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Old 05-15-2002, 05:36 PM   #1
akiy
 
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Character in Ranking

Quote:
Originally posted by Gopher Boy here
I think that there is a certain personal development that Sensei looks for in aspiring Shodans. The potential to be a responsible student, able to help the lower grades.

I only mention this (without any refernce to the time it takes) as there are a few posts on the technical abilities of Shodans and how they vary but I didn't see much on their personal development of character, which I feel must be equally important.

I hope, at least, then that I will make shodan as it will reflect for me a positive change in my character. With so many people saying that Aikido is not a violent art and if you want to maim people then do something else, is it unreasonable to think, then that a 'black belt' in Aikido signifies more that technical proficiency?
Back in September, this poll showed that 93% of folks responding thought that an aikido teacher's character mattered for them even if his/her techniques were effective.

But, I wonder how it goes in the other direction.

Do you think that a student's character should be taken into consideration as part of attaining rank in aikido?

(Sounds like an upcoming poll, huh?)

-- Jun

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Old 05-15-2002, 06:43 PM   #2
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Yes. I do believe that character should be considered. I believe this because students are a reflection of their teacher, and not just from a technical standpoint.

For lack of a better qoute, here's one from the Spiderman movie:

"With great power comes great responsibility."

Think of power as the techniques we learn, responsibility then, is the moral fortitude to understand the damage that those techniques can do if not executed properly.

LOUIS A. SHARPE, JR.
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Old 05-15-2002, 07:59 PM   #3
MaylandL
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These two webpages provide some interesting comments.

http://www.aikiweb.com/spiritual/goldfield2.html

http://www.aikidofaq.com/practice/yudansha_ranking.html

I think that Mitsugi Saotome Shihan(?) comments are particularly relevant in terms of what he looks for in his students.

On a more personal note I agree with Mr Louis Sharpe's comments about responsibility but I would take a slightly different spin on that. I think its to further your training and accept the fact that there is so much more to learn. An aikidoka's personality, character, commitment to the practice of aikido and its principles, the willingness to share what he/she knows and the humility to learn from others and the respects for others I think are very important aspects of yudanshas.

The short of it is that, yes I agree that all of the attributes of an aikidoka should be considered not just their technical ability.

My sensei promotes his students not just on technical proficiency alone but also on their "attitude" and character

Happy training and looking forward to reading other peoples comments on this topic.

Mayland
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Old 05-15-2002, 10:04 PM   #4
Greg Jennings
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Re: Character in Ranking

Quote:
Originally posted by akiy

Back in September, this poll showed that 93% of folks responding thought that an aikido teacher's character mattered for them even if his/her techniques were effective.

But, I wonder how it goes in the other direction.

Do you think that a student's character should be taken into consideration as part of attaining rank in aikido?

(Sounds like an upcoming poll, huh?)

-- Jun
1. I believe that the one goal of aikido training is to bring our demons out into the light of day where we can exorcise them.

2. My experience has been that aikido training largely succeeds in doing this. I.e., if a person is a jerk, it'll come out on the mat.

3. So, I believe that a person that is of poor character will exhibit poor behavior in the dojo.

4. If a person works through that and no longer exhibits the behavior, then all is well and they're deserving of promotion.

5. If a person continues to exhibit the poor behavior, they are failing in their training and are undeserving of promotion.

Best Regards,

Greg Jennings
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Old 05-15-2002, 11:04 PM   #5
Gopher Boy
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Nice to see something come of my comment! I would love to see the results of such a poll Jun - it would be very interesting!

I believe that there is an obvious level of proficiency in the techniques required of a Shodan. I also believe that the nature of Aikido is such that learning and practicing the techniques leads you to develop a better character.

Quite a lot of the Aikidoka on this forum say (when Aikido is compared / matched up against another MA) that the goal of Aikido is not that of being able to defend oneself but to develop love, harmony etc, etc... Considering this, I think it should ring through to the rankings of such an art.

By the amount of people who seem to adopt the above view, it would appear to be a fairly straight forward result, but somehow I think it wouldn't be.

