View Full Version : The New Grading System

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R.A. Robertson
03-28-2011, 04:36 PM
Has never heard of aikido.
Has heard of aikido and is not interested.
Has heard of aikido and is interested. Maybe reads books, talks to friends, watches videos.
Has researched training opportunities and visited schools, and perhaps tried some classes.
Has joined a dojo.
Attends classes regularly, at least twice a week, and is making progress.
Has enough experience to help new people learn.
Pays dues cheerfully and on time, and looks for small ways to help with dojo maintenance and infrastructure.
Routinely participates on internet forums. Collects books and video materials for study.
Enthusiastically recruits new students and tends to their progress.
Willing and able to help cover classes when needed.
Has regular class. Or, if all classes are covered, seeks new opportunities to expand curriculum, working with approval from chief instructor.
Actively participates in dojo planning and direction. Assists with seminar preparation, advertising, location problems, and other issues as they arise.
Attends outside seminars and visits other dojo and exhibits good ambassadorship.
Honors tradition and lineage, but begins research and actively seeks improved methods of training and pedagogy.
Establishes a new dojo or dojo location.
Promotes aikido in non-dojo settings, does presentations or workshops in schools, businesses, and other community organizations.
Actively seeks/accepts responsibilities for national or international aikido organization/affiliation.
Accepts invitations to deliver seminars in various geographic regions.
Has responsibility for multiple dojos in region or beyond.
Assumes leadership role in national or international organization. Alternatively, establishes a new system of aikido that has adherents in multiple geographic areas.
Integrates aikido principles and practices with institutional or grass-roots movements for greater human and environmental well-being.Ross Robertson
Still Point Aikido Systems
Honmatsu Aikido
Austin TX, USA


03-29-2011, 05:34 PM
Thanks Ross for that new grading system.

graham christian
03-29-2011, 08:56 PM
Hi Ross.

Think I'll retitle this piece and call it 'Living the dream!!!'

Point taken.


Eva Antonia
04-12-2011, 02:01 PM
Oooh...I just graded myself.!
Somewhere between 6 and 10 :-)

Best regards,


04-21-2011, 04:09 AM
I like the idea, Ross, but I don’t agree with the emphasis on organizations. Also I think there is still scope for a couple more grades after your no. 23 - but who could award them...?

Thanks for the thought.


Basia Halliop
04-21-2011, 10:33 AM
I agree it seems very heavily organizationally, business, and management-weighted, with technical expertise and training sounding like they're mentioned only a few times in passing, a kind of brief blip people go through at relatively beginner levels.

Also, kind of shocked that 8 is so far down the list. Seriously? Paying fees is more 'advanced' than coming to class, learning, or helping beginners?

R.A. Robertson
04-22-2011, 02:27 PM
Hi All,

Very glad to have some feedback on this. I hope it's self-evident that this is not something to be taken literally, but rather as a light repast of food for thought.

First, the organizational comments are of interest to me, in light of the fact that I've been independent and working outside the official channels of traditional aikido organizations since... what, 2005? On the other hand, I do consider networking and increased global awareness to be a key indicator of advancement along this kind of track. Where I mention organizations or affiliations, one can easily insert the concept of larger interconnected networks or confederations, or meta-organizations like Aiki-Extensions.

The challenge that I'm presenting here is that a rank or grade should be an indication of willingness and ability to serve. Technical competence and acquisition of knowledge are only valuable to a community to the extent they are of service to the community. So, while rank can be an intensely personal thing, I think ultimately it is conferred by a community for the benefit of the community (which of course includes the conferree [is that a word?]).

I also would agree that this framework is incomplete, and certain orderings are subjective. There's nothing that presupposes that the "order" would even have to unfold in the given sequence. If a person can do the more advanced stuff, it would be silly to not recognize that. So maybe the numbers are not so much milestone markers, but valuations. If you achieve a number 10, then that's 10 points, but if you do the number 10 plus 1 though 9, that's (insert sigma math here). But again, really, I'm less interested in constructing a new dogma than I am in revitalizing the idea of chivalry in the arts.

Warriors should be servants. The new warrior is not, and should not be a mindless slave to the state or some overlord. But we should understand that we are not training only for our own aggrandizement, but to simply help make the world a better place for as many beings as possible.

Great question about who awards the highest grades. At some point, I think esteem (rank, grade, value, recognition) has to come from peers, and finally from the grass roots. Those "at the top" are (or should be) people worthy of us looking up to them, and the reason they're "at the top" is really because we lower-downs do in fact look up to them. So in a way, there is a democratization of higher ranks, a kind of market-driven mechanism of valuation. Of course, as soon as I say this, I realize only too well that here be there dragons, and we should all tread lightly in supporting such a system.

So again, the reader should understand I'm not seriously proposing a new system and certainly not expecting big organizations to adopt this as a rubric. I do aim to provoke some serious discussion, or at least thought on the matter. Why rank? Does it have meaning? Can we give it real meaning? What is its purpose in a socio/anthropological sense? Can we mindfully assess and improve upon this purpose?

Finally, well done Eva! Your service to the art has made my life better in ways I may never know. I bow to you in gratitude. May each new step be more joyous than the last.


Randy Sexton
08-01-2011, 08:05 AM
Good Stuff, thanks for sharing your thoughts. As students we all should be allowing our grading to be from the Sensei but self-evaluation on a regular basis should also be our responsibility.