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Kung Fu Liane
03-21-2003, 09:31 AM
Hi,

has anyone here refused a grading? if so why did you refuse? and what did your sensei say?

i ask this because my sensei wants to conduct a grading soon, something i have two issues with. firstly, it means joining an association, something one of my other teachers has warned me away from - as he has had some very bad experience with them. secondly, i have taken gradings before, and i feel that i would rather get more out of training because i want to train, than because to get a grade. yet on the other hand, i realise that gradings are important as they let teachers at other schools know what level a student is at (should the student move school). also, i don't want to let my sensei down, because he spends a lot of his time teaching us.

just testing the water really, so any comments/suggestions would be useful.

thanx,

-Liane

happysod
03-21-2003, 10:53 AM
Hi Liane, I've managed to duck the grading ritual for the past 7 or so years (they finally got me this year) for a variety of reasons - but essentially it was because I didn't want to. I was at a grade I was comfortable with and I was just fed up with gradings - I'd already had to grade from ground-up to whatever in three previous associations due to differences in "style" etc. and just could not see the point in it anymore.

I didn't so much refuse to grade point-blank as postpone until the next one, then the next, until we both forgot all about it. The main problem will be your sensei. I'm lucky in that the teachers in our association realise they are teaching adults in a voluntary activity, so the more traditional dominance issues rarely arise. My own sensei was disappointed, but you should go with what suits you (if you can).

Nick P.
03-21-2003, 10:57 AM
Liane,

IMHO, though we as students should not blindly follow anything our Senseis ask of us, I think we "owe" it to our Senseis to do as they wish (within reason, of course). I personnaly look at it as part of my own training, but that's just me.

As you put it "i don't want to let my sensei down, because he spends a lot of his time teaching us."

As for federations, you will only know for sure once you try it if it's not for you. And you can always leave later, no?

Follow your heart.

PS That is a great quote!

acot
03-21-2003, 11:13 AM
Check out this link. Maybe you have already read it here on Aikiweb, but I found to be great reading.

Ryan

http://www.aikiweb.com/testing/rock5.html

Greddy
03-21-2003, 03:37 PM
testing, IMHO, is more of an intimate communication b/w a teacher and student. Some of us are guilty of training without a clear path on where we really want to go. Testing, maybe, is one way your sensei ensures that you are following a path. I've always looked at it as a time for me to review with my teacher where I am at with my training and not a "promotional" event that some people percieve it to be. On the other side, I dont think anyone should be "forced" to test - again it should be a mutual understanding b/w you and your teacher. Refusing a request to be reviewed or tested, IMHO, seems to be rude to your teacher - it shows that you do not trust them enough - to know that you are ready to take that step- in their eyes. As far as becoming part of an organization - thats inevitable - you made a concious descision to be part of that group when you selected to train with that teacher. Like someone mentioned before, you can always leave at a later time or maybe search for someone whose not affiliated. Just my two yen :)

ps. I've never refused to test, but I was asked to repeat a test before..

Michael Klieman
03-21-2003, 04:51 PM
Hi Liane,

I've thought about this a little, especially since I just took a test myself, one that I was not initially that interested in taking. I agree 100% with what Nick said, that as a student you do owe something to your sensei, and I'd like to add that I felt a debt of gratitude for my fellow dojo members too. Testing is not only about the person who is up for the grade, but reflects on the sensei and the progress of the dojo in general. I think this is probably why your sensei wants you to test--the dojo is making as much progress as you are.

Also, I think the testing process is an important one to go through just in itself. During a test, a testee has to learn to deal with more pressure and nerves than normal, so it's even more challenging to deal with all those techniques and ukes. Even preparing for the test is a valuable experience, as the extra energy that you will put in will give your aikido a jump start.

I think it's great that you are not that interested in rank, that's the way it should be in my opinion. But I think that testing is an important experience to go through for many other reasons. And besides, if you don't care about the rank, you can just forget about it again after the test! ;)

Nick P.
03-21-2003, 05:08 PM
Great topic, this one...

Our Sensei usually has repeated this several times; a test is a celebration of where you are in your training (both positive and negative, IMO).

He also points out that when asked to test, in his opinion you are allready at that level, though you can fail, he adds.

