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Old 07-14-2006, 03:18 PM   #26
John Boswell
 
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

I define "pressure" here more like Peer Pressure. (And this is not an accusation by any means of anybody.)

But situations that bring about,"When are ya gonna test? When are ya gonna test? When are ya gonna test? When are ya gonna test? When are ya gonna test?" being asked over and over. If I hear that (which I don't) or if I feel that (which I do, but again... that's me) then that is when the pressure is on.

Testing for the sake of testing is what I fear and feel pressure from.

Pressure due to being pushed to a higher standard? Great!
Pressure due to eliminate sloppyness? By all means!
Pressure to refine and raise one's ability? Of course!
But putting on pressure to test, just to get people to test for the sake of testing? huh uh

MAN! Do I have ISSUES or WHAT???

(maybe I'm just an egotistical, self-centered, arrogant punk? hmmm... NAH! I'm too good for that to be true. )

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Old 07-14-2006, 04:49 PM   #27
aikidoc
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

I never ask anyone to test who is not ready. Quite the contrary-if someone wants to test and I don't think they are ready I'll advise otherwise. So asking someone to test is not pressure but recognition that they are ready.
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Old 07-14-2006, 05:26 PM   #28
aikigirl10
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quote:
John Riggs wrote:
I don't know if this has been discussed before. There seems to be a phenomenon that occurs around 2nd kyu (brown belt level if using colored belts). Some of the characteristics I have noticed:
1. Training gaps: they stop training for long periods or start becoming scarce or irregular. Some stop all together. It generally starts with excuses-someone in class is pissing them off; they are bored; life is taking over, etc., etc.
2. Ego takes over: they start thinking they are as they sometimes say in Texas "all knowed up". It is characterized by quickness to correct others even those who outrank them, trying to stop others while doing ukemi, and claimed boredom-they are not learning anything new (even though the still don't have the basics down).

I have thought about this over the years and wonder what others think about it or if they experience it. My feelings are there is somewhat of a quick fix mentality with us yanks. We want everything in the instant mode and 4 years of training is definitely not instant. I also rationalize that it could be due to people simply not being cut out mentally for the discipline necessary to be a lifelong martial artist. It frustrates me to see people go so far and then falter-especially when they have talent.

Anyone else experience this? Do you have solutions?
I have totally experienced this.. myself actually.

The #2 in your post i honestly don't think describes me however. I tend to be the total opposite, i rarely even speak during class, being somewhat reserved around a big group of middle-aged men who i have not one thing in common with (other than we do aikido). Personally i see alot more ego in beginners than i do in the higher ranks. The beginners come for 2 weeks and think they are awesome, and the vets have already been through this and are over it. That's usually how i see it.

the #1 in your post describes me perfectly. I have let my training slip somewhat and i realize and recognize this. However, i really don't know why it happens. I still love aikido. I definitely want to be a lifelong martial artist, i really just don't know what it is. I'm wondering if it will be better once i get my license (in a month), but i really couldn't say.

Um... overall, i have heard of alot of people going through these types of things, but most of them usually do return to aikido, and more devoted.

For me personally, who knows. I don't know where aikido will be in my life 2 or 3 years from now, but for the time being i've learned to accept this behavior of mine, until i learn where my priorites are in life. And, as long as that's ok with me, i don't see how it's affecting anyone else at all.

*Paige*

interesting thread
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Old 07-14-2006, 05:44 PM   #29
Karen Wolek
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Talking Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

I'm 2nd kyu....I'll start practicing for 1st kyu when I get home from Texas (August 6th). I'll have the hours by the end of October or so.....but I have never tested as soon as I have gotten the hours, so I am just assuming that test won't be til at least December.

I haven't had the brown belt syndrome mentioned by Riggs Sensei in his first post. The symptoms I have had have been: using too much strength, being too rough/causing pain, cockiness, maybe a little 'tude with the cockiness, frustration. <grin> Well, the 'tude I have had for awhile, I guess.

