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Old 11-03-2009, 01:53 AM   #1
Nafis Zahir
 
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Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

Someone I know had a conversation with an instructor, who on paper, has a very authentic ranking of 7th dan & Shihan. But that instructor has gone out on his own, having gotten tired of all the politics in Aikido and the fact that rank is often just "given out". The person I know has been feeling the same way and thought about going independent and it was suggested to him to leave off ranking all together. The person told the Shihan that people always want to see your credentials before deciding to train under you. The Shihan replied, "Let your technique be your calling card". So my question to everyone here is, would you train under a Sensei who had no "rank". If you went to see this person and could really tell he had skills and you were impressed, would it matter to you that he does not have any ranking from any organization? Would you need to see any ranking he held from a previous organization, or would his technique be enough for you?

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Old 11-03-2009, 02:29 AM   #2
justin
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

In theory I believe what he says is correct, however these days of the internet a lot of people do there research on the internet first then make a check list of who to go and see given there own personal check list and I would bet rank would be on most beginners check list along with times of training, costs, distance to travel and so on, so a lot of good instructors with lots to offer would fail at the first hurdle without being given a chance.
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Old 11-03-2009, 02:42 AM   #3
Mark Uttech
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

Onegaishimasu, I personally believe that most people would want their own rank to be authentic, and would want to be part of a lineage that goes all the way back to the founder of an art; thus, they would something that is true and real.

In gassho,

Mark

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Old 11-03-2009, 05:26 AM   #4
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

I don't care with rank. My MMA instructor in Germany showed up one day with a Gi and Black Belt on. I said, "hey, I didn't know you were a black belt in BJJ...who'd you get it from".

He said, "no one...I hate BJJ, I figured I'd kicked enough black belts ass in traveling around the world that I probably was a black belt, so I started wearing one, as soon as someone proves me wrong I will take it off."

The dude is pretty good and it was evident...so it made no difference to me...he knows much more than I about what we were working on.

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Old 11-03-2009, 09:04 AM   #5
mickeygelum
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

Would I train under a teacher that had no rank and/or affiliation? Absolutely.

Just my opinion, but too much emphasis is placed on ranking. It particularly annoys me when folks speak of "number of hours" of training until their next promotion. Or individuals that fulfill the minimum requirements for a specific rank, then you have a misleading credential around their waist.

Saturday, I was lightly sparring a black belt that is senior to me, and who I had never seen fight. I know this man's background and who he trained under, thier abilities are quite good. I was amazed that he had no grasp of body mechanics. I used fundemental skills and concepts, he was lost. Had I been a spectator seeking a school, I would have left and not returned.

As it already has been stated, and I concur, "Let your technique be your calling card".

Too many Walter Mittys in this world...

Train well,

Mickey
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Old 11-03-2009, 09:39 AM   #6
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

Quote:
Nafis Zahir wrote: View Post
Someone I know had a conversation with an instructor, who on paper, has a very authentic ranking of 7th dan & Shihan. But that instructor has gone out on his own, having gotten tired of all the politics in Aikido and the fact that rank is often just "given out". The person I know has been feeling the same way and thought about going independent and it was suggested to him to leave off ranking all together. The person told the Shihan that people always want to see your credentials before deciding to train under you. The Shihan replied, "Let your technique be your calling card". So my question to everyone here is, would you train under a Sensei who had no "rank". If you went to see this person and could really tell he had skills and you were impressed, would it matter to you that he does not have any ranking from any organization? Would you need to see any ranking he held from a previous organization, or would his technique be enough for you?
There's a difference between No Rank and Independent. I have no problem with Independent. But there are a lot pf folks out there who claim rank that is bogus... wouldn't train with them, for a variety of reasons.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 11-03-2009, 09:54 AM   #7
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
There's a difference between No Rank and Independent. I have no problem with Independent. But there are a lot pf folks out there who claim rank that is bogus... wouldn't train with them, for a variety of reasons.
This is a problem I think in arts like Aikido, Tai Chi, Yoga etc...things that are somewhat hard to define by the average person.

The Yoga Community has partially solved that problem through a RYT designation.

Martial Arts? well, YMMV, and I think that Affiliation and background kinda account for alot wrt this issue.

One of my big concerns for beginners is safety and prescription.

Even if you have years of experience and lineage I have found that we in the MA community are very poor stewards many times in this area.