Last summer in Japan, HIS Sensei asked me to test for ikkyu. Maybe it was being there, but I had grown so accustomed to saying "Yes, Sensei." over the three weeks that before I knew it I had "agreed" to test. Oh man, was I freaked out.

Anyway, I passed the test, and when bowing to the rest of the class at the end, I was overwhelmed with gratitude towards them, as Michael points out above.

Test, exams and grading are all relevant anyway, IMO. It depends on the person, where they are in their training, if they have just joined a new club and have a new Sensei (which sounds like your case, Liane).

Marvin, if it's not too personal, were you asked to re-test due to a less-than-perfect first test, or was it due to changing style/teachers/federations?

N-

akiy
03-21-2003, 05:54 PM
He also points out that when asked to test, in his opinion you are allready at that level, though you can fail, he adds.
Interesting. Some teachers I know say that they ask people who are "ready to grow into the rank" to test for that rank.

My feeling is that if your teacher asks you to test, then you should. If you trust your teacher enough to help guide your training and practice, I would hope you can trust him/her enough to know when the appropriate time for you to test would be.

-- Jun

Paul Klembeck
03-21-2003, 07:47 PM
When I first began training, I avoided testing, as I don't have a lot of interest in rank. However, after a while, I realized that not testing (in a dojo where testing was encouraged) meant that I was reserving a part of myself from participation. After entering the testing cycle I found my training improved, not because rank or testing is important in itself, but because I more fully bought into the life of the dojo.

Therefore my advice is: If your dojo tests, then test; if your dojo doesn't do tests, then don't worry about testing.

Paul Klembeck

Greddy
03-23-2003, 05:19 PM
Marvin, if it's not too personal, were you asked to re-test due to a less-than-perfect first test, or was it due to changing style/teachers/federations?

N-
Nick, it was more of I did not take it upon myself to be ready to be tested, a fellow student and I were in a program(similar to an uchi-deschi but we didnt live in the dojo),so we were expected to participate, by our senseis, in every testing in schedule. Well it was my 4th kyu and since I've only tested once before - my perceptions of a "test" was quite immature - needless to say I crammed for it and tried to perform the required technique ..but as someone mentioned before, my Sensei didnt feel that "I can grow into that rank" I was testing for just yet so I was asked to continue my training and get ready to test again during the next cycle. I think that was the point for me were i realized that it wasnt really about the ranking ..ranking is relative to the person ..same grade aikidokas may not - in a grading standard way - exhibit the same level of proficiency as another. We all express aiki in our own special way and I think this is why I see testing as more of a review with your Sensei on where you are in your path. They can see it better than we do(the students)on where we in the path if Aiki. It was quite an experienced being asked to repeat a test. But the way I see it - not often do you get a great lesson in humility ;) Thank ya'll for the great post

Jappzz
03-24-2003, 09:16 AM
Hi everybody.

I got pretty curious when i saw the title of this topic. I just want to ask those of you who oppose yourselves to ranking why. I understand if someone wants to wait to be able to make a fully representative grading later. But avoiding it. Why???

Peace

Jesper

Carl Simard
03-24-2003, 09:32 AM
In our dojo, nobody is forced to grade. But it's strongly suggested to. The reason isn't for the paper or for the rank but because testing force you to focus on different aspect of your training, depending on your level/skills... For example, if you're a beginner, you're probably better to focus on making a correct shomen uchi ikkio and learning secure falls/rolls than working on ushiro kotae gaeshi... In short, it helps you learn the techniques in a logical order.

As for association, again, nobody is forced to join. However, those that choose not to join the association are warned that their rank may not mean anything outside the dojo. Also, some seminars require a proof of membership to an association. Here in Canada, it cost only 10$/year to join the CAF, so most people joined for the "peace of mind" it gives.

Nick P.
03-24-2003, 12:58 PM
Interesting. Some teachers I know say that they ask people who are "ready to grow into the rank" to test for that rank.
Jun-

Oddly enough, when we were tested in Japan last year, it was with the understanding that we would all "grow" into our new ranks, including the 2 Shodans.

I think it is fair to say that, in circumstances where a Sensei or students are visiting/leaving, that the Sensei might take the opportunity to test the students, even if they are not quite "ready".

Back to the original post: what was Liane's final decision?

