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Old 02-06-2002, 11:46 PM   #1
MaylandL
Location: Western Australia
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What does a Dan Grade Really Mean

It seems that the courts require a higher duty of care for people who have trained in martial arts and have graded to a Dan Grade. They seem to take the view that they are "martial arts experts". The media reporting seems to encourage this view as well.

There are also times I get the questions of people who are beginning their training in martial arts or are not yet yundansha wanting to achieve their shodans or find out that I am a Dan Grade. The reactions range from indifference to reverence.

After I graded for shodan, I didnt really feel any different, just very very exhausted and sore. Not surprising since it took a little over 4 hours spread over two days.

I guess my question to people is what does a Dan grade actually mean? Is it a recognition of skill by your Sensei or is it a recognition of something more and deeper commitment to a way and philosophy of life?

Anyone got any thoughts on this?

Mayland
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Old 02-07-2002, 03:59 AM   #2
Jim ashby
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What does it mean

All a Dan Grade means to me is that I am even more acutely aware of how much I don't know. I hate the term "expert". My late father described anexpert as " An ex is a has been and a spurt is a drip under pressure". Wise man!!

Vir Obesus Stola Saeptus
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Old 02-07-2002, 04:00 AM   #3
Kami
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Question Re: What does a Dan Grade Really Mean

Quote:
Originally posted by MaylandL
I guess my question to people is what does a Dan grade actually mean?
YAMANTAKA : IMO, Nothing at all but for the organizations that promote and give value to them.
YOU decide what value you give to them.
(my opinion, for better or worse...)
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 02-07-2002, 06:12 AM   #4
Tim Griffiths
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What does a dan grade mean?

It means you're a student in the dojo, rather than a guest.

It means, in the words of Saotome (?) - you know how to tie your belt and not make a mess on the mat.

It means that people you practice with on courses won't give you so much unwanted advice (a good thing), or needed help (a bad thing).

It means tripping up, having trouble with rolling and shikko, taking longer to get changed, and needing more room in your gi bag, until you're used to your hakama.

It means more is expected of you. As was said to me, on the first technique I practiced after shodan - "Come on boy, pick it up. You're on the ladder now".

It means that now you have to really think why you're doing aikido.

It means you can justify going out and buying that shiny black silk gi with the red strips and golden dragon on the back. And growing a ponytail.

It means you can finally forget about all this grading rubbish and get on with practicing. Until next time.

Tim



As far as the courts go, you can easily argue that not all Dan grades are the same - your sensei will be happy to give evidence that a black belt in aikido doesn't mean you're a fighting expert - (now a karate shodan, on the other hand, can really kick ass ).

If one makes a distinction between the dojo and the battlefield, or being in your bedroom or in public, then when the time comes there will be no opportunity to make amends. (Hagakure)
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Old 02-07-2002, 07:48 AM   #5
Chuck.Gordon
Location: Frederick, MD
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Re: What does a Dan Grade Really Mean

Quote:
Originally posted by MaylandL
Hi Mayland! How's that tea coming?

It seems that the courts require a higher duty of care for people who have trained in martial arts and have graded to a Dan Grade.

So much of what we find is a result of the popular media, supported by folks who WANT a black belt to mean something. This is yet one more reason I eschew the kyu-dan grading system.

People outside the MA community (and WAY too many indise it for that matter) want to hang some pretty heavy crap on that simple strip of black cloth.

They don't realize that there is NO standardization (sometimes even within organizational entities), there's no universal tardstick of expertise.

And they want it to BE special ...

I guess my question to people is what does a Dan grade actually mean? Is it a recognition of skill by your Sensei or is it a recognition of something more and deeper commitment to a way and philosophy of life?

To me, a yudansha should have at least mastered the basics of his or her style. That implies no expertise, only a grasp. It's a badge awarded for time served and tickets punched.

It's the mark of a serious beginner ...

And on that topic, I also think many western dojo and organizations WAY over-inflate requirements for dan grades. This practice has led to much of the misconceptions about what rank ought to mean.

