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Old 12-19-2002, 09:55 PM   #1
Paula Lydon
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why are they gone?

~~It's always seemed odd to me that I can train regularily with someone for, oh 2 to 4 years, then they get to sho-dan and, either quickly or slowly, they fade away.
~~Of course there are many different reasons for this: The blackbelt was the goal, other interests, family life, shifting into other martial arts, etc. But the percentage seems kind of high. What's the rate in your dojo? If most people stay on, why? What are you doing?

~~Paula~~
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Old 12-19-2002, 11:06 PM   #2
MikeE
 
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Jeez Paula,

How many questions do you ask at one time?

Mike Ellefson
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Old 12-19-2002, 11:18 PM   #3
udoka1
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my sensei and i have talked about this he seems to think that people get their black belt and think they have nothing else to learn. i wouldnt know as i have only been practicing a little over a year.
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Old 12-20-2002, 01:15 AM   #4
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hopfully they are all off starting dojos...

in Aiki
Agatsu!!
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Old 12-20-2002, 01:24 AM   #5
Darrell Aquino
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"people get their black belt and think they have nothing else to learn."

That's too bad, I always thought that once you receive a black belt it is just the beginning.

Darrell
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Old 12-20-2002, 05:43 AM   #6
rachmass
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Maybe some people perceive it as a let down. Afterall, once you reach shodan, you realize that you really know nothing (unless you are a cocksure fool), and that you are now just able to see how little you know? I know that after I received my shodan, I felt like a complete fraud. I've talked with others who have all felt that way to one degree or another. If you manage to stay with it, you get over that hump, and realize its all in the learning and we are just here for the practice and the learning that comes with it.

Sometimes I think so much importance is attached to the dan ranks that it really is a let-down for folks once they've attained that initial goal.

Just keep practicing :-)

Rachel
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Old 12-20-2002, 05:51 AM   #7
Ghost Fox
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As our dojo-cho gets older, and is on the mat less; I find myself being taught by people who have had their Shodans or Nidans for little over a year. I've been giving serious consideration to moving on to another dojo to continue my education in Aikido.

Just another POV.
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Old 12-20-2002, 05:57 AM   #8
rachmass
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Damion also raises a point (maybe it should be a separate thread?). Damion, how does it affect you, other than you obviously don't like it? Is the quality not there? Are these shodans and nidans not brought up by your teacher, and therefore just like him/her? In my home dojo, anyone who taught had a very similar body language and style to my teacher, and we were his representatives on the mat. I've been to dojos however where the students were very different than the Sensei and it was confusing to the juniors.

Please let us know how this affects you.

Best,

Rachel
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Old 12-20-2002, 05:59 AM   #9
Peter Goldsbury
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Quote:
Rachel Massey (rachmass) wrote:
Maybe some people perceive it as a let down. Afterall, once you reach shodan, you realize that you really know nothing (unless you are a cocksure fool), and that you are now just able to see how little you know? I know that after I received my shodan, I felt like a complete fraud. I've talked with others who have all felt that way to one degree or another. If you manage to stay with it, you get over that hump, and realize its all in the learning and we are just here for the practice and the learning that comes with it.

Sometimes I think so much importance is attached to the dan ranks that it really is a let-down for folks once they've attained that initial goal.

Just keep practicing :-)

Rachel
Yes, but don't you think this is also an instructor's problem? I received my shodan after 9 years of training, with 3 different teachers, all Japanese. On receiving the rank, I was made to feel that shodan was the beginning of a lifetime commitment and I owe this realization / awareness to my teachers. But I was never made to feel a fraud, i.e., that my 9 years of kyu-grade training did not matter, or that I had reached a rank that I did not deserve. I tested and passed the test in the eyes of these teachers.

I have trained several 1st kyu students who had been stuck at that grade for too long and had become disillusioned with aikido as a result. The dan system is fraught with politics, but for some, putting on that black belt and hakama is really a sign that the aikido world also takes them seriously.

Best regards,

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 12-20-2002 at 06:02 AM.

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Old 12-20-2002, 06:15 AM   #10
rachmass
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Mr. Goldsbury,

You raise an interesting idea about it being the teachers responsibility. Why is it that some folks feel so "validated" after receiving shodan, while others are completely humbled by it? My lineage seems to be more humbled than anything else, whereas I have met folks who feel quite the opposite. Could you please elaborate on your thoughts of this?