Ta Kung
03-24-2003, 01:01 PM
When my sensei asks me to take a test, I usually go for it. I might not feel good enough sometimes, but I think his judgement is better than mine as far as Aikido goes... Of course, if I feel very insecure, I don't take the test.

Gradings are good because they let the student feel that they actually do make progress. They are a good measure. Especially when everything feels frustrating and you start to think if you've actually learned anyhing in the last year or two. Not that you learn more because of a new grade, but you still feel like your moving forward.

Just my thoughts.

/Patrik

Don_Modesto
03-24-2003, 02:13 PM
has anyone here refused a grading? if so why did you refuse? and what did your sensei say?
I was present once when Saotome ambushed a reluctant tester, asking for a "demonstration". It was a marvelous test and the only time I've ever seen anyone get through three-man SHINAI RANDORI unscathed.

Some regard refusing testing as coy or holier than thou. As a teacher (TESL), I see students working harder, achieving more, and more motivated when I test them regularly. (They whine to high heavens, but when term evaluations come through, the classes with the most tests consistently rate me higher.)

Bogeyman
03-24-2003, 07:52 PM
I think that testing is a good thing as it requires students to train techniques that they may not do very often and try to avoid for whatever reason. Some of these people forget that there is more to learning a technique than just that one but also some principles. I believe that if sensei asks someone to test that they should as it will continue this growth and, at higher ranks, a greater understanding of the art itself. I personally have a bit of a quandary as I begin to catch up to my senseis in rank. I don't believe that I should be their equal in rank as I do not believe that I am as good or hold their understanding. Then again if sensei asks... As far as testing for another organization, if you are training with a different organization than you last tested with I don't understand the problem. The old sensei may not like it but if you will not be training with him/her for a long time should you halt grading for that? If it is a short term switch of organizations I understand but not if it is long term. When it comes to different organizations I may border on being blastphemous but aren't we really trying to train aikido? Does it matter who we follow as long as we like how and what our senseis teach? Just my $.02.

E

shadow
03-24-2003, 08:13 PM
doing a grading also lets you sit further up the line which gives you the oppurtunity to train with people of a higher rank than you.

i dont know about your place of training but the style i train we train with the one partner all class and its always a race to get to the best sempai in the class.

Bogeyman
03-24-2003, 08:22 PM
In our dojo we don't sit by rank. We just line up at the beginning of class and keep changing partners throughout.

E

paw
03-24-2003, 09:29 PM
Don,
I was present once when Saotome ambushed a reluctant tester, asking for a "demonstration". It was a marvelous test and the only time I've ever seen anyone get through three-man SHINAI RANDORI unscathed.

Which leaves me to wonder... clearly Sensei knew the student's abilities, why not just award the rank?

Regards,

Paul

tedehara
03-24-2003, 11:33 PM
...Which leaves me to wonder... clearly Sensei knew the student's abilities, why not just award the rank?...Maybe the sensei knew the student's abilities, but the student didn't. That's why a test was needed.

Amendes
03-24-2003, 11:39 PM
First of all,

Other schools don't care what your rank is at your previous school. This seems to be my experiance.

I know our schools ranking system is different then others. I have looked at other schools in different cityes and even been told by a few that my previous schools rank means nothing, they will determin what my rank will be when you train there. That is also what we do at our school. You can train here if you are a 1st dan, however if you want to test, Sensi won't invite you to test unless he thinks you are up to par.

Second, to be asked to test should be only an invitation, not a demand.

Third, you should not be diallowed the opurtunity to test if you don't want to join some organization. Of course I don't know what this organization is, prehapse you could elaborate on what this organization is that they make you join.

happysod
03-25-2003, 04:25 AM
Read the replies with interest - Lianne, I still say go with how you feel about the grading yourself. Yes, you may have to compromise vis a vis your sensei, but you obviously have ceratin issues with your aikido you want to address prior to grading, so go for it, I'd be very interested in what happens.

As for some of the other "advice", which basically boils down to "do what sensei says you 'orrible little oik" - nah, never been a fan of this one. Firstly, it implies that there is going to be some sort of struggle between you and your sensei. Secondly, it also implies your own opinions about yourself and your training should be subsumed into those of the dojo (and it's prophet on earth, the sensei).

