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chadbanister
09-14-2010, 12:35 PM
I am fairly new to Aikido, with just eight months of training. I have tested and passed my first two kyu grades and am looking to take a third test in a month or two. My wife and I just moved down to NC from Grand Rapids MI. I trained at a AAA dojo up their and have been training at a USAF dojo down here with a great sensei. My questions relate to the differences in requirements between the two dojos. At AAA the minimums have you testing for shodan in three years, while the USAF have you testing for the same rank in over five years if you train five days a week. My new sensei said to me after just a week of training at the new dojo that I seem to have a natural ability for the art and he see's me advancing very quickly with this dojo. I was also told similar things from my previous dojo.

Now I am not a belt chaser or an ego-maniac, before people start going crazy about that. But I do like consistant motivation in the art. It seems that the black belt in our western society has been given the view of "Man, I'm a black belt in blah, blah, blah, I am a master of my art." This is horse#@!$. It is just the start, If we want the train in traditional Aikido, then we need to stop tacking on years and years of training for a beginning level shodan.

For someone who is training hard and consistantly and seems to pick things up very quickly, can the sensei override the testing minimum time requirements?

ninjaqutie
09-14-2010, 01:34 PM
Depends on the dojo and the sensei. How many hours are you putting in a week?

chadbanister
09-14-2010, 02:53 PM
I have been putting in about five or more hours a week. I am just curious as to the minimums. Are they written in stone for organizations such as the USAF or are they flexable to the abilities of the student. If a student is ready to test then I am sure the instructor will let me know, but what if I need 100 training days, but am ready at 60? Can the sensei bypass those required days to allow the student to test?

Basia Halliop
09-14-2010, 03:29 PM
Officially, the test amounts are minimums -- you're technically supposed to have that many _or more_. Otherwise I doubt they'd bother putting them.... How much does the USAF enforce them? That I don't know, and I suspect it depends a lot on your sensei.

Personally, I wouldn't worry about it. Many people aren't really ready at the specified number of days (including some who test anyway, sadly) -- if you have the opportunity to do each test at a really high level, I'd just do that. It's to your _benefit_ to have more days of training. When you eventually get to shodan, it would be great to have a really good strong test, and not just pass. It's not like testing earlier in your training will let you learn anything faster...

It seems that the black belt in our western society has been given the view of "Man, I'm a black belt in blah, blah, blah, I am a master of my art." This is horse#@!$. It is just the start, If we want the train in traditional Aikido, then we need to stop tacking on years and years of training for a beginning level shodan.

OK, I'm totally not getting this -- shodan is just an arbitrary designation -- so one organization makes it a more intermediate beginner grade, and another makes it a more advanced beginner grade. So? It doesn't really make any difference to how much you learn; it's just a name. It just means the ranks won't translate from one organization to another, and a shodan in one organization will be like a 2nd kyu in another. For me, I prefer the second way, since in the USAF there are only formal tests up to sandan... so if shodan is too easy then nidan becomes what I am used to thinking of as shodan, and then there's only sandan after that to make sure that people are going past solid basics.

But as to your original question, I think you'd have to ask in your dojo... Or watch to see how many days your fellow students have when they're asked to test.

RED
09-14-2010, 03:39 PM
I have been putting in about five or more hours a week. I am just curious as to the minimums. Are they written in stone for organizations such as the USAF or are they flexable to the abilities of the student. If a student is ready to test then I am sure the instructor will let me know, but what if I need 100 training days, but am ready at 60? Can the sensei bypass those required days to allow the student to test?

In the USAF they are pretty much in stone. There are minimal for kyu ranks within the USAF, both in ability and in hours. Your individual Sensei who would be either a fukishidoin or shidoin might advance you through the kyu ranks at their digression, irregardless of hours if they think you are of a certain ability. I'm not at liberty to judge whether allowing students to have an exhilarated advancement through the kyu ranks is a respectable action by a Sensei or not. All I know is that some sensei think it is okay, other's think it isn't okay!
(If you sensei is a shihan, you are at luck to not have to worry about traveling to a shihan to test black belt.)

Now as for Black Belt. There are standards, and if you aren't up to the standards in both hours and ability, I wouldn't bet on a black belt within the USAF. USAF also requires you to attend two seminars a year. Basically, go out and see the Shihans! lol
If your ability or days are not up to snub, you won't pass. (Typically when your hours aren't up, your ability isn't up either, generally! There are exceptions.)

And I don't know if you have been keeping up with Yamada Sensei's new letter or not; but I was at Winter Camp last year and Yamada Sensei held the black belt tests. There were a few people testing who didn't have their hours, and didn't have their basic skills in order for a Dan testing. Those people flat out failed. And their Sensei reportedly had a good talking to! Which was followed by a less than happy newsletter by Yamada Sensei, reporting his concerns. (Yamada Sensei's writings are on Aikido online)
Basically he was pissed off.
It is always best for your career within any organization to not piss off the chairman of that organization

So basically what I'm saying is that there are no exceptions, other than physical limitation, to the minimal standards of the dan testings.

Much love!

Russ Q
09-14-2010, 03:48 PM
Trust what your sensei is telling your re: rank. If he says your ready for x rank and wants you test I think you can assume you're good to go regardless of hours or requirements. If you do badly it will be representative of your sensei too so I doubt he will ask you to test if you're not ready. You understand already that rank is arbitrary so enjoy and hone your natural ability.

Cheers,

Russ

Basia Halliop
09-14-2010, 03:59 PM
I've also seen people pass, but pass just barely, sometimes with controversy. It would be pretty humiliating to realize you're 'that guy' whose test everyone who was there remembers...

Not to say that you might not genuinely be ready in less than the minimum amount of time. People do progress at different rates, depending on them and depending on their teacher.

But if your sensei isn't pushing you to, then I'd leave it be and just enjoy the opportunity to get extra training in. If your sensei is pushing you to then it just depends on how much you trust your sensei's judgement and standards.

Basia Halliop
09-14-2010, 04:02 PM
(If you sensei is a shihan, you are at luck to not have to worry about traveling to a shihan to test black belt.)

Although some shihans prefer to send their students to test publicly at seminars in front of the other shihans anyway...

chadbanister
09-14-2010, 04:07 PM
I appreciate the posts of useful information. I came from a AAA school and found a great USAF dojo, I guess I just need to talk to my sensei about it. He would be the one who knows. I just don't want to come off as someone who is trying to rush to a belt and quit. That is not my intention, I love the art of Aikido and god willing will be able to practice it for many more decades.

ninjaqutie
09-14-2010, 06:03 PM
I just don't want to come off as someone who is trying to rush to a belt and quit. That is not my intention, I love the art of Aikido and god willing will be able to practice it for many more decades.

