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Paula Lydon
09-17-2003, 09:17 PM
~~Hi all! I'm taking my own poll out of curiosity, like most everything I do. As far as testing/grading goes, I've been in dojos that advanced students in three different ways and was wondering what would be the most preffered way for the majority of students.

1) Tests set with regularity at 4 to 6 month intervals, further apart of course for yudansha.

2) Individual students tested at the end of a class, say, without advance warning because sensei thinks they're ready.

3) Sensei, who hopefully knows their students and follows their individual progress, tells you: "You are now san-kyu, or ni-dan, etc."

~~What think you all? :p

Clayton Drescher
09-17-2003, 10:32 PM
I would prefer the spontaneous testing. Even if I'm confident in my abilities, I hate the dread/anticipation of any sort of formal test (I choked during someone *else's* test, totally screwed up taking ukemi for them). I'd rather just be fooling around with a friend, doing my best, have sensei notice that and put it together with my dedication and performance in class and decide if I'm at a "certain level." Much easier for all involved, if you ask me :)



09-17-2003, 10:32 PM
We do #1

I would prefer #2


09-17-2003, 11:42 PM
I've been in dojo where there is a lot of "build up" before an exam (say, three months prior to a yudansha exam) and I've been in dojo where someone testing may get anywhere between a few days, a few hours, or a few minutes of "warning." Both have their benefits and disadvantages that I've seen.

The former (months of build up) allows the student to really focus on kihonwaza and very often gets a lot more people than just those testing involved; in a sense, everyone gets the "testing" fever. It also allows people to ramp up their training in anticipation of their exam, too.

The latter usually presupposes that the regular, every day training is already at a high enough level that a test isn't really that big a deal. In other words, the real "test" is just the day-to-day training and the official test is more a demonstration.

Speaking of which, I've also been to dojo where the "test" is, very much, just a demonstration in every sense of the word. The student often has to show the core set of techniques in the curriculum but can also dictate some parts of their test. I also like the feeling that these kinds of "tests" really don't have the sense of "pass or fail" but are very much a presentation of their abilities.

I've also been in places where people may just receive rank without their having a "formal" test/demonstration, too.

All in all, I think as long as people take tests (and rank) to be milestones and sign posts rather than the purpose or goal of training, it really doesn't matter too much in the long run...

-- Jun

09-18-2003, 03:07 AM
In my dojo it used to be a combination of 3 and 1 - mostly 3 for kyu-grades.

Lately (the past 5-6 years) there has been developed a more formal set of rules regarding promotions, so now we mainly go by the no. 1 scenario.

I like it the way it is now. A grading helps you to focus your training and at the kyu-levels gives you a challange to learn new things, that you maybe don't get to practice much otherwise. This is by far the most sensible and practical solution in my point of view.

From an ideal point of view I would prefer the no. 3. scenario. It's sort of more 'pure' unless of course personal preferences and likes/dislikes makes a difference.

09-18-2003, 11:56 AM
While I’m sure most students would prefer 2 or 3, realistically 1 is the best tool.


While everyone would like to avoid the build up/anticipation of a test, that is one of the only purposes tests serve – to test your metal under a stressful environment! (The other being a progress meter to help you gauge what you need to do to improve). You need that hot temperature to refine your character.


Expecting a sensei to actively remember everything about his/her students (like “did I see him do kote-gaeshi yet”, etc.) is unrealistic with anything more than 4 or 5 students I think. While yes sensei should be noticing weaknesses in order to correct them, but expecting your sensei to mentally catalog those weaknesses (or walk around with a clipboard all the time) is unreasonable.

I do, however, disagree with ONLY adhering to a standard treatment of time (4-6 month intervals). The regular interval testing should be used as a minimum (to force a little stress in students life to improve their character), but should not be the only road.

I believe that a sensei should ALSO be able to recognize students that are progressing faster and “ask” them to test when he/she sees fit. Encouraging those students that obviously demonstrate a lot of dedication will to inspire them to drive even further.

While some would consider this favoritism – just as you cannot hold back the gifted students in an elementary class to prevent the rest of the class from being jealous, you can’t do it in Aikido either or you will lose the gifted student (out of boredom, or lack of recognition of his/her dedication. Feeling like “why should I do more” if I can do the least and get by).

I have seen and read that some dojo’s super-test an individual that comes from another dojo, or has been out of practice for a while – making them test as far as they can go, and assessing rank progress based on those tests. Some will say it’s not fair, they complain that they haven’t “paid their dues”…well yes they have, they already paid their dues, and now you want them to do it twice, or three times? I find it very hard to believe that a shodan or 1st Kyu will forget everything they were taught over years, just because they took a few years off – they maybe not fully up to their previous level, but they surely haven’t regressed to 5th Kyu – that’s just telling the student that they might as well not come back because you didn’t help pay sensei’s rent over the years (petty in my mind).

