View Full Version : How long to Shodan

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Mark Williams
11-04-2003, 01:35 PM
How long do think you should wait until Shodan? I've been training 3 x a week for 18 months and am expected to go for my Shodan some time next summer. What are your thoughts on this?

11-04-2003, 01:39 PM
How long is a piece of string?

Some people I've known in the United States have gotten their shodan in less than two years. Others have taken close to twenty. I know that folks in Japan (especially university clubs) can get a shodan in a year. So it goes.

I don't think it's a matter of "waiting," frankly. If you're ready, then test. Then keep training.

Lather, rinse, repeat...

-- Jun

11-04-2003, 02:23 PM
Where I train, the average is 6 years.

11-04-2003, 02:26 PM
Poll: How long did it take you to reach shodan in aikido? - 5/26/2001


-- Jun

11-04-2003, 03:16 PM
Mark I'll not direct this toward you(so please don't take offence), but what is up with the "I'm in some kind of race to get my Shodan rank mentality?" As I said, I'm not directing this toward Mark, but his post gives me a chance to gain some insight to this issue. I've been teaching(learning to teach), for about a year, and now seeing this from the teachers prospective I'm left a little confused.

Now we always get the question from new students,"how long does it take to get your black belt and we give them an ansure very close to what Jun gave, and follow up with you can test when you are ready. Now in our dojo, the Shodan test is more of a celebration because you have demontrated your abilities in class many times and for many weeks before the test. So the test for the most part is for the families of the aikidoka.

So with that said, with the requirments well known thur out the club, it seems some students get a calander out after their first class, and calculate to the month when they expect to get their Shodan ranking....with out reguard for attendance or ability. Should we just hand out black belts the first day of class and let each student decide when they can wear it?

I don't mean to rant on this subject, because the vast majority of students don't have a problem with testing when they are ready and respecting their instructors opinnion, but what do say to the rest? Maybe I need a few more years under my belt, but it seems that for the few students who don't get it, they have managed to attend Aikido class for 4 or 5 years without learning any Aikido.

Like I said, I'm looking to gain some insight on this subject, not to make anyone feel bad, and Mark if you have worked hard and are ready then I'd say you will gain rank when your instuctor is ready to test you.

Any insights or thoughts? Who else has dealt with this issue?


Nick Simpson
11-04-2003, 03:29 PM
Id wait until my sensei told me I was grading for shodan and then Id get rather scared :p ( I imagine this will take about another 4-5 years at the earliest ).

Victor Ditoro
11-04-2003, 03:34 PM
This is a true story that has nothing to do with aikido but somehow seems to be on topic....

I planted a fig tree three years ago, and this summer it finally produced figs, at least enough for me to eat and enjoy. So, how long does it take a fig tree to give figs? Three years in my case. The figs were pretty good. But, if I stop watering the tree its still going to die.

The fig tree at my dojo was so full of figs even the birds couldn't keep up. I asked Sensei's wife how she managed to get it to produce so heavily, and it turns out she had to cut it almost to the ground after it got established, then, after an period of no production, it finally gave the incredible crop it had this summer.

Esteban Martinez
11-04-2003, 05:50 PM
The times to test for Shodan or any rank depends on YOU. How often do you train, how committed you are to your dojo and your training and how responsible you are to your dojo (memeber fees and so on).

If you train for one month and then stop for 5 and then come back you probably going to take 20 years to test. However if you are dedicated you progress, therefore you test and keep moving forward.

So keep training EVERYDAY!


11-04-2003, 08:12 PM
prepare for the worst, 9 years. just to share with you a newcomer comes to our dojo to apply, then he asked my teacher on how long to get to shodan. when my teacher said it took 9 years he somewhat disbelieved and said shouldn't it be just take 2-3 years like he had in other MA. Anyhow, it's obvious that this guy is a belt-chaser because when my teacher said he couldn't be a shodan in 2-3 years he just lasted for two classes.

11-05-2003, 04:05 AM
5-10 years in my dojo.

Haven reached it myself yet.

Might in 2 or 3 years (I've been in it for 5 years until now)

Amelia Smith
11-05-2003, 05:59 AM
I was one of those people who walked into the dojo and started figring out how long it would take to get my black belt. For me, having a goal helped motivate me to come to practice regularly.

I originally figured on 5-6 years, but it took me 8, which is about normal in our organization. How quickly you advance in rank doesn't just depend on your practice habits. It also depends on your dojo, sensei, and the rules and standards in your association. Athletic talent helps a bit, politics can play into it, and getting injured gererally results in some setbacks (time off the mat).

Obviously, if all you really wanted was a black belt, you could go to a dojo where it's possible to get one in 1-2 years, but you wouldn't have the same level of skill as someone who just got their belt after 10 years of steady, regular training.


11-05-2003, 06:17 AM
My pennys worth......