Chuck

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Old 02-07-2002, 08:52 AM   #6
jimvance
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Confused Re: What does a Dan Grade Really Mean

Quote:
Originally posted by MaylandL
Not surprising since it took a little over 4 hours spread over two days. ...Anyone got any thoughts on this?
Yeah, was this the minimum time in grade requirement (too little!? ) or the length of your promotional "test" (too much!? )?

Quote:
I guess my question to people is what does a Dan grade actually mean? Is it a recognition of skill by your Sensei or is it a recognition of something more and deeper commitment to a way and philosophy of life?
Nope.
It's my own parking spot.
It's my cuts in chow lines.
It's my immunity from the common cold.
It's my free movie passes.
It's my lunch money. Mine.
It's everywhere you want to be, without the visa bill.
Did I mention senior citizen discount?

Jim Vance
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Old 02-07-2002, 10:30 PM   #7
MaylandL
Location: Western Australia
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Quote:
Yeah, was this the minimum time in grade requirement (too little!? ) or the length of your promotional "test" (too much!? )?
The time between the 1st Kyu and Shodan was about 18 months of regular training (a little over 6 hours a week)

The actual time to do the shodan "test" in front of sensei was about 4 hours. Had to demonstrate lots of techniques, use of ken and jo, multiple attacks, defense against tanto, ken and jo, and randori with other yudansha. This was the test for promotion and took about 4 hours spread over 2 days.

I remember a reading a previous post about the shodan tests/gradings and how much time they take. The times varied.

Hope this clarifies.

Mayland
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Old 02-08-2002, 02:49 AM   #8
ian
 
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Not wanting to get in discussions about image - but since most 1st Dan grades wear a black belt and can wear a hakama it is natural for new students to look up to them. Therefore most reasonable sensei would not award a Dan grade to someone who is not a good example of commitment to aikido and of some ability in the art (such that new students may model themselves on them).

However, as said previously, I think its what it means to you. For me, it meant a sense of responsibility to make sure my aikido kept to a good standard, and to work on improvement, as well as set a good example to other students.

Ian
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Old 02-08-2002, 09:22 AM   #9
Edward
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Hi!

I am not a Shodan and I have never been since I have the rather bad habit of switching to another art as soon as I reach 1st Kyu.

But this time it seems I am hooked to Aikido so let's see.

I have the impression that a black belt means much more in the West than in Japan. In Japan it is easily and quickly achieved and it just means "first rank", that's all. In fact Aikido path just starts after Shodan.

In the West, we tend to believe that a black belt is an expert in MA but it is not the case.

However, since we work much harder than the Japanese to get black belts, I did notice that usually people practicing outside of Japans have a good technical advantage over the Japanese.

(By Japanese I mean aikidoka of any nationality training in Japan)

Cheers,
Edward
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Old 02-08-2002, 10:07 AM   #10
PeterR
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by Edward
However, since we work much harder than the Japanese to get black belts, I did notice that usually people practicing outside of Japans have a good technical advantage over the Japanese.

(By Japanese I mean aikidoka of any nationality training in Japan)
I seem to remember working pretty hard to get my Shodan and I dare say that technically Honbu product can hold their own against anyone.

Shodan - does however mean beginning level. It is the point where you become a student of Aikido rather than a club member. Yeah I know we all consider ourselves students of Aikido long before Shodan but its a rubicon.

By the way that's the reason I think setting Shodan as a goal is not a bad thing - its a transformational focus.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 02-08-2002, 10:34 AM   #11
erikmenzel
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For as far as I understood it shodan means that you (are supposed to) know not to shite next to the kamiza.

Erik Jurrien Menzel
kokoro o makuru taisanmen ni hirake
Personal:www.kuipers-menzel.com
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Old 02-08-2002, 11:21 AM   #12
jimvance
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Quote:
Originally posted by erikknoops
...means that you (are supposed to) know not to shite next to the kamiza...
I hope this is a typo. Been watching Braveheart again, I guess.

Jim Vance
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Old 02-08-2002, 09:48 PM   #13
MaylandL
Location: Western Australia
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Thank you all for your comments. I thinkI've got a lot of food for thought. I raised this thread to get some feedback about the sort of response I may wish to give people about the significance of achieving the Shodan without de emphasising it or devaluing it. Its really to put it in the right context. At the Dojo, there have been some students who have asked about the shodan grading and what that actually means as well as my friends who know I do aikido.

