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Old 08-07-2016, 08:36 AM   #1
John McBride
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Overcoming the siren song of the Shodan(and beyond)

Good day all!

Tomorrow evening I return to the mat after more than 20 years away.

I wonder if some of the more experienced Aikido here could help me with a bit of a potential stumbling block.

First, I realize that progression in Aikido/budo is a journey, and that one should prepare for the long haul. It is a journey with much to see and learn along the way.

This is sort of the Crux of my quandary.
Intellectually, and in my gut, I wish to proceed in this journey free from what some here have called "testing tunnel vision", or "belt collecting."

I confess, when I trained all those years ago, i was almost entirely focused in attaining the black belt holy grail. It was a miracle I found any balance or learned anything.

This time round, I very much want to be in a mindful state. I wish to be focused much more on soaking as much as possible and work on fluidity and efficiency. I want to be in a place where, I can say with honesty, I don't care about belts or rank.

That said, as the day of my first participation in class draws near,xthose old wants and desires keep nagging at my consciousness. I can't help but strain to hear that siren song of the Shodan calling, all the while knowing that at best, its 3-5 years away if ever.

Have any of you been successful in eradicating this focus from your training? Have you been able to settle into a state of "train with no expectation of validation through promotion?"

If so, how were you/are you, able to maintain this state of mind in your journey? Please offer any tips on how best to empty out the cup of expectation, and fill the cup of grateful experience.

Last edited by John McBride : 08-07-2016 at 08:41 AM.
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Old 08-07-2016, 01:35 PM   #2
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: Overcoming the siren song of the Shodan(and beyond)

Maintaining this state of mind is not as important as just getting on the mat. Trying not to think about a subject makes it impossible to not think about it. Embrace it. You seem excited about training.

Training regularly takes care of all the ego’s wonderings and wanderings. Let the mat beat the expectations out of you. Each class, show up and suit up. Follow the directions of the teacher and be ever present for your uke or nage. Whatever happens over time will happen. What we think about rank or empty mind or whatever will disappear in the joy of training.

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Old 08-07-2016, 02:25 PM   #3
John McBride
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Re: Overcoming the siren song of the Shodan(and beyond)

Encouraging. Very encouraging.

Yes, in retrospect, I suppose I am over thinking. Best to just train and experience each session .
Thank you Mary.
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Old 08-07-2016, 06:54 PM   #4
robin_jet_alt
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Re: Overcoming the siren song of the Shodan(and beyond)

From my experience, a big factor is the environment in which you train.

I spent the first 5 or so years of my training at a place that didn't overly focus on grading, but in which grading was a common occurrence. In that environment I graded up to 1-kyu, and I have to say that although I wasn't overly concerned with grading, it was something that I had in the back of my mind.

Then I moved to Japan and changed styles. When I first arrived, my sensei and I had a short discussion about rank and maybe grading at some point, but I didn't think much of it, put on a white belt and just trained. During the time I was there, I never saw anyone grade, and it wasn't something that was talked about, so it never really bothered me. I enjoyed my training and left it at that. It wasn't so much a conscious effort on my part, but a product of the environment. Anyway, 4 years later, I had to move away, so sensei said it was about time to get my black belt, so I did. Not a lot of fuss around it. He just thought it might look weird if I showed up at a new dojo with a white belt, given the level I was at.

Because I had that experience, I have been able to enjoy training without worrying about rank ever since.

Anyway, I don't know what your new dojo is like, but I think the best advice is to echo Mary a bit. Just train and just enjoy it. If they want you to grade, then grade. If they don't, don't worry about it. Just go with the flow.
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Old 08-07-2016, 07:42 PM   #5
John McBride
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Re: Overcoming the siren song of the Shodan(and beyond)

Robin,
Thank you for your response.

Its strange. I have probably given this particular subject way too much thought. In so doing, I find I have fallen into the exact mindset I hoped to avoid.

I think what you say is an excellent reminder.

Go train, if there are tests to take, take them. If nothing is mentioned, just keep training.

Ultimately, I really just want to put myself in a place where it is the movement, and developing of technique that I'm after. Anything else is bonus.

