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Old 09-13-2001, 06:30 AM   #1
Dan Kronenberg
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Aikido Ranks and Tests : worthwhile or not.

I've been training in Aikido for 6 years on a regular basis and have never really focused that much on tests ( presently 2nd Kyu ).Recently I've been questioning whether taking tests is helpful in Aikido or whether it hinders our progress - the Art as a whole as well as individual.
As Eric Sotnak wrote elsewhere on this site
"...it is important to bear in mind that rank promotion does not necessarily translate into ability.The most important accomplishments in Aikido or any other martial art are not external assessments of progress,but rather the benefits of your training to yourself."
However, I also read Jun's account of his Shodan test with great interest.It seems that the preparation and being pushed to the limits can be a valuable tool for progression.
And yet I think we are all aware of the over-emphasis that some Aikidoka give to their Rank - last year my Sensei went to a National Aikido seminar and forgot to take Hakama and Black belt with him.One Yudansha present refused to practice with him as " I don't practice with Kyu grades."
In the Aikiweb poll of 9/9/2000, 79% of you said that Ranking should stay in Aikido.What are your reasons for saying this? This is a modern system, as far as I'm aware, and fits in with our modern goal oriented way of life.Is it not at odds with our aim of Harmony and Peace when it can become so connected to subtle competition and ego?
Come on, convince me otherwise.
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Old 09-13-2001, 06:53 AM   #2
Kami
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Re: Aikido Ranks and Tests : worthwhile or not.

Quote:
Originally posted by Dan Kronenberg
Recently I've been questioning whether taking tests is helpful in Aikido or whether it hinders our progress - the Art as a whole as well as individual.
As Eric Sotnak wrote elsewhere on this site
"...it is important to bear in mind that rank promotion does not necessarily translate into ability.The most important accomplishments in Aikido or any other martial art are not external assessments of progress,but rather the benefits of your training to yourself."
In the Aikiweb poll of 9/9/2000, 79% of you said that Ranking should stay in Aikido.What are your reasons for saying this? Is it not at odds with our aim of Harmony and Peace when it can become so connected to subtle competition and ego?
KAMI : IMO, Dan, tests and ranks are important for Aikido organizations' politics. Nothing else, nothing less.
In our group, we don't do tests and we have no ranks. We just play for pleasure and improvement.
Some people think ranks are of absolute importance (What is your rank? Who gave it to you? To what organization do you belong?). Some don't.
Best

"We are all teachers, and what we teach is what we need to learn, and so we teach it over and over again until we learn it".
Unknown author

Ubaldo Alcantara
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Old 09-13-2001, 08:59 AM   #3
Dan Kronenberg
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Kami, thanks for your response.It's good to hear that some Aikidoka are moving away from the area of tests that have started to dominate.Yes, play and improvement are much better focuses for our Art. Regards , Daniel.
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Old 09-13-2001, 09:01 AM   #4
cbrf4zr2
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Re: Aikido Ranks and Tests : worthwhile or not.

Quote:
Originally posted by Dan Kronenberg
And yet I think we are all aware of the over-emphasis that some Aikidoka give to their Rank - last year my Sensei went to a National Aikido seminar and forgot to take Hakama and Black belt with him.One Yudansha present refused to practice with him as " I don't practice with Kyu grades."
That person has no place in Aikido - nor should he deserve to be wearing a black belt or hakama.

************************
...then again, that's just me.
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Old 09-13-2001, 09:50 AM   #5
akiy
 
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Here's an article I've placed here on AikiWeb a while back:

http://www.aikiweb.com/spiritual/rock5.html

-- Jun

Please help support AikiWeb -- become an AikiWeb Contributing Member!
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Old 09-13-2001, 10:48 AM   #6
JMCavazos
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What I have found in my time in Aikido (and a couple of other MA) is that rank does not matter once you have it!
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Old 09-13-2001, 11:06 AM   #7
JMCavazos
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Let me restate:

Rank is not important once you have it.
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Old 09-13-2001, 11:28 AM   #8
andrew
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Re: Aikido Ranks and Tests : worthwhile or not.

