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Old 11-15-2003, 09:20 AM   #51
rachmass
Dojo: Aikido of Cincinnati/Huron Valley Aikikai
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Quote:
These eminent teachers have dojos all over the country, how are they going to 'honorably' give a teaching certificate to someone they don't know well or possibly have never met?
Actually, Chiba Sensei has test requirements for fukushidoin and shidoin, and folks who have these certificates are required to re-test every few years. It is his way of insuring a level of teaching competence, and that the teachers themselves are continuing to improve. My understanding is that the requirements are different from the dan rankings, in that he is looking for a clarity and standard that he wants imparted to all the folks within the WR.

Shibata Sensei knows all the students under him, and anyone who has their fukushidoin or shidoin certificate through him is known to him.

I think this is the same thing within the ER, and these certficates are conferred by Yamada Sensei, although I think very often through recommendation of a dojocho. Yamada Sensei has an amazing memory, and he knows the students who are under him (through various teachers) as long as they come to seminars.
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Old 11-15-2003, 09:33 AM   #52
Nafis Zahir
 
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Excellent point Rachel. And that's what I'm talking about. You see, Chiba Sensei gives these "exmas" to look for certain things to see if you qualify to teach. And they are not regular test. This is not about dan ranking. And that is my point. If you want to teach, you shouldn't be given that priviledge based on just the word of a dojo cho. You should have to stand before someone like Chiba or Yamada and prove that you know what your doing. I wish I could take Chiba's course. Now that's away to check your progress!

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Old 11-15-2003, 09:36 AM   #53
BKimpel
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William,

"Who has not trained that bit harder when they have a grading approaching?"

That simply points out that people are not training hard enough regularly, and nobody should be training "extra hard" right before a test ("cramming") in any kind of school (let alone a martial art). Cramming means you were lazy and try to "just get by". Is that the kind of training you want to promote? And yes that IS what happens when people are more concerned with the goals (rank) than the subject they are learning. They leave it to the last minute, and then learn "just enough to get by" and then relax again after they have achieved that milestone (rank).

Rachel,

What more do you need than that, and retesting a teacher is awesome. If only they would that with driver's licenses

Bruce Kimpel
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Old 11-15-2003, 09:40 AM   #54
kung fu hamster
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Ok, I misunderstood. Thank you for the clarification. I'll crawl back into my troll-hut now. Where's my Midol?
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Old 11-15-2003, 09:49 AM   #55
rachmass
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Quote:
What more do you need than that, and retesting a teacher is awesome. If only they would that with driver's licenses
I totally agree with this point. What someone is looking for in a teacher (generally) is clarity and preciseness. Something that can be seen and followed. A teacher needs to keep progressing as a student as well as a teacher, and that is why the re-test is such a good idea.

On the other hand, I don't think that Yamada Sensei or Shibata Sensei hand out certificates lightly, and are pretty well assured that these teachers are qualified. If someone out there in cyberland knows differently, then please correct me, but this is my understanding.
Quote:
You see, Chiba Sensei gives these "exmas" to look for certain things to see if you qualify to teach. And they are not regular test
Yes, that is the point. On a dan test, the person testing can be very flashy and gregarious, but when it comes to teaching, I think (just my $0.02) that clarity and form win out.
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Old 11-15-2003, 10:00 AM   #56
aikidoc
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Paul: I agree there are issues with favoritism and subjectivity. However, a lot of organization test up to yondan and most to sandan. I did train once with a sensei that did not believe in testing for dan ranks at all and in fact left the organization over that issue. There were some definite disagreements on the quality of black belts when tested by committee vs his observation (he would just hand you the belt when he thought you were ready). In large organizations, the testing can be pretty stringent with higher ranks. When you get a committee of people that don't know your aikido then you are subjected to their impressions of what the rank should represent.

However, to not test to some standard is to have poor quality in my opinion. Testing to a standard and what that standard should be (time in grade, techniques, etc.) is most likely the reason we have so many organizations (that and power issues).

