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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 1998 5:05 am 
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Joined: Thu Sep 24, 1998 6:01 am
Posts: 311
Location: Washington DC area, USA
To Paul Giella and others:

Someone referenced (I believe it was Van) the alpha/beta hierachy mentioned in March Animal MacYoung's "Cheap Shots...." book, where an outsider is expected to fall in line at a lower level in a group in terms of machismo or fighting ability. Failure to do so results in the "higher ups" being upset. It's the classic pecking order at work.

To what degree do you all think this manifests itself in the dojo?? For instance, if an outside student comes into a dojo with a gup ranking, yet either consistently shows a problem or defeats some of the black belt students in sparring, is it a problem, even though the "Guppie" shows them the proper respect otherwise??? Or, is it only a problem if the student defeats what may be perceived as an "alpha" black belt, but defeating a beta black belts is no problem? Are some students automatically perceived as alpha or beta?
Or, what if an outsider, gup or dan, joins a dojo, has a lot of outside knowledge or other styles; is he seen as an automatic threat to the school structure? Even if s/he still shows the proper respect to sempais and senseis???

This inquirying mind wants to know.

Cecil


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 1998 12:57 pm 
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Joined: Sun Sep 27, 1998 6:01 am
Posts: 317
Cecil,
Good points. I think you have pretty much suggested the answers to your own questions... respect seems to be the key. We have had the experience of having a newcomer to our dojo who may be naturally talented or may have just come from a place with a tradidtion of better training, who rapidly establishes himself as a "threat", so to speak, to the established hierarchy. Fedele Cacia is a fine example. Trained in the English school outside Liverpool, coming to our group as a shodan, quickly impressed us all as a very strong man and talented fighter. While he may not have had the credentials on paper to move immediately into an "alpha" position,he showed though his hard work and gentlemanly manner that he belonged near the top of the heap. In relatively short order he has established himself as the pride of our dojo. If there were any noses out of joint (no pun intended) at the beginning, we got over it pretty quickly.As you would imagine, he also advanced in rank fairly steadily, and is now a sandan.A future 'professor', to be sure.
I suppose it would be an entirely different matter if we were approached by someone so cocky or rude that they did not observe dojo etiquette. There actually was such a case at the Boston dojo around 1970 or so. Sensei Mattson's dojo was a true world center of martial arts study, and we often had visitors from other cities or countries. One day, a Japanese teacher of another style presented himself alomg with his brown belt studdent and interpreter. He politely asked permission to demonstrate his style, which was granted, and then to teach some exercises to us.Everyone had a pleasant and educational first evening. But then he showed up again, and then again... after three or four such visits it became clear that his intention was not simply to visit but to "take over" the largest dojo in the area. The reaction of the seniors was predictable. After an initial period of ignoring him - he did not get the strong hint - he was told -politely but firmly, that he had overstayed his welcome. He went elsewhere, I guess, because we never heard from him again.
In this day and age I suppose it would be almost unimaginable that a competing teacher, or rogue student, would show up and issue a physical challenge in a bid to take over. Were that to happen, the proper response would be the one that Sensei Canna recently describes on his forum... the dojo group, en masse, would make it clear that he would either leave immediately, or would not remain healthy enough to leave at all.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 1998 1:06 pm 
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Joined: Thu Sep 17, 1998 6:01 am
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Location: Boston, MA
Cecil,

Interesting questions... to which there are probably no set answers. Not all dojos are the same. They are, however, similar in being microcosmic societies with their own cultures, perceived purposes and beliefs, and heirarchies serving to perpetuate the group.

The "alpha" members of the dojo are such because they generally are the "toughest", but not always. Of equal or greater importance is the fact of their seniority and their understanding of the dojo's culture and purpose/beliefs and their commitment to transmitting it down the hierarchy. Again, we are talking about perpetuation of the group.