I don't get away with sloppiness or carelessness or slacking off. That has gotten more obvious in the past year or so. If he knows I know what to do, I'm expected to do it right...and he has no qualms with telling me off for it. And if I do it wrong or carelessly once out of 10 times, you know damn well he will see that one!!!!

So that's a difference between me and a 5th kyu. Expectations.

I don't think I get bored much. Well, if we do tai no henko for a half hour, I do. I guess I SHOULDN'T but there it is. But I'm at a point now where I like to kinda play with things, try to figure things out, see what works and what doesn't. Sometimes my partner doesn't really let me, though. More senior people will understand if I tell them what I'm doing...but most of my dojo is junior to me.

It's a young dojo....7 years young. We had our first shodan test in May, which was very exciting! He started training before our dojo opened....we have one guy who just tested for 1st kyu who has been with our dojo since it opened. I started a little less than 4 years ago; there are only maybe 5 or 6 people currently practicing who are senior to me.....and 30+ junior to me!

So I'm a "senior student" much earlier than someone at an older dojo. The Woodstock dojo, at which I train a few times a month, is much older....a 2nd kyu there is far from senior. There are lots of people there who have been training for 15, 20, 30 years; I'm just a baby in comparison.

So....pressure. I dunno, I think I feel the pressure more some days than others. I do spend a lot of time in class helping out beginners. Although we are discouraged from "teaching" on the mat, with beginners, we are expected to help. Some classes, I only work with beginners. Just depends on the makeup of the class. Luckily we have an advanced class once a week, 2nd kyu and up only. I'm usually the most junior in that class!!!

I'm also at every class....and the only student who does attend every class. And I'm kenshusei, to boot. So there, expectations and responsibilities!

I think my sensei probably looks forward to having some blackbelts around, so maybe we will get there faster than the "younger" students will. I dunno. But I just think that if most of the students are 5th kyu and below, the 2nd kyu students will be given a lot more responsibility earlier on than a dojo where most of the students are yudansha. Just comes with the territory.

I love my dojo, I love watching it grow, and I love watching it grow up. I love most of the newbies.....I love when they learn to take ukemi and I can toss them around, especially. Heh heh heh.

So most of the time I don't feel TOO much pressure....my sensei doesn't emphasize tests and rank, so I don't think any of us feel pressure to get the black belt. Well, maybe our recent shodan did. He was VERY relieved when the test was over. We'll see what I say in another year or so when I have to get ready for MY shodan test!

Oh, and no training gaps here....if I miss a day, people are asking where I was!

Last edited by Karen Wolek : 07-14-2006 at 05:47 PM.

Karen
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Old 07-14-2006, 06:55 PM   #30
markwalsh
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

"White belts are ignorant, brown belts are mean and black belts are arrogant."
Heard that somewhere :-)
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Old 07-14-2006, 07:33 PM   #31
davoravo
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

I am a brown belt currently attending class rregularly and I would say it probably has as much to do with changes in life circumstances as anything.

I started aikido as a university student and initially attended twice a day and weekends. There have been several phases to my aikido career including moving cities and adjusting to working evening shifts and weekend shifts that clashed with class.

Currently, I am a father and my wife expects that my family is my number one priority, so even attending class once a week is negotiated if other members of the household need attention.

I would think that given the long learning curve for aikido that most brown belts would have experienced significant changes in their life circumstances since starting training.

For myself, I have accepted that I am unlikely to improve significantly at my current rate of training. Others might feel frustrated and that if they can't get better then they shouldn't come at all???

David McNamara
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Old 07-15-2006, 06:14 AM   #32
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quote:
John Boswell wrote:
I know many people consider it to be a "first step" and a rank indicating "ready to start learning" etc., and you can say that all day, everyday till you are blue in the face. HOWEVER, I personally hold the rank of Shodan in very high regard, I place a lot of responsilbity on that rank, I expect a certain amount of quality from anyone with a black belt and believe that any Dan rank is deserving of respect.)
Quote:
John Boswell wrote:
I define "pressure" here more like Peer Pressure. (And this is not an accusation by any means of anybody.)

