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Old 01-23-2007, 08:31 AM   #1
"anon"
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independent dojo/switching affiliations

The dojo I am a member of is considering either switching affiliations or becoming an independent dojo. While I do not have the ultimate say in this regard, I do have a voice and would like to get feedback from anyone who has been through this. Or if you've always been independent and can provide insight as to what that's like the feedback would be appreciated as well. Some of the main concerns are continued longevity and legitimacy of the dojo. Is there any difference when it comes to attracting and retaining students? Ultimately if you're independent you're awarding your own rank, correct? How hard is it to become directly affiliated w/ hombo?

thanks.
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Old 01-23-2007, 11:18 AM   #2
James Davis
 
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

I've been a member of an independent dojo for eight years. My aikido has always been just fine at every other dojo I've visited, and every seminar I've gone to. It all comes down to what you want that piece of paper to mean...

Being a part of an idependent dojo, your rank may not mean so much to other people, but it's not about what other people think, in my opinion. I've seen people who have no "recognized" rank do some amazing things, and I've seen people who haven't practiced for six years and have lost a lot of their edge that still have that piece of paper that says they're a shodan...

One of my sempai is looking at jumping through the requisite hoops to get ranking through Hombu. I've chosen to do so as well for the sake of my students. While I'm comfortable just having some skill, my future students may want recognition for their accomplishments, so I want any rank that I award them to be recognized.

How important is rank to you?

"The only difference between Congress and drunken sailors is that drunken sailors spend their own money." -Tom Feeney, representative from Florida
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Old 01-23-2007, 01:15 PM   #3
Keith R Lee
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

I agree with James. Is getting a slip of paper from Japan that costs a few hundred dollars really that important to you? Organization this, system that, who really cares as long as the training as good. That's what you're there for, right?

Keith Lee
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Old 01-23-2007, 01:39 PM   #4
aikidoc
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

I think rank is important to most people who want to teach or hope to teach. The issue for me is transferability of the rank. I started out in an independent organization. They ended up being more "hobbyists" than seriously trying to improve their aikido. However, they also tried to hold themselves out as comparable to other organizations and as a former friend in the organization pointed out to me they were far from it.

If you stay in your own dojo or organization, it likely does not matter. However, that can be limiting for one's own advancement.

I'm curious why is is considered "jumping through the requisite hoops"? I never had any problems. You fill out some paperwork, know the techniques, pay your fees and take a test. How is that any more hoopish than any other testing procedure. Unless someone just walks up to you and hands you a certificate and says you are now ___dan.

I've heard this argument regarding Aikido politics as well. The only political elements I have noticed in being affiliated with the Aikikai have nothing to do with the Aikikai. THey have to do with the organizations and personalities in the organization with power. That too can be avoided by affiliating with a shihan without the trappings of a big organization.

Last edited by aikidoc : 01-23-2007 at 01:43 PM.
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Old 01-23-2007, 01:53 PM   #5
aikidoc
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

Quote:
Keith Lee wrote:
I agree with James. Is getting a slip of paper from Japan that costs a few hundred dollars really that important to you? Organization this, system that, who really cares as long as the training as good. That's what you're there for, right?
There in lies a dilemma. Unless the organization you are in has people comparable in knowledge and skill as some of the shihans who have spent their lives studying the art then the issue of advancing one's quality becomes important. Unless of course someone prefers to stay where they are. I view it as a process not an end product. A never ending process constantly requiring learning and evolution of my understanding. Hell, I have to do that anyway just to stay ahead of my students.

Would it make any different if there was no cost involved? The Aikikai, as an example, tries to maintain a certain basic level of quality by establishing testing requirements and sending out or allowing affiliation with shihans or test committees to advance members in rank. It's not a perfect system, however, no one has put forth one that works better.

