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07-26-2007, 01:00 AM
I took the promotion test for shodan on July 15th and passed it! My teacher gave me the hakama and black belt on Tuesday in the dojo. I thought that I could put the black belt on instead of my old brown belt right there, so I just put on my dogi (practice wear) without wearing my old brown belt, and went toward him, holding the front part of the dogi with my hand.
Seeing me, Sensi instantly said, "You have to wear the brown belt. I will give the black belt here to you and then you can change your old one for it." I was such a fool. I hurried back to behind the curtain where we change clothes and put on my brown belt. Then again I went to him sitting on the tatami in the dojo.
I sat on my knees and bowed to him, and he gave me the hakama and the black belt, he saying "Omedeto-gozaimasu." and me saying "Arigato-gozaimasu." He said, "I would like to give them to you in front of the other students to share the happiness, but instead by seeing you practicing wearing hakama, we can celebrate your promotion together."
"The certificate will be given to you in front of the others."
I didn't know how to put on hakama, so our sensei helped me tie the bands here and there. It was a little complicated and I couldn't remember how to do it again later at home. Today I am going to go to the dojo a little earlier to ask for help from our sensei.
It took me four years and ten months to get shodan, starting with the 7th kyu.
Now at least two years of practice is required to take the next test for nidan (second dan). I am looking forward to practicing new techniques such as tanto-dori (techniques against a knife or a short sword) and sword techniques.

07-26-2007, 02:32 AM
Omedeto Gozaimasu, Etsuo-san! Ganbatte kudasai!

07-26-2007, 03:46 AM
Congratulation, Etsuo-san!

I took my shodan test in 2001. Within our organisation, testing for shodan is only possible on major courses. At the end of the course, all the candidates who passed are called in front of Sensei and get their black belt presented. They take off their brown belt and put on the black and then get a lot of applause by all the other Aikidoka present. It is really a memorable ceremony. The certificate usually is given on a later major course in front of all those present.


Ron Tisdale
07-26-2007, 06:20 AM
Congratulations! Good job.


07-26-2007, 07:48 AM
Omodeto gozaimasu Kobayashi-san! I just past my shodan test on July 21 with some fellow students. We are also having the problem of having to put on the hakama. You can find a video on youtube.com with Chida Sensei showing how to put on the hakama and one of his students showing how to fold the hakama.

07-26-2007, 08:52 AM
I didn't get a chance after testing but...
Congrats. Nice test.


07-26-2007, 02:19 PM
Thanks, Asim! No I need to get a copy of the video that was made to see how I look. I'm more concerned about the techniques than all the goofy looks on my face from the pictures posted on the Capital's website.

And by the way, the youtube.com video of how to put on a hakama is by Ando Sensei not Chida Sensei, sorry for any confusion.

07-26-2007, 03:01 PM
We are also having the problem of having to put on the hakama. You can find a video on youtube.com with Chida Sensei showing how to put on the hakama and one of his students showing how to fold the hakama.

Ahhh youtube, lessening the responsibilities of senior students around the world :D Seriously though, do you not have any senior students who can pass this type of info along?


07-27-2007, 12:10 PM
Ahhh youtube, lessening the responsibilities of senior students around the world :D Seriously though, do you not have any senior students who can pass this type of info along?


Small dojo. So those of us that just past are the senior students. Sometimes the instructor might not show up for whatever reason so there would be nobody to tell us how to do it. If you want to practice at home, the video is a great tool to use.

07-28-2007, 12:33 AM
Thank you so much for your replies to my message. Thank you, Maramba-sensei and others for your congratulations.
The dojo where I go and practice was opened five years ago in 2002 although the head dojo was established in 1969. We had the first shodan holder last November and since then until now six students have passed the shodan promotion test.
We have eight classes a week and most of the students in the adult group are working in the daytime, and senpai (senior) black-belt holders do not always attend the keiko (lesson/practice), or they attend classes that I don't attend or vice versa, which means often there are only white belts and brown belts who do not know how to put on the hakama.
To today's morning practice, one kuro-obi (black-belt) came earlier and he taught me how to do it, and now I think I can do it by myself.
By the way ten people came to today's morning practice starting at 6:30 a.m. and four of them were kuro-obi about which our Sensei looked very happy because he has brought us up always seeing ahead, and he is going to invite the head master (our sensei's sensei) to a party we are going to have at the end of August.
We will practice for one hour under the instructions by the head master and then will have the party at the dojo.
We had the same kind of party last summer and at that time there were only cha-obi(brown belts) and shiro-obi(white belts). But this time, there will be a big difference.
I will write about the promotion test at the site below.