Then don't worry about what rank you are or when you are going to test and just enjoy the ride. :D

odudog
09-14-2010, 09:14 PM
Some politics play into this. If your Sensei has some juice, then he/she can push you through the ranking even though you don't have the hours. The USAF is cracking down on the lack of hours thing, but I'm sure that their is still juice being pulled behind the scenes. Seagal Sensei was pushed through really quickly for political reasons. He has the skill no doubt, but he still didn't have the time in grade for certain levels.

ramenboy
09-14-2010, 09:23 PM
Then don't worry about what rank you are or when you are going to test and just enjoy the ride. :D

bingo!!!!!!

giriasis
09-15-2010, 02:19 AM
Part of it maybe that you already have previous experience and your sensei is taking that into consideration. But, normally the USAF testing guidelines are to be followed. The Technical Committee would not have put them there if they did not think that they were important. However, the earlier ranks like 6th, 5th and 4th kyu, you can seemingly pass through them rather quickly. It is when you begin to test for 3rd, 2nd and 1st kyu is when testing slows down as a consquence of longer time between tests compounded with higher expectations of skill level.

As far as time to black belt, 5 years is probablly the earliest you can test if you train everyday and test on the day that you get your "time in". For most people it can take between 5 - 8 years to reach black belt.

As to what Maggie said about dan test failures. Yes, they do happen in our association. I have seen it. Most of the time the fault is placed on the Sensei.

RED
09-15-2010, 09:42 AM
I've also seen people pass, but pass just barely, sometimes with controversy. It would be pretty humiliating to realize you're 'that guy' whose test everyone who was there remembers...

.

The hard part is that you are embarrassing your Sensei and school...even more so than yourself. They were the ones that put you up to test after all, and the school that sent a poor quality Aikidoka up will be judged by the quality of student they present to the technical comity.
I've heard to many stories about Yamada Sensei, or other Technical comity members "having a word" with the Sensei of failing students. I've heard of Yamada Sensei "having a word" with students who had passed, but barely passed, black belt tests as well. So my only opinion would be is, if you are going to test, be prepared. I think you are gonna want to look like a black belt on the test coming off the bat. It is embarrassing to pass, but pass while struggling.

Walter Martindale
09-15-2010, 10:27 AM
The hard part is that you are embarrassing your Sensei and school...even more so than yourself. They were the ones that put you up to test after all, and the school that sent a poor quality Aikidoka up will be judged by the quality of student they present to the technical comity.
I've heard to many stories about Yamada Sensei, or other Technical comity members "having a word" with the Sensei of failing students. I've heard of Yamada Sensei "having a word" with students who had passed, but barely passed, black belt tests as well. So my only opinion would be is, if you are going to test, be prepared. I think you are gonna want to look like a black belt on the test coming off the bat. It is embarrassing to pass, but pass while struggling.

Agreed... (I've seen other shihan "have a word" with various sensei also. Most of the sensei I've been around have wanted people going for their tests to be so good with the test in question that they were almost ready for the next level... (e.g., a person going for 1kyu being completely familiar with shodan requirements).
W

giriasis
09-15-2010, 10:48 AM
The hard part is that you are embarrassing your Sensei and school...even more so than yourself. They were the ones that put you up to test after all, and the school that sent a poor quality Aikidoka up will be judged by the quality of student they present to the technical comity.
I've heard to many stories about Yamada Sensei, or other Technical comity members "having a word" with the Sensei of failing students. I've heard of Yamada Sensei "having a word" with students who had passed, but barely passed, black belt tests as well. So my only opinion would be is, if you are going to test, be prepared. I think you are gonna want to look like a black belt on the test coming off the bat. It is embarrassing to pass, but pass while struggling.

I have to completely "ditto" this. I have heard stories where Yamada Sensei failed everyone. My first winter camp with about 25 dan (shodan through sandan) tests Yamada Sensei only passed a couple of people on "merit" which he announced to everyone. The remaining testers after Yamada Sense spoke with all the sensei involved later on. The testers found out that they passed but only on "recommendation." And, they knew it, too. Yes, it's embarrasing, but if your sensei does not fully prepare you, but tells you that you are ready, then how do you know your not?

JO
09-15-2010, 11:58 AM
Now as for Black Belt. There are standards, and if you aren't up to the standards in both hours and ability, I wouldn't bet on a black belt within the USAF. USAF also requires you to attend two seminars a year. Basically, go out and see the Shihans! lol
If your ability or days are not up to snub, you won't pass. (Typically when your hours aren't up, your ability isn't up either, generally! There are exceptions.)



I know people from at least 2 people from 2 dojos that passed dan exams in the USAF without having the hours, though only they and their senseis probably know the whole truth (the number of hours written on the form is not necessarily always accurate). Then again even they may not be sure, not everybody keeps especially complete or accurate records of attendance.

For me, my criteria when preparing for an exam is simple. Can I do what is expected and not embarrass myself or my sensei? The rest I leave to others (my senseis, the technical committee, etc.) to figure out.

RED
09-15-2010, 12:12 PM
I have to completely "ditto" this. I have heard stories where Yamada Sensei failed everyone. My first winter camp with about 25 dan (shodan through sandan) tests Yamada Sensei only passed a couple of people on "merit" which he announced to everyone. The remaining testers after Yamada Sense spoke with all the sensei involved later on. The testers found out that they passed but only on "recommendation." And, they knew it, too. Yes, it's embarrasing, but if your sensei does not fully prepare you, but tells you that you are ready, then how do you know your not?

I agree. I think most people would like to think that their sensei would never do anything embarrassing to themselves, like send up an unprepared person to test.
One of Yamada Sensei's articles said "people start to believe their own shit." Meaning some times dojo can be so isolated that they forget what good Aikido looks like. They have been training in their own little circle for so long that they simply no longer know what a dan rank should look like, and they start to believe that their sub-par Aikido is good enough for dan ranking. I've heard stories of Sensei arguing with Yamada Sensei and the Tech. comity when a student had failed the dan test. I think sometimes some schools are so isolated that they honestly believe that their lack-luster standards for dan should be accepted by the Tech comity. :freaky:

Adversely, my dojo consistently hosts other dojo's (in and out of the USAF) for friendship training. We are encouraged to go see other teachers, we invite other teachers in. We are encouraged to go out and seek shihan instruction. (Especially the 2nd generation Aikidoka. With the loss of both Tamura and Sagano Sensei so close together, I think it amplifies the importance to seek this generation's instruction while we still can. No one lives forever, no matter how much we love them and want them to.)

ninjaqutie
09-15-2010, 03:09 PM
Maggie, do you happen to have links to these articles? I would be interested in reading them.

