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Old 12-18-2003, 03:23 AM   #1
Chris Birke
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Lineage

What are your feelings on the importance of instructor lineage? What about similar credentials?

Besides lineage, what are ways to really objectivly evaluate someone's Aikido? Is rank given fairly by and large, and is it a clear determination of skill level(ie, is a blue belt a blue belt a blue belt, is a blackbelt always warrented?)

(of course, inspired by another thread)
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Old 12-18-2003, 04:30 AM   #2
Kensai
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Ofcourse lineage is important, as it determines the quality of the product produced.

A better more educated Sensei, is likely to have been the product of a very skilled Shihan and so on going right back to O Sensei.

I wouldnt say that lineage is the be all and end all, the single most important factor in your training is you. But you are greatly influenced not just by your Sensei's technique, but their personality and philosophy to.

And as such O sensei is going to have the best feel for AIkido and then the Uchi Deshi gradually becoming less and less the further you get from the source. But in that respect having a Japanese teacher is not always a blessing. Having someone that understands the western mindset always helps faciliate your training.

The more I write, the less sure I am of the importance of lineage. Although I believe falsefying lineage and credientials really is wrong.

Techniques are going to vary greatly between styles and traditions so theres no real "right" way to do them, just an effective way.

The only measure of a sensei is the students that he/she has 'created'.

"Minimum Effort, Maximum Effciency."
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Old 12-18-2003, 05:47 AM   #3
ian
 
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I think lineage is not necessarily important anymore because, even though you may have started training with someone (I consider my lineage to be from my first instructor) - most people never fully absorb the whole teaching of that instructor. Also they are likely to be strongly influenced by other instructors. It seems to be more of a loose web than a lineage now.

Thus if you claim a certain lineage and your aikido is poor, it cannot necessarily be blamed on the poor aikido of that lineage.

Ian

---understanding aikido is understanding the training method---
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Old 12-18-2003, 06:07 AM   #4
happysod
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Adertisment

**Quality lineages supplied at small cost**

Yes, this year you too could have your own hand-crafted martial arts lineage complete with spurious references and complete lack of accountability. For a limited time, we will include the PhD of your choice and a free clerical honorific for only 50 USD. Hurry, our printers are waiting...

OK, so lineage may be useful in certain circumstances (can't think of one at the mo) and a respect for knowing how your art has developed is laudable, but it's not exactly a good criteria for choosing a teacher. For example, x trained under y who was son of z and second cousin twice removed of a, how long did they train with them, where was this etc. Most lineages just give you a broad brush-stroke background picture

However, if your teacher cannot at least say how long and where they trained, I'd start wanting to dig a bit deeper. If it turns out every one of their teachers is now dead and the dojo was destroyed in a freak accident, well...
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Old 12-18-2003, 06:28 AM   #5
Chris Birke
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If not just lineage, what are ways to evaluate the skills of a practictioner aside from competition. What about evaluating his integrity (and how important is that philosophic and personal integrity?)

Seperately, whats important for evaluating an instructor as a teacher, not just as an individual martial artist?
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Old 12-18-2003, 06:45 AM   #6
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How to judge ability? Good question. I think a reasonable/possible test is that a shodan should be able to step onto any aikido mat in the world and cope. I.e take ukemi to the same approximate level as any shodan in that dojo & do the techniques well enough to be able to train with anyone, having seen the teacher demonstrate.

I also think a Shodan should be able to demonstrate and teach any of the standard techniques in their home dojo, without having to 'prepare' first.

Shodan is probably the first point at which comparisons can be made, although comparisons probably are easier at nidan and sandan.

Then again - what is the difference between a 1st kyu and a shodan? anything from 10 minutes to a few hours, depending on the length of the grading....

As for lineage, most aikidoka would probably point to one Sensei, but have trained under many, all of whom have influenced them, so it is very much a web.

Justin

Justin McCarthy
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Old 12-18-2003, 06:49 AM   #7
PRapoza
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Lineage is very important in a student's development. It's been my experience that high level aikidoka have a certain indefinable essence. Though their individual personalities and "styles" may be quite different there is something similar about them all. A common thread that runs through. This aikido essence is transmitted directly from teacher to student. From O'Sensei to the Shihan and on down to us. If a teacher hasn't studied enough with someone who "has it" then they don't "have it" either and are passing on there own version or idea of what aikido is. I don't think there is anything necessarily wrong with people teaching who don't have "it". Just be aware that there is a difference.

