View Full Version : Shodan is another start of Aikido?

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04-29-2007, 10:47 PM
I went to the keiko on Sunday. We have one session of keiko on Sunday, which starts at 11 a.m. and lasts 90 minutes. There were more than twenty people there in the 42 tatami-mat dojo. We sat and lined up along the straight line which the edges of the tatami mats made on the opposite side of the dojo facing the photo of O'Sensei.
We practiced techniques for ushiro-ryote-dori (both hads grabbed from behind). First irimi-nage, then kote-gaeshi, nikyo, several kinds of kokyu-nage. Then we were told to grab our partner's elbows from behind to practice ushiro-ryohiji-dori kotegaeshi. They were all techniques to be tested on the shodan promotion test.
Our dojo, one of the branch dojos of the Kobayashi Dojo, started in March five years ago and it is now in the sixth year. The sensei started with beginners, all of them. I also started Aikido with no class, just a white belt beginner.
In the fifth year, last November, the very first black belt was given to one of the members who started at about the same time as I did. He passed the promotion test and began wearing a hakama.
Then on the March promotion test, another member passed the shodan test and he also began wearing a hakama.
Now There are two black belts, five or six brown belts, and many white belts in our dojo. Our sensei says that you can get the black belt in three years, but it is from his viewpoint and experience of having trained since childhood. For me without any experience of martial arts, everything was new and still many are new and it is not so easy to master one technique completely. Making an excuse in that way, I have come a long way, from the seven-kyu to the ikkyu rank. Now I am practicing for the kuro-obi (black belt) and hakama, but I am practicing for the sake of keiko, too. Am I lying to myself in this? I don't know. Instead I think that having the black belt is another beginning of Aikido. You will practice after getting shodan far longer than you have practiced for the black belt and hakama, ten years fifteen years and in many case twenty years. So I would like to put on a hakama to start a new beginning. (But it is also possible that I fail in the test. In such a case, it is shikataga-nai (can't be helped). I will try one more time.) Anyway, there is no difference whether I am ikkyu or shodan in the sense that I will keep practicing for further more years until I find myself very difficult to do ukemi.

04-29-2007, 10:53 PM
Practice without concern of attaining rank. Practice to learn and better yourself. Practice to help your fellow students to advance.


04-30-2007, 05:56 AM
Agreed that Shodan is another start.
So is every day, every training session.
Don't take rank too seriously.
With training and time, it will change.
As everything does.

04-30-2007, 07:35 AM
Thank you, both of you.
I like keiko itself. There is not comptetion there. Everybody is concentrating on the waza (technique) taught by the sensei. Our sensei scolds us when we are chatting, but when when we are making grimace, he tells us "Smile." I can see that he has changed too.
We come to the dojo for keiko to practice and at the same time to see our sensei and other members and to see how we can be better at each waza.
As a person, we are all immature, but we are trying to be better, which is really good. We are trying to develop as a human being by doing keiko.
One bad thing about Aikido is that I forget all my frustrations after keiko. You know, you need some sense of crisis in order to continue your work, but after practicing some techniques six or seven times or more with my partner, I just forget the day's unpleasant events or worries for the future. I just feel that my mind is peaceful and wishing peace for everybody.
Today is one of the holidays of the so-called Golden Week in Japan. I got on the train and saw many of them shouldering back-packs, probably going to the sea and mountains to have a relaxed time.
Tuesday and Wednesday are the days when we have to work or children have to go to school. It is like a pocket between holidays. And then the third, fourth, and fifth of May are holidays.
I am going to the Chichibu mountainous area, two hours train ride from the center of Tokyo, to see azaleas and to eat wild boar meat with my wife.
Then on the sixth, keiko will begin.
After the keiko, we drink tea sitting on the tatami mat around a low-legged table, chatting with each other and with the sensei. Just chatting, but it's nice with everybody smiling and eager to please others. Some still practice which we call "jishu" or self-learning after the soji (cleaning) of the dojo.
Our sensei has made various efforts to help us come to the stage where we can enjoy the jishu (self-practice) time after the keiko. He prepared for a party in the first, second and maybe third years, but now we are happy to prepare for a friendship party, though three times or four times a year. We were taught how to prepare for having parties by him and still we make lots of mistakes and are made to realize how poor we are at handling these events, about how many dishes of sushi or sake we need for how many people and how we should entertain each other. We are learning everything he has learned as a uchideshi (internship or apprenticeship) and as a teacher. We are learning how to communicate with each other by practicing Aikido in pair work and while having tea or having a party.

04-30-2007, 09:02 AM
I agree with the previous posters. I've found that I train in Aikido for what it does for me on the inside, as it is known to be called 'moving meditation'.

Cory Hansen
04-30-2007, 11:08 AM
My Sensei told me when I received my Black belt that Shodan basically means that you are considered now a serious student and now at a stage where you begin to learn Aikido.

He also stated that when I received my Nidan i was considered a expierenced Shodan. Basically meaning that even know you are a certain rank you do not earn that rank til you test past that rank.


04-30-2007, 04:31 PM
...I think that having the black belt is another beginning of Aikido...

kobayashi san,

honto desu! if you look at your friends' rank certificate, the kanji for 'sho' in shodan is the same as in shoshinsha. i think the idea of black belt in the west is different than in the east. that's the first thing someoene asks if they hear you studio martial arts...'oh! are you a black belt master?' blah blah blah.

as shodan, we're starting to get a grasp of the basics, to omoimasu

05-01-2007, 04:59 PM
I certainly agree with the above sentiments, most especially that each time you step onto the mat it is a new experience, but I also think there is a definite place for training towards a test. It is an excellent time to focus specifically on a set of techniques, making them as right as you can possibly get them, in the time before the test. It is a very different feeling (for me, at least) than regular training. Less width, more depth.