Basia Halliop
09-15-2010, 03:23 PM
I don't know if this is the one Anne Marie was thinking of, but here is a column where in part of it Yamada Sensei discusses failing people in tests.

http://usafaikidonews.com/2008/2/index.shtml
"Just like other big seminars, we had a test for black belt and I must say it was a strict one because there were other Shihan beside myself sitting at the table. Believe me, they are tougher than I am. I wasn't joking when I said the same thing before. However, I think it is good to have more than one judge at the table for many reasons.

When I give a test, I want to pass everybody but it is not always possible. I want to be a nice guy, but when there is a reason for me to be a tough guy, I am. It is my responsibility to pay respect to the value of Black Belt, and to keep a standard of good quality for Black Belt. Please understand this. When I fail you, I don't fail you alone but your teacher as well. When tests are bad, you cannot find me after the test because I hide myself in my dressing room. I feel sorry to see the people who failed their test and, more than that, I don't want to hear the complaints from their teacher, which happens occasionally, although I understand that most parents love their kids and think they are the best.

It sounds like I'm asking too much if I say this but let me tell you what I'd like to hear from both students and teachers after their unsuccessful test. From the student's side, I would feel good if they say "Sorry I embarrassed my teacher. I'll do better next time if you give me another chance," and from the teacher I'd like to hear "Sorry I have embarrassed myself. I clearly see what my student needs to do to improve.""

And another one a few years back where he talks of the role of the teacher:
http://usafaikidonews.com/2005/3/index.shtml
"As far as the last tests were concerned, they were very satisfactory. One thing I'd like to point out is that if you are sending your student to test, you - as the teacher - must attend the test. If you are not there, how could you tell if your student did well or not? And also as a teacher you should know that if your student has failed you should take the blame. So, the next time you send your student to a seminar to test, make sure your student is ready so as not to embarrass yourself."

Here's an old Aikido Online interview (1981) in which Yamada Sensei discusses testing:
http://www.aikidoonline.com/articles/shihankai_articles/yamada/Yamada_Promotion_Testing.php

RED
09-15-2010, 04:10 PM
Maggie, do you happen to have links to these articles? I would be interested in reading them.

http://www.aikidoonline.com/articles/shihankai_articles/yamada/Yamada_Promotion_Testing.php

Hey, this is one article on the subject. On the same site there are several others.

RED
09-15-2010, 04:17 PM
http://www.aikidoonline.com/articles/shihankai_articles/yamada/Yamada_Promotion_Testing.php

Hey, this is one article on the subject. On the same site there are several others.

this is a good one too on he testing subject:

http://www.aikidoonline.com/articles/shihankai_articles/yamada/Yamada_Promotions_Business.php

http://www.aikidoonline.com/articles/shihankai_articles/yamada/Yamada_Instructor.php

Russ Q
09-15-2010, 05:54 PM
Thanks Maggie,

That second article is really good. Yamada Sensei is not my shihan but his words resonate deeply.

Thank you,

Russ

chadbanister
09-15-2010, 09:13 PM
Everyone's opinions have been great. I have talked to my sensei and finally realize that I love the art of Aikido and if you are talented you could rise up a little quicker than some. But it is the quality of your Aikido that matters, not the belt. I will someday in the fairly near future reach shodan and beyond, but I have realized that quality training and learning are what is of the greatest importance. And being at a dojo that cares about your training and progress as an aikidoka. Thank you all again,

Chad Banister

lbb
09-16-2010, 09:21 AM
I appreciate the posts of useful information. I came from a AAA school and found a great USAF dojo, I guess I just need to talk to my sensei about it. He would be the one who knows. I just don't want to come off as someone who is trying to rush to a belt and quit. That is not my intention, I love the art of Aikido and god willing will be able to practice it for many more decades.

Well, you won't "rush to a belt", so don't worry about that. Most people never get there, and nobody in USAF gets there quickly. Beginner talent has a way of evaporating -- it's not that rare to see beginners in a martial art who "master" things quickly at the start, but that doesn't last, and that's when a lot of these talented beginners quit. Likewise, people who train the max days possible don't usually sustain their training pace -- even if life doesn't intervene (five evenings a week is more than most people with a life can spend on any hobby), most people who train that much get burned out. Your pace of training will probably slow, you'll spend longer and longer between tests even if your sensei cheats on the hours...if you do hang in there, it will be a long haul.

Keith Larman
09-16-2010, 10:13 AM
Yeah, I can think of a number of students who started with lots of "natural" ability who never made it past low kyu or shodan-ish levels. The problem seems to be that being "naturally gifted" (whatever that might mean) often tends to mean the person never really develops any sort of deep understanding. So they're "good" as a kyu ranked folk go, but as things get more subtle they simply often never develop the skills. Natural fluidity, speed, flexibility, strength, body awareness are all great things to have. And in the beginning those things go a long way to making things seem "easy". Unfortunately that's not the "meat" of this skill (or most any non-trivial activity). It still comes down to devoting the hours, struggling, learning, and keeping all those things going as you get deeper down the rabbit hole.

Now if you're talking about a "naturally gifted" person with an inquisitive mind and strong work ethic who is able to "stick it out" you have a really powerful combination of things.

Anyway, my advice is to simply say that rising up quickly is rarely a good measure of future performance. Often the best measure of future performance is the level of dedication, practice and quality of instruction you had to get there in the first place.

What matters is how far you are willing or able to take it. And neither is a given regardless of natural ability.

Finally... If in your org it's up to your sensei to ask you to test, test when your sensei says so. Say "Hai, sensei" and do your best. The details of when/how/why are up to your teacher and should be the last thing you should be focusing on.

Dan Rubin
09-16-2010, 11:27 AM
My new sensei said to me after just a week of training at the new dojo that I seem to have a natural ability for the art and he see's me advancing very quickly with this dojo. I was also told similar things from my previous dojo.