__________

Paul
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Old 12-18-2003, 06:52 AM   #8
happysod
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Quote:
Seperately, whats important for evaluating an instructor as a teacher, not just as an individual martial artist?
Use the same criteria as any activity - are you able to learn anything from them, are they a safe teacher, do they meet your levels of good conduct when teaching, are you enjoying yourself (if this is one of your criteria for learning anything)

Just, I'm going to be picky and disagree, there are some dojos which I wouldn't recommend anyone to attend, so I'd want a "normal dojo" caveat
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Old 12-18-2003, 07:25 AM   #9
wendyrowe
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One thing that's true outside martial arts as well as inside is that someone can have a fabulous teacher but that doesn't necessarily mean that person will become a fabulous teacher himself. It takes more than just lineage to make a great aikidoka and teacher.

Granted, it's much more likely for someone to become a great aikidoka and teacher if he has trained under one. But the most important things to me in selecting teachers for any subjects are the ones already listed by posters above: concern for their students' welfare/safety, how well what they know and do compares with their peers (I want to learn from the best, not from someone who'd been an average student), an understanding/appreciation and willingness to discuss the history of the subject, and personal integrity.

The teacher has to have a reasonable personality so I can stand being around long enough to learn. And the teacher must be good at communicating information so students can truly understand it; I know from the engineering world that there are many extremely talented people (trained by exceptionally good teachers) who are hopeless at teaching.
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Old 12-18-2003, 07:46 AM   #10
Jason Tonks
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Lineage isn't just important, it's right at the heart of martial training. It's your roots at the end of the day. Without our teachers and their teachers going back throughout history we would not be able to train. Personally I like it when my Sensei mentions his teacher or if I'm training at another dojo and the Sensei there mentions the teacher they trained under. It helps keep alive the spirit of that person and shows I feel the correct reverence for the past. We train for the future to keep Aikido alive for both ourselves and future generations, but lineage and the past should be acknowledged and respected in equal measure. It shouldn't be seen as a "take it or leave it" issue. If this post sounds a little serious it's because it is something close to my heart. On of the things that attracted me to the martial arts initially and especially Aikido was the respect factor and also deep reverence for the past. I feel sadly in many ways throughout society this is increasingly on the wane. Hopefully in martial training these vital bonds can remain strong.

All the best

Jason T
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Old 12-18-2003, 08:03 AM   #11
Eric-aikipract
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Hi everybody!

Firstly I think that most important is to find the teacher and the teaching which is appropriate to us best, even if the professor is very good or is recognized as such, if teaching is not appropriate to us we will block at one level.

BUT I think we always have to learn elsewhere, it's an additional step towards the opening and another comprehension of the aikido. "go on the mat with the mind of a beginner", that's the objective of the training courses;

As Ian (Dodkins) say a lineage seems to be more of a loose web if you go on the right on the left

or to grow if we don't lose yourself...

The ranks, I think, have a value in the absolute only for your professor (his criteria of value) and a general technical level.

My personal point of view is that the criteria of evaluation of your training ("efficiency" etc.) comes primarily from the interior. it would be interesting to know what do the teachers / sensei think on the criteria of evaluation.
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Old 12-18-2003, 08:23 AM   #12
Ted Marr
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It's basically just a theory and a guess on my part, but I think that lineage probably gets more important as you advance in your training. Pretty much any shodan out there can teach a raw beginner all of their first techniques. For that matter, any mid-level kyu probably could too. But once you get to higher levels, you need someone who is distinctly more skilled than you are to watch and learn from. By the time you start looking around for such a teacher, you should have sufficient knowledge to evaluate people's aikido for yourself... see what feels right when their students pound you, etc. Just hope that when you find that teacher, you don't have to switch organizations to train under them, because that could just get ugly...
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Old 12-18-2003, 09:12 AM   #13
ian
 
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As I always rant on about...

the purpose of the lineage is to enable the lineage to be assessed (and challenged). However we have grades and not a single 'teaching qualification' so the head of a lineage cannot be responsible for poor quality students since they did not give them the authority to teach that lineage.

Also, I'd say there is a massive difference between a good teacher and good aikidoka.

Ian

---understanding aikido is understanding the training method---
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Old 12-18-2003, 09:22 AM   #14
Greg Jennings
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Re: Lineage

Quote:
Chris Birke wrote:
What are your feelings on the importance of instructor lineage?
To me, lineage is important. By lineage, I mean a series of direct and unbroken student/teacher relationships.

In a sense, lineage equates to accumlated knowledge.

By having unbroken student/teacher relationships, you have an idea that you won't be "reinventing the wheel" every generation.
Quote:
Chris Birke wrote:
What about similar credentials?
Please give an example.
Quote:
Chris Birke wrote:
Besides lineage, what are ways to really objectivly evaluate someone's Aikido?
What do you mean by "someone's Aikido"? At any rate, I think the issue is far too complicated to measure objectively.

I have a picture in my head of what I want a 5th kyu, 4th kyu, etc. to act, look and feel like. I'm concerned with their attitude, etiquette, technique and ukemi.

Attitude includes things like regular attendance, willingness to help the dojo.