It is not a requirement of most systems to study basic kineseology. There are no classes on how to deal with 40 year olds that are out of shape and how to build "prescriptive" developmental plans of study. We are shady at best on risk and assessment.

No, we simply require a waiver be signed and have them join the class at let that person be the judge on what they can and can not do. I believe we are fortunate that most times it works out in our favor...but I think as a "profession" we can do much better than this.

I think what we do in most dojo's is fine for the requirements to be Yudansha, however as a collective society as martial arts professionals that want to supervise and lead programs, dojo, courses etc...that we can do a better job of mentorship and ensuring that standards are codified and maintained.

If we don't, I think eventually that states and local governments in the US at least will do that for us as they have with most areas of "allied professionals".

It is always better to self govern and set your own codes of conduct and ethics etc than to allow someone else to come in and do it.

Okay...way off on tangent I know.....

but damn, anyone can be a black belt, anyone can open a dojo, and Caveat Emptor" applies.

I think we can do much better than that!

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Old 11-03-2009, 09:59 AM   #8
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

I would train under someone if I thought they were good. I didn't go around checking the ranks of sensei's before I went and checked out the class. Turns out, the one I am at has a great sensei and he is one of the higher ranked in the NW with Birankai, but we didn't know that till months after beginning our training. Rank is over-rated I think (though I am not saying there isn't value to it).

~Look into the eyes of your opponent & steal his spirit.
~To be a good martial artist is to be good thief; if you want my knowledge, you must take it from me.
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Old 11-03-2009, 09:59 AM   #9
Amir Krause
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

Today - no problem, I know what I am looking at and for.

As a beginner - huge problem - I would have used rank as a criteria sinc eI would not have been able to judge the technique by myself, nor have any idea who is just palying around and who really knows what he is doing.

Amir
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Old 11-03-2009, 10:10 AM   #10
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

Quote:
Amir Krause wrote: View Post
Today - no problem, I know what I am looking at and for.

As a beginner - huge problem - I would have used rank as a criteria sinc eI would not have been able to judge the technique by myself, nor have any idea who is just palying around and who really knows what he is doing.

Amir
I agree. When I look for a dojo to train, I don't ask for the instructor's rank. I usually check out the instructor's techniques. If he or she is good, I will come back. If not, they'll never see me again. I could care much less who they are affiliated with.
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Old 11-03-2009, 10:10 AM   #11
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

If a guy has ability and can teach you something, if interested, you should learn. Rank is political.

However if you don't know anything (most people seeking a teacher) and can't tell if the instructor is knowledgeable or not, then rank is a nice to defer too.

Rank is ideally the opinion of someone who knows something about martial arts (Aikido, Judo, Kendo etc.). This person or group of people gives rank as their acknowledgment of a given person's ability.

So if the people giving the rank are not reputable neither is the rank.

If you don't know anything, or are unsure, it's best to do some research. If you are truly interested in studying something specific like Aikido, then find someone in your area who is certified by a known organization.

As you become more informed you can pay less attention to rank, and more to your own judgement.

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Old 11-03-2009, 10:16 AM   #12
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

Technique would definately be enough for me, although when I was first looking for a dojo to train at, none of the handful I visited let me feel things out first...not that I could have necessarily been able to tell much difference then. Ledyard sensei brings up a good point about people who lie about rank. It certainly would beg the question, though I can see why some people might simply for the sake of business. It would be dubious, but for practicality's sake people do all kinds of odd stuff. I could forgive something like that if it proved beneficial. I'm also at a very early stage of development so I could probably more easily learn something new from a larger number of people than someone with years of consistant training.
As the teacher of the great and eminent Bruce Lee Leroy once said, "belts are for holding your pants up."

Last edited by mathewjgano : 11-03-2009 at 10:19 AM.

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 11-03-2009, 10:31 AM   #13
ramenboy
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

Quote:
Amir Krause wrote: View Post
Today - no problem, I know what I am looking at and for.

As a beginner - huge problem - I would have used rank as a criteria sinc eI would not have been able to judge the technique by myself, nor have any idea who is just palying around and who really knows what he is doing.

Amir
+1
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Old 11-03-2009, 11:17 AM   #14
DonMagee
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

This is a problem unique to non-competitive martial arts.

In competitive arts, this problem does not exist.

