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Old 07-18-2006, 09:54 AM   #51
Lee Salzman
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Instinctive control of one's own body, stuff that may variously be referred to by stuff like ki, or breath power, but not only that, but how to learn it in a practical, objective, step-by-step manner, as opposed to a quasi-religious, "figure it all out yourself" approach.
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Old 07-18-2006, 10:30 AM   #52
Dan Hover
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Fair enough Lee, but in a practical, objective, step by step approach is very "western Minded" vs. self intuition/Flash of insight is very "eastern" or quasi religious, niether approach is better than the other just differences. I do koryu where very little explanation is offered and questions are not really encouraged. Not to mention mirrors are not used (as a manner of correcting your mistakes). The notion is that the teacher is the "ideal" form. Now insofar as step by step approach to something as indefinable as Ki or Kokyu Ryokyu, or even instinctively acting, (deliberate use of the word 'act' as opposed to 'react'), goes into what Mr. Martindale was saying above, repetition. Which is somewhat of a cliched saying when a senior student hits a rut. countless repetition which in turn gives that flash of insight to some greater idea or notion. Or a sense of Critical self awarness that not too many people have, or could even begin to cultivate. My only caveat is to tell you that sometimes the grass is always greener in other Budo.

Dan Hover

of course that's my opinion, I could be wrong
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Old 07-18-2006, 10:38 AM   #53
aikidoc
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quote:
Lee Salzman wrote:
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.
Lee, your comments are quite vague and it is difficult to pinpoint what you see as limitations in aikido and what you feel won't work. My instructor used to work on testing his aikido against other arts. He would work out with high level instructors in other arts to see what would work or not. He refined this over the years and would deal with problems when they visited where he was training-you know the ones who wanted to come in and see if your stuff worked-kind of like the dojo challenges. Apparently, he was quite successful at correcting such misconceptions. He is still with the art 50+ years later, so apparently he is comfortable with what he found.

I'm not sure you are suffering from "brown belt syndrome" as much as you are conflicted about whether aikido is the right path for you. I'm not sure what the cause is but I get the impression you are going through a stage of looking at all the possible flaws in the art vs. looking at how to fix or overcome them. You training is apparently not fulfilling your needs or answering your questions. Such issues are difficult to address. I know little about your situation or instructors and this is not a good place to air such concerns. My impression, however, is that you are undergoing a serious "aikido identity crisis". Have you looked at other arts to see if they meet your expectations? Aikido is in my opinion difficult and it is sometimes a real challenge to find what you seek in the art. It is not for everyone. Some prefer the punch/kick arts or grappling arts. Reading and tapes and seminars all give valuable information if you know how to extract it. That, however, can be a challenge.
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Old 07-18-2006, 11:01 AM   #54
aikidoc
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Talking Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quote:
Lee Salzman wrote:
Instinctive control of one's own body, stuff that may variously be referred to by stuff like ki, or breath power, but not only that, but how to learn it in a practical, objective, step-by-step manner, as opposed to a quasi-religious, "figure it all out yourself" approach.
This sounds like an issue with teaching "style". The Japanese instructors have more of a tendency to "figure it out". They don't want to hand you everything, I guess figuring if you have to work harder for it you'll own it more. Western instructors are used to teaching more methodically. You can help yourself by training to train-i.e., learning to model and understand what others do regardless of their ability to effectively present the material. I was fortunate in that early on I had such an instructor. Over the years I worked hard to hone that skill and am reasonably competent in picking things up quickly. Some have a more difficult time and need more guidance-just different learning styles. If you are more comfortable with a directed approach then a change in instruction might help.

Yes, it has strayed. The discussions have been interesting though.
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Old 07-18-2006, 01:42 PM   #55
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

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Old 07-18-2006, 02:06 PM   #56
Berney Fulcher
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quote:
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).
Also being a 2nd kyu right now, I find these brown belt threads really interesting, even if I feel like I'm being pigeonholed (Though I admit the sterotypes often fit)

As someone said above, my sensei tends to beat it out of me I'm not sure why he put a frown at the end, as it really seems to accelerate my training when he does.

In general though, if someone feels they are not learning anything new, or feels they have the basics down well enough, doesn't it behoove the sensei to show them that they don't?