Quote:
Originally posted by Dan Kronenberg
In the Aikiweb poll of 9/9/2000, 79% of you said that Ranking should stay in Aikido.What are your reasons for saying this? This is a modern system, as far as I'm aware, and fits in with our modern goal oriented way of life.Is it not at odds with our aim of Harmony and Peace when it can become so connected to subtle competition and ego?
Come on, convince me otherwise.

Aikido is also a modern system. There's no problem involving grades, just occasional problems with individuals. If you go taking out everything that might lead somebody to behave competitively there'd be no waza practiced eventually. There's a much more obvious potential contradiction in learning martial technique for harmony and peace, don't you think? They can be connected to subtle beating the hell out of people for no reason, if you're so inclined.


You can't free yourself from your ego by hiding from it.
andrew
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Old 09-13-2001, 01:06 PM   #9
michaelkvance
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I can think of a variety of ways in which rank are useful to everyone but the rank holder.

Rank tells me, as a relative newcomer, who I should ask in our dojo about specifics of technique.

Ranks gives me a rough approximation of the intensity with which I can execute, or expect a technique to have.

Rank lets me know who I should speak to about matters of the up-keep of the dojo, practice schedules, etc.

This all assumes that rank is not handed out willy-nilly, that that those who hold various ranks understand the responsibilities they have, and act to fulfill them.

Outside of our dojo, the context is lacking, and it becomes much less meaningful. We often have dan-ranked guests who have poor technique, and some who have excellent technique.

I can also think of one way in which rank is useful to the rank-holder--Sensei is telling me that I have new responsibilities, and he trusts me to execute them properly.

I have never seen anyone in our dojo use their rank as a tool for ego gratification, and I would of course be aghast if that were so...

m.
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Old 09-13-2001, 03:09 PM   #10
Jorge Garcia
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I think that it is true that rank doesn't necessarily translate into ability but I believe that rank is useful in that it speaks of the amount of time, commitment, and responsibilty that one has to the art that he or she practices. If we meet a high ranking person that does not exemplify that commitment or who is failing in their responsibilities, that serves to clearly tell us something that we desperately need to know about them. If we meet a person with rank that is outstanding in every regard, that should serve to inspire us to follow their example in our own conduct.
In a heirarchical system, any form of title, honor, or designation which speaks of promotion or increase in authority truly only increases our responsibility and servanthood to that pursuit. The responsibility and service that it calls for will always outweigh any privilege that it bestows. People who abuse the position always mark themselves to be known for what they are. Rank then, becomes a big sign around their neck that says, "I am not worthy". The effect that rank has on us can be more telling than not.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
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Old 09-13-2001, 04:14 PM   #11
Bill D
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I will be one to come out firmly in support of the ranking and testing system.

I think ranks are the best incentive I've seen to motivate people to work hard in their training. It would be nice to think that everyone would try their hardest at every class even without dangling a carrot in front of them, but I think most people, certainly myself included, are trying at least in part to gain the next rank, and that helps them to keep focused. I know I couldn't wait for the day when I would be one of those with hakama and black belt. You may call this egoism or boasting, but I call it a real incentive.

As for testing, I know I worked much harder and remained more focused in order to feel confident in the tests. For example, before my shodan test, I remember doing the same waza time after time every class for months. I could have practiced many different waza during that time, but learning to do certain ones at a higher level through very focused practice not only teaches you those techniques better, but raises your ability to do other techniques and to understand Aikido in general. Therefore the testing process can raise your ability and deepen your understanding better than a more unstructured practice schedule.

So I fully support ranks as an incentive (I know they have been an incentive for me), and testing as an effective means of good practice.

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Old 09-13-2001, 04:35 PM   #12
guest1234
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I don't think rank/grading is incompatible with O Sensei's views of harmony, since he gave out ranks...

I've been practicing about 2 and 1/2 years now, and have known for over a year that rank doesn't guarantee ability (technical, ukemi, or spiritual), but it is a very loose guide to what to expect. Rank means little to me, but testing means a lot.