Without trying to offend anybody, as I am only a newbie, I am wondering if this view is more of something to hide behind and put up in the face of a challenge rather than something to wave around with pride.

Before starting Aikido, I had looked into several other arts and had previously done a small ammount of some of them. I do not believe Aikido to be either the most effective or street practical art. So why do we do it? It gives us something that nothing else does. For me, that is more valuable than all the technical ability of any other art. Why else would I be here? After all - how will soemthing like Tae Kwon Do help me raise a child lovingly or resolve conflicts with only the strength of my character? Aikido helps us to better do things that really matter.

I wonder if anyone else feels the same or if I am just offending all the more seasoned Aikidoka. I apologise if I am, as I am trying to base my comments around posts to this forum.


Phill.

I only wish the lengths of my posts were indicitive of there quality!
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Old 05-16-2002, 12:26 AM   #6
MaylandL
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Quote:
Originally posted by Gopher Boy

Quite a lot of the Aikidoka on this forum say (when Aikido is compared / matched up against another MA) that the goal of Aikido is not that of being able to defend oneself but to develop love, harmony etc, etc... Considering this, I think it should ring through to the rankings of such an art.

By the amount of people who seem to adopt the above view, it would appear to be a fairly straight forward result, but somehow I think it wouldn't be.

Without trying to offend anybody, as I am only a newbie, I am wondering if this view is more of something to hide behind and put up in the face of a challenge rather than something to wave around with pride.

Hi Phil

How's the weather in Sydney

You have raised an interesting question. IMHO, Aikidoka strive to practice their art with Ueshiba's principles in mind. A godan said to me that aikido is different to other martial arts such as karate and tae kwon do from the perspective that aikido is about self development and improvement and not about comparison or contests with others. The Godan went on to say that its a life long journey of learning and gets bound up in your philosophy of life. I'm not sure that this is true for all practitioners but I feel comfortable with that statement. I train for personal development reasons.

Quote:

Before starting Aikido, I had looked into several other arts and had previously done a small ammount of some of them. I do not believe Aikido to be either the most effective or street practical art. So why do we do it? It gives us something that nothing else does. For me, that is more valuable than all the technical ability of any other art. Why else would I be here? After all - how will soemthing like Tae Kwon Do help me raise a child lovingly or resolve conflicts with only the strength of my character? Aikido helps us to better do things that really matter.
I think there would be people who would disagree that aikido is not street practical. Joe Thambu Sensei has adapted his aikido for his security business and regularly holds seminars on "self defence" applications. I am sure there are others in this forum who can provide their experiences and comments. My own experience is that its got me out of a couple of situations. I dont think any martial art can claim to be the most effective either.

I think its important to distinguish between training techniques and use in a self defence situation. There are a lot of emotional and physiological changes that happen very quickly during a self defence situation that martial arts training doesnt necessarily provide. I've heard too many times on the news or read newspaper reports of people that have been badly injured in their own driveways even though they have had martial arts training.

IMHO, there are many challenges for aikidoka in the practice of aikido. The notion of blending, harmonising and having a stillness of spirit are difficult concepts to train and to apply to self defence situations.

Its a really difficult one to comment on. I'm still coming to grips with what aikido is. Hope this provides further food for thought.

Happy training

Last edited by MaylandL : 05-16-2002 at 12:28 AM.

Mayland
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Old 05-16-2002, 12:35 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by Gopher Boy
After all - how will soemthing like Tae Kwon Do help me raise a child lovingly or resolve conflicts with only the strength of my character? Aikido helps us to better do things that really matter.
Don't think I am doing Aikido for lessons in childcare

The assumption about basing your promotion on character is that the person doing the promoting is qualified to judge and they themselves have a character that is well developed. I would also ask by what standard.

As Greg points out your character does show up on the mat and I do think your behaviour in the dojo has relevance but I get a real uneasy feeling when we start talking about character evalutions. Shades of street corner personality tests - gee you're deficient buy these courses.

Also not particularily happy with the statement that only Aikido is about personal developement. I would say that the majority of Japanese martial arts, either gendai or koryu, are about personal developement. As for effectiveness, all depends on the training and the practitioner - just like any art.

