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Old 10-29-2001, 05:28 PM   #1
Erik
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Measuring Progress

How do you measure your progress in Aikido?
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Old 10-29-2001, 07:12 PM   #2
michaelkvance
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What areas of the dojo Sensei lets me clean.



m.
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Old 10-30-2001, 09:50 AM   #3
Richard Harnack
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Question Progress?????

Quote:
Originally posted by Erik
How do you measure your progress in Aikido?
Progress is measured by how long you have been a beginner and how good of a beginner you are.

Those who have gone before (Sensei) are usually advanced beginners, they are just further along than some others.

Only those who stop training or trying something new stop progressing.

I know this is not necessarily the answer you were looking for, but its is a true one.

Yours In Aiki,
Richard Harnack
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Old 10-30-2001, 01:42 PM   #4
Erik
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Perhaps this needs more detail. Seems I also asked a whole bunch of questions in place of the one.

Assuming you are not in a town with 3 buildings (one of which houses an Aikido dojo) and randomly wander amongst them, you make a decision to go to your Aikido class. You have a reason and you measure the experience of Aikido against that reason. My operative assumption is that this generally falls into 2 areas: self-development or technical. "I want to defend myself" is perhaps a technical orientation and "I want to learn to deal with conflict" is more towards self-development to give two examples. You might even show up just because it's fun. Even so, you are measuring the experience to see if it continues to be fun. Too many "not fun" events and you would go somewhere else.

Many people do this stuff because of the self-help aspects to it. They hope it makes them a better person on some level. The question is how do you know that Aikido has made you happier, less argumentative, calmer, whatever…. How do you know that you are making progress in these things and conversely, that you aren't making progress and need to focus on them.

On a technical level, athletes are measured on many levels: statistics, athletic performance, strength, wins, etc. Because of the nature of competitive sports weaknesses are pointed out very quickly. Can't hit a high inside fastball; guess what you are going to see until you do hit it and because of statistics, everyone will know it. Competition, and results that are measured lead to direct improvement in that realm because they ruthlessly point out your weaknesses. How do you know your center is better? It feels better you say? Are you sure about that? How do you test it?

Tom Peter's likes to say, "what gets measured gets done." What I'm wondering is what sort of personal tape measure you have.

Last edited by Erik : 10-30-2001 at 02:26 PM.
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Old 10-30-2001, 02:24 PM   #5
Richard Harnack
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Tom Peters has it backwards

Quote:
Originally posted by Erik
Tom Peter's likes to say, "what gets measured gets done." What I'm wondering is what sort of personal tape measure you have.
Actually, what gets done gets measured by people like Tom Peters.

While some "milestones" are helpful, how else will we know how far we have come, they are not necessary. They become a problem if one stops every mile to look back over how far one has come. If done this way too much, one may never arrive at one's destination.

When you train long and effectively, over the years certain things become radically different from when you first learn. Whether or not one is "better" or merely less frustrated, is up to the individual.

Aikido training is a journey well worth the fare (sweat, practice, more sweat, tired joints, achy knees, etc).

But then we have a ranking system which encourages the thought that one is actually going somewhere.

O'Sensei alludes to this in his various doka. One which comes to mind is that it takes at least ten years to come to a beginning understanding of the principles of Aikido. In other doka he alludes to the idea that after a certain amount of training there are no longer "teachers" or "students", just persons on the Way of Aiki.

Yours In Aiki,
Richard Harnack
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Old 10-30-2001, 03:05 PM   #6
Erik
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Hi Richard!

One will certainly never arrive at their destination if they don't know where they are going and if they lack a means to verify that they are heading in the right direction.

Then again, if you don't have a destination, why do Aikido? Just randomly flitter from place to place. One night here, the next there, around and all over we go, winding up where we do not know.
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Old 10-30-2001, 05:16 PM   #7
Richard Harnack
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Red face Ah Erik

Quote:
Originally posted by Erik
Hi Richard!

One will certainly never arrive at their destination if they don't know where they are going and if they lack a means to verify that they are heading in the right direction.