But situations that bring about,"When are ya gonna test? When are ya gonna test? When are ya gonna test? When are ya gonna test? When are ya gonna test?" being asked over and over. If I hear that (which I don't) or if I feel that (which I do, but again... that's me) then that is when the pressure is on.

Testing for the sake of testing is what I fear and feel pressure from.

Pressure due to being pushed to a higher standard? Great!
Pressure due to eliminate sloppyness? By all means!
Pressure to refine and raise one's ability? Of course!
But putting on pressure to test, just to get people to test for the sake of testing? huh uh

MAN! Do I have ISSUES or WHAT???

(maybe I'm just an egotistical, self-centered, arrogant punk? hmmm... NAH! I'm too good for that to be true. )
Hello John,

Interesting thoughts.

My own experience of testing has been quite different. When I was a 1st kyu, in the UK, I was training at a seminar taught by Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei and was suddenly told in the morning of the last day that I had to take a shodan test in the afternoon. So I had a few hours of intense stress and pressure, then it was all over. I passed and became a shodan and wore the hakama, but I do not think that this was a particularly stressful grade, either. I trained in the main dojo under the watchful eye of the UK shihan, Minoru Kanetsuka Sensei, but everybody was under the eye, not just the new black belts.

I think the Brown Belt Syndrome is not universal in aikido. For a start, in the UK (outside universities and children's classes in the Aikikai) there were no coloured belts and so the 'syndrome' was not associated with a certain kyu grade. If it existed, I suspect it was due to dojo dynamics. I can think of one possible scenario. A dojo is run by a sole relatively low-ranked yudansha (up to 4th dan), who feels the need to uphold the 'standards' of the dojo. There is a need for dedicated shodan, nidan and higher kyu grade students who can act as role models for the beginners and can also cover for emergencies: the times when the instructor is not present. There is also pressure to uphold the martial standards of the dojo, whatever these are.

I have never encountered this in any of the dojos in which I have trained here in Japan. In the main dojo in Hiroshima, there are a large number of higher-ranked yudansha (I mean 5th and 6th dan), so the onus of maintaining martial standards almost never falls on kyu grade students. In addition, kyu grade tests are conducted by the head of each local dojo, so I hold my own 1st kyu tests. Dan tests are held twice a year in the main dojo and everybody knows when these take place. There might be local pressure in a branch dojo for a 1st kyu student to take the shodan test, but this is nothing like a 'syndrome' (which I understand to be a major problem like an undiagnosed illness).

In my own dojo there is a large gap between the instructors (4th to 6th dan) and the most senior student (1st kyu). So there is no pressure on any students to take tests in order that they can teach in the dojo and cover for absences. We have a teaching rota and so it is quite likely that I myself will be in the dojo training when one of my lower-ranked colleagues is instructing. Of course, the 1st kyu students will eventually take their shodan tests, but there is no pressure to test and I will not allow them to take their shodan tests unless I think they will do well. They have trained for five years, but waiting one or two more years will be OK.

So I suggest that Brown Belt Syndrome is a phenomenon found in certain dojos that follow a particular teaching and training ethic. I hazard the suggestion that it is to be found in dojos that place relatively high stress on the importance of individual responsibility (including resonsibility for one's own progress in aikido).

Best wishes,

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 07-15-2006 at 06:18 AM.

P A Goldsbury
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Old 07-15-2006, 08:27 AM   #33
Amelia Smith
 
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
I hazard the suggestion that it is to be found in dojos that place relatively high stress on the importance of individual responsibility (including resonsibility for one's own progress in aikido).
Or, perhaps it's found at the point at which a student takes on more individual responsibility. I think that most people who train for a long time will eventually have to become more self-directed and/or take on more responsibility. The need to take on more responsibility might come from opening a dojo, becoming one of the senior students, or losing a sensei.

--Amelia
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Old 07-15-2006, 08:55 AM   #34
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quote:
Amelia Smith wrote:
Or, perhaps it's found at the point at which a student takes on more individual responsibility. I think that most people who train for a long time will eventually have to become more self-directed and/or take on more responsibility. The need to take on more responsibility might come from opening a dojo, becoming one of the senior students, or losing a sensei.