There are a lot of people out there of a free spirit mindset that do not want to have any rules or be guided by criteria. There are also some that just simply don't care about rank, organizations, or whatever and just want knowledge. However, there are also a lot of hucksters out there that teach stuff they have no business teaching. Some standards help establish a level of competency, abeit inperfect.
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Old 01-23-2007, 02:58 PM   #6
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

thanks for the replies- i also have looked a little at the "similar threads" which i probably should have found before initially posting. rank seems to be a recurring theme and it's been asked as to whether it's important to me. answer- yes it is important. not in terms of i'm a shodan, nidan, or sandan but in terms of maintaining a credible lineage. if a dojo goes independent and the highest rank at the time is say nidan then essentially you've established a ceiling of nidan for everyone unless you grant your own rank. I'm not too big on that idea- there have been many threads on ranks w/ well thought out positions. One of my favorite posts (can't remember poster) summarized rank as being for the benefit of the dojo not the individual...a perspective i'm beginning to adopt. I've been a member of a mma dojo (long before i ever heard the term mma) in the past and know what can happen in terms of sokeship type behaviour. In my mind an accurate, honest "family tree" is important to the long term stability of a dojo.

i have no problem paying affiliate dues and fully realize any organization is going to have issues. Again, i'm not driving this bus just trying to get an idea of what the ride is like. thanks again.
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Old 01-23-2007, 09:02 PM   #7
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

To practice aikido you need a Teacher. Not nidan, sandan or other rank -- a Teacher. Without a Teacher you are lost - no trasmission is possible. And practice will degenerate with time. So from this point of view affiliation is a false dilema. If you affiliate with some federation, but you will not find a Teacher for you -- it will not be a big help.

Nagababa

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Old 01-23-2007, 11:15 PM   #8
tenshinaikidoka
 
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

Being independant is not that bad. One question to ask oneself is, what is an affiliation, and what type of lineage? Every school, orginazation, affiliation or whatever you want to call it, started within someone or a small group of people. Aikido was started by O'Sensei. Many "traditions" were also started by people. So, why is it if someone breaks away from an affiliation or orginazation that they or thier rank are any less credible.

I obtained my ShoDan in an independant dojo issued by my Sensei. Am I any less skilled than any other Shodan? No, and I might be more skilled than the average ShoDan. I also might be less skilled than another ShoDan. Our dojo has a lineage that can directly link up to O'Sensei. So there is the lineage.

If someone says that my rank is fake, illegitimate or whatever term they choose to use, that is fine, I know I worked many years to obtain my rank and I also realize it is just a belt and really means nothing in the real world.

While lineages show who taught who, usually from O'Sensei on down to the current Dojo-Cho, this really means very little. When it comes to how good the instructor is that will be teaching you all the lineage in the world won't make him a good or bad instructor. You must evaluate the instructor for who he is not where his lineage traces up the line to. Many bad instructors have great lineage lines but little else.

Now do not get me wrong, there are frauds among us and they may have trained for a year or two, and suddenly open a dojo, claim (or purchase rank) from some association and start teaching. I think all teachers should be checked out and if your suspicious, hey, ask who thier teachers are or were, how long they trained etc. I would then do my homework and track down anyone I could, based on the information they gave me, and get in contact with thier former teachers and/or students who trained with him/her.

Ok, sorry to be so long winded, just my two cents, for what it is worth!!!!!
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Old 01-24-2007, 02:29 AM   #9
happysod
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

HI Anon,

Experienced with both types of groups - one who switched and an independent from day 1.

The group who switched (many years ago, Dave Humm I think was with the same lot) didn't do that well in my opinion as the instructors were not really of a level or temperament to sustain it in terms of dojo longevity - so it is a valid concern.

My current (independent) lot have fared better, but in part because of a willingness to train elsewhere and bring it back - so it's back to the temperament of the dojo and its instructors.

I feel to progress and keep a decent standard in an independent dojo can be harder work than in dojo connected to a large association, mainly because it's up to the members to make the links to others in ma rather than coming as part of a package. However, I've equally seen affiliated dojo quickly become stilted and, although affiliated, rather cut-off because the only link has become paying the fees.