Last edited by PeterR : 05-16-2002 at 12:39 AM.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 05-16-2002, 12:46 AM   #8
Edward
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There are certainly some very interesting points in the above posts. But no one seems to acknowledge the most important factor in shodan gradings: POLITICS.

I have seen many cases of injustice where some very able aikidoka had to wait ages for their shodan grading, and were failed several times in the exam, because of their independent spirit, while other less talented aikidoka but with better a**-kissing abilities were granted this rank in no time.

Usually this CHARACTER excuse is given to justify the injustice as obviously all people attending the event can see that the technical level of the applicants is impeccable.

So I personally believe that the character issue has been already used and abused since the creation of aikido.

Aikido is a martial art not a religious order.
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Old 05-16-2002, 12:55 AM   #9
Gopher Boy
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Hi Mayland - good to see another Aussie! As usuall, Good ol' Sydney is throwing a whole lot of bizarre weather our way - beautiful 1 minute, torrential downpour the next (as in - right now, when I am about to leave work!)

Thanks for the insightful comments - food for thought indeed.

I think that the reason that you hear stories of martial arts practitioners getting assaulted and being able to do nothing about is a matter of practice. IMHO, of course. I would back a boxer to beat the snot out of a karateka of similar training years. One reason - experience. The boxer is more used to rocking with the blows and has experience with someone who is actually trying to hurt him/her. At least much more so that a karateka.

Though, it was heartening to hear that in Sydney last night (conveniently enough!) a lady who is to be attending a karate contest soon was assaulted / confronted by a burglar in her home. He was not the most happy chap when he left. (I presume in a divvy van!) Good to see there is still some right in the world. Actually, a good friend of my brother who is quite well versed (to the tune of 2nd dan) in Gojo Ryu Karate had his work robbed by a few guys. He eventually calmed down when faced with a knife. At which point 2 of the robbers had to be carried out.

But I digress. (Only to prove that I have nothing against Karate though!)

Blending and harmonising. I couldn't agree more.


Phill.
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Old 05-16-2002, 01:14 AM   #10
Gopher Boy
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Sorry to post again so soon but as stated in my last one - it is bucketing down outside and I am trying to delay going out there!

Thanks for the respone Peter - interesting points. I agree whole heartedly that judging character is a somewhat subjective thing and the question has to be asked - "who is this person to judge my character?". However, (and please excuse my naturally naive nature!) I would like to think that sensei is such a person. I, personally believe that our sensei (a shihan) is wonderful in this respect and seems to pass people at gradings with the confidence that they will grow into the new position - for all grades.

Then again, as has been brought up in so many posts, especially on the "how long till shodan" that this was taken from, it seems that the criteria for obtaining rank seems to be a fairly subjective thing as well. As said before - I am only commenting on the posts.

Sorry if I implied that only Aikido has such benefit - it wasn't intended and often I lose track of where I started when I write posts! Maybe (as an after thought,) I meant the specific kind of personal development - as each art would very likely change people in different ways. The self discipline often sited as a great benefit from karate, I do not find in my classes, but I find other things that, for me, I value more.

I like all these replies as they do (as Mayland said) give food for thought - which is always good. I like my ideas to be challenged, especially as a newbie. I like to speak honestly and get honest reactions - thanks for the feedback!


Keep at it - i am glad to have my Aikido development aided by you all!


Phill.
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Old 05-16-2002, 07:05 AM   #11
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Character

Character is such a subjective measurement. So much would go into the judgement.....Do we tend to ascribe more character to people we like or admire because of their skill set? I know plenty of high ranking yudansha who's personal lives are a mess but on the mat they have the best of character....and shouldn't character carry on into their personal lives?

And what of our role models for character? If you would believe the stories/rumours that float around, 3 of the ranking japanese shihan that reside in the states:

1 has a reputation for purposely hurting people

1 had a serious problem with drugs

1 had a variety of relationships with various girlfriends throughout the country.