--Amelia
Hello Amelia,

I agree, but the issues you raised do not necessarily relate to Brown Belt Syndrome, as I understand it from this thread. I have trained for a long time and over the years I have taken on more responsibility. This extra responsibility has come from all of the three examples you mention snd in addition running a large international aikido federation.

Best wishes,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 07-15-2006, 10:44 AM   #35
Lee Salzman
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

As a brown belt with about 5 years training, who is a hair's breadth away from giving up on aikido lately (and this from a guy who was until only recently training just about every day of the week):

1. Too much mysticism, too little practical explanation. Whenever I seem to be experiencing problems, the senior student, or perhaps sensei, will just bombard me repeatedly with phrases like: "Use your ki." or "Use your center.", with no further explanation. Bland phrases like that belong on Hallmark greeting cards, not as instruction. The farther I get, the less practical instruction I get, which is increasingly replaced with the equivalent of Zen koans.

2. Doubts about instructors. I see the skill possessed by visiting noteable sensei at the occasional seminar or surprise appearance, and then I see what my instructors are teaching, and in many cases I simply fail to see how what they're teaching could take me to that level, or in other cases, I am starting to become almost certain it won't because the instructors seem to have less commitment to teaching good aikido than I have to learning it. The instructors who can actually inspire me don't seem to be around to teach much.

3. Extreme confusion. I have tried practicing every day of the week for quite a while, even at different dojos to make that happen. But I only get the feeling that I am practicing/experimenting with the wrong things, only more frequently (see #2). No greater understanding appeared as a result. I feel like I lack any proper roadmap of how to get from point A to point B. I have a repetoire of things I have been shown in class, but without any real idea of how to employ them to affect progress (see #1), and many instructors who won't even let me use them in class because they have their own dubious and extremely suspect ideas (see #2).

4. Doubts about the art's method of teaching and imprinting itself in the body. After looking at other arts lately, I am starting to see some of them have a more thoughtful progression and idea of what the student should be learning and when. And it is only by looking at what some of the other arts are teaching and why that I am seeing potential explanations for what's in aikido and why, but stuff I'm not even sure most of the instructors I have available see (see #2).

That's the two cents of a frustrated brown belt.

Last edited by Lee Salzman : 07-15-2006 at 10:54 AM.
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Old 07-15-2006, 11:31 AM   #36
John Boswell
 
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Lee,

I don't want to "knock" any dojo, but your issues seem to relate specifically to your instructor(s).

Were I in your shoes, I'd look for another dojo. Not sure if you have that option or not, but if you do... go try out other dojo's and "interview" the Sensei there. Watch some class and participate if they will let you. If they don't, probably don't want to be there anyway. If they do, give them a shot and see what you think.

Personally, I have no doubt in the ability of my instructor. I can see what he's doing, relate it to higher ranking sensei or shihan and know exactlly where he is coming from... and where he is going.

Time to go shopping, my friend!

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Old 07-15-2006, 11:34 AM   #37
John Boswell
 
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quote:
"Karen Wolek" wrote:
Oh, and no training gaps here....if I miss a day, people are asking where I was!
Now you're just showing off.

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Old 07-15-2006, 12:03 PM   #38
aikidoc
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quote:
Lee Salzman wrote:
As a brown belt with about 5 years training, who is a hair's breadth away from giving up on aikido lately (and this from a guy who was until only recently training just about every day of the week):

1. Too much mysticism, too little practical explanation. Whenever I seem to be experiencing problems, the senior student, or perhaps sensei, will just bombard me repeatedly with phrases like: "Use your ki." or "Use your center.", with no further explanation. Bland phrases like that belong on Hallmark greeting cards, not as instruction. The farther I get, the less practical instruction I get, which is increasingly replaced with the equivalent of Zen koans.

2. Doubts about instructors. I see the skill possessed by visiting noteable sensei at the occasional seminar or surprise appearance, and then I see what my instructors are teaching, and in many cases I simply fail to see how what they're teaching could take me to that level, or in other cases, I am starting to become almost certain it won't because the instructors seem to have less commitment to teaching good aikido than I have to learning it. The instructors who can actually inspire me don't seem to be around to teach much.