I've had that same dream. :D

RED
09-16-2010, 02:44 PM
Oddly enough, I've seen students come and go. I have seen kids who learn abnormally quick. The ones that seem so naturally acclimated to the art seem to drop off when it stops being easy. I've found the guys that have it hard, who struggle a little seem to stick it out and keep learning.
Just an observation.

ninjaqutie
09-16-2010, 05:12 PM
Sometimes those who pick it up naturally get bored and leave too.

Chris Farnham
09-16-2010, 07:55 PM
I seem to recall that my first sensei often said "the more naturally talented the person is, the more it hurts when they hit the wall, which everyone eventually does." As far as minimum requirements go, USAF requirements for training days between tests, are higher than just about any other organization. I know that when I tell people here in Japan who adhere to Hombu standards, that I had to practice three hundred days between nikkyu and Ikkyu, their jaws drop as they say "Takusan desu ne, nande?". Here It is Seventy days from Ikkyu to Shodan.

RED
09-16-2010, 08:51 PM
I seem to recall that my first sensei often said "the more naturally talented the person is, the more it hurts when they hit the wall, which everyone eventually does." As far as minimum requirements go, USAF requirements for training days between tests, are higher than just about any other organization. I know that when I tell people here in Japan who adhere to Hombu standards, that I had to practice three hundred days between nikkyu and Ikkyu, their jaws drop as they say "Takusan desu ne, nande?". Here It is Seventy days from Ikkyu to Shodan.

Shodan in some places is a statement of "memebership" to the dojo. America has this connotation that a dan equals some level of mastery... which is silly. IMO

Chris Farnham
09-16-2010, 08:52 PM
No I wasn't an Uchi deshi, but I was training about 10 hours a week back home, considerably less in Japan ironically. At my dojo, whether you trained one or two hours, that still counted as one hour towards testing, but you're right, the USAF syllabus does say hours.

RED
09-16-2010, 09:18 PM
No I wasn't an Uchi deshi, but I was training about 10 hours a week back home, considerably less in Japan ironically. At my dojo, whether you trained one or two hours, that still counted as one hour towards testing, but you're right, the USAF syllabus does say hours.

I've heard of students training under Shihan excelling much quicker. If they trained 6 hours a day, they got 6 hours of toward their test.

lbb
09-16-2010, 09:49 PM
I've heard of students training under Shihan excelling much quicker. If they trained 6 hours a day, they got 6 hours of toward their test.

Heh, not in our dojo. You train one hour, two hours or six hours in a day, you get one "hour".

Phil Van Treese
09-16-2010, 09:50 PM
Usually the head sensei can over ride requirements for a test. However, you have to remember that the rank doesn't back up the knowledge but rather the knowledge and skill you have backs up the rank. Tomiki shihan would not allow me to wear my black belt until I made sandan. I don't know his reasons but whatever they were it made me study harder. Rank is just an award for having reached a certain level but the knowledge is what is powerful and got you to that level. Worry about getting all the knowledge you can and the rank will come. I would rather be a strong kyu grade than a weak dan grade anyday.

Nicholas Eschenbruch
09-17-2010, 01:42 AM
I have never understood the rationale behind time requirements for tests, at all. I think people should test when they are ready - by the standards of their organisation, and by the judgement of whoever puts them forward for their test.

lbb
09-17-2010, 07:49 AM
I have never understood the rationale behind time requirements for tests, at all. I think people should test when they are ready - by the standards of their organisation, and by the judgement of whoever puts them forward for their test.

But that's a tautology, isn't it? You should test when you're ready -- that makes perfect sense. But how do you know when you're ready? Well, by the testing criteria! So, the way that you know you're ready for the test is if you've...already...taken the test?

The rationale really isn't hard to understand. Training time is an arbitrary standard that does not perfectly reflect the skill and readiness of the person to whom it is being applied -- I don't think USAF has ever said otherwise. But those who focus on the imperfection of that standard can never produce an alternative that's any better. So, it's what we got -- not perfect, but also a long way from useless.

Nicholas Eschenbruch
09-17-2010, 08:37 AM
But that's a tautology, isn't it? You should test when you're ready -- that makes perfect sense. But how do you know when you're ready? Well, by the testing criteria! So, the way that you know you're ready for the test is if you've...already...taken the test?

The rationale really isn't hard to understand. Training time is an arbitrary standard that does not perfectly reflect the skill and readiness of the person to whom it is being applied -- I don't think USAF has ever said otherwise. But those who focus on the imperfection of that standard can never produce an alternative that's any better. So, it's what we got -- not perfect, but also a long way from useless.

Hi Mary,
of course you are right about tautologies - I guess for me this one is lessened by (a) the possibility that you fail a test, so you may have been wrong, and (b) all sorts of formal and informal social arrangements that ensure that (a) is not too frequent, and not too disheartening when it happens.

I still dont see how training time should have a decisive or even prominent place there, if skill is what is tested. There can be such blatant discrepancies betwen training time and skill, can't there? I am not even trying to argue a point, I have really never quite understood. Is the point that aikido is so "holistic" that technical skill is only part of what ist tested?

lbb
09-17-2010, 09:12 AM
Hi Nicholas,

I think that training time is simply used for lack of any better standard that is readily available and that is a standard. The anecdotes about unprepared shodan candidates make it clear that even a sensei's judgment is not always reliable, and I can't think offhand of what else you would use.

Basia Halliop
09-17-2010, 09:44 AM
Shodan in some places is a statement of "memebership" to the dojo. America has this connotation that a dan equals some level of mastery... which is silly. IMO

I don't get that. Why is it sillier than making it a statement of membership? They're both just arbitrary points of reference. In either case it's just a name. It may just as well be at a comparatively more intermediate level as at a very early level.

If we made 'shodan' a more beginner grade than it is, we'd need to add several more testable dan ranks. Which would be fine, I suppose, but I don't see any advantage or real difference to doing it that way.

Other than maybe the fact that current rules make the shodan test the first one that is done in front of the Technical Committee, so if you did that earlier in a student's training maybe you could catch problems earlier and make sure more students were on the right track? Although if that was your goal you could equally well make 2nd or 3rd kyus start testing in front of the Committee, which would be the exact same thing, just with different names.

I can see lots of advantages to having more testing in front of Committee members (presumably it would help prevent some of those cases where people train for years apparently not realizing that they are not getting where they need to be going), but there would be real disadvantages, too. Very very time consuming, for one.