Now, if a "gup" comes in and starts "beating" on the higher ranks. There is a challenge to the groups's order and, perhaps, its belief system. By the way, it is highly unlikely that the gup would be "beating" on the true alphas of the group. More likely it is the middle of the hierarchy (I explain more later). The group, especially the higher ups, will scrutinize closely the intent of the gup. If the gup is paying "proper respect" and is perceived as sincere, then s/he will eventually be accommodated into the hierarchy, not at the beta level but certainly not at the alpha level. Quite simply, the gup is seen as one with "raw" talent but not with the "understanding" and time put into perpetuating the dojo's belief system. The gup will have to demonstrate his/her evolving belief and understanding of the dojo's style to progress in the heirarchy. If done convincingly -- like dropping some of the "raw" (but effective) moves he demonstrated earlier on -- the gup can move up the hierarchy faster than others. But still, the time has to be put into the dojo and it's system.

Now, let's say the gup has an ego and is really interested in proving him/herself at the expense of those on the dojo's hierarchy. I assure you the gup will be in for a rough ride. Each and every turn, starting from the middle of the hierarchy on up (except for the top most part), the members be will going at the gup with a vengence. They have to because the gup is challenging the dojo's structure and belief system. If the gup is that talented, then the upper echelons will take the gup on. IF the gup prevails, he may still be asked or forced to leave for his/her perceive "impertinence". If the gup doesn't understand the "request" to leave, s/he may easily be "escorted" out by 2, 3 or more of the hierarchy.

If a person comes into a dojo and challenges the hierarchy, you may see a quick escalation of the above scenario. This person is "dojo buster" and not a gup. The gup (I think this JD's term) is a beginner who has signed on obstensibly to be "trained" (or inculcucated) into the dojo's system. The dojo buster will get no benefit of doubt and will be immediately taken care of one way or another. The perpetuation of the system and beliefs require forceful action.

There may be variations to the above scenarios because of "cultural" differences (e.g. how respect is shown) but I think the general pattern holds true.

I consider myself fortunate to have practice for awhile. I know people in different styles and have been to different dojos/kwoons/gyms. I learned early on, from my days at Hancock St. dojo no less, that one doesn't go into a dojo and try to look good at the expense of the hierarchy of the dojo. I had played the "enforcer" along with some of my other colleagues in these forums. It's real. It happens.

My approach to visiting dojos and, yes, joining some is never to try to make anyone of the hierarchy look "bad". If I spar, I try to match NOT supercede the "intensity" and skills of the person I am sparring with. I am not a "dojo buster". I am interested in learning, not taking on the dojo's structure, belief system, or whatever. I found this the best way to be welcomed and accepted into a dojo.

Another point, if you join a dojo and find that you may not agree entirely with the belief system (as reflected in the physical techniques), don't openly dis it but don't necessarily conform with it either. This is your training. If something doesn't conform with dojo but has proven to work for you, keep it (it may save your life someday). The thing here is that you may get some respect but you will likely not progress up the dojo's heirarchy because you have not shown and demonstrated your total commitment to the dojo's system. Is this trade-off worth it? It depends on why you're training.

david


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 07, 1998 3:25 pm 
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Joined: Thu Sep 24, 1998 6:01 am
Posts: 311
Location: Washington DC area, USA
Thanks for the replies. Hope there are more.

David wrote:

"Another point, if you join a dojo and find that you may not agree entirely with the belief system (as reflected in the physical techniques), don't openly dis it but don't necessarily conform with it either. This is your training. If something doesn't conform with dojo but has proven to work for you, keep it (it may save your life someday). The thing here is that you may get some respect but you will likely not progress up the dojo's heirarchy because you have not shown and demonstrated your total commitment to the dojo's system. Is this trade-off worth it? It depends on why you're training."

I like this point. It reinforces one of the principles I believe in, where as one must think of expanding thier training in all areas. Even if one may already be a good fighter, they may not improve if they are not open to working on different areas of training.

I had never heard of "Dojo Busters", but I guess these types exist since you all wrote about them. These Busters must be yet another group of the insecure of people in this world who need to grow up and get a life!!!

Thanks!!!!


Cecil


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 1998 1:53 am 
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Joined: Fri Sep 18, 1998 6:01 am
Posts: 108
Location: Boston, MA USA
It occurs that ‘cognitive assessment’ plays a role in what is being discussed. The idea that …what one person considers stressful, uncomfortable or life threatening is rewarding or challenging to someone else. Pardon if you think this a bit much (‘psycho-babble’) but I think the concept explains much of the difficulty we have upon entry into a strange or unfamiliar situation. Best regards…phils


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