3. Extreme confusion. I have tried practicing every day of the week for quite a while, even at different dojos to make that happen. But I only get the feeling that I am practicing/experimenting with the wrong things, only more frequently (see #2). No greater understanding appeared as a result. I feel like I lack any proper roadmap of how to get from point A to point B. I have a repetoire of things I have been shown in class, but without any real idea of how to employ them to affect progress (see #1), and many instructors who won't even let me use them in class because they have their own dubious and extremely suspect ideas (see #2).

4. Doubts about the art's method of teaching and imprinting itself in the body. After looking at other arts lately, I am starting to see some of them have a more thoughtful progression and idea of what the student should be learning and when. And it is only by looking at what some of the other arts are teaching and why that I am seeing potential explanations for what's in aikido and why, but stuff I'm not even sure most of the instructors I have available see (see #2).

That's the two cents of a frustrated brown belt.
Some very interesting points have been made. I chose the syndrome sort of tongue in cheek as in medical terms it usually means a varied set of symptoms indicating a problem which can be hard to pin down into a specific diagnosis. Perhaps the situation is more prominent in smaller dojos such as mine. I don't know.

Lee makes some good points.
1. Too much mysticism. Extend ki, etc. I always found those explanations frustrating as well since they have little meaning other than esoteric descriptions of what someone is doing physically or mind/body wise. Sometimes, it may be the instructor does not know how to articulate what he/she is actually doing-i.e., they are not in tune with their own physiology and body dynamics. It may be due to their level of understanding.
2. Doubts about the instructors. I don't know if this is due to lower rank or the quality. If lower rank, find someone of higher teaching skill. If it is quality, that is a quandry. I too experienced this early in my training. I was lucky to live at that time in an area where you could attend seminars with high ranking yudansha about once a month if you chose. I chose to avail myself of the training opportunities as much as I could afford. Unfortunately, that led to some internal discontent on my part. I recognized that the independent group I was primarily training with had some definite quality issues-they rarely ventured to seminars (I was at them and never saw them), they seemed content on just doing what they always did and not evolving their aikido (a problem that still persists with the group). I solved this by using class time with them to subtlely practice what I was learning at seminars. I also pursued study with another instructor concurrently and studied tapes and CDs a lot looking for things that I learned at seminars so I could refine them even more. When I moved to another group with higher quality but also a certain amount of inbred quality issues, I continued my self study until I found the master instructor who was where I saw my aikido going. It can take quite some time and some luck but your teachers will appear when you are ready for them. Fortunately, I found Hiroshi Kato sensei and he provided major insight into things I was struggling to work out on my own and continues to do so as I am able to train with him. My suggestion is to find your direction/comfort zone and work toward it using the tools you have developed. It is a slow and sometimes frustrating process and one that requires a lot of self study and experimentation with what you see. In the long run, you will train yourself to train yourself even when others cannot.
3. Extreme frustration. The lack of a road map can be difficult. So, in my opinion, don't rely on others to provide it. Make your own. Make an effort to learn something every time you step on the mat. I have trained with this mind set for years and I always expect to learn something even when I am teaching. It never fails me.
4. Teaching Doubts. Aikido in my opinion does not as an art do a good job of preparing instructors. The cirriculum can be too varied and is instructor based most of the time. However, one can use some of the elements laid out by the aikikai on how you approach your own education. Tai sabaki, kihon waza, henka waza, oyo waza, oyo henka waza, etc. At the basic level a focus on tai sabaki and then kihon waza will help you develop your own learning process. It allows you to understand your movement patterns and responses and train those elements. You can always integrate weapons as well to help train tai sabaki, etc.

Just some thoughts.
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Old 07-15-2006, 12:18 PM   #39
Karen Wolek
Dojo: Kingston Aikido
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quote:
John Boswell wrote:
Now you're just showing off.
Always.

