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Old 08-01-2004, 11:18 AM   #1
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Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

AikiWeb Poll for the week of August 1, 2004:

Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?
  • I don't do aikido
  • Yes
  • No
Here are the current results.
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Old 08-01-2004, 11:43 AM   #2
ruthmc
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Whew - that's a tough one!

Technical ability is hard to measure - I've seen enough folk get through tests by muscling every technique. I'm starting to wonder if the grading panel themselves should uke for the gradee...

I think I would only be confident to answer this poll if I was in a position to award ranks, which I am not. I don't know how to vote on this one.

Ruth (fence-sitters R us)
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Old 08-01-2004, 01:20 PM   #3
Robyn Johnson
 
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Well, a person might not be able to physically perform the technique very well all the time but they can have a great understanding of it, be very mature, and contain other qualities that should count for promotion. Possibly a case by case situation.

Robyn
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Old 08-01-2004, 02:49 PM   #4
Don_Modesto
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Quote:
Robyn Johnson wrote:
Well, a person might not be able to physically perform the technique very well all the time but they can have a great understanding of it, be very mature, and contain other qualities that should count for promotion.
I agree: Heart, overcoming adversity, contribution to dojo, progress made...

I've seen aikido enriched by participants with Down's Syndrome, transplanted livers, surgically removed sternocleidomastoid muscles (cancer at 70 years of age), excess weight, diminutive size, paralysis, osteoporosis... How to level these playing fields?

Don J. Modesto
St. Petersburg, Florida
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http://www.theaikidodojo.com/
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Old 08-01-2004, 03:37 PM   #5
aikidoc
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

It also becomes an issue as we all age and our physical abilities start to deteriorate. We may have the knowledge but not the physical ability to execute a pretty technique.
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Old 08-01-2004, 03:48 PM   #6
senseimike
 
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Being in a position to award rank, I would like to chime in on this one. I feel that physical technique is a very small part of the grand scheme of Aikido. There are mental, spiritual, and social aspects of the art that reach far beyond the mat. Aikido is not something that is done for a few hours twice a week. It should be something that you practice in every day life. Being helpful, positive, an asset to your community , family and friends, and treating others the way you want to be treated are all parts of this art. Having the advantage of being from a small town, having a smaller dojo, the instructors of our school have a bit more interaction with the students outside the dojo. We have a very good relationship with the administration of the local school and know when our students are behaving in a way that is not deemed acceptable (i.e. bullying, fighting, disrespect, etc.) We have denied rank to some students that are not exibiting proper behavior outside the dojo. This may not be the "right" way to handle a situation like this, but it is the way that the board of instructors at our dojo have chosen to do it. Our reasoning for this is that each student repersents their dojo and their sensei at all times. We don't need one bad example soiling our name and standing in the community, and these students either straighten up and act right or are not allowed in the dojo.

Mike Taylor
Godan
Chief Instructor, Rising Star Aikido
South Bend, Nebraska, USA
www.risingstaraikido.com
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Old 08-02-2004, 03:00 AM   #7
happysod
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

To continue my usual schizo line of answers.

1. Had to answer yes as most black belts grades beyond a certain rank (in all but a few associations) are awarded with respect to what they have done for the association/rank within the association rather than any perceived increase in their technical ability.

2. "I feel that physical technique is a very small part of the grand scheme of Aikido" - I nominate this particular phrase as the one I most disagree with to date.

Whether you're in aikido for your spiritual advancement or (as many of us are) in it for the martial aspect, the physical display of your art is what you should be measured by, not how well you (for example) can bake a cake for the entire dojo. The physical side is the direct expression you have for your understanding of aikido and should be the primary way others can measure your aikido.

While I take Don's point regarding aikido vs physical/mental limits and have modified gradings with this in mind, there is also a limit. High grade in aikido must represent a strong ability in the martial art , after all that is what aikido is, not a social club or a church.
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Old 08-02-2004, 03:04 AM   #8
shihonage
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of

Since I can't put it any better than Ian, I'll just quote him.