We all go through plateaus where we feel like we aren't learning as much, and often the quickest way through them in my opinion is to ask more questions, which in turn leads to more (sometimes forceful) demonstrations, which in turn leads to more things to work on. And things to work on = no boredom.
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Old 07-18-2006, 04:42 PM   #57
MaryKaye
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

I've found that training in other schools--particularly ones quite stylistically different from mine--really enhances my training at home. I particularly enjoy two dojo that I get to visit just once a year (for a week each) while travelling. I really notice how I've improved each year, far more than I do at home where the improvement is so incremental. It's good for my morale.

I also notice that my teacher has some areas on which she is particularly demanding. At home I never feel like I get them quite right; but those are the areas on which I get compliments when I'm visiting, so I can see that all that extra drill actually pays off.

When I'm at home and not travelling, I try to set goals for myself--at the moment I'm trying to take ukemi more efficiently so that I don't get tired so quickly. This way, if we spend yet another hour on the two throws we learned for fifth kyu (I'm sure I don't do them perfectly, but have no idea how to improve any more....) I can be thinking about breathing, keeping my center while getting up, and other ukemi issues rather than feeling bored with the technique.

I try not to think about my next test, for which I'm perpetually impatient. I don't succeed, alas. But I can at least find some other thoughts to compete with that one.

Mary Kaye
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Old 07-19-2006, 09:53 AM   #58
pezalinski
 
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Exclamation Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quote:
Lee Salzman wrote:
Instinctive control of one's own body, stuff that may variously be referred to by stuff like ki, or breath power, but not only that, but how to learn it in a practical, objective, step-by-step manner, as opposed to a quasi-religious, "figure it all out yourself" approach.
Lee, I think you may be on to something, here. I agree that the training methods usually employed in the standard Aikido dojo setting are inappropriate for developing what you are looking for in a reasonable amount of time. Aikido programs are not usually structured, beyond the "introductory 6 weeks" class. Most schools, most instructors, teach in the traditional ad hoc manner.

This kind of large group instruction is not the kind of intense, personal training experience that I think you are looking for. It's a matter of commitment -- structured training requires an adherence to a schedule for both instruction and attendance by all parties - so that you're not always doing make-up work for the students who missed a class. Thankfully, the underlying principals of Aikido are consistent throughout the art, so the principles can be acquired in spite of the fact that the techniques vary from class to class.

The closest thing I can think of in the Aikido world would be for you to become an uchideshi for a high ranking instructor you really respect, or take a lot of personal one-on-one classes with said instructor(s). Essentially, you need to become a disciple of someone who is willing to train you to be all you can be. That kind of accelerated training, once you've gotten a good foundation (say, at 1st or 2nd kyu) is invaluable.

I don't know who your sensei is, but perhaps he could make a recommendation to another instructor for one-on-one training. Or, if you asked, he/she might be willing to take you as far as they can. A master instructor knows that he or she will be excelled by their best students -- that is the nature of teaching -- and they should be comfortable with doing all they can, and then passing you up the chain to someone they know can do more for you. (And if you don't have a master instructor, then find one.)


A little danger is a knowledge thing...

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Old 07-21-2006, 12:44 PM   #59
Lyle Bogin
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Brown belt syndrome, or what I have heard refered to as a "hakamitude" problem, is pretty normal and almost unavoidable. There comes a point at which people want to express their accumulated knowledge, and sometimes it comes out in a flood instead of a nice trickle. There is also the opposite problem, where people jibberjabber about their "unworthyness" of the next rank so often it's pointless.
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Old 07-21-2006, 02:55 PM   #60
John Boswell
 
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quote:
" Hakamitude "
THAT'S FUNNY. I'm gonna have to remember this one. ;

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Old 07-21-2006, 04:41 PM   #61
Robert Cowham
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

What you call brown belt I call new shodan syndrome. Have seen quite a few people achieve shodan and then dissappear. There were invariably life changes present, but the key thing was some level of loss of direction/desire as far as I could see. The sense of achievement of a goal quite long sought for, and yet without a goal beyond it. Also a realisation that shodan actually wasn't *that* advanced...

Our dojo tends more to the Japanese style of not treating shodan as such a huge issue, so we don't have minimum time in grade, and I must admit I am generally in favour of that. 1-2 years in grade before shodan is pretty restrictive IMO - sure if people aren't training that much, but for those making real progress...

