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Old 02-26-2008, 03:23 PM   #1
Justin Bree
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Training Problems after Shodan

Hi All,

I have seen the thoughtful and reasoned commentary posted in other threads so I thought I would seek the collective guidance of all with regards to my little problem.

I graded to Shodan in January this year and since then I feel as though I have been sliding backwards from a technical perspective. Techniques that I once performed without any real thought no longer feel 'comfortable' and I find myself struggling for comfort with the basics on some days.

I am still training as often as I did before and I know it is difficult to objectively assess your own progress however this constant 'backwards' feeling is a real concern to me.

I have experienced plateaus during training before but not like this.

Is this type of post-Shodan blues normal? Any suggestions on how I might overcome the problem?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 02-26-2008, 03:49 PM   #2
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Training Problems after Shodan

I think you're likely to run into this quite a bit as you go forward. Maybe not specific to shodan...just to setting high standards, perhaps.

As I go forward, my criteria also change. So what was once acceptable, or even preferrable, is now, not so much.

Pretty much like growing up.

Best,
Ron (don't get discouraged, just keep going)

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 02-26-2008, 04:15 PM   #3
Keith Larman
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Re: Training Problems after Shodan

It's funny, I was thinking about that very thing recently. I was explaining it to a student who is struggling right around at Shodan. What was explained to me when I hit Shodan is that I had finally attained a point where I was ready to learn. In other words I had a grasp of the breadth of the curriculum, but now needed to work on the depth and integration of all that. I was officially a beginner. And I felt like that.

What was the Mark Twain quote?

Quote:
When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.
I'd add to that quote that now that I'm in my mid 40's I'm astounded at how little I knew when I was 21... So projecting forward, well, I can't even imagine how much more I'm going to have to struggle with from now on...

The same thing maps quite well to aikido training. Shodan is really just a beginner. If you ever think you've got it all figured out, well, you've either attained enlightenment or you're deluded. I'd tend to think the latter. So train more. And don't worry about it. It is natural and normal because now comes the hard part...

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Old 02-26-2008, 04:19 PM   #4
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Training Problems after Shodan

Keith said that soooo much better than I did.

Ah Shucks!

B,
R

Ron Tisdale
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"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 02-26-2008, 04:22 PM   #5
Keith Larman
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Re: Training Problems after Shodan

I'll add an observation based on my work in studying the Japanese sword. I remember asking someone a question about how I should do something. He thought for a while but ended up saying "you know, I could try to explain it to you but you don't know enough yet to realize that your question is actually trivial." That puzzled me for a long time. Then a year or two later I was working on something and that very same problem came up and I realized that I knew exactly what I needed to do -- I had enough foundational context built up to understand exactly how trivial (or maybe better it was something that didn't make sense to talk about extracted from the larger context) it was.

With each "aha!" moment where I suddenly "see" something in a sword that I had never seen before I am ready to see 10 more things I was unable to see before. Then discovering each of those 10 things gives 10 new things each for 100 new things. So those 100 things each open the window to...

You get the idea... You'll start getting "aha" moments where you think you're actually going backwards. The reality is that you're moving forward, you're just starting to become equipped to see all those things you never noticed you were doing wrong before...

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Old 02-26-2008, 04:38 PM   #6
Mark Uttech
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Re: Training Problems after Shodan

Just beginning aikido is a real beginning. Beginning shodan is another real beginning. Some of it comes from our expectations about what being a yudansha should 'mean'. I remember telling one friend that after she became shodan, "now what?" becomes a real question.

In gassho,

Mark

- Right combination works wonders -
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Old 02-26-2008, 06:40 PM   #7
Stefan Stenudd
 
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The black belt disappointment

I was going to point out what Keith Larman put so well:
Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
The reality is that you're moving forward, you're just starting to become equipped to see all those things you never noticed you were doing wrong before...
It happens to most people, when they have passed the beginner stage. Their aikido develops constantly, but their ability to see its shortcomings develops faster - so they think that they get worse.
Don't worry about it. If you just try to remember how your aikido was several months or a year ago, you can see that you have improved.