Well, firstly, I have a person who teaches me aikido, I do not have a acolyte relationship with this person. While I am more than happy to accept their authority regarding teaching aikido , their dojo etiquette etc., a grading is different as it can be an intensely personal experience. I have seen many aikidokas driven out of a dojo because of grading mania and find the more successful teachers are those who lead by example rather than fiat.

The second main argument (which was disturbingly present) is false. A person is ultimately training for themselves, not a group and hopefully not for their sensei. To (badly) paraphrase the Prisoner - "I am not a coloured belt, I am a free man"

Nick P.
03-25-2003, 07:52 AM
I've often wondered where the balance between striving to find and further your own path and "falling into line" lies.

I guess it's just like everything else; it's very personal, and who can say anyone else is wrong.

Kung Fu Liane
03-25-2003, 08:23 AM
Happysod,

always with interest, i know i'm still learning :)

its not that i don't like gradings, i quite enjoy working under pressure - the last grading i did was on an injured leg ( i'd run up the steps to my friend's house, an hour before the grading, slipped and opened up a huge cut all the way down my left thigh. i was actually more worried about not being able to walk properly, or turning my gi bright red and being told to leave the mat :) ). i just don't really know the aikido system well enough to know whether i'd actually deserve a grade. i've heard of other students who have been given grades, when the teacher claims they weren't really deserved. i don't want to be given something that i haven't earned.

------------------

incidentally, has anyone else ever heard of this sort of thing before?

-Liane

Nick P.
03-25-2003, 03:00 PM
I have personally met, and briefly trained with, someone who hasn't tested since reaching Nidan...some 15 years ago.

Most would agree his Aikido is at the very least comporable to the Sensei's. Arguably (sp?) THE most powerful Aikidoka I have ever learnt from.

Once again brings up just how grading and testing can be important or trivial, or both at once.

I have no idea if that person is asked/approached on a regular basis to test or not. I'm sure he has his reasons.

Don_Modesto
03-25-2003, 03:45 PM
Which leaves me to wonder... clearly Sensei knew the student's abilities, why not just award the rank
I like Ted's answer and it's probably as accurate as I could guess: "Maybe the sensei knew the student's abilities, but the student didn't. That's why a test was needed."

paw
03-25-2003, 08:35 PM
Ted and Don,
Maybe the sensei knew the student's abilities, but the student didn't. That's why a test was needed

Maybe. "Needed" is such a strong word.

Certainly there are some students who, for whatever reason(s), feel as though they aren't up to par. But a 15 minute test will enlighten such a student more than weeks/months/years of training? --- how about a frank, 5 minute conversation?

Regards,

Paul

Don_Modesto
03-26-2003, 12:10 PM
....a 15 minute test will enlighten such a student more than weeks/months/years of training? --- how about a frank, 5 minute conversation?
I understand your point, but I think part of the point of aikido is doing, not talking. Knowledge and insights come in through the body.

Nick P.
03-26-2003, 09:33 PM
I understand your point, but I think part of the point of aikido is doing, not talking. Knowledge and insights come in through the body.
I would agree with you, Don. Mat time is practice time, and it is through practice that one learns. However, many do not share our views, and I have come to appreciate that some want to "know" (ie talk about).

Some need to talk or be talked to.

Don_Modesto
03-27-2003, 05:06 PM
I have come to appreciate that some want to "know" (ie talk about).

Some need to talk or be talked to.
er, as evidenced by this forum and, um, you and me here...

Thanks for the post.

Nick P.
03-27-2003, 07:52 PM
er, as evidenced by this forum and, um, you and me here...
Y'know, I didn't even notice that...

That's funny. ;)

acot
04-18-2003, 11:32 AM
Ranking is a great tool to be used in gadging ones Aiki path. However, a lot of business and polticking gets invovled and it tends to lose all value.

As an english teacher I also know that when a student knows what they need to learn in a certain amount of time they tend to stay more focused on the subject at hand.

Joe Jutsu
04-18-2003, 02:49 PM
Man, I wish my last test was only 15 minutes long!;)

I'm in agreement with those who said that they don't really care about ranking, but I will say that my last (4th kyu) test really whipped me into shape. I was asked (sorta told but I could have refused) that I was testing in January, and for about a month I drilled nothing but those techniques that would be on the test. Needless to say, I was SO tired of doing the same handful of techniques, but as of testing time my kokyunage's had never been stronger (including now:( ). So it was a beneficial experience, and it felt great to get it other with.