Basia Halliop
09-17-2010, 09:46 AM
I expect training time is probably there in part as a guideline to instructors to give them a sense of what degree of mastery and experience is required at different levels (just listing techniques is clearly not enough) and to discourage instructors from sending as many unprepared students who know a lot of techniques but all badly.

Yeah, higher and stricter and more consistent testing standards and more failures could accomplish the same thing over time, but training time is at least a start.

Basia Halliop
09-17-2010, 10:00 AM
Heh, not in our dojo. You train one hour, two hours or six hours in a day, you get one "hour".

If you're talking about the USAF, the test requirements specifically state 'practice DAYS'. There is no mention anywhere that I've seen of practice hours.

ninjaqutie
09-17-2010, 11:21 AM
My dojo (NOT USAF- though it used to be) counts hours, but if you train 2 hours, you mark down 2 hours towards your test instead of just one. I believe several dojo's do the 1 hour/day thing no matter how much you train though. Even though people can be in the same organization, interpretation from one sensei to another creates a unique dojo environment..... thus the differences in how testing is handled.

In my dojo, we are lucky if testing is held once a year. It just doesn't happen that often, which is fine for me since I hate testing. :D It usually seems like he waits until a few people are ready to test for that rank and then it happens. Our last test was held last November for four people taking 5th kyu tests.

chillzATL
09-17-2010, 01:24 PM
My dojo (NOT USAF- though it used to be) counts hours, but if you train 2 hours, you mark down 2 hours towards your test instead of just one. I believe several dojo's do the 1 hour/day thing no matter how much you train though. Even though people can be in the same organization, interpretation from one sensei to another creates a unique dojo environment..... thus the differences in how testing is handled.

In my dojo, we are lucky if testing is held once a year. It just doesn't happen that often, which is fine for me since I hate testing. :D It usually seems like he waits until a few people are ready to test for that rank and then it happens. Our last test was held last November for four people taking 5th kyu tests.

it's the same way in our org. There are hours requirements for rank, but it's a very loose system of measure and one that is easily overridden by someones ability. Despite the hours requirements most dojo's only hold testing once per year at best. Dan testing is only done at summer camp, no exceptions.

Basia Halliop
09-18-2010, 03:20 PM
it's the same way in our org. There are hours requirements for rank, but it's a very loose system of measure and one that is easily overridden by someones ability. Despite the hours requirements most dojo's only hold testing once per year at best. Dan testing is only done at summer camp, no exceptions.

Once per year seems rather hard on the 5th and 4th and sometimes even 3rd kyus... Some of them could easily have got their day requirements several times over in one year (especially 5th kyus, since that only requires a minimum of 60 days practice). Let alone the new USAF 6th kyu, which requires only 20 days of practice (there aren't really any 'techniques' per se, it's more things like knowing how to shikko, tenkan, the names of attacks, etc).

I like our system of testing 3 or 4 times a year. Plus it gives a more manageable number of tests each time. We don't all get bogged down watching ten 5th kyu tests in a row or something.

RED
09-18-2010, 04:05 PM
Once per year seems rather hard on the 5th and 4th and sometimes even 3rd kyus... Some of them could easily have got their day requirements several times over in one year (especially 5th kyus, since that only requires a minimum of 60 days practice). Let alone the new USAF 6th kyu, which requires only 20 days of practice (there aren't really any 'techniques' per se, it's more things like knowing how to shikko, tenkan, the names of attacks, etc).

I like our system of testing 3 or 4 times a year. Plus it gives a more manageable number of tests each time. We don't all get bogged down watching ten 5th kyu tests in a row or something.

Yeah, once a year does seem harsh. You could theoretically end up a 100 hours over for testing. :confused:
Our dojo does it about every 6 weeks or so.

chillzATL
09-18-2010, 04:38 PM
Yeah, once a year does seem harsh. You could theoretically end up a 100 hours over for testing. :confused:
Our dojo does it about every 6 weeks or so.

100 hours is the requirement for gokyu in our organization.

lbb
09-18-2010, 08:35 PM
What's so "harsh" about only testing once a year, even for fifth kyu? If you're in it to train, what does it matter? I trained for fifteen months before I tested for fifth...just weren't many new students at that time. So...what? I'm supposed to feel deprived somehow? What exactly did I lose by not testing for fifteen months?

ninjaqutie
09-18-2010, 10:53 PM
Once per year seems rather hard on the 5th and 4th and sometimes even 3rd kyus... Some of them could easily have got their day requirements several times over in one year.

We are supposed to have like 90 hours (since attaining 5th kyu) or so for 4th kyu and I have over 200 (tested in November for 5th kyu). Truthfully, it doesn't bother me at all that testing is held once a year or less. Either way you are still learning the same thing as everyone else. Rank means little to me.... I think people get too wrapped up in testing and gaining rank sometimes.

Basia Halliop
09-19-2010, 01:39 PM
No, I don't mean it's a huge super deal or anything... but it would change the meanings of some of the earlier levels -- if you had a year to get to fifth kyu, then a year to get to fourth kyu, etc... then (presumably) you would expect more of your fourth kyus than we do of ours. It could in theory also mean you ended up with a lot more of a range within each level (one person with 60 days of training and another with e.g. 200). Since I think of testing as organizational quality control, I can see some downsides to having such wide variance, but it's not the end of the world.

I do find a lot of people seem to find the test process (the preparation, etc) very helpful for organizing what they know so far and helping them figure out a few things to focus on working on next in the short term, and at the beginning it seems to help to do that a bit more often and get a chance to sort of break their training into smaller chunks. I've always found the testing process to be an important part of my training (the preparation, the test itself, and the more focused feedback to guide my subsequent training). So for that, I like more frequent testing, especially at the beginning when you're less self sufficient. Also, like I said, I like having just a few tests at a time from the point of view of watching them.

I presume that a dojo that tests less often finds other ways of keeping people on track. And there could be some advantages too, I guess. So maybe 'hard' is too strong a word. I just kind of like having it more frequently, personally.

RED
09-19-2010, 01:56 PM
Schools with larger attendance need to test more regularly. Other wise it would take an entire weekend just to get through the 5th kyu if you tested once year.