Another thing about getting shodan:
It's almost like a rite of passage, from mudansha to yudansha, and putting that black belt on.
The student who has longed for this moment is bound to feel some disappointment. You put on a black belt, but nothing else changes that much. You're not noticeably better than you were the day before. You can only go on with practice as usual.
Lots of people tend to lose inspiration, maybe even quit training, at this point. I think it is because they struggled to reach this goal, and found no pot of gold, nothing spectacular happening to them when they put on the black belt.
That's a pity, since the yudansha level is actually where the real fun begins

Stefan Stenudd
My aikido website: http://www.stenudd.com/aikido/
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Old 02-26-2008, 07:00 PM   #8
crbateman
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Re: Training Problems after Shodan

Shodan is a renewed beginning. You are at a point where you begin to realize just how much you have yet to learn, while at the same time, you feel the pressure (real or otherwise) that comes from being at a level where those junior to you expect you to know. It's culture shock. However, it's much better then those who succumb to "shodanitis", where they suddenly think they know everything. The low (humble) road is definitely the one that leads to someplace useful.
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Old 02-26-2008, 10:34 PM   #9
giriasis
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Re: Training Problems after Shodan

I experienced the same thing getting ready for shodan. The more I trained, it seemed, the worse I got. I got incredibly frustrated, so frustrated I considered quitting aikido.

First, I decided not to quit. Then, I decided not to test. And I really mean I decided not to test. What happened as a result? My aikido suddenly was "on." But this did not mean I gave up working on improving my aikido. I think what happened is that I let go of the desire to test. By letting go of the desire to test, I let go of all the pressure. By letting go of the pressure, I let go of the frustration. And after my frustration was gone, my true aikido aikido revealed itself.

I'm really glad I did not quit. I knew that it was something I just had to work though and that getting through the frustration was the key not learning a bunch of techniques, which I knew anyway.

oh, and btw, I did test and pass.

Now, I can just have fun and train and not worry about testing for a while now. And, my shodan truely is a new beginning for me.

Last edited by giriasis : 02-26-2008 at 10:36 PM.

Anne Marie Giri
Women in Aikido: a place where us gals can come together and chat about aikido.
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Old 02-27-2008, 12:33 AM   #10
Justin Bree
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Tongue Re: Training Problems after Shodan

Hi All,

I can see I was right about receiving thoughtful advice in the forum.

The advice provided has prompted me to reconsider how I should look at my training after Shodan. I still enjoy training immensely and I am fortunate to have a great group of people to train with; I think I just need to consider your collective advice:

- Continue training
- Be patient and wait for the 'ah-ha' moments
- Remind myself that Aikido is a journey (I haven't found enlightenment yet Keith but I will continue looking for the switch).
- Approach this as a new beginning

I trained so hard to get to Shodan that I didn't really think about what would come after and your collective comments have prodded me to think about this in a different way - as an opportunity to be appreciated.

Many thanks to you all for taking the time to share your experience and for the advice you have provided.

It is greatly appreciated
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Old 02-27-2008, 12:38 AM   #11
crbateman
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Re: Training Problems after Shodan

Quote:
Anne Marie Giri wrote: View Post
Now, I can just have fun and train and not worry about testing for a while now. And, my shodan truely is a new beginning for me.
Take your own advice, and don't worry about testing ever. Nothing good comes from worry. Your instructors are excellent, and you should have plenty of motivation without resorting to worry. Having fun is a pleasant side-effect to training with joy and commitment.
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Old 02-27-2008, 01:23 AM   #12
Michael Meister
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Re: Training Problems after Shodan