Testing helps show which areas I am strong in, and which need more work. It is a way to show my teachers and partners what I have learned, as a form of 'thank you'. And it is a good demonstration for junior ranks. I'm not in a dojo I can test in right now, and I really miss it. For me, the rank is just what happens after the test, it is the test that is important.
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Old 09-13-2001, 05:55 PM   #13
Dan Kronenberg
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Many thanks for all your varied and well thought out responses to my original posting.Both Colleen and Bill D. have reminded me of the difference of the tests themselves, which can be a valuable learning experience mainly internally for the person who is going through it , and the external reflection of this experience by being awarded the Rank or belt.
This exchange of ideas is really helping me think through the complexity of this issue with more clarity.Keep them coming.Thanks, Dan.
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Old 09-14-2001, 02:36 AM   #14
petra
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Just my two bits, preparing for a test, especially when you just started aikido, gives you the opportunity to focus on the basics of the techniques. We have a set of techniques we have to perform for each kye exam. Each kye grade exam add something to the previous exam requirements and it becomes your foundation for the rest of the techniques you do during class and seminars. Through the year we do all kinds of techniques but once a month we have exam training, during the last month of the year we pretty much don't do anything but exam training. Last training of the year, there's the exam and if our teacher lets you take the exam, you already know you have passed (but you still have to get in front of the class and show it !).
Afterwards, you get a nice certificate and everybody is happy, it is a good way to close the season and to keep people motivated to come back next season.

Petra

I haven't failed, I have found 10.000 ways that won't work.
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Old 09-14-2001, 02:54 PM   #15
Kami
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Wink IMPORTANCE OF RANKS

Quote:
Originally posted by ca
I don't think rank/grading is incompatible with O Sensei's views of harmony, since he gave out ranks...
KAMI : O-Sensei was more or less forced to join the Butokukai, much against his own will. He sent, as Kobukan's representative, Minoru Hirai. The Butokukai imposed the rank system and so Aikido had to use it. But throughout all his life, O-Sensei didn't gave much importance to dan grades. He presumed an 8th Dan was, more or less, similar to the Menkyo Kaiden in the ancient system he was so fond of. He gave 9th dan and 10th dan to people he loved, even if they weren't good at Aikido. Kaiso, in reality, never gave any importance to dan ranks. They became very important to the Aikikai and for some reasons touched upon by our companion Vance, in a previous post ("I can think of a variety of ways in which rank are useful to everyone but the rank holder").
Best regards and a good keiko

"We are all teachers, and what we teach is what we need to learn, and so we teach it over and over again until we learn it".
Unknown author

Ubaldo Alcantara
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Old 09-15-2001, 12:06 AM   #16
Bill D
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Speaking of 8th, 9th, and 10th Dan, I once asked my teacher whether there was really that much of a difference and could one tell the difference between, say, an 8th and a 9th Dan person. He said "absolutely" there was a difference and it was very obvious. What do y'all think?

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Old 09-15-2001, 04:58 AM   #17
Dan Kronenberg
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Yesterday evening I taught the kids class in our dojo and thought I would open up this debate with them - just to see if they give more importance to getting different coloured belts than the actual practice of Aikido.I told them to answer truthfully, as I was concerned that they would say what they thought I wanted to hear.
They all agreed that the practice was the main reason they came and would still continue to come even if we stopped giving them belts ( although it was nice to be able to see some visible proof of progress and recognition of achievement ).
I was pleased to see that we hadn't ,as a club, infected the kids class with the image that ranks are the end goal in training.
As for the importance that O Sensei gave to ranks - he wrote a lot about the Kami, Heaven and Earth, Peace and the Divine but didn't really focus on ranks.

Thanks, Dan.
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Old 09-15-2001, 09:26 AM   #18
Peter Goldsbury
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I have been following this thread with great interest, since the kyu/dan system can be seen as the focus of many issues concerning martial arts and our perception of training. In fact I have an article half finished for the AJ web site (to follow the Touching the Absolute series, Ubaldo). Here are a few random thoughts on the subject, which tie in with some of the previous posts. Please feel free to comment/argue as you wish.

1. The dan rank can be seen as one among many possible 'objective correlatives' (T S Eliot's phrase) of a certain state, in relation to the art. In this it is no different from the Menkyo-kaiden. Thus, in parallel with the 'story' of O Sensei's general disaffection with the Butokukai, there is another 'story' which suggests that he was strongly influenced by Jigoro Kano and wanted to differentiate aikido, as a 'new' budo, from Daito-ryu. So I do not really think that O Sensei actually preferred the Menkyo-kaiden over the dan system. I do not think he cared either way (but see below).