Quote:
Ian Hurst wrote:
2. "I feel that physical technique is a very small part of the grand scheme of Aikido" - I nominate this particular phrase as the one I most disagree with to date.

Whether you're in aikido for your spiritual advancement or (as many of us are) in it for the martial aspect, the physical display of your art is what you should be measured by, not how well you (for example) can bake a cake for the entire dojo. The physical side is the direct expression you have for your understanding of aikido and should be the primary way others can measure your aikido.

While I take Don's point regarding aikido vs physical/mental limits and have modified gradings with this in mind, there is also a limit. High grade in aikido must represent a strong ability in the martial art , after all that is what aikido is, not a social club or a church.
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Old 08-02-2004, 04:22 AM   #9
WylMorris
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

But, if the other elements of Aikido are important, how should we test them. I agree in principle that we should assess these parts, but the techniques are the only things I can think of that can be consistently and objectively graded. (Stupid research methods asssignment. Turning me into a pedant!)

The other things are far too subjective to be graded consistantly, imho, because everyones situation and circumstances are unique.

BadgerBadgerBadgerBadgerBadgerBadgerBadger Badger
MUSHROOM MUSHROOM!
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Old 08-02-2004, 11:03 AM   #10
rcoit
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

I do not award ranks but would say ranking must be based on technical achievement. Subjective qualities of honor, devotion, compassion..etc. must be pre-requisite for rank however. Rank is a measure of skill in Aikido - not a measure of humaness or worth, which is shared by all, equally. All students/sensei should join with each other in mutual respect to the same degree, but rank recognizes achievement/skill that is available to teach others of lower rank.
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Old 08-02-2004, 12:17 PM   #11
wimp_lo
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

I have never tested, but it is my understanding that at our school the non-technical aspects are a prerequisite of sorts, and that rank isn't granted based on technical ability alone. On the other hand, I don't believe rank would be granted solely on non-technical achievement.

Perhaps it makes sense to grant rank to senior aikidoka based on their contribution to the art.

But I could be wrong
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Old 08-02-2004, 04:25 PM   #12
henry brown
 
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

I find there is little objective about the physical test to begin with. Outside dojo activities (or even 'spirit') may be easier to assess than someone's technique!

Last edited by henry brown : 08-02-2004 at 04:26 PM. Reason: missepellig
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Old 08-02-2004, 05:35 PM   #13
Misogi-no-Gyo
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

I believe that the responses to the poll would look very different if the question asked were:

Quote:
Should rank be granted only on the merits of one's technical ability?
Although I know many on the board who already have stated this as their opinion, I would really like to hear from anyone who would answer yes to that question, taking into account the following with regards to the regulations for promotion within the Aiki-Kai. It may be similar within most other aikido organizations.

According to what is posted, rank beyond Go-Dan is typically done by promotion only, not through testing. This is a clear indication of how the parent organization views the subject. As such, we, as members should follow their lead. With regards to testing for lower ranks, it really doesn't matter what the new aikido student's attitude is. Simply, if one shows the aptitude towards absorbing the basic technical material, then one passes the test. In only the rarest of problematic cases is attitude or the ability to brown nose, or whatever politically correct phrase you care to choose for those efforts, or other such factors - outside of technical ability - be considered with regards to the issuance of rank. This goes for all testing through the level before just prior to shodan.

What happens at that point is transference from a strictly physical or technical focus to the idea of "connection" being a higher element within the art. Basically, in addition to mastering the technical syllabus, one needs to find a manner in which to connect to the flow of the organization - whatever that may be. This is a purely martial concept, although there are those who do not see it this way. They would decry that there is some unseen element, and therefore an unfair element to be mastered in order to receive an elevation in rank.