Not to mention, many of the american sensei who at lower levels have used and abused students in the name of "aiki" and "budo".

Are these appropriate models for character?

The flip side of this is that there are plenty of sincere teachers out there who deal with character on a one to one basis. They get to know their students both as aikidoka and people.

Technique is one realtively clear cut critieria that can be measured and observed.

IMO, Character must be observed and measured internally by the individual.....

Until such time that the lack of apparent character makes itself apparent to the group.
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Old 05-16-2002, 09:17 AM   #12
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Aikido is advertized as a character building MA ...etc. etc. etc.

But it doesn't seem so successful in doing that. As Mark mentioned, I myself have rarely seen a high ranking teacher whom I would consider as my role model. Their aikido is great but they suck in the real life.

So I really don't think aikido does anything to improve character or morality or whatever magical powers some would like to give it.
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Old 05-16-2002, 10:16 AM   #13
thomson
 
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character...

Wow, interesting thread.
I suppose I'm one of the lucky ones. Our club sensei is a godan and is incredible person on and off the mat. Very good, powerful aikido, and a real gentleman. Christenham sensei has made a positive impact on many people, both in the club and outside.

That said, I agree with the notion that character should not be a factor in whether or not you advance in rank. Rank should be an indication of what you have learned and how well you perform aikido. If only we lived in a perfect world.

Last, I also believe that aikido can help you to become a better person if that is what you want out of it. Aikido is merely a tool, you determine how you apply it. If all you are looking for is techniques then thats all you will get out of it.

Mike

To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself. - Sun Tzu
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Old 05-16-2002, 10:17 AM   #14
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A couple of things to add here. When the 93% number came out I challenged it. I still think it's BS. This is a test for those of you in the USA but the rest of you can take it too.

Do you tell your children not to lie?
Many hands go up.

Do you think it's a bad idea if the boss sleeps with the employees?
Many hands go up.

What was Bill Clinton's approval rating?
Disconnect! Disconnect!

Seriously, whenever asked, I think everyone would stand up and say character counts. What are they gonna say?

"Character? Bah? My favorite training partners are jerks. They are the kind of guys who break your wrist when you look at them wrong. My sensei? I'm so proud of him. He was arrested for dealing crack. He's the son I should have had. My son's an honor student."

When push comes to shove, you have to look at what people do. And what they do is usually very different from what they say. Sorry if that sounds cynical. I don't think it is. I just don't think these types of questions are very good because they tend to produce a result different from what actually happens.

As an aside. One of the famous yoga teachers got himself in trouble for sleeping with his students. Seems yoga has a code of ethics for it's teachers. Imagine that.

Last edited by Erik : 05-16-2002 at 10:53 AM.
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Old 05-16-2002, 11:54 AM   #15
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Re: character...

Quote:
Originally posted by thomson

Our club sensei is a godan and is incredible person on and off the mat. Very good, powerful aikido, and a real gentleman. Christenham sensei has made a positive impact on many people, both in the club and outside.

Congratulations! You just secured your next grading exam

Just joking
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Old 05-16-2002, 12:00 PM   #16
Jim23
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--------------
Originally posted by PeterR

As Greg points out your character does show up on the mat and I do think your behaviour in the dojo has relevance but I get a real uneasy feeling when we start talking about character evalutions. Shades of street corner personality tests - gee you're deficient buy these courses.

Also not particularily happy with the statement that only Aikido is about personal developement. I would say that the majority of Japanese martial arts, either gendai or koryu, are about personal developement. As for effectiveness, all depends on the training and the practitioner - just like any art.


--------------

Yes, on both points. Regarding character, both my sensei are good, but are they role models for me outside the dojo? Not quite (maybe when they're a little older - maybe not).

Regarding the second point, it would be arrogant or immature to think otherwise.

--------------
Originally posted by Gopher Boy

IMHO, of course. I would back a boxer to beat the snot out of a karateka of similar training years. One reason - experience. The boxer is more used to rocking with the blows and has experience with someone who is actually trying to hurt him/her.
--------------

Yes, but I think that perhaps one of the main reasons is that people who can't take a punch don't stick with boxing for long.