Regards,

Rachel
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Old 12-20-2002, 06:29 AM   #11
Ghost Fox
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Quote:
Rachel Massey (rachmass) wrote:
Damion also raises a point (maybe it should be a separate thread?). Damion, how does it affect you, other than you obviously don't like it? Is the quality not there? Are these shodans and nidans not brought up by your teacher, and therefore just like him/her? In my home dojo, anyone who taught had a very similar body language and style to my teacher, and we were his representatives on the mat. I've been to dojos however where the students were very different than the Sensei and it was confusing to the juniors.

Please let us know how this affects you.

Best,

Rachel
I'll let Jun decide if this should be a separate thread.

For me it's a matter of continuing along the Path. I really love the people who I train with and my dojo feels like a second home to me. I often offer to lock-up after everyone just so I can bask in the quite spirit of the dojo (I got the aikido bug bad).

The Shodan & Nidan are very capable for Shodan and Nidan, but like you say they're just beginners. It's kind of like in college when I used to tutor other students in calculus & physics. As a senior student I could help them work through some of the problems they where having, but I was not a professor. I didn't have the depth of understanding to help them with the more complex & abstract problems they were facing. The tutoring process works well if there is a professor to refer to when more refinement is required.

I just need to push myself out of my comfort zone and continue to challenge myself. I just wish I didn't have to leave the nest so soon. I guess no one said the Path was easy.
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Old 12-20-2002, 06:59 AM   #12
Ghost Fox
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I think the issue is with regards to ones reference frame. When you achieve your Shodan it is a valid stage of completion, like reaching the summit of a small mountain, but now that you have reached the apex it appears that there is no where to go. After one reaches a stage of completion every direction a person moves only leads down the mountain. It is easy to become disillusioned, especially if in your mind that is all you were lead to believe there was. But if you have a teacher point up or if you happen to look beyond the clouds in front of you, you will see an even larger mountain spiraling up so high you cannot even see the Zenith. So high you are humbled and in awe before it's magnitude. Now you have two choices. You can attempt to maintain the tedious balance at the top of your mountain, too tired to continue or you can leap the chasm towards the higher mountain and begin to climb higher.

It's interesting that the last chapter of the I-Ching by the sage Fu Hsi is not the hexagram Completion, but the hexagram Near Completion. Maybe completion is not the ideal state, but being in an endless stage of near completion. Is not life more interesting at this stage?

Sorry of all the metaphors, I tend to think in pictures.

Peace and Blessings.
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Old 12-20-2002, 07:09 AM   #13
Peter Goldsbury
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Quote:
Rachel Massey (rachmass) wrote:
Mr. Goldsbury,

You raise an interesting idea about it being the teachers responsibility. Why is it that some folks feel so "validated" after receiving shodan, while others are completely humbled by it? My lineage seems to be more humbled than anything else, whereas I have met folks who feel quite the opposite. Could you please elaborate on your thoughts of this?

Regards,

Rachel
Hello Rachel,

Thank you for your reply to my post.

I do not see any contradiction between feeling humbled and feeling validated at one and the same time. Perhaps I had to wait so long for shodan, in order to have my commitment thoroughly tested: I do not know. What I do know, however, is that the attitude of my teachers changed after shodan. I was made to feel that I shared with them a common, lifelong endeavour. I owe this to my teachers and this is why I stated that it is the teacher's responsibility (mainly, in my opinion).

The responsibilty is not to abandon their students after shodan (as if they have grown up and do not need any more instruction), but to guide them much more actively. In my opinion, my black belts have made a commitment to me in coming to my classes over the years and undergoing my grading examinations. This 'official' relationship is one side of a very close personal relationship. So, if a person leaves a dojo after receiving shodan and there are no unusual circumstances, I would initially regard this as a failure on the instructor's part, for it is certainly a slap in the face to the instructor.

But perhaps I am old-fashioned. I do not know.

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 12-20-2002 at 07:11 AM.

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Old 12-20-2002, 07:24 AM   #14
rachmass
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Thank you Mr. Goldsbury,

I see your point, and understand where you are coming from on this. It took me 13 years to reach shodan, due to switching styles and being a bit of a klutz, so I know how that feels with regard to showing commitment. Seven years have passes since then, and I find myself more and more committed every passing year (I have even started my own small dojo).

My teacher has always taken great measures to ensure that I was on track with regard to teaching, as he considered me (and anyone who was teaching at his dojo) his representative on the mat. He recommended me for fukushidoin a year ago, and I am very grateful for that, as it showed me his confidence in me. He has also been supportive of my efforts to start a dojo. At the same time, I feel very humble in that I see such high quality aikido out there, and know that I am nowhere near that stage of my development, even after 20 years of training. So, I have made some measure of progress, but the mountains are so great and so distant, that it can't help but make me feel humble.