The rest is self explanatory except that our standards for ukemi skill are probably higher. That's simply because they need to be for the way we train.
Quote:
Chris Birke wrote:
Is rank given fairly by and large,
Organizations usually have rules about how high someone can promote a student.

Within that framework, rank comes from one's instructor. Period, end of story. It's their call.

I actually think that the system, overall, works OK.
Quote:
Chris Birke wrote:
and is it a clear determination of skill level(ie, is a blue belt a blue belt a blue belt,
Skill is not usually the only criteria. But, you won't find too many 5th kyu students with better technique than the average ikkyu.
Quote:
Chris Birke wrote:
is a blackbelt always warrented?)
Warranted in whose opinion? Aikido isn't a democracy. You don't get a vote, I don't get a vote, nobody but their instructor gets a vote.

The only time the question is pertinent is if the instructor is your instructor and you are questioning their value to you. In that case, you *do* get a vote; you get to vote with your feet. I.e., you stay or you leave.

FWIW,

Greg Jennings
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Old 12-18-2003, 09:58 AM   #15
MaryKaye
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A beginner's perspective:

I have been taking classes taught by people ranging from first kyu to fourth dan. I have only a glimmer, if that, of the skill difference separating them. But what I do notice, and have noticed right from the start, is that the fourth dan teacher can look at me and not only see that I'm doing the technique wrong, but can see exactly how I'm doing it wrong and know which aspect to try to change for best results. The first kyu spends much more time saying "I don't think that's it, try to do it differently." I learn a lot from him, and I love those classes, but it's more exploratory. Try this, try that, we'll see what happens.

The other thing I'm slowly becoming able to see is that the other instructors, and the students, use the fourth dan's style as their point of reference. It's quite funny sometimes to hear them imitating the "whaah" noise she makes to indicate "open your arms out more here." But I can also see her influence in the way people stand, in the details they emphasize, the overall shape of their movements. Her style of aikido would affect a student at this dojo even if s/he trained exclusively under the other instructors.

These would be a large part of my criteria for excellence in a teacher. Ability to really see and understand what the student is doing and how it can be improved; and ability to provide something of such value to the group that everyone picks up on it and adopts it as their own. The senior people have no obligation to look like her; she's not the one who does the belt testing. They look like her because they perceive that she's got it right.

(Our head instructor has been very ill this year. I'm sure that if I had more chance to see his style, I would see the same level of influence; I just haven't had the opportunity, and as a beginner I have to watch a long time to pick up any of this.)

Mary Kaye
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Old 12-18-2003, 10:11 AM   #16
SmilingNage
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I think its more of good start, that is checking the background(martial history) of the teacher(s) at your dojo/training hall. It is hoped that if your teacher comes from a respected Shihan,and that your teacher would have been given the permission to open a dojo. This isnt always the case but it can help when looking for a place to train. Its shows an acceptance from Shihan that this teacher has the ability to preform and convey the teachings to next generation of martial artists.

But it does all boil down to the quality of instructor. I think we all look at our teachers in hopes of stealing the good from them for ourselves, be it wisdom or technique or hopefully both.

Dont make me, make you, grab my wrist.
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Old 12-18-2003, 11:57 AM   #17
aikidoc
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Over the years I have studied with instructors with a lot of "broken" lines to the founder-splinter groups of splinter groups. As I have progressed, I have moved my training closer and closer to those who have studied with O'Sensei and taken a lot of seminars from former uchi deshi. In terms of quality, I can from experience state with firm conviction that the broken lines have eroded the quality of aikido. That is, the aikido quality is better the closer one gets to former uchi deshi. Just my experience and observation.
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Old 12-18-2003, 12:23 PM   #18
Kieun
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Here's my take. Joining a martial arts school is like buying a car. The lineage is like learning what the make and model of the car is, and your first free trial class (if you have one) is like a test drive. But you don't really know until you've driven the car around for a while if you really like that car. Ferrari's are cool as heck. A Rolls Royce is impressive too, but are they really right for you? Maybe you'll like a Civic better, or an Impreza. Maybe the make/model is impressive but there were defects in the manufacturing comewhere. Maybe the salesman sold you a lemon. You don't really know until you've driven it for a few weeks/months. But you gotta start somewhere. You know you don't want a Yugo, so at least if you get a Camry there's a higher probability of quality. Same with lineage info. Sensei Joe Schmo may have studied with O'Sensei himself but he may be terrible. Or he may have studied with Bill, his next door neighbor and may be awesome. You take a chance either way, but to play the game smartly, you need info and that's what lineage give you.
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Old 12-18-2003, 01:08 PM   #19
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My Brain-droppings

Quote:
Chris Birke wrote:
Besides lineage, what are ways to really objectivly evaluate someone's Aikido? Is rank given fairly by and large, and is it a clear determination of skill level(ie, is a blue belt a blue belt a blue belt, is a blackbelt always warrented?)
There is no objective way to evaluate someone's aikido and there is no clear determination of skill level.

