badges. They no longer need a badge to prove they can tie a knot or light a fire etc. But some continue on and crave them.

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Old 04-16-2015, 09:14 AM   #22
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What do you do as a Sensei in this circumstance? We typically will give the new student the benefit of the doubt. They say their shodan, okay they are shodan. But, we determine when they test for nidan when we feel they are ready not based on time, but based on ability and when they have absorbed our style and kihon waza.

Derek Duval
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Old 04-16-2015, 03:29 PM   #23
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Derek Duval wrote: View Post
What do you do as a Sensei in this circumstance? We typically will give the new student the benefit of the doubt. They say their shodan, okay they are shodan. But, we determine when they test for nidan when we feel they are ready not based on time, but based on ability and when they have absorbed our style and kihon waza.
I think that's the way most dojos handle new students from other styles.

It's not unheard of to ask new students to start all the way back at a low kyu rank, although I personally think that's a bit much unless his ability really is beginner level.

I can also see a problem if the new student comes in claiming an unusually high rank, say one that would vault him toward the top of the dojo hierarchy. If he isn't clearly better than the senior students who are now his "juniors," there's likely to be a bit of grumbling.

Katherine
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Old 04-16-2015, 06:32 PM   #24
Carl Thompson
 
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Re: Recommendations

Quote:
Rupert Atkinson wrote: View Post
Of course not; they learn good stuff. Indeed, they will probably have learned more credible stuff than many so called high dan grades. But at some point, being a teenager, most of them grow out of the badges. They no longer need a badge to prove they can tie a knot or light a fire etc. But some continue on and crave them.
I think this is maybe too much overkill the other way regarding rankings. All good teachers give feedback and keep track of what they have imparted. As adults, most of us have "badges" showing skills we have learned, from driving licenses to university degrees. Whether the students live up to the standards or whether the standards are any good or not is another story. That seems to be the subject at hand here but I agree with your criticism of craving the "badge" more than the skills it 's supposed to represent.
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Old 04-17-2015, 03:50 AM   #25
philipsmith
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Re: Recommendations

I agree with Carl and Rupert regarding ranking but with one caveat.
It is almost always useful to know the background of the individual and the "awarding body" as each organisation will have a set of standards that they adhere to. (This is true in education as well as Aikido)

Sometimes these are transferable but sometimes not but experienced practitioners can and should take these differences into account and respect them; after all students/teachers can only practice/teach what they have been taught
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