Am personally dealing with a period of much reduced practice due to knee problems and work going manic on me (and young family), but am hopefully in a position where I can do quite a lot on my own. Thinking and visualising is useful, and I enjoy swinging a sword in the back garden, or the grounds of the hotel where I am staying on business...

Robert
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Old 07-21-2006, 11:40 PM   #62
Lan Powers
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

quote < Our dojo tends more to the Japanese style of not treating shodan as such a huge issue, so we don't have minimum time in grade, and I must admit I am generally in favour of that. 1-2 years in grade before shodan is pretty restrictive IMO - sure if people aren't training that much, but for those making real progress...> unquote

Wow ! That seems way-short in time to me.
Our organization has Shodan at the end of 3-4 years of STEADY training. Others have it even more from what I read. (Not disparaging, just noting the trend)
Different strokes ....
Lan

Play nice, practice hard, but remember, this is a MARTIAL art!
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Old 07-22-2006, 03:25 AM   #63
Robert Cowham
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Sorry I wasn't being clear - I meant that having a rigid time in grade requirement (e.g. 1 year at 1st kyu, not 1 - 2 years to get shodan!) was restrictive.

Robert
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Old 01-20-2007, 08:44 PM   #64
aikidoc
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Geez-another one.

One of my students in another city just had one of his females wig out because she was not getting tested for ikkyu when she wanted to-she was not ready in his and my opinion. She called us both liars, said we disrespected our sensei, were not living the aiki-philosophy, were not trustworthy, and then resigned from the dojo.

Maybe we should just stop promoting people to nikyu or ikkyu. Some seem to have their brain go someplace where the sun doesn't shine.

I have some problems with people deciding when they are ready to test. She also got in an argument with the instructor during class. Not good behavior. What is frustrating is she is Japanese and should understand the art conceptually better than that.
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Old 01-20-2007, 08:56 PM   #65
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quote:
John Riggs wrote:
I have some problems with people deciding when they are ready to test. She also got in an argument with the instructor during class. Not good behavior. What is frustrating is she is Japanese and should understand the art conceptually better than that.
I met a woman who taught English in Japan and came back with a shodan in about 2 years. She said it was very common. I have also heard that women are often promoted nearly automatically without holding them to the same kind of standards as men in Japan - sort of a sexist, patronizing thing. If the woman comes from Japan, rank promotion as a long, difficult meritocratic process likely seems frustrating and perhaps even 'inauthentic' to her, since her expectations were forged in Aikido's country of origin.

As for the last sentence, another thing my friend told me was how amusing she thought it was when westerners got so wrapped up in Japanophilia that they idealized average Japanese people. According to her experience, people were just as likely to be greedy, inconsiderate, selfish, stupid, shallow, and so forth there as they are here. It's just another country full of people. And, just like here, fully half of them are below average...
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Old 01-20-2007, 09:12 PM   #66
aikidoc
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Well, if they get it automatically and us Americans actually make them earn it then I'm guilty as charged in changing Aikido.

I don't think we are wrapped up in Japanophillia but I'm not going to change my expectations of respect and common courtesy for anyone. I realized she is somewhat Americanized but I bet if it were a Japanese sensei she would not be as disrespectful to his or her face.
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Old 01-20-2007, 09:30 PM   #67
Jorge Garcia
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

I have a small group of Japanese students and adults I am teaching Aikido to. I am their first teacher. They are returning to Japan in a year. I joke with them that it will be funny when they tell the other students in Japan that an American taught them Aikido. They are always super respectful to me though so I feel fortunate in that regard.
Jorge

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
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Old 01-21-2007, 02:25 AM   #68
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Wow, Jorge, I always assumed that you were of Japanese decent.
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Old 01-22-2007, 12:26 AM   #69
Rich Stephens
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

I studied Aikido in Japan quite a number of years ago and am now considering studying again here in California. I think you will find that one reason you are getting brown belt syndrome in your students is the massive length of time American sensei require for students to move up through the ranks. Someone in this thread posted they have been training for 9 years and aren't yet shodan! I've always been puzzled by this because it is very different from Japan where the goal seems to be to guide the students through the basics and up to shodan quickly. And then the real learning begins.

This difference in approach is one of the things (amongst others) that has made me hesitant to study Aikido outside of Japan.