Karen
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Old 07-15-2006, 03:19 PM   #40
aikigirl10
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quote:
Lee Salzman wrote:
As a brown belt with about 5 years training, who is a hair's breadth away from giving up on aikido lately (and this from a guy who was until only recently training just about every day of the week):

1. Too much mysticism, too little practical explanation. Whenever I seem to be experiencing problems, the senior student, or perhaps sensei, will just bombard me repeatedly with phrases like: "Use your ki." or "Use your center.", with no further explanation. Bland phrases like that belong on Hallmark greeting cards, not as instruction. The farther I get, the less practical instruction I get, which is increasingly replaced with the equivalent of Zen koans.

2. Doubts about instructors. I see the skill possessed by visiting noteable sensei at the occasional seminar or surprise appearance, and then I see what my instructors are teaching, and in many cases I simply fail to see how what they're teaching could take me to that level, or in other cases, I am starting to become almost certain it won't because the instructors seem to have less commitment to teaching good aikido than I have to learning it. The instructors who can actually inspire me don't seem to be around to teach much.

3. Extreme confusion. I have tried practicing every day of the week for quite a while, even at different dojos to make that happen. But I only get the feeling that I am practicing/experimenting with the wrong things, only more frequently (see #2). No greater understanding appeared as a result. I feel like I lack any proper roadmap of how to get from point A to point B. I have a repetoire of things I have been shown in class, but without any real idea of how to employ them to affect progress (see #1), and many instructors who won't even let me use them in class because they have their own dubious and extremely suspect ideas (see #2).

4. Doubts about the art's method of teaching and imprinting itself in the body. After looking at other arts lately, I am starting to see some of them have a more thoughtful progression and idea of what the student should be learning and when. And it is only by looking at what some of the other arts are teaching and why that I am seeing potential explanations for what's in aikido and why, but stuff I'm not even sure most of the instructors I have available see (see #2).

That's the two cents of a frustrated brown belt.
Well, it seems to me like all of your problems are caused by something a little more obvious. And if you don't mind me saying so i think it's the manner in which you are being taught. In other words, you probably should look for a different dojo. Almost all of those #s refer back to #2 which is "doubts about instructors". That right there should be your first clue.

Even as a struggling brown belt myself, I am able to defend the art of aikido by saying, that aikido is a magnificent martial art and there is very much to be gained by practicing it. I think if you did find another dojo where the instructors were more devoted to teaching you in the correct way, you would be much more satisfied.

Of course, i don't know how your dojo is run, so there isn't alot of input i can give, but just based on how you explained your problem it looks like it all lies with the poor quality of instruction that you are being given.

I hope you work this out.

*Paige*
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Old 07-16-2006, 04:17 PM   #41
seank
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

I'm right in this range at the moment, having only trained in Aikido for approximately three years, but with nearly 20 years martial arts experience I don't see myself as dropping things any time soon, even though I might take the odd class off due to injury or life commitments.

That said, I wonder if this might also be a situation of idol worship? When you start Aikido everything is new and confusing and usually you've seen something in your Sensei's technique that has led you to begin practicing. As you progress you become more knowledgeable and of course start to ask questions about the manner and method of teaching, especially as you begin to develop your own technique.

I've noticed more recently a gap in the practice of my sensei and my own practice, which sometimes leads to frustration, but is also a tool I can use to better my own understanding.

I do find it interesting, as many people have indicated, that this period through to shodan sees many Aikidoka becoming harsh or rough with their technique. By way of comparison, what are these same Aikidoka like 6 months or twelve months after they grade to shodan? I believe that during this period people are finding "their own Aikido" and revert to something a little more base during that time, but eventually develop their own style.

Maybe, as much as anything else, brown belt syndrome is a manifestation of the challenges being faced in developing your own style, a chrysalis for want of a better term...
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Old 07-17-2006, 12:06 PM   #42
pezalinski
 
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Lee,

I've seen that kind of "brown belt syndrome," too. And I've experienced it first hand, and come out the other side.