07-28-2007, 04:16 AM
Doitashimashite Kobayashi-san
I've been reading your web site. Great stuff. When you have time could you do more translations of Kobayashi-Shihan's blog entries? I enjoyed the story about Watanabe Katsuhiro Sensei.
Your account of the Shodan exam is also interesting. There is a lot of buki-waza in your examination. We also have the ju-san no kata(13) and sanjuichi no kata(31) of the jo in our syllabus
I'm looking forward to October when Kobayashi Shihan will be here in England to give a seminar.
All the best,


07-29-2007, 04:53 AM
I wrote down all the techniques to be tested on the shodan promotion test. There are surprisingly so many, and four years ago I thought that I would take ten years to get to that level. But kyu by kyu new techniques were added and before I knew I learned a lot. I am really grateful to our sensei for this.
You can see the list of the techniques to be tested for sho-dan of Kobayashi Dojo at the site below.

Kobayashi-sensei's blog stories are all exciting, interesting, and funny, with valuable photos with O-sensei, sometimes. Kobayashi-sensei practiced with O-sensei when he was a student, and he wrote about a video he showed on a bus to a training camp in June this year. In the video he is actually practicing with O-sensei and he wrote in his blog that a lot of applause was given to the video scenes from the participants in the camp. I will try to introduce interesting stories one by one, but I cannot promise.
You can see old photos of O-sensei and Kobayashi-sensei at
http://shihan.exblog.jp/ (Try the entry of December 2005, for example.)

07-29-2007, 08:21 AM
Congratulations Kobayashi-san and thank you for the translations of Kobayashi-shihan's blog - I didn't even know it existed (but that's hardly surprising since I don't speak Japanese). Any more you have time to do would be great!

Rgds from London.

07-29-2007, 09:45 AM
Nice photos and humorous comments!
Our senseis always say, "Have fun practicing aikido."
Take care.

08-05-2007, 04:26 AM
You can read in English the very first entry of the Dojocho Blog at http://www3.cnet-ta.ne.jp/c/coby/aikido/kobadojo/
Kobayashi Sensei started his blog in December, 2005.
The receiver of O-Sensei's throw in the photo seems to be Kobayashi Sensei, but I am not quite sure.

08-06-2007, 02:32 AM
Kobayashi Sensei wrote about the promotion test for 3 dan.
There are so many waza (techniques) to be demonstrated by the candidate.

08-06-2007, 11:45 AM
That is really good stuff! Thanks so much for the translation.
In one of Kobayashi Shihan's blogs, he talks about "Fujihira Koichi, Director of Instructors". I'm guessing that "Fujihira" is another way of reading the kanji for "Tohei"?

Great description of the techniques required for Sandan.
All the best,


08-07-2007, 12:08 AM
Maramba Sensei,
You are right about his name. It is Tohei.
I checked it in Kobayashi Sensei's biography in English:

As you guessed right,
The kanji "To" can be read "Fuji" meaning wisteria.
"Hei" can be read "Hira" meaning even, flat or level.

As a family name, I think Fuji-hira sounds natural, though.
Because he taught Aikido in Hawaii and America, he may have thought that To-hei was easier to pronounce. I am not quite sure. We will have a dojo-cho keiko (practice with the head master) at our dojo on August 25th followed by a party, so I will ask Kobayashi Sensei about this.

As to the sho-dan/sho-kyu (sho=promotion) test, a shodan(sho=beginning dan=1st dan) holder can challenge nidan in two years. I will try nidan (second dan) in probably three years or more.

kenny lee
08-29-2007, 03:29 AM
congratulations on the test ,
i understand the confusion well with the hakama , if you still feel a little awkward asking for help then i would suggest going to the bujin design site on the net , they have a pretty good page explaining how to put on the hakama and also how to fold it afterwards . goodluck .
kenny lee.

09-03-2007, 11:29 PM
Hi Kenny,
Thanks for your info. I have almost mastered how to put on the hakama by being taught by my teacher twice and then by my friend a few times. The knack is to make a protruded knot of the obi in front, on the navel, or a little below the navel, which works as a sort of supporter where upward and donword pulls conflict, and as a result it seems to be making a balance.
As for folding the hakama, when we get the first kyu, our sensei asks us to fold his hakama, by which we learn how to do it.