Just “putting in your time” is always worth something – but it’s never worth everything. A blind man is just as blind as the day he started twenty years later (without a cure/correction). It’s about dedication and progress, and testing is just the tool to validate that progress.

These are just basic educational techniques and apply to all disciplines (not just Aikido).

The more we apply constructive educational tools to Aikido, the further our students will grow (in the right direction) and probably much faster.

Just my thoughts.


Janet Rosen
09-18-2003, 12:18 PM
~~Hi all! I'm taking my own poll out of curiosity, like most everything I do. As far as testing/grading goes, I've been in dojos that advanced students in three different ways
Hi, Paula. Fourth way exists:

You start preparing when you are near the requisite hours, you and the person who administers tests agree on a target date. Test can be done at the end of any class that person teaches.

The only downside, and the reason I kind of like choice #1, is that when there is a "testing day" with a bunch of tests, everybody celebrates by going out for beer!

09-18-2003, 01:23 PM
Okay, here's a fifth option. We test, on average, once a year. We'd like them to be more frequent, but this is the way it works out.

Our instructor notices that a number of people are ready to be tested, tells us so well in advance (a month or two), and the whole dojo tests on one day. We're a small school, so no more than ten people test.

The time leading up to the test is spent refining the techniques we need to know, but we're also expected to know a number of variations of each technique, so the test is not just kihon waza.

Generally I like this system. The tests are important, but not too important. The tests take a long time, but the kyu tests have a similar feel to the black belt tests I've seen, so I think we're becoming well-prepared for them.



09-18-2003, 01:30 PM
Yes I would agree the helpfulness of camaraderie (a bunch of people preparing for and going through the tests together in order to support one another – as Jun has mentioned in his article about his Shodan testing (good read by the way)).

And I would also agree on the necessity for beer, heh heh.

Seriously though, celebrating success (and even celebrating effort in the case of failure) is a vital part of any learning experience and can only serve to strengthen the participants resolve to continue on in what IS sometimes a difficult path. So method #1 does foster this kind of group preparation.


09-18-2003, 02:05 PM
Sixth option: Don't assign rank.

09-19-2003, 08:13 AM
Okay Paul, but in the spirit of the original question, if you were going to assign rank based on tests, how would you prefer the testing to be announced?


09-19-2003, 09:01 AM
Okay Paul, but in the spirit of the original question, if you were going to assign rank based on tests, how would you prefer the testing to be announced?
Fair enough.

A blend of methods 1 and 2. The instructor, tells the student, that they are getting ready (or are ready) for the next rank. The instructor then tells the student, specifically, what they are looking for from this individual student.

By this I do not mean the testing requirements (x number of techniques from this attack, x number of hours training, whatever.....) --- as I presume these are known in advance. I mean personal weaknesses the student has. It may be a particular technique (ie koshi) or it may be a concept (more relaxed, more aggressive, better transitions between techniques, more teaching time, clearer instructions, whatever....) But a particular thing that the instructor feels the student needs to take things to next level. I guess I'm looking for the instructor to "coach" the student at this point.

Primarily, I don't care how testing is announced ---- my objections have always been about the method ---- I strongly feel that testing is tremendously subjective, and as a result, has very little meaning.

But I've digressed....



09-19-2003, 09:56 AM
We hold tests for kyu grades every 4 months - we have a pretty big dojo in terms of numbers so we always have plenty of people who are ready to grade. Some of the higher kyu grades obviously have to wait longer before testing (ie. they cannot test every 4 months). For out dan gradings then they are held once a year - in September. In fact our next gradings are being this weekend - we have four students grading, two for shodan and two for nidan. We have a minimum of 3 years between shodan and nidan - the norm at the moment seems to be 4 or more however. After you have you nidan then it's up to the the dojo head to decide when you have made the next step - so our other dan grades are awarded once it's been decided you have progressed further. Probably at least 5 years or so usually until sandan after taking nidan. So we're a mixture of 1 and 3 - although the other dan grades are still only given out in September.

As an aside - I'm one of the two testing for nidan on Sunday.

David Wyatt
10-07-2003, 02:29 PM
I may not be the best person to answer this, but here are my thoughts on the subject. I tested for 7th Kyu last night and passed. I have known for the last 2 weeks that I would be testing soon, but I was never given a date. We only had only 4 people (including the sensei) in the class that evening. About an hour into the class my sensei told me we were going to do my test right now!

Needless to say, I was quite surprised. After it was over though, I was glad that he decided to do it that way. I had been nervous about remembering the names of the techniques for the past week and since I had been working with some newer students practicing Ukemi and breakfalls, i had not really had much time to practice. Well, it seems that I knew the names better than I thought and I only hesitated on one of the Shionages (trying to pair up the name with the move).

The end result of testing like this is that I had no time to get nervous and obsess about every little detail. And luckily for me, I had a very good Uke for my test (thanx Larry!).