I wouldn't mind being over for testing. I was over by 60 days for one of my tests once. That's no problem for me. The problem comes in on the organizational level.
As Aikidoka we need to not only think of how rules effect our own personal development. You need to think of how things effect your school, your fellow students and everyone's coherency on the organizational level.
It's not an issue of training at that point anymore. A dojo is a community. Belonging to a dojo isn't the same as owning a gym membership. Students are typically VERY invested in the success and future of their school and Sensei.

Basia Halliop
09-19-2010, 02:08 PM
I had WAY over the minimum amount of days for 5th kyu - but what stopped me from testing was that I just didn't know the stuff on the test. I had a slow learning curve. In that kind of case I'm glad I took longer. I'm all in favour of taking longer to make tests stronger or more consistent... but it's nice from an organizational point of view if there's some kind of approximate correspondence between skill and formal level. In my experience the ranks seem to be more useful and less political that way.

lbb
09-19-2010, 03:04 PM
Basia, good point -- now that I think about it, quality control/standardization really is the #1 benefit of testing, as I see it. And, yeah, I see your point about organizing knowledge...but I also see that breaking down pretty early too (early in terms of rank, not necessarily in terms of time). The test criteria I'm familiar with are all expressed as lists of techniques. That was helpful for my first test test, confusing for my second test, and has been somewhere between useless and counterproductive ever since. There are principles on which the knowledge is based, but they are not anything that can be expressed as a list of techniques.

Basia Halliop
09-19-2010, 03:15 PM
Yeah, when I think of 'test standards' I don't really mean what's written, because as you point out, that's just a list of techniques. But there is a standard still (at least within my dojo there is, with rising expectations for each rank), it's just that it's not necessarily formally written down, perhaps in part because it's much harder to express clearly in writing in unambiguous words? That's much harder to maintain consistent between different dojos, and it really has to be clearly and firmly in the instructor's head. I guess that's maybe one of the reasons you do see unprepared students at seminars being recommended to test sometimes.

chillzATL
09-19-2010, 09:22 PM
Yeah, when I think of 'test standards' I don't really mean what's written, because as you point out, that's just a list of techniques. But there is a standard still (at least within my dojo there is, with rising expectations for each rank), it's just that it's not necessarily formally written down, perhaps in part because it's much harder to express clearly in writing in unambiguous words? That's much harder to maintain consistent between different dojos, and it really has to be clearly and firmly in the instructor's head. I guess that's maybe one of the reasons you do see unprepared students at seminars being recommended to test sometimes.

For us, the hour requirement is there because that's when they think that you should be able to do what is expected of you, which happens to coincide with the rank. It's not just a number that when you reach it, you're asked to test. Someone could come randomly for two years before hitting 100 hours and still not be invited to test.

Lan Powers
09-20-2010, 11:03 PM
"Sensei, When do I test?"
When you can pass.....(make the hour requirements, and have the skills)
The hours are , after-all, just a minimum. The real question is do you have the skills you need for the level you test for?

but next week it will be..."Sensei, when do I test?"

Amassus
09-25-2010, 12:29 AM
I have said this many times but...

Belts and ranks are simply a side effect of training. Concentrate on the joys of training and the grades come.

Easier said than done, quite often.

:D

Mario Tobias
05-07-2011, 07:15 AM
I've been essentially a 6th kyu white belt for 17 years (changing dojos many times because of situations beyond my control). Don't get me wrong, testing is important. I've only started testing the last 3 years after finding my "home dojo".

The real test is if you can hang in there for the long haul and continue training despite the doubts, difficult questions, dissapointments, life changing events and frustrations that I am sure you will encounter in your journey.

The journey is the test.

Lyle Laizure
05-20-2011, 03:32 PM
Minimums are there for a reason. Any time I have seen a dojo's testing requirements it has been stated as this is the minimum requirement. Just because one has the hours doesn't mean one should test. Attitude is more important than technique. Granted if you can't perform the required techniques you won't pass but if your attitude is not good then you won't even get an opportunity to test. That being said the chief instructor may choose to test someone prior to that person reaching the minimum requirement. The chief instructor can do what he/she wants becaue it is the chief instructor. The real test is showing up and simply training.

rugwithlegs
06-21-2015, 08:34 PM
Chad, who started this thread, has actually quit Aikido now. Again.

He actually touches on some worthy subjects though. He came to us as a 4th kyu in AAA, and the USAF and AAA both are allied with Hombu Aikikai. The test materials are different. Do we acknowledge his rank, or make him start from scratch? We chose to allow him to keep his previously earned rank.

Before my time, this same school told someone from the kid's class that they had to be stripped of rank because they got their little green stripe somewhere else, no evaluation of ability per the parents. The young boy left Aikido heartbroken.

I left my home dojo for a town with only a Ki Society dojo. I was a Shodan, but when asked I wore a white belt for 18 months, while people I trained along side were promoted 2-3 kyu ranks. One person jumped two ranks to Shodan. I was never offered a chance for rank. The major factor, I eventually decided, was not only that I trained and accepted the training but that I had to disavow everything about my old teacher. I never did that, and I remained unranked for 18 months.

A friend left our CAF dojo to a town with only a Yoshinkan dojo. He was Ikkyu when he arrived, but he went back to the beginning. After a year, one night he was surprised to be ordered to test, one complete test after the other, for hours until he was made Ikkyu by his new school. After that, he was never called different again, and the whole school got to see what he could do. He had everyone's respect and acknowledgement.

I left and trained in the USAF for five years, seven years as Shodan, when Doshu was to come to my home association for summer camp and my former Sensei who I had kept ties with was to be made 8th Dan. I wanted to test there; my new Sensei refused to allow it. I had to suck it up, but I believe I will make a different decision for any future students of mine.

A few decades back, Shihan and licenced instructors who could deliver rank were rare in certain parts of North America. One school had people training for multiple years after fifth kyu, and the students were tested for fourth kyu and third kyu at the same time when the opportunity presented itself. Decades later, they were third Dan and the same Shihan returned to find they were immersed in politics and not practicing much. Surprise! Fourth Dan test tomorrow! A long, ugly test for all three, followed by a tongue lashing.

If you have a young, healthy student come from another dojo, someone who can perform the requirements in general class to an acceptible level, do you order that student to start at the absolute beginning? If I am treated like dirt because my Aiki Taiso or my Birankai or Iwama weapons is not up to Dan level, fine. I know my requirements are not the same as ASU or AAA. I love learning, and I will learn.

If I am being stripped of rank just to insult my teacher and myself, That's different. Then, it's not about me and my desire to learn.