I mentioned Tohei Sensei in my previous message, and then I thought that Fujihara was his real name. I thought that he wanted his name called in that way because it rhymed with O-Sensei's first name Morihei.
So, I asked our head master about this at a party on the last Saturday in August, and he said that Tohei is the correct name.
Our head master, Kobayashi Sensei didn't talk much about him, though, looked reluctant to.
Anyway, 33 people came to the party. We had keiko from six to seven, then started the party in the dojo, setting several low-legged tables on the tatami, putting plates of sashimi and various kinds of food, and peanuts and crisps, etc.
Many bottles of sake and wine were put on one table and many cans of beer were in the refregirator and we toasted to the health of the head master and ourselves and to the proliferation of the Kobayashi Dojos.
We drank and ate and chatted for three hours until 11:30. I like a party here in the dojo, because people don't have to worry about the time we can spend there. People who use trains have to leave
to catch the last trains, but if they live nearby or come by bicycle like my, they can drink until morning. Actually some sleep in the dojo when they get very drunk.
I got very drunk by the end of the party and went home. Some of them went to a tavern for the second round of it even after that.
I cannot keep up with such heavy drinkers.

09-04-2007, 12:43 PM
That sounds like a great party, Kobayashi-san. Especially with the sashimi (oishi!) and the beer and sake...
I think Kobayashi Sensei might be reluctant to talk about Tohei Sensei out of mokusatsu. As you might know, Tohei Sensei formed the Ki no Kenkyukai, and left the Aikikai Foundation in 1974.
Anyway, I very much look forward to Kobayashi Sensei's visit to England in October.

All the best,


Ron Tisdale
09-04-2007, 12:50 PM
Etsuo, thanks for the updates! Miss the sashimi and saki, though...

Erik Calderon
09-05-2007, 01:52 AM
Congratulations! I heard someone say once, that black belt is just the beginning.

09-28-2007, 03:17 AM
Hello Erik,
You are right. I heard somebody say black belt is the beginning, too. In fact, was that somebody probably me?
The black belt doesn't guarantee the holder's skills. It just shows that he/she passed the test some time somewhere. There are tens of thousands of people who have been practicing for ten years, twenty years or more after they got their black belts. To become a shodan means you can make up your mind to keep improving your Aikido for the rest of your life. (Naturally you don't have to.)
By the way, our Fuchu Dojo in Tokyo celebrated its 5th anniversary last Sunday, Sept. 23rd.
The dojo started in March, 2002, and since then it has been flourishing. We had the first kuro-obi (black belts) in 2006 and now there are six of them, and many cha-obi(brown belts) and shiro-obi(white belts) are following. This is because of our master's excellent lessons. We all are grateful to our techer for the improvement of our techniques. He is really a great master.
150 people participated in the Enbu-kai (Demonstrations) and 100 people attended the party after that. We held the party in our dojo of 42 tatami-mats, putting more than 20 low-legged tables, around one of which four or five people sat, and therefore there was not much space for walking around while drinking and eating. But somehow we had a nice time with dojo-cho(head master) and his wife, his son, vice head master and his wife and their daughter, and our teacher and his wife, and then the members from other Kobayashi dojos present. It wa s typical Kobayashi Dojos' celebration. I saw the entire Kobayashi family for the first time!
Kobayashi Dojo-cho is becoming a legendary figure.
We started the demonstrations at 2 p.m. at a stage in a nearby building. It lasted two hours. And then we moved back to our dojo and started the party for which the people of our dojo had prepared the previous afternoon and evening.
We started it at 5 p.m. with a commemorative speech by the dojo-cho and with the toast by the vice-dojocho. We ended it at 7 p.m. as a formality so that people from distant places could go home, but actually after that many remained and it lasted until 9. I got drunk and everybody got drunk. We really had a nice time. Dojo-cho was so happy and he signed his name on the commemorative T-shirts sold at the party.
Many people drank a lot of beer and sake and ate sushi to celebrate the anniversary.
Finally we closed the party with the auspicious 3-3-4 hand clapping.

09-30-2007, 06:28 PM
You can see some photos of the anniversary activities here.