2. When I say that the dan system is one of many possible 'objective correlatives' in relation to the art, what I am emphasising is that aikido is at base a skill and therefore carries with it the concept of linear progress. In other words, you sign up and start as a raw beginner and gradually you develop proficiency in many different aspects of the art. Of course, proficiency in the different aspects does not occur at the same rate, but, as you train and look at your teachers, you see wonderful possibilities. If you train really hard, you might approach their level. So you train hard.

The problem is that the linear aspects sometimes become too prominent and obtaining the dan becomes the goal, rather than the level which the dan is supposed to indicate. I have seen this many times and in most cases the teacher was at fault. In my opinion a teacher should be able to monitor a student's progress on several levels; certainly not just the level of actual technique. But in my experience here are very few teachers who can monitor and advise a student on these other levels: those we might call 'spiritual', for example.

3. What is the point of 'objectively' measuring this proficency (and O Sensei actually did do this)? Well, given that aikido training is a social activity, I can think of various benefits in terms of motivation, as other members have stated. For example, very many dojos here in Japan have a coloured belt system for children's classes. My experience here in Hiroshima is that children like to play (and we accept children from the age of six). They are very supple and so they learn wonderful ukemi; and then basic techniques like suwari-waza 1-kyo and irimi-nage as a kind of play, rather like kittens do play fighting. Going up through the cloured belt system is regarded as an essential part of their general maturing process. In other words, the children's kyu system matches their devekopment at school.

4. Another reason is that right from the very beginning aikido developed in relation to other established martial arts. O Sensei studied Daito-ryu and initially used the Daito-ryu system in the Kobukan. When he changed to the dan system, he gave all his senior deshi 8th dan. Why? Because this was regarded by Kano Jigoro as the equivalent of the Menkyu-kaiden and thus O Sensei's deshi were given an accepted status in relation to other martial arts. Of course, he did not really NEED to do this; he could have kept all his deshi ungraded. But he did.

5. Now, whether students want to enter the 'dan' system or not is their decision, but they cannot usually make this decision at the beginning of their aikido careers. From talking to people like David Lynch (who does not give dan ranks), I am well aware that some people think that ranks are more trouble than they are worth, but this decision is actually a 'political' judgement. I would not wish to force this view on the students who train with me before they have the experience to judge for themselves. I do this because I do not have MY OWN students, i.e., students who are MY deshi. In other words, I do not expect thet the students I teach will remain with me for their entire aikido careers. So, usually I give grades to students who train in my dojo, so that when they move on,they have an objective record of progress achieved, but I usually send a fairly objective letter to the next sensei, indicating major strengths and weakneses. I wonder if this is common practice.

Thus, I think a system of objective measurement has a place in martial arts training and the dan system is what we have in aikido.

6. When people say that O Sensei did not care about dan grades, there is a tendency to interpret this as indicating a general disregard for ANY objective measurement in aikido, but I am not sure that this is right. He followed the general practice. And to cite the absence in O Sensei's written statements of any mention of dan ranks as an indication that he did not care about these is not correct. If you study O Sensei's published writings, you will see that he is in a completely different universe. The universe is that of the Manyou'shu, Kojiki, Nihon-shoki: Japan's ancient myths. To have discused dan ranks in aikido would have been competely pointless in this context.

Anyway, such are my personal opinions and I would be glad to hear from other members of this forum, especially from those who strongly disagree with my sentiments.

Best regards to all,

Peter Goldsbury

PS. I do not think there is a major difference between ranks from around 8th dan upwards (actually, I thought before choosing this figure). In fact, my own rank is 6th dan, but my present teacher is only one rank higher. I train with teachers like Tada Sensei and Arikawa Sensei, who are 9th dan, but I still see a wide gulf between them and myself, and even my own teacher.

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 09-15-2001 at 10:01 AM.