How did I pick a boxing coach? There are no black belts in boxing. There are no teaching certificates that say this man is a master boxing coach.

No I looked at his fight experience. Then I looked at his students fight experience. The guy was producing winning competitors, and was well recommended by locals. Good enough for me.

How did I pick my bjj coach? When I started training with him he was 'only' a brown belt. Coming from traditional martial arts, a brown belt wasn't that impressive. But his students were winning MMA matches and his guys that were 'only' blue belts (hell even most of the white belts) cleaned my clock. There was no question this guy had stuff to teach me.

I recently started teaching a martial arts club (submission grappling) at the college where I work. I'm 'only' a brown belt in judo and a blue belt in bjj. I've given up on judo for political reasons, but I'm still an active practitioner and competitor in bjj. I've seen some guys question my authority the first time they come in. But their experience rolling with me quickly clears up any questions as to my level of experience.

So to bring this back into prospective, how do you really honestly know your instructor is good at a non-competive martial art? Simply put, you can't. All you can have is faith. Having a black belt around your waist will no doubt jump start that faith.

- Don
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein
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Old 11-03-2009, 11:23 AM   #15
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

True Don...however even within the BJJ communities we are concerned with myopic practices. Helio was very concerned about the focus. The big problem I see long term within BJJ is the fact that we have young guys that are winning and have the moves getting promoted and openning schools...in many cases this is definitely warranted...there are some very good prodigies out there.

On the other hand, are these guys really equipped to deal with long term development, transformative issues as people age and mature...what happens after you can no longer compete in BJJ?

Anyway a side subject but relevant too.

I think in Non-compettive arts..as alot of folks have elluded to, after a few years of study...you know who you want to study with, word of mouth, internet, reputation, feel etc.

Which is all fine I think.

I still think we can do a better job though than what we are doing than this process.

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Old 11-03-2009, 12:16 PM   #16
crbateman
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

IMHO, this is a complicated question with a simple solution. First, consider what he can teach you. This is a combination of what he knows, and how well he can transmit that knowledge to you. Remember that what he knows may or may not be a function of rank or affiliation. Second, consider what you need to learn, and whether rank or affiliation needs to be part of your future. If you have a match, problem solved. If not, move on.
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Old 11-03-2009, 12:40 PM   #17
SeiserL
 
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

Yes, but I would prefer some one with both skill and lineage.

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 11-03-2009, 02:14 PM   #18
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

I've already done it with several schools.

I think you can only sort to evaluate that sort of thing if you already have some experience. If you are brand new its hard to judge as you don't know what to look for.

Last edited by HL1978 : 11-03-2009 at 02:19 PM.
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Old 11-03-2009, 04:57 PM   #19
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

For me, rank - which am referring to as a credential - is tricky because I can learn from anyone with or without rank. I have learned stuff from laymen to masters. But, a credible credential (there is something redundant about that- a bit of a Mark Twain flavor there) from a credible school or organization is important.
Geez...no one wants a fly by night, or a fraud, or someone misrepresenting that art and/or giving out the wrong information.
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Old 11-03-2009, 05:17 PM   #20
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

In any Art...Their practice is the only measure...

I have met 35 year old 10th Dans who did not last five minutes with this fat old Aikido Nidan... As for my "rank" I have been a Nidan for a very long time but that does seem to stop higher ranking folks from working with me on occasion...and ditto for dudes below my rank... Some of these 25 year old BJJ Brown Belts are really good at sharing what they know...We all have something to learn from each other most of the time...

William Hazen
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Old 11-03-2009, 05:36 PM   #21
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

If I am training in a traditional art, I want to see a lineage. If I am training with an independent, I want to see a lineage. If I'm training with someone from an art that does not rank I will look at what they have to offer. Yes, rank does not mean someone is either good, or can teach. However, it is a start. If I'm going to spend my money I want to spend it on the real deal, not some inflated ego or some misfit that does not have the discipline to complete a training program. There are way too many frauds out there with lofty ranks they awarded to themselves. They can't hack being part of a disciplined art or they think they have it all "knowed up" and strike out on their own. They set up fancy names and titles., etc., etc. and then make themselves the head honcho who by bylaws is a megadan. But that's just me.
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Old 11-03-2009, 08:35 PM   #22
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

You know..here's a thought that was a part of a discussion I had with one of my instructors the other night.