One of the more interesting teachings I received from Seiseki Abe Sensei which would aptly apply here is that of Gan-Sa Tan-Riki. The four characters don't literally translate to reveal the inner meaning of the phrase. However, the first character is loosely translated as "see" and the last is physical power. Suffice it to say that each character stands for a separate element on which to focus within the learning process of the art form. Metaphorically, the teaching is to learn to see (what you can not yet see)…. and lastly focusing on what is physical. This is directly associated with the Katsuhayahi within the progression of Masakatsu-Agatsu-Katsuhayahi - sometimes mistakenly translated as, "True victory is victory over oneself." However, that is not an accurate translation, and is an advanced teaching that reveals itself through the proper practice of misogi, and a life lead within the bounds of giri and shugyo…


The Aikikai guidelines with regards to advanced rank are quite clear. There is no simple test that one can take to demonstrate the fact that they have absorbed the more advanced elements of the art. The gate to senior ranking opens by the combined agreement of the teachers with whom one associates themselves, i.e. those senior members who will recommend a person for promotion, agreeing to attach their names, and associated reputations. This is a process of recommendation, not application. One simply can't apply for advanced ranking. This element is important within any martial art, but especially Aikido, as aikido is the art of aiki, also known as "The harmony between all things." If a student can not create harmony between himself and their teacher, then they are not exemplifying a true understanding of aiki. They therefore should not be promoted no matter what their level of technical understanding. Of course, this leads to the ever-increasingly popular 38 year old 10th dan, creator of the masters-less art of JoeBloe-Do-Kai Aikido, or Severe Combat-Proof Aikido, or Aikido Dim Mak….etc.

Of course, the arguments will forever continue between the two camps, those that understand that aikido is not a group of martial techniques, heck there are enough arts like that -- with arguably better techniques, and those who want just want aikido to be something other than what it is, a Japanese art, created by the Japanese. However, no matter how hard the latter group tries, they can't change the past, so they better focus on themselves… enough so that they can come up with a catchy new name for their version of the art of aikido.

Last edited by Misogi-no-Gyo : 08-02-2004 at 05:42 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 08-02-2004, 07:51 PM   #14
Tharis
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

So, would a better survey include a caveat for pre and post dan ranks, or possibly pre and post godan ranks? I'd say that for beginner's ranks, you need to test based on skill so there's an objective measure. After about third dan or so, the skill differential may start to shrink, I'd imagine, kind of like how the difference between a gold and silver Olympic medalist may be a matter of fractions of an inch or of a second. At that level, skill has been attained and to advance further one must show how he/she has done something to advance the art as a whole.

This, of course, assumes that the system functions more or less ideally (excluding inevitable pettiness, brown nosing, politicking, etc).

--Thomas
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Old 08-02-2004, 08:25 PM   #15
senseimike
 
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Haven't had many students baking cakes in the dojo, and I think that's a foolish example. A person can learn all the physical techniques that Aikido has to offer in time. If the physical "mat" techniques are what a person is after, they will fade away after they feel that the instructor has nothing to offer them anymore. The people that stick around to achieve higher rank usually figure out that there is more to it than throwing people around a couple times a week. I would never promote someone on merit alone in our dojo as I do want to see that they grasp the physical arts. After I had been involved with Aikido for a time, my motivation for training changed. Instead of training to learn how to defend myself and fight, as a martial art teaches, I now train so I don't have to fight. Guess everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and this is mine. Right or wrong.

Mike Taylor
Godan
Chief Instructor, Rising Star Aikido
South Bend, Nebraska, USA
www.risingstaraikido.com
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Old 08-02-2004, 10:19 PM   #16
Edward
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Quote:
Don J. Modesto wrote:
I agree: Heart, overcoming adversity, contribution to dojo, progress made...
Exactly, contribution to the dojo, or to the teacher.... Excuse me, maybe I 've had some bad experiences with this subject so I'm a little sensitive to it, but I have seen many cases of rank advancement in several dojos based exclusively on monetary contributions to the "dojo", or more precisely, directly to the teacher's "pocket".
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Old 08-03-2004, 12:24 AM   #17
Lyle Laizure
 
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

This is an interesting question. In the organization I belong to (as I am sure with other organizations) the testing requirements are very well laid out. When I grade a test I look at the physical technique and I grade the physical technique.