P A Goldsbury
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Old 09-16-2001, 03:47 AM   #19
mariko nakamura
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I firmly believe in test and ranking.
I think that without it, it would be pretty hard to monitor the students progress.
In our dojo all the kyu levels are entitled to colored belts.
The waza that is assigned to each kyu is a building process. They need to practice these over and over again until it becomes habit.
Without this basic understanding of technique, the essence is impossible to grasp. I think the only way to verify a student would be to submit them to testing. Sometimes we have students that can perform beautiful technique in class but when there is a little pressure on them such as a test, the waza becomes flawed. This means that the technique does not lie in their sub conscious yet and are therefore not ready for the next level of training. Our dojo is very strict this way and I think if I trained any other way in the past then I wouldnt have the understanding of technique that I do today. But maybe Im wrong in my perspective. It seems to work fine for us and it gives everyone strong motivation and a good sense of discipline. Aikido tests are not just about technique. If there is no motivation or discipline then the technique suffers and it is immediately obvious during a test.


Mick

Mick
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Old 09-16-2001, 04:44 AM   #20
Kami
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Unhappy HEAVY WEIGHT x FEATHERWEIGHT!?!?

Ah, Goldsbury Sama! A Heavyweight against a Featherweight...Definitely unjust!

Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Goldsbury
have been following this thread with great interest, since the kyu/dan system can be seen as the focus of many issues concerning martial arts and our perception of training.
KAMI : For me, also, they are a source of endless problems and abrasion in the MA, most of all in function of the great confusion between technical ability and teaching (overall) ability.

Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Goldsbury
In fact I have an article half finished for the AJ web site (to follow the Touching the Absolute series, Ubaldo).
KAMI : As always, I'll be waiting anxiously for your articles.

Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Goldsbury
1. The dan rank can be seen as one among many possible 'objective correlatives' (T S Eliot's phrase).In this it is no different from the Menkyo-kaiden. Thus, in parallel with the 'story' of O Sensei's general disaffection with the Butokukai, there is another 'story' which suggests that he was strongly influenced by Jigoro Kano and wanted to differentiate aikido, as a 'new' budo, from Daito-ryu. So I do not really think that O Sensei actually preferred the Menkyo-kaiden over the dan system. I do not think he cared either way.
KAMI : The dan rank, sometimes, seem to be the worst "objective correlative". It's quite different from the Menkyo Kaiden and Jigoro Kano was one of the main responsibles for its introduction in the Butokukai. Its development was concerned with two points :
a) the transformation of martial arts into sports; and
b) the introduction of competition as a means of testing.
For competition, dan ranks were a very important means to divide competitors and award the winners (in Judo, you progressed according to your victories in competition)and were also important for teaching large groups, when the teacher no longer was able to differentiate correctly among the many students.
I don't think the problem was that Kaiso "wanted to differentiate aikido and was strongly influenced by Jigoro Kano". Kano was a very powerful leader in his time and everybody looked at what he was doing. But he was also hated by many people because of his untraditional attitude in the martial arts. In this case, I find it important that Kano sent students to Ueshiba, but Kaiso never went to the Kodokan and never sent any of his students to Kano.
Also, Okina was absolutely consistent in the giving of his densho (to his more advanced students) but not on dan ranking. We must not forget that it was only with the Aikikai, under Kisshomaru Doshu, that this system flourished. For Kaiso it was always kind of a joke and he gave them without any real concern or understanding.

Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Goldsbury
2. When I say that the dan system is one of many possible 'objective correlatives' in relation to the art, what I am emphasising is that aikido is at base a skill...you sign up and start as a raw beginner and gradually you develop proficiency in many different aspects. Of course, proficiency in the different aspects does not occur at the same rate, but, as you train and LOOK AT YOUR TEACHERS, you see wonderful possibilities. If you train really hard, you might approach their level. So you train hard.
KAMI : And so, in this way, dan ranks are, in my opinion, of very little importance.

Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Goldsbury
The problem is that the linear aspects sometimes become too prominent and obtaining the dan becomes the goal, rather than the level which the dan is supposed to indicate. I have seen this many times and in most cases the teacher was at fault. In my opinion a teacher should be able to monitor a student's progress on several levels; certainly not just the level of actual technique.
KAMI : Again, we face the same problem. If you "saw many times" dan ranking (SUPPOSED to indicate ranking)being distorted and becoming the goal, not the means, it's perhaps indicative that it is not just "a teacher's fault". It might mean something about the system itself. And for a teacher to monitor a student on several levels, including the "spiritual", dan ranks are valueless.

Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Goldsbury
3. What is the point of 'objectively' measuring this proficency (and O Sensei actually did do this)?
KAMI : Proficiency in what? O-Sensei awarded with densho many levels of a student. And I don't think, as I've said, that he did do that with the dan system.

Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Goldsbury
Well, given that aikido training is a social activity, I can think of various benefits in terms of motivation, as other members have stated.Going up through the cloured belt system is regarded as an essential part of their general maturing process. In other words, the children's kyu system matches their devekopment at school.
KAMI : Again, I think that what you are stressing is the importance of coloured belts and rankings FOR THE ORGANIZATION (Aikikai or others) and not exactly the importance for the children. There are many ways, as you yourself has stressed, for children to play and be happy in Aikido, with no need for coloured belts and the like.

Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Goldsbury
4. Another reason is that right from the very beginning aikido developed in relation to other established martial arts. O Sensei studied Daito-ryu and initially used the Daito-ryu system in the Kobukan. When he changed to the dan system, he gave all his senior deshi 8th dan. Why? Because this was regarded by Kano Jigoro as the equivalent of the Menkyu-kaiden and thus O Sensei's deshi were given an accepted status in relation to other martial arts.
KAMI : Aikido DIDN'T develop "in relation to other established MA". Aikido (or Aikibudo) developed isolated. Only with Aikido joining the Butokukai (and being forced to adopt the dan system, later reinforced by the Aikikai), it began to heavily imitate other Gendai Budo(remember that Takeda Dai Sensei pretended Daito Ryu to be a very old Koryu and not a Gendai). So, Kaiso was forced, he didn't changed WILLFULLY to the dan system. When he sent Minoru Hirai to the Butokukai, he gave him a high dan ranking in order for him to be on an equal foot with the other representatives, not because he understand dan or because that was his evaluation of Hirai Sensei. but because he thought THAT WOULD BE RIGHT!

Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Goldsbury
5. Now, whether students want to enter the 'dan' system or not is their decision, but they cannot usually make this decision at the beginning of their aikido careers.
I would not wish to force this view on the students who train with me before they have the experience to judge for themselves.
KAMI : No problem at all. Our students know that we do not give ranks and anyway you don't specifically study aikido to teach. Anyway, if later, with greater proficiency, you want to teach, you may get an University degree in physical education and teach legally in our Country.
The important thing, we feel, is to study and practice Aikido, everywhere, with everyone able to teach.

Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Goldsbury
I do not expect thet the students I teach will remain with me...So, usually I give grades to students... so that when they move on,they have a...record of progress achieved, but I usually send a letter to the next sensei, indicating major strengths and weakneses. I wonder if this is common practice.
KAMI : No, it isn't and it just shows again that dan rankings are meaningless, since you feel the need to send an "objective letter" to state your dan ranked student's "major strengths and weaknesses" to another teacher.

Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Goldsbury
I think a system of objective measurement has a place in MA training and the dan system is what we have...
KAMI : It is not enough. Perhaps the best measurement is the evidence of training.

Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Goldsbury
When people say that O Sensei did not care about dan grades, there is a tendency to interpret this as indicating a general disregard for ANY objective measurement..., but I am not sure that this is right. He followed the general practice.
KAMI : Someone has said before that O-Sensei really didn't like to teach. He just loved TO DO AIKIDO. I do believe he really didn't ever care about any "measurement".

Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Goldsbury
And to cite the absence in O Sensei's written statements of any mention of dan ranks as an indication that he did not care about these is not correct.
KAMI : In that we do agree.

Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Goldsbury
I would be glad to hear from other members of this forum.
KAMI : Well, the featherweight gave his small punch. Now, let's run away before the heavyweight throws his counter attack!!!

Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Goldsbury
Best regards to all,
Peter Goldsbury
PS. I do not think there is a major difference between ranks from around 8th dan upwards (actually, I thought before choosing this figure). In fact, my own rank is 6th dan, but my present teacher is only one rank higher. I train with teachers like Tada Sensei and Arikawa Sensei, who are 9th dan, but I still see a wide gulf between them and myself, and even my own teacher.
KAMI : regards for you too, Goldsbury Sama!
Forgive my impertinence

"We are all teachers, and what we teach is what we need to learn, and so we teach it over and over again until we learn it".
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Old 09-16-2001, 06:56 AM   #21
Dan Kronenberg
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Question

Kami, we've been hearing some interesting history and personal opinions as to the reasons for ranks and tests, but I was wondering how your "group" decided not to grade students.Also, is this a lone group or an Organisation?
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Old 09-16-2001, 08:33 AM   #22
Kami
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WHO THE HECK ARE THEY???