Keep on practicing. It takes a while before your body and person truly starts to integrate the movements of Aikido.... and it' s not all external movement, readily visible... All of those exhortations to "extend ki" and "move from your center" actually ARE good advice, and your instructors probably have a reason to keep on suggesting them. And it probably won't do any good to change to a different dojo, or seek out other instructors, because it's just going to be a case of "same song, different singer" telling you the same things you've been hearing all along.

The best way I can describe it is that there is something going on during this plateau, some kind of internal change happening within your aikido. Others are encouraging you, yet you don't yet understand what they are saying... Persevere, and see yourself through to the end of whatever change this plateau has to offer you... or change locations, and risk prolonging the plateau.


A little danger is a knowledge thing...

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Old 07-17-2006, 01:00 PM   #43
mriehle
 
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quote:
Peter Zalinski wrote:
And it probably won't do any good to change to a different dojo, or seek out other instructors, because it's just going to be a case of "same song, different singer" telling you the same things you've been hearing all along.
Well, maybe.

But if someone is having trouble extending ki, the instructor has a responsibility to give him or her ideas about how to change it. The classic one is to change the visualization they are using (and, IME, brown belts are often still using visualizations where ki is concerned).

A great example:

I usually use a laser-lights visualization for unbendable arm. One guy in one of my classes just couldn't get that. So I changed it to flowing water, which he did get.

Obviously the visualizations will be more sophisticated (or should be!) at brown belt level, but the idea is the same. Sometimes it's as simple as "direct the energy at the shoulder, your sending it toward the elbow".

There are lots of tools in teaching. An art like Aikido necessarily includes some tools for teaching intangible ideas. Not using all of those tools is doing a disservice to your students.

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Old 07-17-2006, 05:20 PM   #44
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

I'd try to use VAK concepts (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) to help someone over a training hump-different learning styles. The visual person responds to seeing things, the auditory to verbal description and the kinesthetic to feeling things.

The label I chose "brown belt syndrome" appears to be appropriate as I note those going through it seem to experience different symptoms with a similar result-decreasing or stopping practice. For those successful at overcoming the tendency to drop training, I am curious how they did so. During my Brown Belt (2nd 1st kyu phase) I increased my training frequency and only took time off due to an unforseen inability to get there (fog, fires-lived in Southern California) or a work conflict.

If you recognized yourself going through it, how did you break the tendency to quit?
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Old 07-17-2006, 08:56 PM   #45
giriasis
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quote:
If you recognized yourself going through it, how did you break the tendency to quit?
I think I'm going through it right, now. In the USAF it can be a year between 3rd and 2nd, a year and half between 2nd and 1st and two years between 1st and shodan. You really have to find reason to train OTHER than a black belt. You don't have the instant gratification of obtaining your next rank within a year anymore like I did from 5th to 3rd kyu so I've really am forced to find another reason to train. For me, it is finding a reason other than obtaining a black belt.

What I've discovered that I have found that I just want to find the joy in training. I think once we get to a certain level the plateaus get longer and harder to differentiate, you don't notice your improvements as much as you did at 5th or 4th kyu. But the key has been finding patience with myself and having faith in myself that I will improve over time and shodan will just be a natural consequence of my training rather than the point of training.

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 07-17-2006, 09:39 PM   #46
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quote:
John Riggs wrote:
I don't know if this has been discussed before. There seems to be a phenomenon that occurs around 2nd kyu (brown belt level if using colored belts). Some of the characteristics I have noticed:
1. Training gaps: they stop training for long periods or start becoming scarce or irregular. Some stop all together. It generally starts with excuses-someone in class is pissing them off; they are bored; life is taking over, etc., etc.
2. Ego takes over: they start thinking they are as they sometimes say in Texas "all knowed up". It is characterized by quickness to correct others even those who outrank them, trying to stop others while doing ukemi, and claimed boredom-they are not learning anything new (even though the still don't have the basics down).

I have thought about this over the years and wonder what others think about it or if they experience it. My feelings are there is somewhat of a quick fix mentality with us yanks. We want everything in the instant mode and 4 years of training is definitely not instant. I also rationalize that it could be due to people simply not being cut out mentally for the discipline necessary to be a lifelong martial artist. It frustrates me to see people go so far and then falter-especially when they have talent.