It is interesting that even with the level of interest and support that I have found from my teacher, I still feel unsure. At shodan I felt terribly insecure of my aikido, and did feel like a fraud. It took about a year afterwards to start feeling more confident that I wasn't that bad. I don't think this came from my teacher, but from within. What is interesting for me to note however, that this feeling was very common among my dojo mates, as well as students I met and talked with from other dojos.

At no point after my shodan did I (or have I) felt like quitting. I owe this to my teacher as well as to this art.

On the other hand, sometimes I meet extremely arrogant folks who have reached shodan and feel they know everything. I've met people who train for six years and start a dojo, thinking they know everything. Isn't this also the teachers responsibility to instill humility into these folks?

What are your thoughts regarding this?

(I know I have gotten off track of the original post, but I am extremely interested in this conversation).

Rachel
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Old 12-20-2002, 07:52 AM   #15
Russ Qureshi
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I found my experience to be much the same as Rachel's. I didn't feel like a fraud but I sure didn't feel like the "expert" I thought I should be.... Despite my seniors gently pointing out "this is just the beginning.." and "welcome to the beginner's club..." etc, it still took well over six months for me to work it out in my head that it was alright that my form was not as crisp as I expected it should be, or that my ability to impart technique (on my night to teach Damien..)was not as profound as those teacher's I've had the pleasure to learn from. All this seems quite obvious but, I think, one must experience the post shodan "hump" and get through it to gain some perspective.

To address Peter sensei's response: I think one's experience learning from and training with Japanese Shihan is, for the most part, a blessing and very different than the North American experience (generally learning from a teacher a little farther down the line). I beleive it comes back to the NA conditioning and mindset of "achieving" and "attaining" shodan. That the black belt denotes an expertise that doesn't necessarily exist. From the little I know, the Japanese experience is much more of a conditioning to the fact that shodan is simply another step along the way and, as Peter sensei inferred, a way for the teacher (and by extension the aikido "establishment") to say: "We take your commitment seriously..." (Feel free to illuminate here Peter sensei....)

All this is speaking from my experience and from what I've seen generally.

Rachel, I agree that one must "just keep practising..." but not just keep practising. Keep practising with a sense of patience (with yourself) and a honest awareness of where you are at and what your motivations are. If you remember why you go to the dojo every day it puts rank into perspective.

Happy Holidays all!
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Old 12-20-2002, 08:00 AM   #16
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I too observe that many see the Shodan as the goal and once achieved, they leave. Its like a diploma from high school. They just decide not to go to college. I also agree, its sad. I feel my education started at Shodan. But then again, I see education as a process, not a destination.

Until again,

Lynn

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 12-20-2002, 08:24 AM   #17
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I think the shodan and nidan are an infinitely valuable part of the the dojo.

As the dojo cho gets deeper and deeper into the art...it may sometimes become harder to relate to "beginners" just because his/her view of the art has changed. (Not in all cases, but I have seen it.)

I think your shodans and nidans help bridge that gap, so that a continuity of learning can be fostered. And since these people will one day (hopefully) start their own school, they should get their taste of teaching.

Mike Ellefson
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Old 12-20-2002, 10:40 AM   #18
opherdonchin
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I try to see it this way:

If someone only comes to watch, I hope they see and learn something that will be of use to them on their path.

If they only stay a day or two, I hope the same thing.

If they only get their first kyu rank, I hope the same thing.

If they only stay until shodan, I hope the same thing.

You get the point.

Each of us will stop doing AiKiDo some day. For some of us, that will also be the end of the path because we will be dead. For others, it will just be the beginning of a new path.

Yours in Aiki
Opher
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Old 12-20-2002, 01:12 PM   #19
Doug Mathieu
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Hi

I am curently at Nidan and it took me 8 years to attain Shodan.

I experienced a number of different instructors on the way to Shodan.

I notice both Peter and Rachel trained for some time before their Shodan just as I did.

I agree with their views and comments.

During my kyu training there were maybe 2 - 3 times when I might have stopped. I would say the reasons would have been mostly instructor related in that an instructor appeared indifferent or worse to my growth.

Thinking about the above I wonder if those who do stop have not trained long enough to make Aikido deeper inside of them or maybe the instructors approach made them feel let down somehow.

I was very lucky in some ways that my instructor at that time of ranking and the rest of the students made me feel that I achieved something worthy and I was an important part of the Dojo Community.

This sense of Dojo Community and your place in it may be more important than we realize.