--------------
Originally posted by Erik

When push comes to shove, you have to look at what people do. And what they do is usually very different from what they say. Sorry if that sounds cynical. I don't think it is. I just don't think these types of questions are very good because they tend to produce a result different from what actually happens.

As an aside. One of the famous yoga teachers got himself in trouble for sleeping with his students. Seems yoga has a code of ethics for it's teachers. Imagine that.


--------------

But can you picture it? Won't go there.

Jim23

Remember, all generalizations are false
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Old 05-16-2002, 12:02 PM   #17
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Probably a little late for changing this but I just reread my post and it wasn't quite what I wanted to say. I think people can easily make mistakes in judging the character of others, and sometimes judge by the wrong things. I do however feel it is the sensei's desicion to grade students and if he bases his decision on character as well as skill that is his right. I think that how you behave on the mat should definitely be taken into account, but that is not necessarily an indication of character, it is just willingness (or lack of it) to obey rules.

Last edited by Kat.C : 05-20-2002 at 07:52 AM.

Kat

I find the aquisition of knowledge to be relatively easy, it is the application that is so difficult.
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Old 05-16-2002, 01:05 PM   #18
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In our dojo is not really "character" that count but what we may call "attitude on the mat". What it means is that the more you get advanced, the more you should be able to be a model for the others in the dojo (not , outside it).

For example, we are asked, when on the mat, to be always on our guard and attentive to what happens all around us. The more you get advanced, the more it became unacceptable to be taken offguard... Another example is how you give the "rythm" or "intensity" to the class. To you follow the classes with assiduity or come only during rainy day when you have nothing else to do? In short, the more advanced you are, the more you are expected to give the lead to the others and not simply follow the pack...

So, this "dojo attitude" is also taken in consideration, not only your technique. But not the "how you are in your personnality" or "how you conduct your life or the lifestyle you have", which are very personnal things that only you can judge...
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Old 05-16-2002, 01:31 PM   #19
Doug Mathieu
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character in ranking

Hi All

I see an interesting concept here arising from a simple question about ranking.

This is one of those areas were consensus will never likley occur. However perhaps a majority opinion might be possible.

My feelings are character as it relates to Aikido applies to the idea of respecting the integrity of all beings even ones who are trying to cause you harm. I don't think that means I have to love them or make myself into a saintly person.

I have decided for myself that the central message from O'Sensei when he said there had to be a better Martial Art approach and he experienced a revelation was that the fighting arts to his date advocated or resulted in destroying their apponent once they engaged.

This is where he may be telling us its not enough. Even though someone may be trying to harm you we still have a need to try to minimize harm to the other person while protecting ourselves.

I think that is a huge challenge and few people will be able to fully accomplish it. I know I'm not skilled enough. However its in the trying that counts.

If we ask what makes Aikido different from other martialo arts then I believe that is it. After all you can probably find every physical technique somewhere else. Judo uses Sankyo, etc.

This brings us to ranking. In the context of what I have said I think at some point your demonstration of this understanding should matter as to whether you progress in rank. When? I don't know. Probably a Shodan should be moving into ideas and not just focusing on the physical side of Aikido. However until Sandan you are still training and acting under your Sensei's direction very closely.

At Yondan and above I have heard it becomes much more a self learned process and that is often when students are no longer outright tested for rank. Perhaps that is when people should know if they are practicing Aikido or simply learning a way to fight.

The above is my very personal outlook. Clearly many could disagree and find details that may be off base and I think as with many endevours with a principle to follow there will be the extremes of good and bad students/teachers. Pointing out examples of Teachers and senior students who don't show these characteristics doesn't take away the principle.

After all if the Catholic Church struggles to deal with pedophile priests why should the Aikido community expect to be perfect.