Mr. Riggs' comments above about his Japanese student are interesting. On the one hand you seem to be saying that since she is Japanese she should know better, but at the same time are dismissive of her Japanese opinion of what proper "aiki philosophy" (whatever that is) should be and how students should be treated in regards to testing and whatnot. I'm going to guess that she thought she was promised the chance to test, maybe with an off-hand comment that didn't seem like a promise from the sensei's American perspective but would to a Japanese, and when it didn't happen, that's why she questioned the sensei's trustworthiness. Like I said, I'm just speculating, but I lived in Japan for several years and have even been married to a Japanese woman for 14 years so I have some experience in cross-cultural communication issues, ,ha!

What is the history of how/why American dojos began to take so long to move students up through the Kyus and to Shodan? If there is another thread on this, let me know and I'll look it up and read it so as to keep this thread on topic. Thanks.
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Old 01-22-2007, 01:02 AM   #70
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Interesting perspective overall, Rich, but using the difference in ranking practices between the two countries as an excuse not to practice seems awfully silly to me. Who cares? There is a lot of great Aikido here, and your experience on the mat will not be any different with a little dye on your belt or an extra piece of paper or two in your drawer.

Personally, if I had unlimited recovery abilities and traveling resources and nothing to do but study Aikido, I would probably spend most of my time in the US and Europe, not Japan.
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Old 01-22-2007, 05:40 AM   #71
aikidoc
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Rich your point is interesting. She was aware about when we might test her. Not the point. Circumstances changed that. She wasn't ready.

Yes, there are differences in promotion and in MHO 9 years to shodan is ridiculous. However, I think the attitude in Japan is since we are not training with the masters we take longer. They double our time between dan ranks compared to Japanese students as well.
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Old 01-22-2007, 08:36 AM   #72
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

I really am not sure if the difference in time between ranks/testing is because the Japanese assume we'll take longer, or if it is because most non-Japanese seem to look at a "black belt" as a sign of being able to defend oneself. There was an interesting article in JAMA sometime ago that looked at the different expectations for training, and especially yudansha rank, between Americans and Japanese. Americans seemed to often link self-defense with martial art, while Japanese seemed to put that much lower down in priorities or expectations.

Best,
Ron

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Old 01-22-2007, 08:42 AM   #73
Josh Reyer
 
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quote:
John Riggs wrote:
Rich your point is interesting. She was aware about when we might test her. Not the point. Circumstances changed that. She wasn't ready.
I'm extrapolating from my own experience and making massive generalizations here, but it is my impression that in Japan, at least nowadays, the test determines whether you are ready. For example, in my dojo tests are held every three months, and the instructor encourages the students to study for the tests and take them. It is my impression of Hombu (though I hope someone who trains there regularly will correct me if I'm wrong) that once you get your time in, you should test; how you do determines whether you were ready or not.

Of course, you are the man on the spot, Mr. Riggs, and I don't intend to suggest your judgment is faulty; surely there are people for whom testing is an exercise in futility and the result a foregone conclusion. She may have been one of those people. I'm just trying to explore the cross-cultural angle. I suspect from your story that is a case of a cultural difference exacerbated by her personality issues.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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Old 01-22-2007, 09:10 AM   #74
Coz:UK
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Quick question: If the Japanese girl had been allowed to take the grading and put on a good 'performance' would you have given the grade? It sounds like gradings could be more of a formality than an actual test if certain people are told they can't go for the grading. Just a thought...
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Old 01-22-2007, 10:13 AM   #75
Budd
 
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Re: Brown Belt Syndrome

Well, I'm in my early 30s, but getting more and more silver in my hair, if my brown belt and I both spend enough time "where the sun don't shine", maybe we can both darken our hair color and belt at the same time -- without even testing . . . yippee.

Seriously, though, bad behavior is bad behavior. There are people that just need external validation or to show how "good" they are to everyone that's watching. This manifests in many ways -- acting like a thug to juniors, not playing nicely with others in seminars, being a poor guest when you visit other dojo, etc. I've not seen this to be exclusive to brown belts or aikidoka (or even martial arts). Typically, such things reflect poorly on one's teacher, in any discipline.

I'm not particularly in a hurry to advance in rank. I do it (partly) because it reflects part of my obligation to my dojo and instructor. I think testing also serves a similar purpose that tournaments did when I used to compete in combat sports -- you know you have to show up on a given day and perform, just with testing in budo, it's a little clearer to me that the real opponent is myself.

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