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Old 03-09-2004, 12:58 AM   #1
Mark Holloway
Location: Las Vegas
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 4
Learning Aikido from a Nidan

Recently I posted a message stating I would like to learn Aikdio. The Aikido dojo closest to me is just minutes away and the instructor is Nidan. Is this an adequate level to be teaching? I have no idea and that's why I'm asking. The Sensei's profile is below.

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James Sterling Sensei began his study of Aikido in 1992 under the teaching of Steven Williams Sensei (Yondan) in Phoenix Arizona. He is a Nidan with the Aikido World Headquarters in Japan through Aikido Schools of Ueshiba (ASU), headed by Mitsugi Saotome Shihan and Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan.

Sterling Sensei began his study in the Martial Arts at the age of 13 in Judo and Ju jitsu. He later entered service in the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division, 2-14 (LI). After discharge from service Sterling Sensei began his study of Aikido and joined The Alliance of Guardian Angels, Chapter 29 in Phoenix, Arizona.. There he led the chapter, and trained the members in Aikido. In 1994 Sterling Sensei, under Bill Elderts Sensei (Sandan), opened the Hei Ki (Universal Energy) Aikido Club in Victorville, California.

After returning to Arizona and Desert Wind Aikido, he joined the State of Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, graduating in the top of his class, and later Department of Corrections, again graduating in the top of his class, where he became a TSU (Tactical Support Unit) team member. In 2000 Sterling Sensei relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada with the State of Nevada Department of Prisons, and in April of 2001 opened Desert Wind Aikido Las Vegas.

Sterling Sensei has worked with state, and federally contracted agencies, as well as security in the nightclub and casino industries, being assigned to special details and personal escort to high profile figures such as General Norman Schwarzkopf, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Ben Afflek and Jennifer Lopez. He has conducted many charitable classes for organizations such as Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Southern Nevada, Nevada Children's Center, Clark County Parks & Recreation Rec Trek program, and has also conducted self-defense and awareness classes for local government agencies, and private organizations both in Arizona and Nevada.

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Old 03-09-2004, 01:06 AM   #2
p00kiethebear's Avatar
Dojo: Tonbo Dojo
Location: Bainbridge Island WA
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 374
My sensei is a nidan, he's been doing the art for twenty years, he just doesn't seem to care too much for ranks. But he's amazing.

I wouldn't trade him for the doshu.

"Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity"
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Old 03-09-2004, 02:03 AM   #3
Olga Mihailova
Dojo: BUDO Center
Location: Riga
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 19
From what I know the sensei is YOUR teacher or he is not. The rank doesn't matter.
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Old 03-09-2004, 03:42 AM   #4
Dojo: none at the moment
Location: Wuhan, Hubei
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 44
Sounds like the guy is pretty well aquainted with teaching aikido. There are also people mentioned in the description that you could possibly contact to ask about his teaching credentials. But above all else, go and check out his class.

Rank is rarely an adequate indicator of teaching ability and is certainly no indicator that this man can teach you, personally, something. My teachers are 'only' nidan, but they can speak in languages i can understand (namely, pain and raw physical power). Another huge factor is the type of people you are going to be training with. To say that a teacher is the only one you learn from is pretty silly. A less than inspirational teacher (or even qualified) can be made up with a positive and hardworking group of people to train with.
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Old 03-09-2004, 04:42 AM   #5
Michael Karmon
Dojo: Aikido Jerusalem
Location: Jerusalem Israel
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 56
Re: Learning Aikido from a Nidan

Back to the good old 'does rank matter' thing.

No it does not matter!!

Some don't bother to rank, others learn from teachers who are more 'tight fisted' when it comes to ranking

If you 'dig him' and his attitude and style of teaching suits yours - go ahead. If not find another teacher.

By the way, there is a huge advantage when the dojo is close to your home.