Quote:
Originally posted by Dan Kronenberg
Kami, we've been hearing some interesting history and personal opinions as to the reasons for ranks and tests, but I was wondering how your "group" decided not to grade students.Also, is this a lone group or an Organisation?
KAMI : Hello, Dan!
Actually, it's more my son than mine. We have a very small (microscopic...) organization but we are really much more a group (The Shintokai Dojo of Aikido).
Our decision came about when my son left his former organization and went independent. He received many invitations from other organizations and he could've also joined some independent organizations, like the IMAF or the SHUDOKAN but he prefered to stay independent and abandon the ranking system, because he felt it brought more problems than benefits. That, of course, was a personal opinion as you correctly stressed. Everybody is free to disagree and to prefer to have a ranking system. Also, I do believe that if you are a member of an organization, you should follow that organization's rules and if they have a ranking system, so you should.
I hope all is clear
Best regards and a good keiko

"We are all teachers, and what we teach is what we need to learn, and so we teach it over and over again until we learn it".
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Old 09-16-2001, 09:51 PM   #23
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: HEAVY WEIGHT x FEATHERWEIGHT!?!?

Ubaldo,

I was rather stunned by the tone of your response to my post. This is an open forum where anyone can give an opinion, regardless of 'weight'. I am well aware of your opinions regarding the 'politics' of aikido organisations and I do not happen to share them.

Ah, Goldsbury Sama! A Heavyweight against a Featherweight...Definitely unjust!

PG. ???

KAMI : For me, also, they are a source of endless problems and abrasion in the MA, most of all in function of the great confusion between technical ability and teaching (overall) ability.

PG. For you the root of these problems is the system itself. For me it is how the system operates. I think the two are different.

KAMI : The dan rank, sometimes, seem to be the worst "objective correlative". It's quite different from the Menkyo Kaiden and Jigoro Kano was one of the main responsibles for its introduction in the Butokukai. Its development was concerned with two points :
a) the transformation of martial arts into sports; and
b) the introduction of competition as a means of testing.
For competition, dan ranks were a very important means to divide competitors and award the winners (in Judo, you progressed according to your victories in competition)and were also important for teaching large groups, when the teacher no longer was able to differentiate correctly among the many students.
I don't think the problem was that Kaiso "wanted to differentiate aikido and was strongly influenced by Jigoro Kano". Kano was a very powerful leader in his time and everybody looked at what he was doing. But he was also hated by many people because of his untraditional attitude in the martial arts. In this case, I find it important that Kano sent students to Ueshiba, but Kaiso never went to the Kodokan and never sent any of his students to Kano.
Also, Okina was absolutely consistent in the giving of his densho (to his more advanced students) but not on dan ranking. We must not forget that it was only with the Aikikai, under Kisshomaru Doshu, that this system flourished. For Kaiso it was always kind of a joke and he gave them without any real concern or understanding.

PG. As an objective indication of one's proficiency in the art, a dan and a menkyo are the same. I am aware of the relation between dan ranks and competition in judo. There is a similar relationship in sumo, where the ranking system (yokozuna, ozeki, sekiwake) exists. There are also problems with the application of this system but no one has ever questioned the need for a ranking in sumo. The point I am making is that, unlike judo, sumo is not regarded in Japan as a 'modern' sport. Thus to identify a ranking system with competition is a mistake, in my opinion. The Founder never made such an equation.

KAMI : Again, we face the same problem. If you "saw many times" dan ranking (SUPPOSED to indicate ranking) being distorted and becoming the goal, not the means, it's perhaps indicative that it is not just "a teacher's fault". It might mean something about the system itself. And for a teacher to monitor a student on several levels, including the "spiritual", dan ranks are valueless.

PG. he problem is less with the dan system itself than with a misunderstanding of the concept of progress in aikido. As I implied, progress, if it occurs, usually occurs at several levels of proficiency: basic technical ability, what I would call 'practical prudence', and some insight into the spiritual values involved.