Time requirements - Stanley Pranin had a good article on the early days showing people getting 5th Dan is less time than I got Shodan. I am outranked by people who have trained for several years less - but they trained in one place, and I moved multiple times.

People move around a lot now. What do you do at your dojo to accommodate students (of any rank) who have just moved to your town?

Peter Goldsbury
06-21-2015, 11:02 PM
Hello,

In our dojo we have a student who came to us with a 1st kyuu obtained from a Yoshinkan school. He was good and had no difficulty in adapting to match our dojo training culture. Very soon after he came, he received an Aikikai 1st kyuu (to me there was no point in making him go through all the kyuu grades, even all at the same time). He then trained appropriately and received shodan. Since our kyuu grades are also given by Doshu and registered with the Aikikai, I checked. They had no problem whatever with him receiving 1st kyuu as his first Aikikai grade: whether to award the grade or not was my decision.

Best wishes,

philipsmith
06-22-2015, 05:32 AM
I think there is often a sort of inverted snobbery about testing which runs not only through this thread but Aikido as a whole. "Testing doesn't matter" or "Testing is not a measure of skill" are in my opinion nonsense statements. If they are true why test at all?
Also rigid adherence to hours/days as a prerequisite leads to a sort of "We have to wait longer so our quality is higher" type of attitude in some cases or to instructors delaying tests for more able students.
I believe there should be greater flexibility - after all not everyone develops at the same pace and sometimes a delay can be very demotivating. Requirements should be seen as guidelines not rigid prerequisites.

rugwithlegs
06-22-2015, 07:15 PM
Sensei Goldsbury, thank you. No one in this thread gave a more fair response, or spoke from a position of greater authority. Your example is much appreciated.

Sensei Smith, I agree wholeheartedly.

sakumeikan
06-23-2015, 01:25 AM
I am fairly new to Aikido, with just eight months of training. I have tested and passed my first two kyu grades and am looking to take a third test in a month or two. My wife and I just moved down to NC from Grand Rapids MI. I trained at a AAA dojo up their and have been training at a USAF dojo down here with a great sensei. My questions relate to the differences in requirements between the two dojos. At AAA the minimums have you testing for shodan in three years, while the USAF have you testing for the same rank in over five years if you train five days a week. My new sensei said to me after just a week of training at the new dojo that I seem to have a natural ability for the art and he see's me advancing very quickly with this dojo. I was also told similar things from my previous dojo.

Now I am not a belt chaser or an ego-maniac, before people start going crazy about that. But I do like consistant motivation in the art. It seems that the black belt in our western society has been given the view of "Man, I'm a black belt in blah, blah, blah, I am a master of my art." This is horse#@!$. It is just the start, If we want the train in traditional Aikido, then we need to stop tacking on years and years of training for a beginning level shodan.

For someone who is training hard and consistantly and seems to pick things up very quickly, can the sensei override the testing minimum time requirements?
Dear Chad,
The idea that everybody should train for centuries before attaining Dan grade is nonsense,Test guidelines are simply test guidelines.It is up to the teacher [assuming the teacher has the understanding ] can and often does promote students inside time guidelines.. Each student makes progress at their own individual speed.No two people are alike.Why then have a rigid test timetable?If a teacher fails to
see when a student is ready for a test , the student can be harmed.My own teacher ,the late Chiba Sensei,stated that grading a student at the right time was akin to picking fruit.Pick the fruit too early ,the fruit is not ripened.Pick the fruit too late the fruit is past its sell by date ie rotten.So gauging when a student is ready for testing is not based solely on time factors.Joe.

sakumeikan
06-23-2015, 01:49 AM
Chad, who started this thread, has actually quit Aikido now. Again.

He actually touches on some worthy subjects though. He came to us as a 4th kyu in AAA, and the USAF and AAA both are allied with Hombu Aikikai. The test materials are different. Do we acknowledge his rank, or make him start from scratch? We chose to allow him to keep his previously earned rank.

Before my time, this same school told someone from the kid's class that they had to be stripped of rank because they got their little green stripe somewhere else, no evaluation of ability per the parents. The young boy left Aikido heartbroken.

I left my home dojo for a town with only a Ki Society dojo. I was a Shodan, but when asked I wore a white belt for 18 months, while people I trained along side were promoted 2-3 kyu ranks. One person jumped two ranks to Shodan. I was never offered a chance for rank. The major factor, I eventually decided, was not only that I trained and accepted the training but that I had to disavow everything about my old teacher. I never did that, and I remained unranked for 18 months.

A friend left our CAF dojo to a town with only a Yoshinkan dojo. He was Ikkyu when he arrived, but he went back to the beginning. After a year, one night he was surprised to be ordered to test, one complete test after the other, for hours until he was made Ikkyu by his new school. After that, he was never called different again, and the whole school got to see what he could do. He had everyone's respect and acknowledgement.

I left and trained in the USAF for five years, seven years as Shodan, when Doshu was to come to my home association for summer camp and my former Sensei who I had kept ties with was to be made 8th Dan. I wanted to test there; my new Sensei refused to allow it. I had to suck it up, but I believe I will make a different decision for any future students of mine.

A few decades back, Shihan and licenced instructors who could deliver rank were rare in certain parts of North America. One school had people training for multiple years after fifth kyu, and the students were tested for fourth kyu and third kyu at the same time when the opportunity presented itself. Decades later, they were third Dan and the same Shihan returned to find they were immersed in politics and not practicing much. Surprise! Fourth Dan test tomorrow! A long, ugly test for all three, followed by a tongue lashing.

If you have a young, healthy student come from another dojo, someone who can perform the requirements in general class to an acceptible level, do you order that student to start at the absolute beginning? If I am treated like dirt because my Aiki Taiso or my Birankai or Iwama weapons is not up to Dan level, fine. I know my requirements are not the same as ASU or AAA. I love learning, and I will learn.

If I am being stripped of rank just to insult my teacher and myself, That's different. Then, it's not about me and my desire to learn.

Time requirements - Stanley Pranin had a good article on the early days showing people getting 5th Dan is less time than I got Shodan. I am outranked by people who have trained for several years less - but they trained in one place, and I moved multiple times.