A non-Aikido friend told me that you have to register with the government when you reach a black belt... I live in the US, has anybody heard about this? Is it only in certain states, or certain martial arts? I would like to know, because this would definitely keep me from ever taking a dan test (assuming that I make it that far down the path, which I'd like to think that I will). Thanks for the help and the interesting thread.

Joe

acot
04-18-2003, 09:27 PM
I don't know of any law the requires black belts of any martial art to register with any agency. I might be wrong, but what good way to have an ego trip. The US government now considers you a WMD.. :D :D

ryan

Dross
04-18-2003, 09:54 PM
You don't have to currently, there was talk about doing it in New York IIRC. And I believe it was the dojos that had to register, not the individual black belts.

George S. Ledyard
05-09-2003, 12:07 PM
In my opinion the "I'm not into rank" thing is a form of false humbleness that simply masks a reluctance to step up to the plate and take the risk and deal with the pressure of testing. In saying it's "no big deal" the student makes it a big deal and is avoiding it. I will occasionally let students slide on testing when I know they have a great deal of pressure in their lives outside the dojo. What they need at that time from their Aikido training isn't more pressure. But they know that at some point I expect them to get on with it.

Someone said

"The Sensei knows how good someone is... why doesn't he just give the rank that reflects the skill?"

This reflects a lack of understanding about the function of testing. There is no competition in Aikido. One of the few times in your Aikido career that you will have to step up and put it all on the line is testing. The point isn't to recognize ability (although that is a result) but rather to get that individual to make a concerted effort beyond whatever his standard level of commitment is. Ability isn't the point, it is making the jump to a new level that is the whole point of testing.

We test during seminars and there will be dozens of people, including many heads of other dojos, attending. There's a lot of pressure not to get out there and look like a fool. Also, my students are quite aware that their performance reflects on the dojo and myself. My own teachers don't see me more than a couple three times a year at camps and seminars. The only real way they can judge what I am doing as a teacher at my dojo is by the students I am turning out. This puts even more pressure on the person testing. Since this is a martial art and not just a social club I consider that pressure to be quite valuable. Students find out quite a lot about themselves in the process preparation for and then the doing of the actual test.

I think that it is precisely this "finding out" that the anti-testing people are really avoiding. Having to face whatever stuff you have is not usually something people willingly go after.

It's been many years since I had to worry about testing. But last year I was invited to demo at the Aiki Expo. Getting up in front of seven hundred people, many of them teachers of various arts whom I highly respect, reminded me of what I had felt like when I was testing so many years ago. It had that "No more time for practice, no more second and third chances, just get out and do it now" feel that a martial encounter has. Any screw-up would be there for all to see, permanently as they were filming. It reminded me why the ritual of testing is important in the development of the kind of spirit that I am looking for in my students.

I am surprised at how many posters have said things along the lines of the Sensei shouldn't make you test, or that it should be up to you when you feel like doing it... One of the functions of a teacher is to encourage you to make those jumps that come with facing things you don't want to do.

Finally, testing has a social function within the dojo. No one can prepare for a test alone. When someone is getting ready to test the whole dojo community is involved. The beginners support the effort by being patient with the fact that for a bit of time they don't get quite the attention from the seniors as they are focusing on working with the test candidates. All of the candidate's peers and seniors have to step up to the plate and put in extra effort, sometimes within class and often after hours, to help him prepare. The energy of the whole dojo rises when testing is approaching. If the candidate(s) is doing his job he actually pulls the whole dojo up in his wake to a higher level of effort. The beginners see a wonderful example of focused training which can be quite inspirational for them.

I think that the arguments for testing far outweigh the arguments against both for the individual and the dojo as a whole. I think those folks who have a "button" which they ought to look at in an honest fashion.

paw
05-09-2003, 12:51 PM
George,

Hiya!
Someone said "The Sensei knows how good someone is... why doesn't he just give the rank that reflects the skill?"

That would have been me.
This reflects a lack of understanding about the function of testing.