10-07-2007, 10:26 PM
The annual three-day intensive training camp is over today. The Kobayashi Dojos have this camp on the consecutive holidays in October every year: Saturday, Sunday and Sports Day. People from various countries come to this camp such as Korea, Brazil, Hungary, UK and US. The full schedule on Sunday is: early morning keiko, breakfast, morning keiko, lunch, afternoon keiko, evening keiko and dinner followed by a friendship party.
I didn't participate in it this time, but I am sure all the participants had a wonderful time with the excellent instructors.
The participants are divided into some groups according to their ranks and experience and they have keiko with their instructors. Black belts can take lessons directly from Dojo-cho (the head master Yasuo Kobayashi Sensei).
When this camp is over, we are heading toward the end of the year already, but before the year-forgetting events, there is another shodan (promotion) test to be held on November 18th for fifth kyu up and on 25th for sixth kyu and lower ones.
Students can take the lower tests from 8th to 6th at each of the local dojos, but when we take the 5th kyu and up, we have to go to the honbu(headquarters) dojo in Shinjuku, which we call the "honbu debut".
There are three opportunities for taking the promotion test a year, in March, July and November. We can take the test on any one of these three days depending on the number of lessons we have taken.
At our Fuchu Dojo some will take the test for the first kyu and second kyu and a few will take the first dan on the coming November test. Probably almost all of us except for black belts will take the test for higher ranks.
So, after the intensive camp in chiba, we start doing keiko (lessons/practice) really hard and seriously for about one month up to the very previous night before the shinsa (test).
I like both the relaxed time when everybody smiles while practicing and the serious time when everybody looks kind of stern. At the tea time after the keiko and sweeping and wiping the tatami, though, we chat, joke and laugh a lot at either of the times.
There is no competition in Aikido. This is true, but actually there is a slight competitive "mood" because of the difference in the belt color. Also the hakama puts you in a different status whether you may like it or not because at our dojos we cannot wear the hakama until we get the first dan.
In our dojo, people who started Aikido there earlier are sort of senpai (more experienced students) regardless of their ages, but we are all busy because our jobs, and in some cases kohai(lower-year students) who started after their senpai get black belts before them. Among young people there seems to be slight competion as to who gets the brown belt first.
But all in all, we think that we are practicing Aikido to have fun, to enjoy learning techniques and being thrown, doing a flip, doing ukemi, getting sweaty, learning the jo(staff) and ken(sword), although our sensei is thinking that the real Aikido is more fearful and powerful and dangerous.
In fact I feel that people with the 2nd dan up are strong and can be dangerous if they need to. I feel that their levels are awfully different from people with just the 1st dan. I often forget to breath when I practice with a second dan or third dan. They are quick to respond, good at ukemi, and they have strong force you cannot repel. I just hold my breath for the whole time of their executing a technique being prepared for being thrown hard to the mat, or for my wrist or arm being broken though they don't actually do that. The fact that I would never be able to escape their attack if they really did it threatens me a lot.

10-12-2007, 03:56 PM
You can see some photos of the anniversary activities here.


Could you please tell me where I can get the Aikikai tecniches for 3er dan grading. I will appreciate it.
Thank you very much :)

Mary Turner
10-13-2007, 07:47 PM
Thank you for your post Kobayashi-San!

I feel that you describe so many subtle parts of training so well.

10-15-2007, 01:32 AM
Thank you very much for your response.

Our test rules may be different from those of Aikikai.
You can see what kinds of and how many techniques
are tested for san-dan (third dan) at the site below.


So many techniques are tested, and all of them are

It's getting colder day by day here in Tokyo, but still the leaves, cherry trees and gingko trees, are green. I like this season toward the end of November with the crisp air and occasional drizzles. Time for harvest to prepare for winter. Traditionally it's time for autumn festivals but we don't pay attention to this tradition any more because most foods come from other countries outside Japan. Some are seasoned with heavy metals and chemicals. Such a pity.
Well, I hope you are having happy keiko(practice), nonetheless.

Terry Lane
01-31-2008, 11:16 AM
Congratulations! I heard someone say once, that black belt is just the beginning.

Really!!!? I hope not. It's taken me 11 years of continuous practice (6 hours a week) to get to first kyu. It better all be the journey 'cause if shodan is the begininnig then I've lived in pre - beginner land for a very long time.