Thank you.
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Old 08-08-2016, 09:16 PM   #6
Garth Jones
Dojo: Allegheny Aikido
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Re: Overcoming the siren song of the Shodan(and beyond)

Shodan is a nice milestone, but it's not magical. When you are promoted to shodan you get to wear a different belt, and maybe a hakama. Other than that, the techniques that were driving you crazy aren't any better and the good ones aren't any worse. It is nice to go to seminars and not be immediately treated as a beginner, but otherwise it's just one moment.

For me, everything changed when I realized that I didn't really care if my partner fell down every single time. After that I focused better on the fundamentals behind the techniques. That took awhile - I think I was between nidan and sandan. Hopefully you can get there faster.

Anyway, if you keep training long enough, two things will happen. First, you will get to the point where you don't test any more - your sensei (or organization) will promote you from time to time. And second, you will end up teaching, which is a different sort of challenge and validation of all your hard work. Don't rush to get there - just enjoy the journey.

Cheers - Garth
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Old 08-09-2016, 08:41 PM   #7
John McBride
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Re: Overcoming the siren song of the Shodan(and beyond)

Garth,
Thank you for your response. Good advice.

As sore as I am right now (post return to mat) I have to say that the LAST thing on my mind is testing/promotion. At the top of my list though, is getting my body back into shape.
Interesting how priorities shift radically once training has begun.

I have sort of made a deal with myself, something of a little mind trick. I have decided to set a goal, then get to work on accomplishing the goal. The goal is to test for Shodan by my 50th birthday. (I turn 46 this February).
Notice I said "test by" my 50th.
The thought here is, give myself something to "break down into small bites." If I can focus on those small bites like, having both a left foot and right foot, a left hand and a right hand on the mat, versus two left and two right, learning to fall correctly again, relearning my body and how it moves now versus trying to make it move like it did when I was 20, then it would possibly give me freedom from the afore mentioned siren song.
The bottom line being...ok, I have this goal. I may reach it, I may not. But I have many many small things to work on in the mean time, and my focus needs to be on them, not the long game right now. I need to be mindful in each class and focus on joyful practice......maybe delusional, but to fight against my own nature, or to try to eradicate what is simply part of my make up at this time, is an impediment to my practice I think. Better to embrace this facet of the experience (as was mentioned by Mary) and just keep the goal in the back of my head.

Another point, Garth mentioned teaching. Initially I thought, "yeah....right....like I'll ever be skilled enough"
But Garth has planted a seed. I couldn't imagine actually being skilled enough to teach, but in my experience, the best instruction is often given by a room full of beginners. What a gift it must be to be an instructor. Not only do you play a part in passing this art along, but you get the opportunity to learn so much from all those students.
Garth, that is a wonderful new goal to perhaps work towards, rather than naked ranking etc. As always, perhaps it will never happen, but to have that as a goal instead seems to hold much more value than just a Shodan or what have you.......thank you, that's a wonderful thing to meditate on.
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Old 08-10-2016, 12:32 PM   #8
Garth Jones
Dojo: Allegheny Aikido
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Re: Overcoming the siren song of the Shodan(and beyond)

John,

Depending on how long you trained before, how your training goes now, and, of course, what your sensei thinks, getting to shodan in 4 years or so sounds pretty reasonable.

Teaching - that can be a goal to work towards as well. However it can also be an obligation and sometimes burden. Sore and tired? Too much work? Don't feel like going to class tonight? Suck it up, you have a class to teach. That being said, some of the best times I've had in the dojo are on nights when I felt like that walking in the door. Aikido always makes my day better.

I started teaching regularly when I was 2nd kyu. Not because I was that great, but because in our small dojo our seniors were two shodans and they couldn't teach all the classes. And now that I run (with my wife and training partner) a small dojo, most of my training is when I am teaching. If you live/train somewhere with a dojo full of senior yudansha, you might not be asked to teach for a long time. If you are in a smaller place, you might get there faster than you think. Anyway, just my perspective.

For now, train hard, but also give your body time to get back into things. And have fun!