Then again, if you don't have a destination, why do Aikido? Just randomly flitter from place to place. One night here, the next there, around and all over we go, winding up where we do not know.
One can have a destination, however, unless you are walking backward, it is usually in front of you.

Measurements usually involve looking back and comparing to now. Which is okay, because thus far we have not been able to measure the future. (Please, all of the wags out there resist the temptation to quote the astrophysicist's projection of the eventual end of the universe or solar system. If you cannot get your next before then, you probably wont.)

Yours In Aiki,
Richard Harnack
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Old 10-30-2001, 06:00 PM   #8
Erik
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Re: Ah Erik

Quote:
Originally posted by Richard Harnack
One can have a destination, however, unless you are walking backward, it is usually in front of you.
Which can lead right back to where you started if you aren't checking your progress.

Around and around we go
in a circle
over and over
where it stops
we'll never know
because we never check
where we go
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Old 10-30-2001, 06:26 PM   #9
Erik
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Richard!

After waxing poetic, I realized how literal you are taking my words. Perhaps a better question would be to ask how you know that you are getting the results you want.

For instance, Tae Kwon Do stylists are fond of advertising that their art helps students get good grades. Personally, I think that is a giant load of crap, but that is just as much an opinion as the Tae Kwon Do master who expoused said belief. However, it could be studied, measured and proved to an acceptable level for most people.

Aikido also makes a lot of promises. Most of them are implied but they are there: self-defense, less stress, more harmony, better understanding of yourself and it goes from there.

If you are doing Aikido, it's because you are getting something from it.

That last statement is not negotiable. The question then becomes what do you think you are getting from Aikido and how are you measuring it. Because, and here's another non-negotiable statement,

You are measuring your results.

If you aren't, then I'm curious how many times you've put your hand on the oven burner? I'm guessing it would happen a lot.

Last edited by Erik : 10-30-2001 at 06:39 PM.
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Old 10-30-2001, 07:20 PM   #10
Mares
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Quote:
Originally posted by Erik
Richard!

After waxing poetic, I realized how literal you are taking my words. Perhaps a better question would be to ask how you know that you are getting the results you want.


I would tend to side with Richard on this point of contention, however Richards line of thinkng is many levels above mine.

But I will say that you do subconciously measure your ability, and you know when you make mistakes and you know where your weaknesses lie. But I believe your overall progress is hard for you to determine, becasue you don't know the level you should be at as you have not travelled that path before. Hence your Sensei will measure your progress by awarding you a kyu rank or dan rank, and at my level that is good enough for me.

As far as getting the results you want, well if you know the results you are trying to achieve then you have a unit of measurement right there.
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Old 10-30-2001, 07:51 PM   #11
Richard Harnack
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Ah shucks

Erik -
My point is simple, some folk are so caught up in measuring their progress they forget how to train -- a net loss.

Secondly, how I measure my progress, particularly in Aikido, is quite different now than when I first started. Then it was whether or not I could do a roll without breaking my neck. Now it has to do more with my internal perceptions.

Michael -
I don't know about levels. I have been around the block a few times (actually many more than I care to remember).

Erik -
In the universe there are no absolutely straight lines, eventually everything gets bent into an arc. However, an arc is not a circle, though a circle is an arc.

How we choose to "measure" our experience is up to us. Others may judge and evaluate our performance, however, only we can take measure of our experience.

By the way Erik, my measure is a Stanley 33' steel tape. What is yours?

Yours In Aiki,
Richard Harnack
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Old 10-30-2001, 08:02 PM   #12
Erik
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mares
As far as getting the results you want, well if you know the results you are trying to achieve then you have a unit of measurement right there.
Laughing! Hey, it's that obvious isn't it. Hmmmm, you are walking home, you get jumped and get the crap kicked out of you. Aikido may have improved your fighting skills more than any art known to man, yet, you lost. It's gonna happen. A lot of people, because there is no abitrary measure, would think Aikido failed them even though it did it's job perfectly. No clean measurements, no clean results.