Not much more one can do unless they are involved to some degree with the students life outside the dojo, which in my case I try to get to know my students as much as possible. But how well can you really get to know your students?

Well, I joined an organization once and they required a background check before allowing me to join. I was surprised but very happy as I thought to myself how possibly could you go wrong. You weed out some of the bad elements from the beginning.

No different than a company dismissing employees because they they bring a negative light to the company simply by being affiliated with it. I mean do you really want a convicted sex offender working for your company? Most folks will say no, I think. On the same token do you want someone of bad character representing your dojo, your sensei? I think again the answer is no.

So back to the question; "Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?" NO!

A persons character as well as his/her technical ability is taken into consideration for promotion. A person that cannot perform basic standards for the rank being promoted to does not get a promotion, even if the person is at the dojo everyday cleaning and doing extra tasks.

A person who is of "bad character" that demonstrates great technical ability would not be promoted either. Again I agree judging the character of a person is very subjective. Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone. Who are we to say that someone can't be promoted because they are an adulterer or a bully? Who are we? Well in my case, I am the sensei, so that is at my discretion. In your dojo, if you are not the one that handles promotions, it is at your sensei's discretion.

Aikido is far more than the physical technique we practice on the mat. There is a spiritual side, not religious but spiritual.

Inevitably we may all have a different opinion. It doesn't mean anyone is wrong, just of a different mind.

Lyle Laizure
www.hinodedojo.com
Deru kugi wa uta reru
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Old 08-03-2004, 08:15 AM   #18
SeiserL
 
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Yep, I think that people should receive rank for showing up consistently and training, for having a good training attitude, for contrinuting to the field. I think that to limit ranking just to technical ability would eliminate the greater good that Aikido can offer, and diminish it to McDojo status (oh wait, they promote because you pay).

Technical is not conceptual or spiritual, its just mechanical and only the first level of proficiency.

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 08-04-2004, 12:22 AM   #19
tiyler_durden
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

I know it happens so i voted "YES" .
I must say that sometimes i don't agree and with some I do!

"Deal with the faults as gently a your own"
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Old 08-04-2004, 04:03 AM   #20
Chris Birke
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

I'm sorry, no. Not below shodan.

Giving people rank despite their technical ability is dangerous and detrimental to the art.

You can fake Ethics, you cannot fake technique.

A belt should be an indicator of someone's technical ability, both in
giving and receiving technique. It keeps those without skill safe as a
grade of their ukemi, and highlights the advanced students you may learn from. Thus, a belt system with rigor is useful.

Granting belts for non technical reasons destroys this, and a belt
ceases to have any technical meaning. A person with lesser technical knowledge may end up teaching incorrect technique to others on the basis of this false rank. That same person might be unable to handle the techniques of others.

Being proficient in Aikido technique does not automatically make one
ethically sound, nor does it grant perfection to your character judgment.

True, ethics in relation to Aikido is tied to technique, but at an
early stage they are distant, and not indicative or each other.

Moreover, it is very easy to be a bad person, and yet still appear a good one in the limited context of most Dojo. A preacher might not know sankyo, and a murder might. Thinking that their belt is tells anything besides technical ability is a dangerous gamble.

We, as individuals and as a society, all have devoted far more years
to the art of reading people than we have Aikido. Although an average blackbelt
is certainly superior to a whitebelt in technique, their ability to
read people might be perfectly matched. To assume your students should
defer to your social judgement based on belts can lead to dangerous
situations. Also, how a student treats the teacher may be very different from how they treat others when you are not looking.