Cheers,
Garth
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Old 08-10-2016, 03:54 PM   #9
John McBride
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Location: Wheat Ridge
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Re: Overcoming the siren song of the Shodan(and beyond)

Garth,
Fun is the operative word. I'm having a blast.

Teaching is a very interesting notion. While i have no delusions of grandeur, it is a wonderful goal methinks.
Sure, it's a big responsibility, and I'm sure could be a drudgery. But, as a long term goal, or even as a long term thought, it does keep my motivation level up there.

I think just keeping those two goals in the back of my mind are good motivational fodder. At least for now. Mostly, I'm really just enjoying being back on the mat.
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Old 08-18-2016, 01:19 PM   #10
ninjedi
 
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Re: Overcoming the siren song of the Shodan(and beyond)

Not to say rank is meaningless, but more often than not I hear martial artists ask "how long have you been training?"in lieu of "what rank are you?"
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Old 08-18-2016, 06:32 PM   #11
rugwithlegs
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Re: Overcoming the siren song of the Shodan(and beyond)

Each kyu rank deserves it's own focus with a look towards creating a broad base of knowledge. The students that I see having the most difficulty preparing for Dan ranks rushed early foundation work. I often have Shodan candidates go back to Ikkyo Omote.

Unlike other arts, there is no kata or movement that is strictly reserved for Dan ranks. What you do every class or what you did on you last test is fair game for a Shodan test. So, black belt practice or white belt practice is no different. The test material is the same.

In combat, you are only as good as what you did in last split second. True for many other things in life - Top Chef often says, "You're only as good as your last plate of food."

Eventually, I ended up Sandan in an association that doesn't have formal tests for anything higher than Sandan. No exam can be part of my next rank. So, whether I want a test to matter or not, it doesn't.
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Old 09-15-2016, 05:38 PM   #12
Ketsan
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Re: Overcoming the siren song of the Shodan(and beyond)

Quote:
John McBride wrote: View Post
Good day all!

Tomorrow evening I return to the mat after more than 20 years away.

I wonder if some of the more experienced Aikido here could help me with a bit of a potential stumbling block.

First, I realize that progression in Aikido/budo is a journey, and that one should prepare for the long haul. It is a journey with much to see and learn along the way.

This is sort of the Crux of my quandary.
Intellectually, and in my gut, I wish to proceed in this journey free from what some here have called "testing tunnel vision", or "belt collecting."

I confess, when I trained all those years ago, i was almost entirely focused in attaining the black belt holy grail. It was a miracle I found any balance or learned anything.

This time round, I very much want to be in a mindful state. I wish to be focused much more on soaking as much as possible and work on fluidity and efficiency. I want to be in a place where, I can say with honesty, I don't care about belts or rank.

That said, as the day of my first participation in class draws near,xthose old wants and desires keep nagging at my consciousness. I can't help but strain to hear that siren song of the Shodan calling, all the while knowing that at best, its 3-5 years away if ever.

Have any of you been successful in eradicating this focus from your training? Have you been able to settle into a state of "train with no expectation of validation through promotion?"

If so, how were you/are you, able to maintain this state of mind in your journey? Please offer any tips on how best to empty out the cup of expectation, and fill the cup of grateful experience.
Fail 1st kyu four times, pass on the fifth and you'll lose any interest in shodan. The realisation that after all that effort you have achieved a piece of paper kind of puts things in perspective. So now I look at shodan and I see it as a whole load of effort to achieve a belt. As in a literal belt that I can pick up for less than 4. If you want to chuck in a hakama too that's 45 so the practical result of my next grading is that I'll be sweaty, tired, have sacrificed my Saturday lie in as well as a good Friday night's drinking and have around 200 less in my bank account but the advantage is that the next training session I'll be getting told off while dressed differently.

Yeah.
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Old 09-19-2016, 01:59 AM   #13
Tim Ruijs
 
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Re: Overcoming the siren song of the Shodan(and beyond)

Why do you practise Aikido?
Grades tend to feed ego....

In a real fight:
* If you make a bad decision, you die.
* If you don't decide anything, you die.
Aikido teaches you how to decide.
www.aikido-makato.nl
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