Thanks for the post. This question has actually been bugging me for a long time.
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Old 10-30-2001, 11:04 PM   #13
Saku
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Measuring progress

The more you progress, the more you realise how much more there is to learn.

BR, Saku

Saku Ohtonen
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Old 10-31-2001, 02:03 AM   #14
JJF
 
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Most times when I go to the dojo in a bad mood and leave the dojo much happier I feel it as a progress.

Each time I suddenly experience that a technique is 'working' and it feels just right - I take it as a sign of progress.

Every time I understand some principle explained to me by my teacher and find myself able to apply it to my practice - I believe it to be a sign of progress.

And finally those few times when I have passed a new grade (last time this sunday ) I get a feeling of progress.

I don't look for the signs of progess. I just realise that they are there whenever they show up.

- Jørgen Jakob Friis

Inspiration - Aspiration - Perspiration
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Old 10-31-2001, 04:54 PM   #15
Peter Goldsbury
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Insofar as aikido is a physical activity, as with any other skill, beginners tend to improve with training and, for what it's worth, progress can be measured. Presumably this is why there are kyu grades and dan grades. However, as a skill, aikido is open-ended, in the sense that progress is not measured from the end point. In addition, describing aikido purely as a physical skill is not sufficientand it is more difficult to measure progress in what we might call spiritual training.

In my experience, problems involving an excesive preoccupation with progress occur at two levels: the higher kyu grades and the lower dan grades. Sometimes kyu grade students become too intent on getting through the grades as quickly as possible to reach shodan, and thus see aikido only as a physical skill. On the other hand, once the Holy Grail of shodan is obtained, two situations can occur. Students relax and take it easy (this is often the case with the university club here) or they lose their sense of direction (around 3rd dan) and appear less capable of objective scrutiny of their aikido. This is where a skilled instructor is essential.

Best regards,

Peter Goldsbury

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Old 10-31-2001, 06:43 PM   #16
Mike Collins
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I honestly have almost no idea how I measure progress. Every once in a while I stop and consider if I've gotten better, and mostly I answer yes. Then I consider if I feel like I've gotten good, and I have to say no.

I don't know why I train. That's kind of a weak answer, but it's the closest to the truth. I train because if I don't/didn't train, I would be less happy. I started Aikido because I wanted to understand all about "energy". After twelve plus years, I now know that I know almost nothing about "energy", and I no longer care.

I do Aikido because I must. Just 'cause.

I thought at one point that that was just stupid ( I think maybe that's still not out of the question), but then I asked Kato Sensei what kept him doing Aikido after 40 plus years of it. His answer was maybe a bit more profound than mine, but I think almost the same. He said that he watched Osensei one time and he was "taken", there was simply no choice.

When I was a young guy, I read one of Tohei's books after reading Terry Dobson's story about the drunk and the old man on the train, and a seed was planted. About 15 years later, when the pupil was ready, so to speak, I watched some classes (maybe just one, I don't remember), and Osensei's art, through two generations of his students, "took" me.

I'd love to have a story about how I've gotten "spiritual", but I think I've actually gotten to be more of a grouchy old curmudgeon. I eat beef 2-3 times a week, I drink 2-3 big cups of Starbuck's finest every day, I get pissed off on a regular basis, I can be brought to the brink of homicide at work quite readily, and yet, I think I've improved myself inside somehow.

I can defend myself, but I started being able to do that, so no progress there.

I can do technique to newer people, but the people who were good when I started, seem better now, so progress there seems minor.

If I've made any progress at all, it's in being able to know that I train, just cuz.
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Old 10-31-2001, 09:19 PM   #17
guest1234
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1. after each class I try to write down the techniques we practiced, and any new points I'd learned. Progress is
a)being able to write down a new point
b)having remembered to do something I'd previously written down

2. quick attitude check at the 'thank you' bow to make sure I'm more positive than in my 'please train' bow

3. then there's always ikkyo and irmi nage...
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Old 10-31-2001, 11:55 PM   #18
Erik
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Mike's post hit the core of the issue here. I think, maybe, it seems like, I'm pretty sure, but....