Well, I have yet to meet someone, who didn't go through that phase after receiving their black belt. As a matte through that, I went through that phase after each grading, the only difference being, it took longer to get over it each time.
With each grade, you kind of open a new door, with many new and strange things behind. Keep training, enjoy it, and be prepared, when you get to 2nd dan, it probably will be just the same (or so I guess, not having been there yet).
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Old 02-27-2008, 03:25 AM   #13
Stefan Stenudd
 
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Dan and gender

I got worried when I read:
Quote:
Anne Marie Giri wrote: View Post
Then, I decided not to test. And I really mean I decided not to test.
It is my experience (as a member of the Swedish grading committee, as well as an instructor in my own dojo) that women are much less eager than men to try for the next grade. If I am allowed to generalize, women tend to see their weaknesses, while men see their strengths.
We need many more female yudansha, from shodan and all the way up.

Therefore I was delighted to read later on in Anne Marie's post that she did indeed get her shodan.

I think that it is particularly important for the development of aikido that those who don't care much about grades still get them.

Stefan Stenudd
My aikido website: http://www.stenudd.com/aikido/
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Old 02-27-2008, 04:04 AM   #14
Walter Martindale
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Re: Training Problems after Shodan

Quote:
Anne Marie Giri wrote: View Post
I experienced the same thing getting ready for shodan. The more I trained, it seemed, the worse I got. I got incredibly frustrated, so frustrated I considered quitting aikido.

First, I decided not to quit. Then, I decided not to test. And I really mean I decided not to test. What happened as a result? My aikido suddenly was "on." But this did not mean I gave up working on improving my aikido. I think what happened is that I let go of the desire to test. By letting go of the desire to test, I let go of all the pressure. By letting go of the pressure, I let go of the frustration. And after my frustration was gone, my true aikido aikido revealed itself.

I'm really glad I did not quit. I knew that it was something I just had to work though and that getting through the frustration was the key not learning a bunch of techniques, which I knew anyway.

oh, and btw, I did test and pass.

Now, I can just have fun and train and not worry about testing for a while now. And, my shodan truely is a new beginning for me.
Hear, Hear!! Training "for" a test - I used to do that. Now, it's practice, practice, practice, even though Carnegie Hall isn't a consideration ;-)

If one trains for the sake of learning and developing (in Aikido, anyway), the sensei should recognize when you're ready to grade, and put you forward for a test. I've said it before - a grading test is as much an evaluation of your sensei as it is of you...

Others have said it here, too - with a shodan you start to realize just how little you know.

Cheers. and - for the OP... Enjoy the journey,
Walter
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Old 02-27-2008, 07:05 AM   #15
SeiserL
 
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Re: Training Problems after Shodan

I think there is often a let down after any major accomplishment that you have worked hard for.
Now its time to focus on a new goal, the refinement of what you think you already know.
I have learned more, and continue to learn, since shodan.
Stay open.
Set a new direction (not just a goal).
Keep training.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 02-27-2008, 07:29 AM   #16
Amir Krause
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Re: Training Problems after Shodan

There might be any one of several factors affecting your feeling:

1. The feeling of High is over, as is the excitment about going to be tested.

2. Having practiced a lot lately, you actually advanced and came to a new realization. Such realizations have a tendency to take us a step or two back, until we understand how to utilize them in each technique.

3. People are now showing you thaty becoming a Shodan, has not changed you and you still have lots to learn.So they are giving you a harder time. (some people will act this way involunterily, assume you have a B.B. so you can deal with anything now).

Amir
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Old 02-27-2008, 01:41 PM   #17
Bronson
 
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Re: Training Problems after Shodan

I recommend the book Mastery by George Leonard. It deals with the stages of learning a long-term, essentially goaless practice. It points out the stages of learning that you're likely to go through so can recognize them for what they are and keep moving through them.

In our dojo we tell people that frustration is good. Frustration means you are learning new things. When everything works just right you are doing what you already know how to do. When things aren't working so well you (whether you know it consciously or not) are trying to integrate new things you've learned into your technique. In a sense it's like starting over again. It'll smooth out once those new things are integrated, but then there'll be something new to add and the cycle starts over again.