One last comment. I think someone referred to a Sensei who sexually abused/took advantage of? some students. If its who I think it is that teacher was stripped of rank and expelled from the Aikido organization he was part of.
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Old 05-16-2002, 03:54 PM   #20
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I think this just goes back to what I wrote in the related thread: that senseis give a shodan rank to those they fell (for whatever, often not truely objective/quantifiable, reasons) are ready to progress to another level (which is also not necessarily objectively definable) that is unique to the individual and his sensei. And it will vary from style to style, dojo to dojo, and even within a dojo. Some will have questionable character, some questionable technical ability, some even both. And the same might even be said about the senseis. I don't see rank as comparable from person to person, but just a measure of one's individual progress, and some person's shodan may be very different from another's (perhaps due to age, mental ability, weight, etc they will NEVER be where 'you' think shodan is)...

In just three years I have seen ikkyu students and shodans who cannot make it through a class due to poor conditioning, whose technique would be barely 4th kyu in other places, who can't roll, or who have the caring attitute of a black widow spider and the ego of a rock star. I can only assume that they have made some sort of progress that when viewed by their sensei, was significant enough to get them to where they are, and mark a transition of some sort. From this, I can conclude that trying to find some sort of meaningful yardstick by which to measure 'shodan' is hopeless. It means something only in relation to the individual and what his/her sensei thought of what they had done so far, and what they were ultimately capable of achieving. Trying to compare rank between inividuals is like comparing apples and puppies.
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Old 05-16-2002, 05:29 PM   #21
Gopher Boy
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I think, firstly, that I will need to do a lot more Aikido (who doesn't!) and travel a lot more. I must say that I have not met a single member of our dojo who I would not like to associate myself with outside of class. It seems, from these posts that I am very lucky and somewhat in the minority. I shall be even more thankfull for this now!

I think I have learnt (at least) one thing from these forums (and esp. these posts), and that is that in Aikido, we never get the answers we were looking for. I think this is because we all think of our Aikido in a different way and it means (sometimes wildy) different things for us all. This is most likely a combination of our own 'pre-Aikido' character, the people we train with, our sensei(s) and the way in which our Aikido is taught. As everyone is different, so will every opinion be different.

For me, these factors seem to have produced a goal in Aikido of being a 'better' person outside of the dojo. For me, it is easy to embrace the principles of Aikido on the mat as all the students are fantastic people and very easy going. Do unto others and all that gaff. However, I find that the challenge comes when interacting with people in the 'real world'. People who are not also embracing the principles of Aikido. It is easy to be nice to someone who is being nice to you - after all, the spirit of Aikido practice is not conflict. It is much harder to be nice to someone who is yelling at you or annoying you in some way.

For me, that part of aikido is more important than the self-defence aspect as I will spend more time being yelled at that assaulted. (At least that's the plan ) Hey - with any luck that kind of attitude will stop yelling progressing to fighting.

Anyways, to cut a long ramble into a slightly less long ramble, it is great to read everyone's opinions and comforting to know that Aikido offers so many different things for so many different people. It gives me confidence that as I change, my Aikido will always have something to offer me.


Thanks,

Phill.


"Apples and puppies"? I like that!
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Old 05-16-2002, 05:36 PM   #22
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By the way, thanks for posting this Jun - I have learned heaps. Due to my relative isolation (there is only one dojo I can go to!) it is great to be able to 'speak' with other Aikidoka!
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Old 05-16-2002, 07:33 PM   #23
akiy
 
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You're more than welcome, Phill! Please feel encouraged to post any other "delving" questions you may have regarding aikido here in the AikiWeb Forums.

-- Jun

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Old 05-17-2002, 10:10 AM   #24
Lyle Bogin
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I think Carl hit it when he talked about character on the mat.

On the mat I encounter so many different kinds of people and I try to adjust my character to blend with theirs. I can go hard and be smiling and jovial, I can go soft and be quiet and serious, I can talk a lot, or not say a word.

Perhaps it is adaptability of character, though trying to understand other people, that is closest in relation to martial arts practice.
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Old 05-17-2002, 10:36 AM   #25
Jakusotsu
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Quote:
Trying to compare rank between inividuals is like comparing apples and puppies.
But apples and puppies are easy to compare.

For example: both are crisp and juicy. Both are best if kept refrigerated. Apples and puppies will both roll if you throw them.

Eric Kroier
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