Undoubtedly there will be variations in the minimum standards in each rank-not all people in all levels are equal (different physical capabilities etc). However, in spite of different teaching styles, organizational expectations, and other elements, I have only ran across "bad" quality intermittently (and I used to participate in a lot of seminars).

Fortunately, the "bad quality" black belts usually will not progress beyond their rank until they raise their skill level. It's not a perfect system but to have no system would be chaotic at best (it's chaotic enough with a system). Opinions on the quality of yudansha is like the old saying (cleaned up version)-they are like fannies-we all have them and they all stink.

Last edited by aikidoc : 11-15-2003 at 10:03 AM.
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Old 11-15-2003, 10:24 AM   #57
John Longford
Dojo: Cambridge Aikido, Cambridge UK
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Bruce,

I was not talking about last minute cramming!

If you can train flat out at all times you are a better person than me.

Even top athletes can only put in that extra effort over short periods.

Please do not misunderstand me, I have no time for 'grade chasing', but I have always found that the additional pressure of a grade looming up certainly focuses my students.

P.S. Please call me John
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Old 11-15-2003, 02:30 PM   #58
BKimpel
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Ha ha, sorry John,

I agree "partially" in that pressure vs. no pressure CAN give some people a little push where they might not have pushed themselves to grow otherwise.

But the type of "cramming" I was talking about was knowledge-based, not physical. So while no I personally cannot keep up a consistent level of physical training for long periods of time (lately I can't even do it for short periods of time -- too much beer I think), I can always keep a consistent level of learning -- not spurts of learning all the techniques needed for 4th kyu 3 weeks before the test, etc. which IS cramming. And while people might not even be chasing the grade as you say, they will still end up with that cramming habit if they concentrate on those milestones and not the entire journey.

Bruce Kimpel
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Old 11-15-2003, 05:22 PM   #59
indomaresa
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there's another aspect

what about responsibility to your dojo and juniors? they need to see their sempais advance, so they can cheer them on, and then strive to train harder.

My dojo grows with a major gap between the shodans and the Qs because early on there's no regeneration, just five people who kept training. The first and second generation students has a 3-4 years gap.

After the shodan test, suddenly there's five black belts in the dojo, and I heard the juniors telling it to everyone they know with pride.

(-insert relative here-, this is my senior, he's a black belt and we have five in the dojo)

This experience taught me that gaining rank isn't necessarily only for yourself.

Last edited by indomaresa : 11-15-2003 at 05:27 PM.

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The path is steep...
So hire a guide to show you the shortcuts
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Old 11-16-2003, 03:57 AM   #60
Kelly Allen
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So many variables

Rank relative to ability is affected by so many variables. The vast majority of those variables seem to come back to money issues.

In most organizations the higher rank you test for the more you have to pay. It is for those, who either can't afford it or just prefer to spend their money on other things, an incentive not to rank. Hence you get those who are ranked below there abilities.

Then you get those who are pressured to rank because the Sensei wishes his dojo to have black belts to give the dojo the image of success to help attracked new members (read new dojo fees). Hence you get those who are ranked above their abilities.

The point being that as long as there is money associated with rank there will be incentives for and against being graded, and thus Martial artists who are ranked above and below their abilities.

I'm not a belt chaser, but I some day would like to be able to have enough rank to help our dojo grow. (read teach a class once or twice a week). I know, however, that due to my age and the situation I train in I may never see a BB, which is still fine with me. So long as I still get to train.

Kelly

Last edited by Kelly Allen : 11-16-2003 at 04:00 AM.
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Old 11-16-2003, 06:09 AM   #61
Michael Karmon
Dojo: Aikido Jerusalem
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Re: So many variables

Quote:
Kelly Allen wrote:
Then you get those who are pressured to rank because the Sensei wishes his dojo to have black belts to give the dojo the image of success to help attracked new members (read new dojo fees). Hence you get those who are ranked above their abilities.

Kelly
With 13 or so yodansha at our dojo its a "More chiefs then indians" thing

Last edited by Michael Karmon : 11-16-2003 at 06:13 AM.