Anyone else experience this? Do you have solutions?
I've been experiencing the characteristics that you describe since I was 5th kyu. Generally I keep my ego under control enough that I can keep training with everyone in the class. I don't have a problem with correcting people though - unless it's someone who really needs it. Perhaps it's just a normal ego thing. I remember hearing about this experiment where college students played jailer and prisoner and they had to stop the experiment before the end of the week because the jailers where getting too into the power trip of it.
Now I've never had the impulse to beat anyone with a baton but perhaps the whole hierarchy and I've got better skills that you thing naturally goes to one's head.
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Old 07-17-2006, 10:58 PM   #47
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quote:
John Riggs wrote:
If you recognized yourself going through it, how did you break the tendency to quit?
Coming from a background as a kid from "Shotokan" karate into Aikido... I until about 3rd kyu found it very difficult to fight the quitting spirit, but the principle of "Masakatsu Agatsu" was and is just something that rings in me.

"Proper attitude and victory over self" that principle even to this day helps me when I want to give in.
I found that everytime I felt the urge to quit, by pressing myself I always gained greater knowledge, understanding, and my skill increased.

Now a shodan who will be testing for Nidan in just months, I find myself feeling as though I know absolutely nothing (even for shodan level) but I have learned that this is just the next step in achieving a greater knowledge of the art I have come to love. I hope that even when I am 7th dan that I will still have the feelings of knowing nothing!!!!

"Failure is on the path of least resistance"
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Old 07-18-2006, 09:15 AM   #48
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Talking Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quote:
Paige Frazier wrote:
For me i think I've realized that part of the reason for my lack of showing up for practice is maybe the lack of new material coming in.
... So travel. To Seminars. To other dojos, for a "friendship visit." There are so many different approaches to aikido, it's hard for me NOT to find new material in new places. And I have never been turned away from a class at an aikido dojo, whether I was a first time visitor or not - even as a white belt. Sign the waver, pay the (minimal) mat fee, put on your dogi and train.

(One of the happy wonders of the aikido world -- I would be surprised if you'd have the same kind of welcome at another shaolin school...)

My sensei travels extensively, often internationally, to practice with friends in other dojos. And he encourages that kind of behavior in his students. We always bring back new approaches, or a new understanding of our "old" approaches, when we return to the dojo.

It's a Good Thing.


A little danger is a knowledge thing...

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Old 07-18-2006, 10:40 AM   #49
Lee Salzman
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

If only it were as simple as going to other dojos. I've done so. Bought all the books I could find, too. None of what is taught addresses the questions that are arising in my practice right now. I've just been practicing to a point where I can see the limitations of my instructors and "aikido" itself. That is not to say the instructors at these other dojos or the inspiring instructors at my home club are not good, because their kihon waza is quite good, certainly better than mine.

Just that well, I can understand how their stuff works, and I can see the limits of it, and why it won't answer questions I'm dealing with at the moment. Maybe I haven't internalized all of it into my body, but I can plainly see the outcome of what happens even if I do. These limits are stuff aikido is SUPPOSED to teach, but has never been taught to me. The only place I could find answers is from another discipline entirely, which is no longer aikido, and which may push me out of aikido entirely, for lack of time to practice both. But in the end, again, all I'm trying to learn is stuff that aikido should have been teaching me from the beginning, but didn't, and not just intellectually, but in a way where the lessons can be applied entirely instinctively, without thought.

So for me, brown belt syndrome is simply: I've learned enough to be fairly sure I won't learn all that I want to learn from aikido. It just took me 5 years to see past the hand-waving. It could be that I'm wrong, or I may learn valuable stuff that can be applied back into my aikido much later on, but this is just how I strongly feel at the moment.

Last edited by Lee Salzman : 07-18-2006 at 10:49 AM.
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Old 07-18-2006, 10:50 AM   #50
Dan Hover
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Lee, I don't understand what you mean by "limits" that Aikido is supposed to teach?

Dan Hover

of course that's my opinion, I could be wrong
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