In short, I don't believe that affiliation matters as much as some claim, except as John said for transference and recognition of rank. As long people within the dojo are vigilant and honest about their training and do get off their arse to experience other forms of training - not just aikido BTW - its all good.

Quick suggestion, if you go independant, sort out your insurance and a code of practice covering as many potential dojo issues as quickly as possible - these are areas which can cause unnecessary rankles later on if they're left to being written on the back of a fag packet.
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Old 01-24-2007, 06:22 AM   #10
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

Quote:
Ian Hurst wrote:
written on the back of a fag packet.
???
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Old 01-24-2007, 06:47 AM   #11
raul rodrigo
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

Quote:
Chris Willenbacher wrote:
???
I think in Britain this refers to a pack of cigarettes, though I could be wrong.
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Old 01-24-2007, 07:14 AM   #12
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

Quote:
The dojo I am a member of is considering either switching affiliations or becoming an independent dojo. While I do not have the ultimate say in this regard, I do have a voice and would like to get feedback from anyone who has been through this. Or if you've always been independent and can provide insight as to what that's like the feedback would be appreciated as well. Some of the main concerns are continued longevity and legitimacy of the dojo. Is there any difference when it comes to attracting and retaining students? Ultimately if you're independent you're awarding your own rank, correct? How hard is it to become directly affiliated w/ hombo?

thanks.
Hi

You dont actually say why you are considering such action.

Is it technical difference? Politics? Personalities?

Having seen a number of switches both to and from the organisation I am with throughout the last 15 years or so I think the hidden aspect of such action can be a serverance of ties with friends and partners of many years standing.

In one of his many excellent posts, George Ledyard recently talked about the reunification of instructors and students after some 30 years.

Maybe in this case the 30 year separation was necessary, however, I would suggest careful consideration before taking such action.

If there is no choice go for it, but do bear in mind that such decisions carry costs.

Regards

D
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Old 01-24-2007, 08:26 AM   #13
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

Hi all, once again thanks for the responses. So what i'm getting from several of your posts that seem to coincide w/ my thinking is summarized as follows:

Independent not bad just harder perhaps to maintain quality and definitely more work administratively. Keeping w/ the "family tree" analogy used earlier, I'm going to define the root structure as shihan level instruction, the trunk as lower rank dans, and the limbs as kyu ranks. Becoming independent runs the risk of losing some or all of the root structure W/out proper root structure the tree (dojo) w/ be stunted and possibly wither. It is possible to train w/ various top level instructures as independents to cultivate that root structure. However, there is something different about showing up for a few seminars a year from a particular shihan and being one of his students. (As an aside i'm not sure most people w/in an organization are truely the shihan's student). Something that sczpan alluded to. Also something Ledyard sensei talks about in terms of if you want to reach the top level you need to train (regularly- my emphasis) w/ top level instructors.

If you have the root structure as an independent great!...but if not much more difficult.

Is this about right?

As for this particular situation and the why part of possibly becoming indie or switching... i haven't gotten into that on purpose. There is no real way to talk about it w/out making things public that don't need to be.

thanks.
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Old 01-24-2007, 09:14 AM   #14
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

Quote:
As for this particular situation and the why part of possibly becoming indie or switching... i haven't gotten into that on purpose. There is no real way to talk about it w/out making things public that don't need to be.

thanks.
Fully respect that.
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Old 01-24-2007, 11:10 AM   #15
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

Shihans in their organisation set up standards. And frankly, these are very high standards. Not everyone in organisation is up to his standards, or is his 'student' but these standards exist and they provide opportunity to increase skills of averyone. Tests are some supplementary motivation to keep standard up.

Independent dojo standards are very..........hmhmhm........random, cos pedagogical system not consistent. Lack of consistency(learning from different sources) is one thing, other, even more important, there is not check up for head instructor skills, no possibility to compare skills and standards as it is done in organisation between different dojo.
Third important thing is lack of synergy in independent dojo -- in organization synergy is very important source of enrichement of student skills. Look at this in that way: noone is able to learn all from a teacher, so every shihan learned some particular aspects from O sensei. The same is true on our level. So if you become independent you aikido sooner or later become more and more poor and sterile, while in organization there will be always exchange and transfer of knowledge.