I think a measure of success is not so much by his/her rank...but by how many students they have that seem to be pretty decent at whatever they are teaching.

There are alot of guys out there that can do some amazing and really cool stuff that will knock your socks off.

However, when you look at the output of what they produce..i.e their senior students...how good are they? How good are the folks that have been studying 5 years, 1 year?

Are they showing impressive and consistent quality...or is it spotty, non-exisitent...and you are simply geting a dog and pony show every time you train.

Rank means nothing if they cannot deliver and convey teaching.

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Old 11-03-2009, 08:36 PM   #23
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

A key that everyone is hitting on is skill, but there is just more than skill to rank. Isn't there tradition and stuff that needs to be considered too. Shouldn't linage reflect that too, and be equally important as skill?

Sure, instructor (sensei) X doesn't have a rank or lineage and is good, but is he well schooled in the traditions of the art, and all that? Does he care about it that, or only skill. Does he lack the knowledge of protocol that is practice through out the art, for example. What if one of his student(s) has an exchange with another group or dojo and find themselves embarrassed because they lack knowledge, like protocols, history, and stuff. Isn't important not to be embarrassed among peers?

Yea, someone who has the right schooling in lineage, and rank is very much important. It is adding to the measuring stick against fakers, frauds, and slackers.

I see it no different than any other profession. Skill is important but with out credentials your not going to be taken as seriously. It's like if you never go to boot camp, but are good at fighting it doesn't make you a solider. You may be a knowledgeable person in the field of law, but never went and got a law degree, you ain't going to be able to practice law. Yes, there are good and bad lawyers, but they all have to be licensed to practice. There is a good reason for this. It should be the same way for Aikido/martial arts that lineage and rank (reflecting accurately skill and knowledge) are important it just can't be all about skill.

Don't get me wrong skill is important, it should not be the only criteria of an instructor. Frankly, there is a mine field of people calling themselves martial artist who have no business doing so. Here is the point, both skill and lineage/rank provide assurance that what your are learning is genuine and authentic stuff. That a person isn't learning from someone who is abusing or messing with the art (not saying that everyone does that), or just focused on skill.

*look at the Kohai/Sempei thread in the Anonymous forum where a sensei can impliment that tradition, and not have proper understanding of it and mess other people up. Hopefully, the support of lineage can curb that rather than foster it.

Last edited by Buck : 11-03-2009 at 08:49 PM.
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Old 11-03-2009, 08:52 PM   #24
Michael Hackett
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

To somewhat echo Kevin's last comment, I remember hearing the adage that the true mark of an educational institution is the contribution to society made by it's graduates. Same sort of concept.

Michael
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Old 11-03-2009, 09:08 PM   #25
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Would You Train Under A "No Rank" Sensei?

Customs, courtesies, and protocol, and hakama and all that stuff...IMO serve one purpose.

To maintain good order and discipline and to allow us to reflect occassionally on heritage and the roots in order to form a common bond or identification amongst a group.

It is why martial or military organizations do things such as wear uniforms, salute, have ranks and protocols.

It is the only reason we have those things...good order and discipline which facilitate the ability, in the case of aikido, budo, or martial arts...to learn.

without skills, wisdom, and a body of knowledge...all this is complete garbage, a distractor, and a huge waste of everyone's time.

Those things are secondary and support the practice. We don't preserve them in a Gendai martial art for any other reason I believe.

In Koryu...well, I am not a Koryu guy so I can't comment on that a whole lot.

I see Koryu along the lines of a "monastic practice" we need people to preserve Koryu so we can remember the lessons and wisdom of the past as the world moves forward and we deal with distractions. Koryu arts are snapshots in time I think. the wisdom and "memory" archived in these systems are most useful to us.

However, that is a much different subject than the question at hand for "Lay People" such as myself and others. We simply do enough of this stuff to maintain the structure and promote a good learning environment. Anything more than that is really a distractor.

If these things are important to you...i'd consider going to a Koryu system...or maybe better...Society of Creative Ananhcronsim (SCA) where they really explore and interpret such things.

Of course, for many, they also find a deeper meaning in some of the practices and rituals such as breathing, meditation, etc to ready themselves for practice...or those things are the practice themselves!

However, for learning Gendai Budo...I think we do just enough to provide the correct environment and these things are the means to the end...and not the end.

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