Eat, Sleep, Exercise and watch out for cars
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Old 03-09-2004, 07:01 AM   #6
Dojo: Aikido of Cincinnati/Huron Valley Aikikai
Location: Somerset Michigan
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 794
Yup, the oft-repeated "does rank matter" thread. Not going to answer that one. What I am going to answer though, is that a teachers ability to be clear and concise and a good mentor might have nothing to do with rank. Some people are born teachers, while others have to work very hard at it, and others never get it, no matter how high ranked they are.

Watch a class and see how he conducts himself and how well his students are doing. Check out the general atmosphere of the dojo, and whether it is friendly and welcoming or whether it is militaristic (some folks like that style) and whether it fits with what you are looking for. I personally think one of the best ways to get a feel for a teacher is through their students. If their students are doing well, and are sincere in their practice, and they have a good attitude, then in part it comes from the teacher (of course, it also comes from the students). Don't get hung up on someone's rank as a teacher, as you might miss out on an excellent opportunity.

Lastly, my teacher once told me jokingly, that I was one of the slowest people to progress. After seeing my totally crest-fallen look he said "it is okay, the slowest learners are often the best teachers". While this might not be the case with me, I have seen this first hand. Often the stars in the dojo are not good teachers. Things come too easily for them, and they don't have the requisite empathy. Of course it is totally dependant on the individual, but, give this guy a break and go and check him out; and please do so with an open mind.

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Old 03-09-2004, 08:36 AM   #7
Dojo: Aikido Center of South Texas
Location: Houston,Tx
Join Date: Sep 2001
Posts: 151
Attend one of his classes. Determine if you think that you could fit into the dojo environment. Look at how the teacher instructs the class. Try to look at the person who will be your instructor for at least a few years. That is WAY more important than rank. I have personally seen instructors with a nidan rank that I thought were better INSTRUCTORS that others with a yondan rank.

You can tell alot about a person just by talking to him/her for awhile. If they brag about themselves too much, then you might want to continue looking. A good martial artist is humble, with a polished spirit.
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Old 03-09-2004, 10:16 AM   #8
SeiserL's Avatar
Location: Florida Gulf coast
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 3,888
Speaking as a Nidan, I feel I have something to offer, especially to beginners.

If you like what you see, get on the mat.

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 03-09-2004, 12:07 PM   #9
Jessie Brown
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 31
Just to add my 2 cents...

I completely agree that rank is not a factor in teaching ability. The best Aikido teacher I've ever had is a Nidan. Conversely, one of the worst teachers I've learnt from is a yondan. Of course, the best teacher for me may be the worst for the next aikidoka.

It's more about personal connection and whether he explains things in such a way that it "clicks."
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Old 03-09-2004, 12:34 PM   #10
George S. Ledyard
George S. Ledyard's Avatar
Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
James Sterling

I happen to know your Sterling Sensei. This past year I taught a seminar at his new location in Las Vegas. I can honestly say that you shouldn't have any reservations about training with him. His students were extremely nice, he is very serious about what he is doing and open minded about what he does. Most importantly, he is hungry. This is not the guy who thinks he has arrrived and is now ready to dish it all out to the rest of you. He is looking for new input all the time... Nice dojo too.

It's no problem starting with someone who is a nidan. You aren't really able to absorb much beyond what they can show you at the beginning. If you decided that you wanted to be a professional teacher someday and wished to take your Aikido up to the highest level possible, it would probabaly be a good idea at some later point to move to a place where you could train with a student of the Founder or someone opereating at the Shihan level.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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Old 03-09-2004, 02:57 PM   #11
Dojo: River Valley Aikido
Location: Bennington, VT
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 27
I don't even know my sensei's rank. He never told me, its not posted anywhere, and I never asked. I have attended several classes under him now, been uke for him a few times and can tell he as something to teach me. aside from him, there are a couple of sempai who are quite good themselves, and I am sure I'll learn a lot from them too. the bottom line is that Its a wonderful dojo. Everybody is kind, friendly and patient with one another yet serious by the same token. It will be a long time before I'm training at any of their levels, perhaps then I will find another teacher to help me go further.
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Old 03-10-2004, 07:36 AM   #12
David Yap
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 561
Dear Mark,

As everyone here has said "Rank does not matter". More so when you are a beginner. Very soon, when you realise that you have found Aikido is the martial art for you, you will be doing more research from the Net and books to find out what Aiki-Do is really about, what the art meant to the Founder and to his direct students.