KAMI : Proficiency in what? O-Sensei awarded with densho many levels of a student. And I don't think, as I've said, that he did do that with the dan system.

PG. See my last comment, above.

KAMI : Again, I think that what you are stressing is the importance of coloured belts and rankings FOR THE ORGANIZATION (Aikikai or others) and not exactly the importance for the children. There are many ways, as you yourself has stressed, for children to play and be happy in Aikido, with no need for coloured belts and the like.

PG. You might think it is, but this is not what I am stressing at all. Neither the children nor their parents give much attention to the actual organisation as such, as opposed to the progress of their children. It is more of an interaction between the parents and their teachers. I believe you think in this way because you have already decided that organisations and dan ranking play no useful purpose.

KAMI : No, it isn't and it just shows again that dan rankings are meaningless, since you feel the need to send an "objective letter" to state your dan ranked student's "major strengths and weaknesses" to another teacher.

PG. I asked the last question of the forum members as a whole. Are you really answering for everybody? In my experience it is common practice if a students leaves a dojo for the sensei to send a letter of introduction to the sensei in charge of the student's next dojo. This is the practice I follow and is only marginally connected with the grade the student has. It certainly does not show at all that the rank a student has is "meaningless".

KAMI : Someone has said before that O-Sensei really didn't like to teach. He just loved TO DO AIKIDO. I do believe he really didn't ever care about any "measurement".

PG. I myself have said this and written this, many times. He showed aikido. But his does not mean that he never concerned himself with the progress of his students, or even measuring this progress.

KAMI : Well, the featherweight gave his small punch. Now, let's run away before the heavyweight throws his counter attack!!!

PG. I think this sentiment is quite unworthy of you.

Best regards,

Peter Goldsbury

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 09-16-2001 at 09:57 PM.

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Old 09-16-2001, 10:23 PM   #24
Bill D
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Hey, be nice.

I want to point out that the kyuu system is prevalent in Japan, not just in the Butokukai, but in almost everything. You can become a 2kyuu in Aikido, flower arrangement, flute playing and even English speaking (I'm a "ranked" Japanese speaker). Therefore I think that the kyuu system may have been more natural to the Japanese founders of the art than it is to many of us, and that it may be more indicative of an overall Japanese tendency to "rank" peoples' ability in things than a political move.

Also, some people have mentioned or at least implied that the kyuu system is not necessarily wrong, but is "not enough," or that it needs to be supplemented by a letter to transfer to other dojos. Do you have any ideas about what be a more satisfactory system?

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Old 09-17-2001, 12:23 AM   #25
Erik
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Quote:
Originally posted by Bill D
I want to point out that the kyuu system is prevalent in Japan, not just in the Butokukai, but in almost everything. You can become a 2kyuu in Aikido, flower arrangement, flute playing and even English speaking (I'm a "ranked" Japanese speaker). Therefore I think that the kyuu system may have been more natural to the Japanese founders of the art than it is to many of us, and that it may be more indicative of an overall Japanese tendency to "rank" peoples' ability in things than a political move.
Bill, Bill, Bill. Ya got it all wrong man. I know. I hang out in Aikido forums.

Rank was not created because of any obsessive compulsions on the part of our Japanese friends. Rank was created because worthless Westerners (it's a really big place too because it includes something like 3/4 of the globe) are so worthless, materialistic, devoid of spiritualness, vain and lacking in staying power that their sole motivation for consistently attending class is the honor of receiving a cheap colored belt. That it clashes with their stylish outfits and looks pretty dumb when you think about it never seems to bother anyone. That's because they are too busy in their materialistic pursuits.

Had the Japanese, in their infinite wisdom and honor, not shown righteous thought, generosity and a willingness to debase their whole culture and value system Aikido would never have flourished outside of Japan's borders. It is a universally accepted truth that without colored belts the only Aikido practitioners outside of Japan would be 2 guys in Castroville, California possibly the Artichoke capital of the world. I say possibly because lacking colored belts, it would be the Artichoke and Aikido capital of the non-Japanese world. I'm not sure how the Japanese feel about Artichokes and that's a topic for another thread.

So there, in a couple of paragraphs, is the real reason why we have colored belts in Aikido.

Last edited by Erik : 09-17-2001 at 12:26 AM.
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