Its certainly the beginning of a wonderful journey of discovery about aikido.

Thanks for your comments.

Btw Chuck the tea is fine and if you are ever downunder I'd be happy to share a cup

Mayland
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Old 03-03-2002, 05:42 AM   #14
Reuben
 
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Well when I got my sho dan black belt. My sensei's wife who's a 5th dan said, your training has just started which I really believe.

I think instead of black belt being a sign of proficiency, it's more like you got the basics and the physical aspect now it's time to move to the 'hidden' aspect of Aikido. Like ki extension, timing and intuition and of course kokyu.

So yes I agree with the former posts about this.

And there was an interview carried out in the malaysia's aikikai magazine and it was talking about the importance of gradings. It was a very political thing and i just have the feeling they wanted to make my sensei look bad.

My sensei said yes it was important cause it encourages people to work harder and gives them a goal to work toward to.

And then they took other respected shihan's opinion and they were all saying no.

I think they weren't really saying no as they were saying how it should not be a judge of standard of your Aikido. However if it helps encourage people to work harder, it's more like a means toward an end, why not? Now some ppl may argue that true aikidoka won't care about this, but how many ppl can consider themselves true aikidoka? Or is there such thing as true aikidoka? And is it really wrong to feel good about achieving something? Don't tell me none of u black belts felt the elation of being able to wear that hakama or putting on the black belt for the first time. For me, it was the time i bought my first real hombu gi. It was a great feeling and I felt that i did something worthwhile.

belt rankings were introduced to help popularize Aikido and I believe Sensei only gave certificates of proficiency.

So a black belt is just more of a personal thing to me. A physical manifestation of my satisfaction you might say. At least i can say i've gone through that and got through it and the black belt is my symbolic reward of moving to the next level. Do i regret getting a black belt? No and i don't think we should deny anyone that feeling of happiness when you get through an important exam.
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Old 03-28-2002, 09:39 PM   #15
zoobie
Dojo: aikido of madison
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here's what a master teacher says;

Yudansha Ranking, by Mitsugi Saotome
Written ca. 1986 for an ASU newsletter
Yudansha ranking is given for many reasons, not just technical ability. Just because a person receives a certain yudansha rank does not mean that he or she has attained that ability at that moment. It means that I feel the person is on the threshold and will grow into that rank with the pressures of added responsibility.
Of course, receiving a promotion to any yudansha rank presupposes a certain technical proficiency. But this alone is not enough. My eyes see differently when I watch a student practice. I see that student's personality as well as his or her growth. I often know what kind of special difficulties the student has had to overcome. I have a good idea how much that person has done for his or her group, how much responsibility has been shouldered and how much he or she has done to help others. I know that person's social and spiritual growth and leadership abilities.

I've been asked many times how a student should train and with what goals in mind for each yudansha level. Most of this cannot be put into words and must come from the individual student's heart as he or she grows in understanding; but I can give you a little guidance.


To train for shodan:
You are training to become a beginner, no longer just a guest in the dojo, but a student with very real responsibilities. One must study the basic technical form and basic physical principle until the correct movement is automatic and feels natural.

To train for nidan:
The power of movement must be emphasized and developed. The functional reality of technique must be explored and an understanding developed of what really works and why.

To train for sandan:
The student must develop an understanding of aiki principle and begin to break out of technique.

To train for yondan:
The student must discover the philosophy of aiki principle and how it relates to technique. The technical form must be deeply refined according to this understanding and the student must seriously begin to develop the art of training others. Personal training is not enough. The student must understand social responsibility.