Believe it or not, and my home dojo won't believe it either, I am convinced it can be used as a venue for growth. Not too long ago I was visiting a dojo and they were doing the first phase of shomen uchi irimi nage where uke strikes and you move into the blend and repeat. What was interesting to me is that my partner couldn't tolerate being in the blind spot. He would strike and jump back to strike again. The reverse happened when I attacked. I didn't watch everyone but I'd bet most of them did it that way.

It was familiar to me because I remember being that way. It used to terrify me to be that close to a guy. Worse, I was expected to be close to them and open myself to them. Could I just run away, now, please! Now, I'm quite comfortable in that place and was annoyed that my partner wouldn't let me practice hanging out there.

So, something changed. Thing is, I don't credit Aikido for it, exactly. My belief is that Aikido spiritual development is a lot like throwing enough stuff against the wall and hoping something will stick. If I do 10,000 more irimi nages...just shugyo, baby! Good luck, but I think you need a better plan to get whatever it is. That guy is certainly going to do 10,000 more irimi nages if he stays at it long enough. If he gets this, and maybe it doesn't matter to him, I think it will be by accident. I got it because I was in a place that emphasized it. Of course, maybe he finds 10 better things which I never find.

But, therein lies the problem. I don't think any of us, myself certainly included, really know what we are doing. So, we train, do our 10,000 nikyo's and hope for the best. Then, maybe, if we get lucky at 9,994 something really cool happens and we think about how great Aikido is. Stupid guy, if you'd only been doing sankyo you would have only had to do 4,334 of them and another cool thing would have happened at 6,719.

I recognize this may seem a bit lame in a sense, but Aikido is often credited for a great deal. Here in the Bay Area, I'm often stunned at what it can supposedly do. It just seems to me that there ought to be a way to measure and test it's promise as both a martial art and a spiritual art.
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Old 11-01-2001, 06:13 AM   #19
ian
 
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Hi Erik,
yeh, you got a good point. 'Progress' can mean getting better at what your own sensei does.

Having travelled around to quite a few dojos I've found that you are (nearly) always crap in the eyes of a new sensei 'cos you do it differently. Eventually you get indoctrinated into their way of doing it and suddenly you've 'improved'. I quite like Yamada's attitude, where he allows people to do whatever 'style' they want, as long as they seriously listen and consider what he is teaching.

Once someone has a grasp of the techniques I think they MUST see other instructors and try to figure out why other instructors do things differently.

When we look at progress (in my view) we're trying to assess how much better someone is at defending themselves (specifically using aikido). In reality this is a very knotty and complex problem. However I don't think students (once they have got a grasp of technique) should just practise without any thought. I think as students of aikido we have to always question ourselves and what we are actually doing. This is why I personally think aikido HAS TO BE done with self-defence in mind, otherwise it is just a dance where the steps don't really matter and can be changed to suit yourself, rather than a pressing self-defence concern.*

All good instructors I know always have and still do develop their technique and question themselves.

Ian

*(as I've said in another e-mail, I think different 'styles' come about because of different ways we think about or simulate an attack i.e. strong stationary or fast, flowing.)

Last edited by ian : 11-01-2001 at 06:24 AM.
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Old 11-01-2001, 06:23 AM   #20
ian
 
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P.S. progress is a very odd thing in that sometimes you lay the groundwork for progress during those times you are on a plateau. For example, my aikido has had a radical change recently through a week long training course with an excellent sensei. At first I thought his technique was quite poor, then (after 4 days) I realised what he was actually doing and I was hooked. My aikido has changed radically since, but if it wasn't for the fact that I've done sankyo 6,719 times (well it feels like it) I would have been concentrating on where I was standing, what my hands were doing etc too much to motice what was really going on in the technique.

i.e. its only when you can do your aikido without having to think about it, when you can actually start to think about it again.

Ian
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