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Old 11-16-2003, 08:44 PM   #62
Jeanne Shepard
 
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My recent 2nd Kyu test ( yes, i passed or you wouldn't be hearing about it)was not just an opportunity for me to push the envelope, but it gave one of my sempais a chance to show his teaching ability, as he had taken that test last, and he coached me through it, at the same time he trained for HIS 1st Kyu test. It was a great experience in supporting and being supported I wouldn't have missed for anything. Reminds me why I like belonging to my dojo.

Jeanne
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Old 11-17-2003, 12:46 AM   #63
Michael Karmon
Dojo: Aikido Jerusalem
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Tests are also for Uke/Sempai

Quote:
Jeanne Shepard wrote:
My recent 2nd Kyu test ( yes, i passed or you wouldn't be hearing about it)was not just an opportunity for me to push the envelope, but it gave one of my sempais a chance to show his teaching ability...
I was lucky to have a Q2 train me for my Q5 (first exam in dojo, 4 month in). During training he did these soft, relaxed falls. Comes the test, I go for the Kotegaeshi, WAM-Highfall, BAM-Backroll. I nearly fell over and forgot what the heck I was trying to do (Shomenuchy Ikkyo)

Being a test-uke is a vote of confidence by the juniors and a way of showing yourself to the Senseis not only as a good uke but as a good teacher.

Eat, Sleep, Exercise and watch out for cars
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Old 11-17-2003, 05:37 AM   #64
paw
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John,
Quote:
Paul: I agree there are issues with favoritism and subjectivity. However, a lot of organization test up to yondan and most to sandan.
Frequency or duration of testing is secondary to the method itself in my mind. A subjective testing method will yield subjective results, regardless of how many times an individual is tested.

William,
Quote:
If you can train flat out at all times you are a better person than me. Even top athletes can only put in that extra effort over short periods.
An incorrect generalization. Some sports have no "off" season, and increasingly competition is forcing athletes to train intensely year round. Of course the training varies depending on the sport and what's upcoming, but the idea that high-level athletes "slack" for most of their training cycle is not true.

Maresa,
Quote:
what about responsibility to your dojo and juniors? they need to see their sempais advance, so they can cheer them on, and then strive to train harder.
I'm not sure it's healthy for someone to live so vicarisously through another. Also it seems that there is the assumption here that advancement in rank = advancement in skill, which I do not believe to be necessarily true.

Kelly,
Quote:
I'm not a belt chaser, but I some day would like to be able to have enough rank to help our dojo grow. (read teach a class once or twice a week).
Why is rank necessary for this? I know of several shodans who IMO are better instructors than 5th dans. The point is, rank exams are a subjective measurement of technical ability, not teaching ability, are they not? Being able to do something and being able to coach another are different skill sets.

Regards,

Paul
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Old 11-17-2003, 06:36 AM   #65
MaylandL
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Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote:
... I think a lot of teachers are measuring us against ourselves, more than our peers. I think this is probably the most valuable thing about rank.

... I really do think the testing/demo process is too important. ...

In the end, its about the skills YOU gain. Relative to where YOU started.
I wholeheatedly agree with this. IMHO its not the rank that you achieve that is important but the process that you go through - the grading process (dan or kyu). For me it gives me some sense of where I am in relation to a standard. I don't want to get into the discussions and debates about consistency in standards; that's a whole other debate.

From my personal experience, I can say that I have got the most out of the grading process in terms of what I have learnt and what else I need to learn.

I can certainly support Ms Massey's following comments (apologies if I have taken this out of context)
Quote:
Rachel Massey wrote:
... Having just recently tested, I can say without a doubt, ...It has helped to increase my confidence, which has been notoriously poor, and has helped me feel legitimate as a teacher with a small dojo. My aikido has probably gotten better too. It seems we always come up to our rank over time. Just this little test has made a big difference for me, and has made me less apologetic for having trained for so long and not having much rank, now I feel I am where I should be (weapons proficency or not).