A person has to have their own desire to train and learn but the Dojo support could be an issue not always admitted to.
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Old 12-20-2002, 01:47 PM   #20
rachmass
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Douglas makes a very interesting point on this thread, about the length of time it took to get to shodan possibly having a determining effect on whether someone stays afterwards or not. I have found sometimes that when aikido is too easy, people find no real benefit in it. I've seen folks who were able to rapidly advance, also rapidly quit. On the other hand, I know of a number of folks who advanced very rapidly and are still training (and are still excellent!).

I would be interested to hear what others have to say about that aspect.

As to dojo support, it too can be a make it or break it proposition, as if you are in an unsupportive environment, staying can be very difficult. Also, I think if you are brought up from the beginning to shodan in one dojo, the support is generally greater than if you switch (from personal observation at a couple of different dojos). Yes, I do think the support offered by the dojo and membership can be critical to a new shodan (as to any member of the dojo).

best,

Rachel
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Old 12-20-2002, 05:12 PM   #21
Peter Goldsbury
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Quote:
Rachel Massey (rachmass) wrote:
Thank you Mr. Goldsbury,

On the other hand, sometimes I meet extremely arrogant folks who have reached shodan and feel they know everything. I've met people who train for six years and start a dojo, thinking they know everything. Isn't this also the teachers responsibility to instill humility into these folks?

What are your thoughts regarding this?

(I know I have gotten off track of the original post, but I am extremely interested in this conversation).

Rachel
Hello Rachel,

Well, when you reach the dizzy heights of 6th dan, the feelings of insecurity you had at shodan are replaced by others: like the awareness of declining physical vigour and the need to make sure that one's training compensates for this. But perhaps my earlier remarks need to be put into context. I am fortunate in belonging to an organization here with no shortage of high ranking black belts. There are at least 5 instructors of 6th dan rank and we have regular visits from people like Hiroshi Tada and Sadateru Arikawa, both 9th dan. Of course it is possible for a shodan to believe he/she has all the answers, but it is possible to test this belief here with people who have 30, 40 or 50 years of training experience. It is easier here, and equally dangerous, to take one's seemingly 'inevitable' progress for granted.

My earlier remarks about shodan and 1st kyu students being frustrated were made of a context (outside Japan) where the instructors are only one or two ranks higher and are less able to deal with their frustration. I think it is good to feel a sense of achievement on reaching shodan, but I think this is where 'learning how to learn' (see Jun's other thread) should really start and this delicate process needs equally careful guidance from the instructor: less spoon feeding, but equally careful guidance.

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 12-21-2002, 08:49 AM   #22
SeiserL
 
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Some people focus on the destination. Others just focus on the journey. It may be more a matter of training goals and life orientation, whether you are content or process oriented.

Perhaps we need to emphasize more the joy over just training over the rank system. But then again, many would not even start if that were the case. Even though they leave, they take something with them.

Until again,

Lynn

Until again,

Lynn

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
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Old 12-22-2002, 01:06 AM   #23
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When I made it shodan, I was certainly surprised by how elated I felt. I thought, "Man, I made it! I can have a class!"

Maybe other folks feel that, like everyone seems to concur upon. It's unfortunate, but it happens.

Thankfully, I wised up, looked back and saw some things I regretted. I came to a conlusion similar to Lynn's: it's not the journey or the destination that matter, it's ultimately both.

Sadly, you cannot force someone to be humble. I know some VERY thick-headed shodan because they have the conception they are "done" and now "teachers". You could hit 'em with a tire iron and still not get through.

The best I can do is say my piece, and try to show someone what will result from their behavior, whether through technique or anecdote. If not for their benefit, then their students', because those shodan are a danger to them.

When all else fails, I remember what my teachers have told me: When you see a monkey at the zoo, acting like a monkey, are you surprised?

Phillip Johnson
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Old 12-22-2002, 01:27 AM   #24
locknthrow
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Hmmm interesting
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Old 12-22-2002, 06:15 AM   #25
mike lee
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step by step

Quote:
I know some VERY thick-headed shodan because they have the conception they are "done" and now "teachers".
In some associations, one can only become a teacher after passing the 4 dan test before that, they are classified as "assistant instructors," even if they are the chief instructor of their own dojo. Such a system may help a to keep some egos in check.

There's even one guy on this forum who already considers himself to be a great teacher possessing extra-ordinary talent despite the fact that he isn't even shodan yet.

But such an attitude only hinders learning, and it's been my experience that such individuals are easily unbalanced. And when such an event occurs they are shocked and surprised. They just can't fathom why they were not as good as they fantasized. They attribute such events to "tricks," and fail to acknowledge the years of training it actually takes to master an art like aikido.

Egos really can inflate very easily, and one should always be aware of it. There's a big difference between being confident and being arrogant.

Last edited by mike lee : 12-22-2002 at 06:19 AM.
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