It's all part of the process. Learn to love it 'cause it's not going away

Bronson

"A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence."
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Old 02-27-2008, 05:16 PM   #18
James Davis
 
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Re: Training Problems after Shodan

After I passed my shodan exam, I was worried about the color of my belt. I worried that newbies would see my black belt and assume that I knew it all, when I new for darn sure that I didn't. When my sensei asked me to teach one night a week, I was mortified. I didn't think that I had any business teaching anyone, but I did as he asked.
Now, I'm a big cool sandan. I still haven't started feeling like a shodan yet! My sensei moved to Georgia and I'm the big cool senior instructor. Instead of worrying about all eyes being on me and trying to show perfect technique, I tell my students that we are learning this stuff together. A neat thing about humility is that it really takes the pressure off. When I'm relaxed, sometimes I actually have some techniques worth looking at!

Just relax.

"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 02-27-2008, 10:08 PM   #19
giriasis
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Re: Training Problems after Shodan

Quote:
Clark Bateman wrote: View Post
Take your own advice, and don't worry about testing ever. Nothing good comes from worry. Your instructors are excellent, and you should have plenty of motivation without resorting to worry. Having fun is a pleasant side-effect to training with joy and commitment.
Thanks for pointing that out. You'd think I'd remember that. And, I know I'm very fortunate to train where I do. I just need to trust them and their greater wisdom. Now, back to training -- I mean having fun.

Anne Marie Giri
Women in Aikido: a place where us gals can come together and chat about aikido.
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Old 02-27-2008, 10:23 PM   #20
Nick P.
 
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Re: Training Problems after Shodan

Quote:
Michael Meister wrote: View Post
Well, I have yet to meet someone, who didn't go through that phase after receiving their black belt. As a matte through that, I went through that phase after each grading, the only difference being, it took longer to get over it each time.
With each grade, you kind of open a new door, with many new and strange things behind. Keep training, enjoy it, and be prepared, when you get to 2nd dan, it probably will be just the same (or so I guess, not having been there yet).
It is the same after your nidan exam; did my test a couple of weeks ago. Yup, similar feelings as after shodan, just a little different somehow. Maybe I will be able to put my finger on it.....by sandan.
Apparently, also the same after rokudan if my sensei is not pulling my leg.

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Old 02-27-2008, 10:25 PM   #21
phitruong
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Re: Training Problems after Shodan

rob liberti once said "don't train for shodan, train for seventh dan". very good advice. lucky for me, the first seventh dan i encountered was Ikeda sensei. i set my sight on him since. however, he moves ahead at an alarming rate; it's sort of like chasing down a Ferrari with a model-T. i wish someone would tell him to slow down a bit.
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Old 02-28-2008, 05:28 PM   #22
Autrelle Holland
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Re: Training Problems after Shodan

When I tested for my Shodan, I got the best advice right after I was told that I passed. I was told that this means that I'm ready to start learning Aikido. I take that to mean that I'm expected to have a firm command and personal knowledge of the waza. I'm firmly committed to that. Lots of mistakes get made! And a lot more will. I'm sure you're doing just fine.
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Old 03-01-2008, 08:42 AM   #23
92ilyas
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Re: Training Problems after Shodan

Hi Justin you sound like you have truly become Shodan(first step) and you are now becoming more conscious of your movement. Also we never want to say we "know" this would be a grave error as it would close us off to further learning. My Sensei is 7th Dan and quite regularly almost every time she steps on the mat discover something new in movements and techniques she has practiced for over 40 years. I myself am Sandan spending anywhere from 15 to 20 hours on the mat each and every week for the last 8 1/2 years i even live in the dojo and i always make intention to approach each and every class as if it was my first, so my feeling is that for us "baby dans" the best thing we can say is "we know we do not know" and remain dedicated to our training. Peace and good luck.
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