Also, I can see it making a difference in my students once they test. I can see them move up to their levels, can see an increase in confidence, even if it means they just were able to get the guts up to go in front of the class and test. It has been a positive experience for me altogether.

Now, that said, of course if you start comparing people to each other, you are going to have problems and see inequities. Really, our ranks are measures of our own progress, not comparisons with other people.
I have been with my primary dojo for 10 years, since it started and I have seen those that have progressed to Shodan and beyond improve and learn, especially one Aikidoka. She has gone forwards in leaps and bounds since she has acheived her shodan. Its very inspiring and motivating to see how much she and others have improved.

Another case in point, one new student, never done aikido before, middle aged with a background in karate and never done ukemis, infact its a total anathema to him. After his 5th Kyu grading his ukemis have improved considerably.

For me being a senior student in the dojo, its wonderful to see others improve and doing things that they could not have done before. It doesnt get any better than this.

As for me, I train at two dojos with two different senseis. The sensei at the second dojo had the generosity to accept my dan grading from my main dojo after about 3 years consistent training. I think training at two different dojos has been very beneficial in terms of understanding where I am at.

For me its not the rank that's achieved but how you get there. IMHO, its more about the journey and the little pitstops I make along the way to see where I am than the destination.

Happy training all

PS Congrats on the grading Ms Massey and all the best for your Dojo.

Mayland
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Old 11-17-2003, 08:09 AM   #66
justinm
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A year ago I tested for and was awarded my nidan by my Sensei. At the moment I am not registered with Hombu as I have not paid the fee, and am reluctant to do so.

So within my organisation I am a nidan, but as far as the Yoshinkan hombu is concerned, I am shodan as my grade has not been registered with them.

So what are the benefits of sending some money other than a nice certificate to put on my wall, which I don't need? I suppose I'd be registered in the IYAF records, in case my Sensei left us or I wanted to change clubs. But if I ever needed to be registered under a new organisation, I could take the test again - in fact this is often a requirement anyway when joining a new organisation.

So I can choose to just train, or to send Japan some money and then just train.

At the moment, I'm doing the former.

As for being a good instructor, my students are tested by my Sensei, not me, so he judges me by them. This is a better test of my teaching skills than any exam I could take.

Justin

Justin McCarthy
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Old 11-17-2003, 09:02 AM   #67
Nafis Zahir
 
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Hey Justin! That's exactly my point and why I started this thread! Not to knock any of the good points people have made, but let everyone look at Justin's situation. He took a test. His Sensei, whom I'm sure is qualified and authorized, basically saw that his technique, his understanding of what his Sensei wanted to see, and his "aikido", warranted Justin the level of nidan. But it can't be authentic if he doesn't pay his fee? Does rank really matter I ask again? If he doesn't pay the fee, does that diminish the level he attained? No! And as he stated, even if he pays the fee, if he goes to train somewhere else, they may honor his nidan per say, but still make him test for nidan in the new style/organization. If no one ever gives Justin a piece of paper with nidan on it, so what. If I trained with him at a seminar, I could tell by his technique and his attitude that he was at a level of shodan or above. Now what difference would it really make if a ni or san or yon was before his dan title? If you pay the money Justin, I'll know it's strictly because of the politics and you want to be hassle free in the future. If you don't, I respect that and say good for you!

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Old 11-17-2003, 10:43 AM   #68
John Longford
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Paul,

Who said anything about slacking!

Regards, John
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Old 11-17-2003, 11:46 AM   #69
paw
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John,
Quote:
Who said anything about slacking!
I did. Slacking as in "To evade work; shirk" is something top athletes do not do as a general rule. While there may be a "rest period" or the occasional "easy day" scheduled, such things tend to be a necessity to prevent injury ---- because the athlete is on the edge.

While most aikidoists aren't standing around doing nothing during training, neither are they actively seeking to train in a manner that pushes them to the edge of their physical abilities. In that sense, we (yes, I'm including myself in this) do "slack" because we evade and avoid work we could be doing by training within our comfort zone for the majority of our training time.

Does that clarify things?