Cheers, and best wishes for your training,


05-01-2007, 08:15 PM
Great points! My sensei mentioned that many people quit after achieving shodan, but he considers it the beginning. The kanji for shodan (初段)means "first step". It signifies that we have become real students. It also means a big increase in responsibility, both to ourselves and others around us.
It is similar to becoming an adult at 18 or getting a driver's license at 16 (20 and 18 in Japan, of course). Are they really mature adults or expert drivers? No, but society recognizes them as beginning the journey to maturity and responsibility.
We should be proud of our past achievements, but also prepare ourselves for future challenges. Hope you're enjoying it as much as I am!

05-01-2007, 11:08 PM
Thank you very much for your comments and thoughtful opinions.
You are right. People look having changed after getting shodan.
They remember the waza and can teach them well to the kohai (lower-ranks and new-comers). For the promotion test, they can improve themselves. They can improve their waza, and by passing the test they gain confidence.
However if they change in a wrong way, they lose their modesty and sincerity and they are not what the other followers want to become.
The thing is that by being promoted, your mind and attitude should be promoted at the same time. If people respect you not because of your rank, but because of your personality, you shoud be glad. I hope we are polishing our minds by having keiko so many times.
If we aim at that, mind-polishing, and continue keiko, we will
be rightly rewarded whether we are kuro-obi, cha-obi or shiro-obi.
Kuro-obi people have the responsibility as models who can talk
to others and practice with them with respect.

Today, it is a nice day here in Tokyo although it was cold, raining yesterday.
I went to the dojo for keiko yesterday. When it rains, usually
people just don't come for keiko, but there were unusually many people there, probably because they were feeling relaxed before the
three holidays in a row waiting ahead.
There were so many that we were barely able to sit from the end of the tatami to the other end of the tatame to bow to the sensei and kamiza.
When dojo-cho (head master) comes to train us once or twice a year, at the end of the tatami, the line of us sitting bends at the corner along the other wall. The maximum number of people who can sit on the shimoza straight line is around 30. You know there are seven times six tatami mats in our dojo, and we sit along the
six tatami lines.
Five kuro-obi came (except for Sensei), two cha-obi and many
shiro-obi did. There were four women and three junior-high students.
We started with shomen-uchi irimi-nage. I paired with a woman
who started half a year earlier than me. I always thought that she was really good at irimi-nage because she always made me stand on tiptoe at the last moment and threw me down, which I cannnot do.
I asked her how she was doing it, and Sensei overheard us, because he has jigoku-mimi (hellish ears=very good ears). He came to us, I explained, then he said instantly, just raise your arm straight up. Yours is 45 degrees diagonally upward, and he demonstrated it with my partner and then with me. Ah, he made us spin like a top and tucked my throat into the space between his cheek and shoulder,almost choking it, cut it down with the arm to the mat.
You cannot escape from this ant-lion like technique. Can I? If in a real fight, I would be desperate and would do anything not to be caught at the back of the neck by his hand and might jump to the side out of his reach.
But I remembered that he had said once that in a real fight you
could catch your enemy's hair and pull him down to the ground. Fearful!, I thought because I still have some hair left although it is thinning.
Anyway I tried the way Sensei taught us a few times with my partner until he said "Yame! (Stop!)" and sat on the tatame for the next waza.
Ninety minutes past so quickly again. During the time of ocha (tea), the woman and I did some jishu (self-practice). We did some hanmi-handachi waza such as shomen-uchi ikkyo. Sensei, during the keiko, explained that you shoudn't keep watching your opponent's face when you do this. When your opponent hits you, you just look diagonally ahead and step forward on your knees very fast, grabbing the upper part of the opponent's elbow and pressing his wrist with your hand edge and pull him down.
Sensei said, "don't stretch your self by lifting your hip to take his hit. Don't change the level of your eyes. Just slide your body by shikko (knee walking). To me it was very very difficult.
And I realized that the basic walking and turning by shikko (on the knee walking) are very much needed when you do zagi (techniques while you sit) and hanmi-handachi(sitting versus standing) waza. The situations where we might be attacked are quite possible if you live in a Japanse house or stay at a Japanese-style inn where we often sit on the tatami, although we use chairs and tables in many places today.
I need to remember what he said and practice it many more times. It is a pity that I am really forgetful.
Well, after that we practiced the blending movements of the jo (staff). We did the jo-no-awase, from the first one to the seventh plus one extra called kimusubi-no-tachi (tying each other's attention with the swords), taking turns. Jo-no-awase is one of the skills tested on the shodan (promotion) shinsa (test) for shodan.
Sensi knows when to teach details about each technique. He never mentioned them in the first year or second year or until recently. He just said, "Practice and practice before you talk about the technique." He is right. We wouldn't have been able to do as he told us to, even if he had explained in such detail. We need to learn how to do ukemi and how to move properly with our partners before
we seek the completion of each waza, and he knows that it is the right time to teach me these things.

05-01-2007, 11:21 PM
I am sorry.
Correction: Jo-no-awase-->Ken-no-awase (blending movements of the sword)

05-02-2007, 09:18 AM
I am in hakama rebellion.

jennifer paige smith
05-06-2007, 11:53 AM
I am in hakama rebellion.

As in 'how come a gotta wear this?':D