Nagababa

ask for divine protection Ame no Murakumo Kuki Samuhara no Ryuo
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Old 01-24-2007, 11:32 AM   #16
"anon"
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

NagaBaba,
Could you elaborate a little more on what you're calling synergy?

"The same is true on our level. So if you become independent you aikido sooner or later become more and more poor and sterile, while in organization there will be always exchange and transfer of knowledge."

Hmm, i see where you're coming from but i'll have to say the exchange and transfer is possible but not automatic w/in any organization. Also, i think there is a real threat of dilution w/in an affiliation if there isn't some new genes introduced from time to time. That is experiencing how others perform aikido as well. One thing i'm considering is how much i've learned by particular instructors taking personal interest in my aikido- if you're not part of someones family (orginization) how much commitment to me as a student can i expect. why should they commit to me if i'm not committed to them?

As you stated each of O'sensei's students took part of his aikido. So then collectively through them maybe we can see O'senseis aikido. Which only further reinforces that we should be coming together and not further splintering. I guess you have to temper that w/...so long as a part doesn't dilute the integrity of the art.
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Old 01-24-2007, 01:38 PM   #17
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

I think independence, is not a terrible thing at all. Like someone stated, every art has started from someone who had knowledge of another art. I guess a paper certificate signed by Doshu in Aikikai is important to some, but not me. I have certificates signed by my instructor and he is sa good if not better than anyone I have had seminars with. Of course this is from my own experience and not everyone has good luck in finding a good teacher.

It is really up to you however anon. Do you want a piece of paper to show your "legit" in other peoples eyes, or are you legit if your tested and passed at a certain level and you have a piece of paper signed by an independent person?

It really is up to you, but take consideration into what being in a large org. means as opposed to contrlling your own criteria!

Food for thought!
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Old 01-24-2007, 02:32 PM   #18
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

Hello to all. after reading this post I feel that it is time to introduce you to Sensei Michael Moreno 6th dan Aikikai.

Sensei Moreno or "Papa" as I call him is by far one of the most experienced teachers we have in the states. He and his father the late Miguel Segura Moreno Shihan 7th dan were responsible for bringing Aikido to Mexico. Sensei began his training at Honbu dojo in the 70's and is a "legitimate" student of Ni-dai doshu and of course many other shihan there at hombu. Sensei Moreno has a very- deep knowledge of aikido and this is evident in his instruction and his lifestyle. Never in my "short" but adventurous (10yrs) career as an aikidoist have I met a teacher that is as kind, POWERFUL, and humble as he.

Sensei Moreno is President of the United States Aikido Association and has an opened the doors of this association to all who are looking for quality aikido training, and SUPPORT.
The association is the"Bigg man for the little man" what I mean by that is this....

As we all know "some"-politics have crept into the aikido world particularly in the western parts, this is to be expected; however Sensei Morenos' concern is that those who really desire to grow in the art of Aikido have the support to do so. The website for the U.S.A.A. is almost complete which will give more information but please feel free to contact me at www.jason@southlakeaikikai.com
or http://dallasaikikai.com/

His heart is simply to spread true Aikido which is about "Power, love, and unity"

And for those who really want to know....He is known for Instruction and having lots of power.

This is just a lill clip we put together on youtube hope you enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sYajkwr6HU

And also before I go. We are inviting everyone to a seminar at Plano Aikikai in Plano Tx in March featuring Michael Moreno 6th dan. I will post all the details tommorrow

The seminar will be from Fri-Sun followed by testing.

Hope to see you there. Jun if you are reading this, I especially want to extend an invite to you. Contact me when you can.


God bless everyone
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Old 01-24-2007, 04:03 PM   #19
aikidoc
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

The issue of independent dojo quality is complex. A lot depends on the rank and ability of those spitting off. Maintaining quality is a challenge since there is no one above the senior ranking person to move their aikido ahead or ensure a standard is met.