You may also come across some teachers who will tell you that aikido means different thing to different people and he/she will proceed to teach you the aikido you perceived. At a certain level (with enough understanding), you will then learn to filter what are good techniques and those that are not. When you are happy with what the teacher can offer, the dojo atmosphere, you will stay on; if not, then move on to another.

Rank of a teacher is not important. Find a teacher who cares both about yours and fellow dojo mates' well being - your safety - and yet can organise the class with reality self-defence. If you find that he/she demonstrate s his/her techniques on you/mate using excessive force enough to tear limb joints apart, then you are better off doing karate/TKD/JKD or Wing Chun.

That's my 2 sen advice.



Last edited by David Yap : 03-10-2004 at 07:43 AM.
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Old 03-10-2004, 12:39 PM   #13
Location: South West UK
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 216
I have several teachers, from Sensei K Williams (founder of the Ki Federation), 2 8th Dan Sensei and 1 3rd Dan. I take so much from them all, or atleast I try to. There's never a point where I think my 3rd Dan Sensei is anyless a teacher.

Ofcourse there are differences in ability, but I'm so far behind them all that its all the same to me.

The bottom line is whether their a good teacher and not the colour of their belt or the number of colour stripes that are on it.


"Minimum Effort, Maximum Effciency."
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Old 03-10-2004, 01:26 PM   #14
George S. Ledyard
George S. Ledyard's Avatar
Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Rank of Teacher

Ok, everyone has agreed that, for a beginner, the rank of a teacher doesn't matter. I do think, however, a certain caveat is in order. The teacher is VERY important. If you aspire to be shihan level one day, to get to the top levels of Aikido practice, then you will have to spend some, or even a lot, of time with a teacher of that level.

I can't think of a single instance in which a teacher of Sixth Dan or higher got to that level without training with a teacher who was at least that level.

There is a vast difference between the direct students of the various uchi deshi and the general student populace in terms of ability.

Let me put it this way... twenty years of hard effort with an average teacher will produce an average or slightly above average student. On the other hand, twenty years of average effort with a great teacher, will still produce an average student. But twenty years if hard effort with a great teacher will produce a really excellent student.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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Old 03-10-2004, 04:21 PM   #15
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 498

Must be a full moon... I actually agreed with everything posted by everyone in this thread.

I would like to add a point that has yet to be mentioned. When evaluating any teacher sixth dan or lower, an important consideration is who that individual's teacher is, and the nature of the relationship between the two of them. Is your soon-to-be teacher still drawing water from the fountain, or are they trying to make it alone, out in the desert? The relationship between a student and his teacher is of paramount importance. It may certainly be the chief factor that determines how well a student is able to develop any potential they have walking in the door. If your teacher has no relationship with his teacher to speak of, or even one you may observe from time to time, there will be no model from which to learn. Yes, this is also gleaned from one's own senpai (senior students) at the dojo. However, seeing your teacher be a student will enhance your ability to understand the process of learning. You may even catch him working with his senpai, an invaluable teaching mechanism for all of his student's, no matter the level at which they are training. With regards to teaching modalities, one can learn by being told how, and learn by being shown how. Both methods are valuable. However, understanding that comes from within is your own while understanding that comes from another person is the other person's.

Last edited by Misogi-no-Gyo : 03-10-2004 at 04:24 PM.

I no longer participate in or read the discussion forums here on AikiWeb due to the unfair and uneven treatment of people by the owner/administrator.
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Old 03-10-2004, 09:03 PM   #16
Qatana's Avatar
Dojo: Aikido of Petaluma, Petaluma,CA
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 834
One of the reasons i chose my sensei is that he has been continually training for 40 years with His.


"It is not wise to be incautious when confronting a little smiling bald man"'- Rule #1
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Old 03-10-2004, 10:41 PM   #17
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 241
Wow, I totally agree with everyone's comments! Great job!


Brad Medling
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