To train for godan:
One must make aiki principle a direct part of his or her life, developing an awesome spirit, leadership qualities and the spiritual and social application of aiki principle. A complete spontaneity of technique must develop which is no longer technique but the principle which underlies technique. There must be, at this point, a complete dedication to the art and a great social and spiritual growth. A growth which produces not a narrow local concern for one dojo or one area, but an active concern for all students and all people of the world. Throughout all these years of training, your physical, mental, social and spiritual understanding and power must steadily progress. The spontaneous application of aiki must progress. If you stop training on any one of these levels, your Aikido will no longer grow.
Just putting in your time has no meaning. The quality and intensity of your training, the discoveries you make each day, these things have meaning. You must train hard and discover the answer for yourself.


masakatsu agatsu


We do not rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training
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Old 03-29-2002, 03:33 AM   #16
Mares
Location: Australia
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Re: here's what a master teacher says;

Quote:
Originally posted by zoobie
Yudansha Ranking, by Mitsugi Saotome
Written ca. 1986 for an ASU newsletter
Yudansha ranking is given for many reasons, not just technical ability. Just because a person receives a certain yudansha rank does not mean that he or she has attained that ability at that moment. It means that I feel the person is on the threshold and will grow into that rank with the pressures of added responsibility.
Of course, receiving a promotion to any yudansha rank presupposes a certain technical proficiency. But this alone is not enough. My eyes see differently when I watch a student practice. I see that student's personality as well as his or her growth. I often know what kind of special difficulties the student has had to overcome. I have a good idea how much that person has done for his or her group, how much responsibility has been shouldered and how much he or she has done to help others. I know that person's social and spiritual growth and leadership abilities.

I've been asked many times how a student should train and with what goals in mind for each yudansha level. Most of this cannot be put into words and must come from the individual student's heart as he or she grows in understanding; but I can give you a little guidance.


To train for shodan:
You are training to become a beginner, no longer just a guest in the dojo, but a student with very real responsibilities. One must study the basic technical form and basic physical principle until the correct movement is automatic and feels natural.

To train for nidan:
The power of movement must be emphasized and developed. The functional reality of technique must be explored and an understanding developed of what really works and why.

To train for sandan:
The student must develop an understanding of aiki principle and begin to break out of technique.

To train for yondan:
The student must discover the philosophy of aiki principle and how it relates to technique. The technical form must be deeply refined according to this understanding and the student must seriously begin to develop the art of training others. Personal training is not enough. The student must understand social responsibility.

To train for godan:
One must make aiki principle a direct part of his or her life, developing an awesome spirit, leadership qualities and the spiritual and social application of aiki principle. A complete spontaneity of technique must develop which is no longer technique but the principle which underlies technique. There must be, at this point, a complete dedication to the art and a great social and spiritual growth. A growth which produces not a narrow local concern for one dojo or one area, but an active concern for all students and all people of the world. Throughout all these years of training, your physical, mental, social and spiritual understanding and power must steadily progress. The spontaneous application of aiki must progress. If you stop training on any one of these levels, your Aikido will no longer grow.
Just putting in your time has no meaning. The quality and intensity of your training, the discoveries you make each day, these things have meaning. You must train hard and discover the answer for yourself.

WOW!!!
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Old 03-29-2002, 08:32 PM   #17
Abasan
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I'm going to print what zoobie posted there for my aspiration list.

The question now is,

is a mudansha training with all those flowing and 'aiki' techniques doing nothing more than a go kart racer in an F1 car? Shouldn't we just stick to basics then?

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 04-01-2002, 11:02 PM   #18
MaylandL
Location: Western Australia
Join Date: Sep 2001
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Blush!

I've had some time to reflect on this for a while after Igarashi Sensei conducted a seminar over the easter break. IT just goes to show how much more there is to learn and how important training and understanding is to being a yundansha.

I agree that there is too much importance placed on rank. The main thing is, regardless of whether you are a mudansha or yudansha, whether you are enjoying training and enjoying aikido. Yes, the ranking system provides a goal to be acheived, but as has been already posted, there is no form of standardisation on rankings.

I dont think the issue is training for the next rank but training to gain a deeper and more profound understanding of aikido. As for comparing mudansha to go carts in a F1 race, I'm not sure that's a fair comparison. IMHO, as aikidoka we train to constantly improve and to gain that deeper understanding and appreciation of aikido. The ranking system is a way to measure progress (agreed), nothing more, nothing less.

I'm not sure what the answer is or whether there is an answer. I'm still thinking on this one and what Igarashi taught over the easter break.

Mayland
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