Let's say we have a bunch of sandans decide they have had it with the politics or whatever of an organization and decide to go off and set up their own. They set up bylaws and make someone a 5th or 6th dan to head the organization. Does this person equate with someone who was promoted by a shihan above. One organization I know did something similar with the exception of the top guy being 5th dan in a splinter group. Now the head instructor is a self promoted 6th dan by bylaws. He went from 2nd or 3rd dan to 6th dan without ever testing again-time in grade, rank given. So we have someone starting an organization who had never been promoted above 5th dan, with a bunch of 3rd dans and now one of the 3rd dans has gone to 6th dan How can that be a quality move? The student surpasses the previous instructor who retired via bylaws with no additional training. The organization does not test above 2nd dan. Those under him gave him the 6th dan rank-he was the most senior person. Promotion from below-an interesting concept. Now the question is can this person possibly be equal to an Aikikai 6th dan? Maybe. Not likely since there has not been any guidance for years and he doesn't attend seminars. What then happens to the next generation. They go through the same process and get 6th dan. Weak begets weak which begets weaker. The quality will successively deteriorate unless someone is very, very talented or takes it upon themselves to get under and instructor. This is currently happening in the organization-they don't attend seminars either. None of them have to test once they get to 2nd dan. What are these guys going to look like in a few years? 6th dans with deteriorating basics? The basics are likely weak anyway since the process had already gone one generation. How seriously will others take them? One area group has only nidans-the head instructor is retiring. The others have for the most part fallen apart. So with bylaws permitting them to do this and no one senior above them the group of nidans will continue to progress in rank by a time in grade criteria. X number of years to sandan, Y number of years to yondan, etc. They don't interact outside their little group. Sorry, but I just can see how they can maintain quality with this process. Unless they've got it "all knowed up".

The issues are complex for independents and difficult for them to maintain quality standards. And I do know the argument issues-he/she is really good (who judges that?); he's been training a number of years so he deserves the rank (really-what do years have to do with it if the person has been doing nidan level training for years without instruction); I don't care about rank (OK-why not just do away with rank in your organization-last man standing or something like that gets to teach) and just train for the pleasure-recognizing of course that your students will have a difficult time getting someone to recognize them if they leave); it doesn't matter to me the rank as long as they know what they are doing (who judges that and why do people go to fraudulent 10th dans instead of unranked instructors if that's the case commercially?).

I've been the independent route. I prefer to continue to have my knowledge challenged and have some guidance to move ahead. But that's just me.

Last edited by aikidoc : 01-24-2007 at 04:17 PM.
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Old 01-24-2007, 04:50 PM   #20
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

I agree with the last post to a certain degree. But I do not hold my stakes in orginazations either. There are many "systems" if you will, who have Shihan heading them and 3rd to 5th dans under the Shihan. The promotions are done very rarely and other than testing dan ranking, the Shihan(s) are never around to give guidance or instruction. This is, I am sure, not the case with all associations but I have seen it. I also know of a very well respected Shihan who tested someone for ShoDan and the person, in everyone's eyes, failed very miserably. But the rank of Shodan was awarded (only reason I can think of is it was for political reasons). This person is now a SanDan.

So again, I agree that if you close yourself off and do not train with anyone on the outside (seminars or other training opportunities) then yes, you might become stagnant and your techniques may squander. But tell me, how do top ranking Shihan maintain thier proficiency level?? They train alot? So do independant instructors. They teach alot? So do independant instructors. If you are poor in the basics, then you are poor all the way around. If you never improve, it really doesn't matter what rank you are, you will be no good to anyone.

Self awarding rank I am not fond of, but time in grade promotions I do not think are a bad thing (After a certain dan rank). Again, some people may care how "legit" you aer and may shun you, but who cares, you yourself know how good you are and you can show it on the mat. I know I can!!!
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Old 01-24-2007, 07:20 PM   #21
aikidoc
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

True you may well be able to show it on the mat but how do you give students credibility if they chose to move?