Regards,

Paul
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Old 11-17-2003, 12:28 PM   #70
aikidoc
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I agree teaching and technical skills are not the same-much like a worker and manager-the best worker does not always make the best manager.

Justin-I'm surprised you were able to test without the fees. Most organizations require member dojos to only test under their auspices-i.e., can't issue rank without the fees and testing must be done under organizational rules. So, if your sensei is a member of the organization and is not authorized to issue rank certicates then you could have a problem with validating your rank certificate.
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Old 11-17-2003, 12:37 PM   #71
rachmass
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Quote:
PS Congrats on the grading Ms Massey and all the best for your Dojo.
Thanks Mayland! Remember that thread I started a year plus back about opening a dojo? Well, things are moving along. I started with one student (my husband), and am now up to 9 students who practice regularly! I am thrilled with the way people have come along, and the energy they bring with them to the mat. Anyway, this was completely off topic, but just wanted to say thank you and update you. Best, Rachel
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Old 11-17-2003, 09:31 PM   #72
BKimpel
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Quote:
paul watt (paw) wrote:
I know of several shodans who IMO are better instructors than 5th dans.
Quote:
Bruce Kimpel (BKimpel) wrote:
The best sensei I ever had was a shodan, and his Aikido was more fluid than most sandan (almost all I have encountered to be truthful, but I am trying not to seem impertinent), his instruction was better than most godan I have trained with
Do we know the same shodans!?!

If not (I suspect not), then we better find out where these shodan's hail from, or what makes them tick so we can bottle it as "Aiki-Juice"! We can sell it to some of the "over-ranked" sandans (heh heh, just kidding - now I AM being impertinent).

Seriously though, the diversity in ability across ranks in the same organization, let alone across different organization's demonstrates that there is very little "standard" anything. It is all subjective, and thus worth less (he he).

I would also agree with Paul that frequent testing would produce better results than timed milestones that you can cram for.

Sort of off topic, but related to frequent testing of one's ability:

I would love to take a mini-poll to see how many yudansha actually do randori (multiple attackers) on a regular basis. I know for a fact most do it once for their test and a few times before the test - that's it (in some dojos I have been in, not all). Then again I would love to see how many instructors do randori on a regular basis too

Bruce Kimpel
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Old 11-18-2003, 01:14 AM   #73
Nafis Zahir
 
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Hey Bruce! That reminds me of a story related to the favoritsm aspect of this thread. At my old dojo, 5 of us were preparing to test. A couple of months before testing, my old Sensei would send 3 of the students in the back to work on there test, and then at the end of class let them do randori. As for me and the other student, which neither one of us was a "made member", we were forced to take semi private lessons at a reasonable cost to get the attention we needed and never got a chance to do randori after class. Rank today is not what it started out to be. I'm not saying it's that way in each and every dojo, but for the most part it has permeated the majority of the aikido organizations.

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Old 11-18-2003, 04:35 AM   #74
Tim Griffiths
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Hi Nafis,

I just had the same thing, but in a good way.

A group of us were taking various dan grades, and I was taking a nidan (OK, I already did it 10 years ago in a different organisation). At the end of every class all the others got to do randori, and often were put on one end of the mat to practice together. I didn't get to do any randori practice before the test (and its not something we normally do, so I had at least a year of rust on it).

A week before the grading I asked the sensei if I too could have a go at the randori practice - he looked at me, shrugged, and said "do you think you need it?"

Tim

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 11-18-2003, 06:05 AM   #75
Amelia Smith
 
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Today, my opinion of rank is that it's a great way of keeping new, athletically talented students with over-blown egos from assuming they are the best aikidoka around. They might assume it, but they still (theoretically) need to stick it out and pass the milestones.

As for cramming, it's not nescessarily such a bad thing, if you're already ready to test. Of course you can't learn all those techniques in the last 3 weeks before the test, but if you already have the techniques, it helps to go over them again and again until you are doing them as well as you possibly can. Also, the people I know who have had good tests have really worked hard on them for a couple of months beforehand, and also worked on their stamina and endurance for the test.

--Amelia

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