Creating this "good behavior equals belt" rewards system is a social
mistake. People should be good for the sake of being harmonious with
others. Putting a belt into the equasion clouds that (are they being
nice because it is the best way to be, or because they want a belt?),
and ultimately detracts from one of the fundamental spiritual messages of Aikido. By rewarding students for good behavior with belts, you may actually inhibit their spiritual growth.

Lastly, what about the idea that you simply expect people to be good.
I am fine with refusing to train (much less rank) people on the basis of moral flaw, but there is simply more good in not granting belts for morality than in granting them.

Belts should be for technique, word of mouth should be for integrity. We should make this clear, and stick to it.

//

"I've seen aikido enriched by participants with Down's Syndrome, transplanted livers, surgically removed sternocleidomastoid muscles (cancer at 70 years of age), excess weight, diminutive size, paralysis, osteoporosis... How to level these playing fields?"

Destroy any idea that you need a belt to determine your self worth.

Those people are good people; perhaps they are masters of spirit already, perhaps they outrank the Sensei. Technique does not make you a good person, it is technique. Training lets you be a good person, it moves you with others.

You need good ukemi to train high level techniques, so having a belt to determine this is prudent.

These people should not feel the need for that, life will have already and clearly demonstrated to them that being able to run fast or throw a baseball does not make you a better person spiritually.

Moreover, if you leave the belts to technique, they will be a much greater reward to those who struggle hard with technique. If they finally acheive it, they have done so purely, and by no other means than their own hard work. Let that be their internal reward, and do not cheapen it by awarding things softly. Let them know how much you appriciate them in other ways - extra training attention. Extra devotion to history. Bake THEM a cake.

You do not need a belt to train Aikido.
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Old 08-04-2004, 07:46 AM   #21
David Brannigan
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

There's more to respect in Aikido than just technical ability but without it the rest means little.
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Old 08-04-2004, 01:36 PM   #22
Amendes
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Requirments for testing in order by importance.
Attitude, Attendence and Commitment.
Then when you have that focus on technique.

I've seen people with good technique not test because there Attitude was poor or thier Attendance and commitment lacked.

I've also seen one student with 92 on a test get bumped up 3 points for a double grading because thier commitment was so strong. They stayed after most every class and helped out other students like myself every day. Now i try to do the helping because of what it ment to me when I needed it. To me thats Aikido.
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Old 08-04-2004, 02:47 PM   #23
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Chris, while I'm not sure I agree 100%, I think that was a FANTASTIC post.

Thanks,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 08-04-2004, 04:54 PM   #24
aikidoc
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Another issue is the aging process. Technical finese does not always hang in their as we age and suffer from degenerative changes and diminished flexibility. I'm sure a lot of O'Sensei's deshi are not as dynamic as they once were. It does not mean they don't have the knowlege or ability to impart it. So, we have to be careful how we define technical ability.
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Old 08-04-2004, 07:17 PM   #25
suren
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Well, I'm really confused here. Are things like Zanshin (see http://www.aikiweb.com/columns/cclark/2004_06.html), ability to be relaxed, concentrated, ability to perform the technique with correct state of mind counted as "technical ability"? If so, then I'm sure those values greatly affect not only your training, but also your life and the way you socialize with your surrounding. I believe and I heard that many times that Aikido affects your daily life and changes you from inside. I don't have much experience with Aikido, but I already can feel some changes in my life that came from my daily training.
My point here is - you can't separate the mentioned mental abilities from Aikido, you can't separate your mental abilities from your life and consequently you can't separate your life from Aikido.

As for ranking, I don't have any rank for now and I don't really care about it. My test will come soon and I'll probably get my first rank, but I think the only meaning of having different belt colours (and that's the only reason I will put on a coloured belt) is for young practitioners to know who is experienced enough to work with them during a class.

Your rank as a human is much more important and Aikido can greatly help with this.
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