Yes, the organizational system is not perfect. I saw a sandan test that was horrible once-wasn't even a good shodan test-the person passed because they were the significant other of the dojo cho who happened to be on the oganizations teaching committee. There are politics I'm sure. I have left organizations for that reason.

Shihan level instructors generally continue to learn-they take the beginners mind approach. I have heard many 8th dans state they felt like they are still a beginner with respect to O'Sensei and they are still trying to figure out what they felt him do. At least, the have the level of skill necessary to evolve their own training-many studying for 50 plus years.
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Old 01-24-2007, 08:32 PM   #22
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

I would assume that a student would or should be told "Your rank means something here, but it may not in another dojo" and I have seen many dojos state they will not strip an Aikidoka of his/her rank but they must go through an evaluation period. I think that might be the same when a Tomiki Aikidoka goes to Aikikai/Yoshinkan/Iwama etc. Even legit rank doesn't always transfer if a student moves.

In fact we had a 2nd kyu move and go to another school affiliated with the Aikikai, he went through his eval period and soon after was tested and obtained his ShoDan!!!!! This may be a rare case (especially since he skipped a rank in theory) but one worth noting.

Enough of my mindless dribble, lets just get on the mat and train!!!!!! In oneness!!!!
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Old 01-24-2007, 08:34 PM   #23
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

If anyone wants, I can print them Shodan certificates and put my chop on them, send them to you for a small fee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOL ok I am kidding of course!!!!
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Old 01-25-2007, 02:06 AM   #24
happysod
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

John, as always, makes excellent points which are perfectly valid and I won't even try and refute- an independent dojo does have a harder time maintaining consistency and advancing within the art.

However, as he rightly points out, this is only normally true if essentially the dojo becomes insular. An insular attitude is more a function of the dojo attitude and location rather than its affiliations as geography and temperament can ensure even a well supported club with good ties drifts into its own "unique" take on aikido.

There are very good reasons with staying with a large association and certainly the opportunities they represent in terms of instruction and infrastructure are hard to overestimate. However, they come with a lot of baggage and strictures than can chaff. Now I'm not saying that independent dojo don't sometimes mirror the worst excesses of a large organisation in a microcosm, but the lack of bureaucracy is refreshing, the politics are normally less knife-edge and while seminars can't replace decent long-term training, they can help fill in the gaps.

I think most of us who have posted (even the great Dr S) have been in agreement in that beyond a certain point the type of dojo doesn't matter, it's the access to the right teachers which matter. Affiliation may smooth the way to gaining access to those teachers, but not as much as the correct attitude and just the sheer willingness to root out the little buggers.

PS Fag packet = cigarette packet. I must remember not to use this one as I do remember causing some consternation on a US naval base when I mentioned I was just "popping out for a fag". You'll be pleased to know the marines did give me time to explain myself...
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Old 01-25-2007, 08:05 AM   #25
aikidoc
Dojo: Aikido of Midland
Location: Midland Texas
Join Date: Dec 2000
Posts: 1,652
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Re: independent dojo/switching affiliations

Ian's point is well taken, its all about the teacher and whether they can stimulate and improve your aikido. I was at one time in an organization where I experienced that problem. Partly due to geographics, partly due to cliques/politics and partly due to concern about the technical direction I saw developing versus what other aikikai organizations were doing. As a result, I ended up teaching myself for my next 2 ranks and then left. I had too much invested to leave earlier but I was also searching for the type of instructor I felt would make it happen for me. I found that and left. I also ended up in a much smaller organization which I was part of developing. It worked nicely. I and my students are getting the guidance we need technically and now I get to help annoy those that hate structure . Sometimes you have to be very patient to find the teacher you need/want. I did and it has been a great experience. I had been working out stuff on my own a lot and the very first seminar was an AHA experience. His technical depth blew me away and it quantum jumped things I had been trying to explore on my own. Now I'm in a stage where I'm just trying to get as much of what he has to offer as fast as I can before he retires.
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