Very often people question the ranking system. People get in their heads something like, "I know nikyus that are 'better' than this Shodan . . . "

I believe we need to think of ranks and tests as a minimum acceptable standard by the sensei. Different sensei have different standards. That's their prerogative.

I teach Junior High kids. If a kid earns a D-, he or she still passes. Is he as "good" as the B or A students? No, but he passed. Period. That same kid probably could have earned a C (or higher) in another teacher's class.

(What do you call the guy who finishes last in his medical school class? Doctor . . .)

If you like your instructor, stick with him/her. Rank and lineage are important, but not as important as the training. Maybe I am oversimplifying, but answer the question, "Is my aikido improving as much as I'd like under this instructor?"

A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.
- Aesop
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Old 12-18-2003, 01:43 PM   #20
JMCavazos
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You should be able to trace your lineage back to O'Sensei.

How good the teaching that you are receiving depends on how good your teacher's instructor's were at teaching, as well as your ability of your instructor to teach.

I am not sure about the splinter group arguement. I guess it depends on why the group splintered in the first place. I first began with a similar group...the aikido wasn't quite where it should be... why?...because the splintered for the wrong reasons and were not a point where they were really good enough to splinter.

Take Koichi Tohei Sensei for example. He splintered, and his aikido at the time may have been the best there was in the world! Some groups splintered from him due to differences, but those that splintered were definitely top notch. (and all they can all be traced directly to O'Sensei)

Now your regular John Doe that splinters as a shodan....well, I would say, no way would his aikido be up to par with the above mentioned group.

Meanwhile, if the only aikido available from a splintered group...well fine. But at some point (like happened to me) I knew that this group could only take me so far... At that point, look for someone higher up the ladder. It doesn't necesarily need to be an O'Sensei uchi-deshi, but one that can get the point across to YOU in a manner that you understand.

Just train with the best that you can find or afford....
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Old 12-19-2003, 03:36 AM   #21
happysod
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John,
Quote:
That is, the aikido quality is better the closer one gets to former uchi deshi. Just my experience and observation
Now this is an interesting point and one which I did miss, but I disagree with your corelation here. What I believe you're seeing is that the reputation of a dojo with and unbroken lineage can attract the more dedicated ma nut and thus their general ability is better. My analogy would be that of a company or university known for it's research, so it attracts decent researchers. This also fits nicely with Jo's point regarding certain splinter groups who, if founded by a great teacher, outstrip the status quo.

So, while I agree you may see this in lineaged dojos (real term?) my opinion is that it is not directly due to lineage, rather due to the often traditional view of martial artists who seek "the beginining" for their training. Thus, inadvertently lending credance to the lineage theory.

Jo,
Quote:
You should be able to trace your lineage back to O'Sensei
I think I'll leave you the tender mercies of one of the Peter's for this...
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Old 12-19-2003, 04:38 AM   #22
Yann Golanski
 
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Mathematician have something called the Erdos number. Erdos was a great mathematician who published more than 1500 papers and has been know to saying that a mathematician is a machine that transform coffee into theorem.

Anyway, the Erdos number is a representation of how close you are to a paper published by Erdos. Mine is two, meaning that I published a paper with a guy who published a paper with him.

So, how about a Osensei number?... Mine would be four in that case (Osensei -> Tomiki -> Nariyama -> Tish).

</joking>

The people who understand, understand prefectly.
yann@york-aikido.org York Shodokan Aikido
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Old 12-19-2003, 09:05 AM   #23
JMCavazos
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Hi Ian,

I enjoy reading your posts!

On my point about tracing lineage back to O'Sensei... I just mean that somehow or another your instructor got his instruction from someone that someway or somehow got instruction...etc... that got instruction from O'Sensei. I don't think that some teacher that got some other martial art training should be calling it Aikido. Someway or another, the aikido training that you are receiving today should have begun with Morihei Ueshiba.

Does that make sense?
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Old 12-19-2003, 09:26 AM   #24
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Hi Joe, thanks for the vote of confidence, what you wrote makes sense and I fully agree with you.

However, I believe some branches of aikido do not claim O'sensei as their founder, but as I only know this from aikiweb (blatent plug for Jun ) I was hoping someone with more knowledge could answer and hopefully add to the lineage trail

On a side note, how many have ever actually researched their sensei's lineage for themselves? (no, the dojo's website or seeing credentials on the dojo wall does not count)
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Old 12-19-2003, 09:33 AM   #25
aikidoc
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Ian:

I think my point is that I have noticed the quality of the basics is much better with those who are closer to O'Sensei-probably because they have been doing it longer. When you havea direct connnection without splintering I think the basics and the in depth understanding of the techniques does not get watered down as much.
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