People move around a lot now. What do you do at your dojo to accommodate students (of any rank) who have just moved to your town?
Dear John,
The picture you paint is a really bad picture.It seems to me that this situation is a case of politics , egomania, aikido sectarianism [our group is not the same as your old group ].If a person knows his stuff it is irrelevant where/what his lineage is.As a member of Birankai International I can assure you that you certainly would not be treated like dirt simply because you were not proficient at weapons.How could you be if you have not had the opportunity to learn the system?The Teacher would and should make allowances for persons who have joined the new group , be it Iwama, Birankai or whatever, from another ryu.If a new person from another town came from a different lineage , I would review his/her abilities.If he /she was ok, o would simply promote him by recommendation or by test.My teacher gave me the authority to grade as I see fit . All he asked of me was this.that I exercised this authority wisely.Chiba Sensei looked for quality standards of Aikido and asked our teachers to maintain good quality in conducting any tests.I feel that your blog needs to be addressed .It sure stirs up the muddy waters. Joe.

rugwithlegs
06-23-2015, 10:09 PM
Dear Sensei Curran,

Perhaps I expressed myself badly - I have no objection to being asked to eat bitter when there are deficiencies. I go to the dojo to learn, so I am happy when a teacher and a dojo have new material for me.

I would like to express my condolences to you and your dojo. I only met Chiba Sensei once, though I knew several of his students in Canada and the U.S. I attended a memorial work out in his honor this past weekend. He was a truly formidable and complete martial artist. He was highly creative and focused on giving his best to his students. His death is a great loss, but I feel he left a powerful organization to carry on his life's work.

I appreciate your comments very much.

I am sorry for your loss

John

sakumeikan
06-24-2015, 04:40 AM
Dear Sensei Curran,

Perhaps I expressed myself badly - I have no objection to being asked to eat bitter when there are deficiencies. I go to the dojo to learn, so I am happy when a teacher and a dojo have new material for me.

I would like to express my condolences to you and your dojo. I only met Chiba Sensei once, though I knew several of his students in Canada and the U.S. I attended a memorial work out in his honor this past weekend. He was a truly formidable and complete martial artist. He was highly creative and focused on giving his best to his students. His death is a great loss, but I feel he left a powerful organization to carry on his life's work.

I appreciate your comments very much.

I am sorry for your loss

John
Dear John,
I am sure the event held recently in memory of Chiba Sensei went well.Unfortunately to my regret i could not attend. As you say Sensei was very creative and gave his students the best that he could .For my own part I hosted in my own area a one day event which was the first Regional Course of the British Birankai held since Sensei's passing.We paid our respects to our teacher's memory, incence was offered and a one minute silence was observed in memory of Sensei.We followed up by body art and weapons trainingThe spirit in the dojo was excellent and everyone did well.The classes were led by Davinder Bath Sensei 6th Dan Shidoin from London.I wish to thank all who attended tis event and my thanks to Bath Sensei for his tuition.Joe,

lbb
06-24-2015, 08:33 AM
Dear John,
I am sure the event held recently in memory of Chiba Sensei went well.Unfortunately to my regret i could not attend. As you say Sensei was very creative and gave his students the best that he could .For my own part I hosted in my own area a one day event which was the first Regional Course of the British Birankai held since Sensei's passing.We paid our respects to our teacher's memory, incence was offered and a one minute silence was observed in memory of Sensei.We followed up by body art and weapons trainingThe spirit in the dojo was excellent and everyone did well.The classes were led by Davinder Bath Sensei 6th Dan Shidoin from London.I wish to thank all who attended tis event and my thanks to Bath Sensei for his tuition.Joe,

Hi Sensei,

Not sure which event you mean, but there is a celebration of life planned for the 2015 Birankai Summer Camp in Tacoma WA on Saturday July 18. Details at http://camp.birankai.org/2015/schedule - there are some new registration options for those who only want to attend for the weekend, for those who want to attend but will not be training, etc.

sakumeikan
06-24-2015, 09:02 AM
Hi Sensei,

Not sure which event you mean, but there is a celebration of life planned for the 2015 Birankai Summer Camp in Tacoma WA on Saturday July 18. Details at http://camp.birankai.org/2015/schedule - there are some new registration options for those who only want to attend for the weekend, for those who want to attend but will not be training, etc.

Dear Mary,
I get the news about all the events from the U.S.A. France Poland etc.
Much appreciate your info.The event that I unfortunately missed was the event that was event held recently at San Diego Aikikai where some of Chiba Senseis student celebrated his life.The bigger celebration of course as you say will be in Tacoma.Cheers, Joe.

sakumeikan
06-24-2015, 09:07 AM
Dear Mary,
I get the news about all the events from the U.S.A. France Poland etc.
Much appreciate your info.The event that I unfortunately missed was the event that was event held recently at San Diego Aikikai where some of Chiba Senseis student celebrated his life.The bigger celebration of course as you say will be in Tacoma.Cheers, Joe.

Dear All,
The British Birankai 2015 Summer School dates are almost if not the same dates as Birankai Camp in Tacoma.All being well we will also be celebrating the life of Chiba Sensei at our camp.The Summer School details are on the British Birankai webpage.All are welcome. Cheers, Joe.

Currawong
06-27-2015, 08:12 AM
Interesting discussion. I think there are a number of factors that make the issue complex. When I started in Aikido, for example, there were only two 4th dans in my city, one with a class full of older black belts, and the other mostly white belts (my dojo). It was a university dojo where many students would start when they first arrived and move on 3 years later after they graduated.

That lead to two radically different training experiences available, with a Shihan visiting only twice a year for national schools, as seems to be the case for many Western and European dojos. I see a lot of more remote dojos in other countries only having classes or training days 2-5 times a week, sometimes with only a 2nd dan as teacher, so a focus on hours rather than days, plus seminars attended makes a lot of sense. It is what I went through to get my shodan.

Now contrast that to living in Japan, where I most classes I attend are taught by one of O'Sensei's students, and in at least a couple of those classes up to half a dozen students are shihan, most hanging around after class for extra training either for themselves or to help others. Then there is helping one's juniors for quarterly grading tests and being asked every other month to demonstrate Aikido at some or other event, which requires more practice.

I've noticed here that some students have dan ranks more, I suspect, because of age and seniority and may have been given them so they don't lose face. Quite often those people don't teach. The people who do teach, or who will grade get as much attention from the many seniors as they need to make sure everything they do is as good as it can be. The attitude where I am, if not in Japan in general, seems to be quite different, not just the circumstances.

Cromwell
11-15-2015, 04:39 AM
The Kaizen principle is really present in Aikido. I think not all levels are congruent to their ability. However I really believe that ability is congruent to the amount of time practiced.