Thanks. See if you can find a crueler way of saying it ;)
There is no competition in Aikido.

cough *** Tomiki *** cough
One of the few times in your Aikido career that you will have to step up and put it all on the line is testing.... snip

Aikido's put on the line everytime we step on the mat. Everything we do is a reflection of our ability. For example, a shodan is judged by their ability with every action they do by everyone present (based on people's notion of what a shodan should be). More specifically, if a shodan bows out of warm up, for no apparent reason ... falls when they should be throwing (and uke is of a lower rank and skill) ... cannot perform a technique with a cooperative uke ... these actions all add up and suggest maybe the shodan shouldn't be a shodan.

For me, personally, stepping up and testing wasn't that big a deal. Sure, I would be nervous. Sure, I wanted to do well. And yeah, I've seen people who had honest to goodness panic attacks while testing, but not me. Put in shiai, though, and I get an adrenaline dump every time.

Be honest, haven't you seen people pass exams that you personally wouldn't have passed if the decision was yours? I bet we all have.

I feel that current exams are waaaay to subjective for my preferrence. Hence, I would prefer no rank be assigned to anyone. I've gone into detail about this on the other forum, so I'm sure you're familiar with why I feel the way I do. But for those who don't know me, I have tested many times, hold rank and (this is key) I haven't returned my rank in aikido to Hombu, so I freely confess I'm being a hypocrite. (Gotta tell the truth).

As always, George, I appreciate your posts more than I can express and I appreciate your honesty and integrity.

Warm Regards,

Paul

George S. Ledyard
05-09-2003, 01:26 PM
George,

Hiya!
That would have been me.
Thanks. See if you can find a crueler way of saying it ;)
cough *** Tomiki *** cough

Aikido's put on the line everytime we step on the mat. Everything we do is a reflection of our ability. For example, a shodan is judged by their ability with every action they do by everyone present (based on people's notion of what a shodan should be). More specifically, if a shodan bows out of warm up, for no apparent reason ... falls when they should be throwing (and uke is of a lower rank and skill) ... cannot perform a technique with a cooperative uke ... these actions all add up and suggest maybe the shodan shouldn't be a shodan.

For me, personally, stepping up and testing wasn't that big a deal. Sure, I would be nervous. Sure, I wanted to do well. And yeah, I've seen people who had honest to goodness panic attacks while testing, but not me. Put in shiai, though, and I get an adrenaline dump every time.

Be honest, haven't you seen people pass exams that you personally wouldn't have passed if the decision was yours? I bet we all have.

I feel that current exams are waaaay to subjective for my preferrence. Hence, I would prefer no rank be assigned to anyone. I've gone into detail about this on the other forum, so I'm sure you're familiar with why I feel the way I do. But for those who don't know me, I have tested many times, hold rank and (this is key) I haven't returned my rank in aikido to Hombu, so I freely confess I'm being a hypocrite. (Gotta tell the truth).

As always, George, I appreciate your posts more than I can express and I appreciate your honesty and integrity.

Warm Regards,

Paul
Paul,
Sorry if I was too direct. I get carried away by making the argument. Too much time spent arguing politics with my right wing grandfather growing up. Didn't mean to be a hardass.

You notice that I didn't actually talk much about rank. The rank part of it is secondary and not that important. It's the test itself and the preparation for and doing of it.

My apologies of course to the Tomiki folks. The fact that they have competition develops certain strngths that the general Aikido population doesn't tend to have. Since there isn't all that much Tomiki style here in the US, I forget about them sometimes when refer to issues that effect Aikido in general.

As for passing people who didn't deserve to pass... That is a whole can of worms that has been opened here before and I won't get into it. The subjective nature of grading has made Dan rank irrelevant from the standpoint of indicating any particular standard of ability. It doesn't however usually indicate some level of commitment and that can be an important recognition as well.

Anyway, please accept my apologies for any offense given. It wasn't intentional in any personal way. Just too agressive a communications style. I like to debate (in case you couldn't tell).

paw
05-09-2003, 01:38 PM
George,
Anyway, please accept my apologies for any offense given. It wasn't intentional in any personal way. Just too agressive a communications style. I like to debate (in case you couldn't tell).

No apology needed, no offense taken. Heck, one o' these days, we'll meet and the first round's on me.

Warm Regards,

Paul

Darren Raleigh
05-09-2003, 04:53 PM
The shortest test I ever saw:

"If I tested you today, would you pass?"

"Hai!"

"You did."

I should add that the Sensei had worked with this particular young lady for years and knew her integrity.