View Full Version : "As Though Preparing for a Test"

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01-16-2002, 10:49 PM
Originally posted by Erik in another thread (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=1448)
Your sensei once said something at a seminar which I still have not decided exactly how I feel about. I pretty much disagree with it, but I've left the door open. He once commented after some dan tests that everyone should always train like they are getting ready for a test. He feels people lose their edge after a test and he's probably right on that part.
Where I train, people getting ready for yudansha grades don't sign themselves up in advance for their tests but are asked to take the test. Although some of them may get some advance notice, many of them get asked perhaps 24 hours or so before the exams, if even that.

Having seen dozens upon dozens of yudansha exams at the dojo (one set of exams had 14 people taking yudansha tests ranging from shodan to yondan exams -- all in one night!), what I saw in most of their tests weren't anything out of their ordinary every day practice. In other words, how people trained were very much in-line with how they got "ready for a test."
My disagreement with his statement stemmed from the fact that in my experience you not only increase injury but you'll blow a lot of students out the door. My experience with test time, particularly shodan and first kyu is that they take time out of your life and you see more injuries. It's a sacrifice and I'm not sure that most people can make that sacrifice full-time. I do think most people could go much deeper in their training than they do, but I don't know about every class as never ending test preparation.
I think this happens sometimes, especially when people are preparing for a shodan test, when people start putting more "power" in their throws in hopes of making their techniques be more "powerful." In a sense, people naturally want their tests to be "special" and, usually, that means they want their techniques to be "wham-bam" impressive.

I think that this kind of "griding the stone" is important, of course, but so is consistent training. If people trained as though they might get tested the next day but weren't sure about it, wouldn't that provide people with incentive to train to the best of their ability, day in and day out?

Just some of my thoughts...

-- Jun

01-16-2002, 11:20 PM
Jun, thank you for posting this. I had not considered this approach. I'm used to yudansha tests being a bloody rite of passage and taking months of preparation while putting someone through the wringer.

I'll go off and ponder this because I like it when put this way.

I am concerned though. I might have to admit I was wrong on this one. ;)

01-16-2002, 11:23 PM

I agree with Jun on this one, and would like to add some of my thoughts. By giving 110% during each class, yes the possibility of injury may increase and you may end up losing some students. Oh well, learning Aikido isn't easy. If easy is what you want, take up marbles or checkers.

Training every day without knowing when you will test keeps you focused and sincere; you are essentially testing each day.

I would not promote someone who only cared enough to train diligently only when preparing for a test, to me this symbolizes an individual who gives more precendence to earning rank than actually learning the art.

01-16-2002, 11:40 PM
I do fully agree with Jun on this one as well.

I guess in the same way that the ancient Samurai having to live with the idea of death always present in the back of their minds, improved the quality and the flavour of their actions in every day life, for us Aikidoka, training with the idea of a potential test kept in to account, would very much improve the quality of our training.


PS: I'm currently reading Bushidoshoshinshu, hence the Samurai comparison ;)

01-17-2002, 01:46 AM
Hey, interesting analogy Edward...and now I wonder if my first sensei was sneakily putting that into us, since after 6th kyu (we started with a test for 12th) you tested whenever sensei decided. Even the first 6 kyus were no-notice, in that after checking with a senior, and then putting your name on the test list, it became 'open season' and you could test that night, that week, or four months from then...

I recall one test that did indeed happen the same night I signed up---since there were three other students already on the list to test for that kyu, and they weren't there that night, I figured I was pretty safe, that he'd wait until he had 2-4 of us together and do a mass test (no losers in a big game;) )...unfortunately, half way through class he signaled for us to sit down for a test to begin...:eek:

Having grown up with earthquakes, I must admit I much prefer the surprise test, rather than knowing it is coming...but what I feel the worst about is when prior to a test period, all the students come out of the woodwork so they can 'qualify' for the test...senseis who see that must feel like the professors who find a student with the wrapper still on his textbook as finals approach...

01-17-2002, 02:11 AM
Uhhh, I'd like to make clear that I do not mean that the students who attend less frequently are the students with the untouched books. I will assume that those with other pressing time needs (work, family, school) would come more or less regularly as their schedule allows, just not frequently . But that doesn't matter, since you can always practice, even at home/commuting/etc...I ran through techniques during maintainence delays, and rolled in the grass after I'd been booted from my first dojo...:rolleyes:

The students I was refering to are the ones (you've all seen) who appear just as test time is coming, attends long enough to see if they are on the list, spend most of their time socializing, and then leave in a huff if not on the list, or once they get the next rank they disappear for 6 more months...

01-18-2002, 09:23 AM
Here's my thought. I agree with Jun except on one point. Are you really training in preparation for a grading test (shodan, nidan etc)? or are u training for life?

Are you training to move up to the next rank? or are you training to defend yourself if attacked (I guess a different sort of test)?

Are you training to get a new coloured belt or another certificate? or are training to help find inner peace (even perhaps seek enlightenment)?

I must admit though that I used to training to get my next rank. Now a I'm just confused and I just keep turning up to train.


01-18-2002, 10:46 AM
Each day, each of our passing lives, is a test. I test myself everyday, not in an exam kind of sense. I see if I can use Aikido in my daily life, not in the technical sense, more in a principle and philosophical sense.

I too have read the translation of Taira Shigesuke's "bushido shoshinshu". And it is true what Edward said, preparing for death do make us watch what we say and what we do. Keeping death in mind was even put in the first part, the first thing that a warrior should be concerned about.

The biggest test is within thyself.

01-18-2002, 11:53 AM
The students I was refering to are the ones (you've all seen) who appear just as test time is coming, attends long enough to see if they are on the list, spend most of their time socializing, and then leave in a huff if not on the list, or once they get the next rank they disappear for 6 more months...

My goodness, does this sort of thing actually happen? Maybe our dojo is just very strict, but I can't imagine anyone doing such a thing. Perhaps this is also why Sensei does promotions entirely at his discretion...


01-18-2002, 11:19 PM
Well, wherever you have a system, you will invariably find people who would find loopholes and try to use them to their advantage.

The system of training hours and days has been established so that the teacher wouldn't be accused of bias or favorism. But I have seen many students come 2 weeks before the test and train intensively just to make sure that they have enough training time for the test. They just disappear after the test whether they make it or not.


01-27-2002, 10:42 AM
I would think that as aikidoka we are there to get the most out of each training sessions and ultimately to learn and understand aikido. Grading is a way to measure progress (admittedly not the only way) and to get some feedback on how we are going.

The dojo I train at has set hours you have to train before you are given tests. However, our sensei decides when a student is ready for testing, be it a kyu or dan grading and his deliberations isnt solely restricted to hours trained. Its about the quality, quantity and frequency of training time along with the aikidoka's attitude and commitment.

It has happened that a student will be invited by sensei to grade that night or be put through a grading process without it being an actual grading as a means of determining if a student is ready for grading.

We do have set grading times but students are invited by Sensei to grade from time to time.

Dan gradings at our dojo are very demanding and at times bruising. Sensei is not just testing technique, movement and posture but also "spirit", "heart" and commitment. Our dan gradings are typically 2 to 4 hours spread over two days with a mixture of technique, randori and weapons. Live blades (yes they are sharp) are used in dan gradings but are only handled by shodans and above.

I can well imagine that other experiences of dan gradings are more demanding and ultimately very satisfying.

Thank you for the opportunity to add my views