I started training in 1996 and got to 3rd kyu in 12 months at which point I was training 4/5 times a week...every week. I continued to train and became happy where I was, just training for trainings sake...I enjoyed training. The next 3 years I did the same with no real desire to go for the next grade I just wanted to enjoy training, which I did. It wasnt until people (especially instructors) started bugging me to grade that I actually stopped to look at how 'good' I was. Unbeknowest to me I was at a standard better than a lot of 1st Kyus and even some dan grades (according to other people not me :p). I made my mind up to take the leap and grade.......I was shodan at about 6 months after that point :D

Just goes to show that you'll reach shodan when youre ready....not when you think your ready.

It took about 5 years for me at which point, in retrospect, I think I was ready for it. I would have hated to been awarded shodan and felt that I wasnt good enough for it...I know some people who felt like this....it cant have been nice.

In our organistaion it is theoretically possible to reach shodan in less than 2 years but i think the average is about 4ish.

One thing to bear in mind......the belt around your waist is only there to stop your jacket falling open.....a belt is no indicator of how accomplished someone is at aikido, no matter what colour it is. :D


11-05-2003, 06:43 AM
One thing to bear in mind......the belt around your waist is only there to stop your jacket falling open.....a belt is no indicator of how accomplished someone is at aikido, no matter what colour it is.
Having forgotten my belts on more than one occasion I can say that as long as one wears a hakama one doesnt need a belt to prefent the jacket from opening.

Conclusion: Who needs a belt ??:confused: :confused:

Sigrun Hjartardottir
11-05-2003, 09:14 AM
One of the things that attracted me to Aikido when I first started training at Sanddrift Aikikai in Florida was that a black belt was not easy to come by. At Sanddrift 8-10years of practice is the norm before testing for shodan. When so much work is required for something it gives it validity. Who believes a black belt from a Karate "factory" to be proficient when they learn that he or she became shodan in a matter of months? My current club, Reykjavik Aikikai only has two members of shodan or higher. I, with 3 other members have begun preparation for shodan testing next spring, we will have anywhere from 5-10 years training behind us.

11-05-2003, 09:30 AM
Where I trian we have only one shodan.

He trained for 11 years. Out of the 11 yeras he was there it took 10 of them to get a Black Belt. He spent all his time there. Every week night and stayed late.

Though we practise 3 nights a week he was there 5. And saturadys....

He is the only Aikidoka in 17 years for our teacher to give black belt to.

There are a few brown belts that have been there about 8 or 9 years and they still havent tested. I used to go every single night, even ones wiht out classes for a long time. Probably 3 years. I am still 6th Kyu.

We start at 10kyu.

We have had shodans come from McDojos, and not seem to know what they are doing.

Be carefull, you should never be focusing on HOW LONG, becuase its not the destination thats important, but the journey getting there. And as long as my belt isent pink I don't care what color it is. :-P

11-05-2003, 09:32 AM
In our organization, practicing 3 times a week, attending at least 1-2 seminars a year, attending a few private classes --- should take you 4-5 years. Practicing less - takes longer. It seems that the average is about 5 years.

One of my fellow dojo buddies, started aikido before I did. Along the way he got injured & was out a while. He dabbles in other martial arts & was out a while for those arts. He attends 0-1 seminars a year. He got his shodan this summer, after 12 years.

So a lot depends on the individual. It seems to me that those looking too much at the shodan goal, and those not looking enough at the shodan goal kind of holds the person back. The individuals that attend class & seminars & become more interested in the art itself rather than the goal of attaining shodan, are those that advance to the shodan level by the 5th year. Kind of weird, huh?

Robert Vaughn
11-05-2003, 09:38 AM
Hi all

Mark here is one for ya

I have been training in Akido for 8 years now.

6 months ago i tested for nikyu {cool i've been looking foreward to wearing those fancy pants!} . You have to understand i wasn't all that interested in attaining my Shodan i looked at it from this perspective .It is inevitable as long as i train it will happen the only way to go is up . Well no less than 6

months after i tested for Nikyu i was invited to test for Ikkyu ( HUH?! ) uuuhhh okay Sensei

will do . So test date arrives i go up do my test . Now comes the review something is strange here normally there are 7 people on the board ? Just Sensei and his wife . I'm sweatin bullets now ! Then he announces that i have been promoted to the rank of Shodan!

To be honest i about broke down right there

that whole event was totally unexpected for me . Now i have many friends who have done this quicker than i have but i will tell you

i wouldn't trade my training time for anything .

I always try to remind myself before training (keeps a beginers mind)

and its not the destination thats important its the journey !...... soo enjoy the view my friend !

to all you here at AikiWeb Good Training

Jim ashby
11-05-2003, 11:48 AM
The late Tom Moss Sensei was asked (in my presence) by a visitor "how long does it take to get a black belt". Tom replied " there's a martial arts shop down the road, they're about three quid".

On a more serious note, it takes about five years in our club, dependant on how often and how hard you train.

Have fun.

11-05-2003, 02:15 PM
Well. . .at my home dojo in Latvia, it would take anywhere from 5 (very fast) to 10 (normal) years. Our 3rd-kyu guys, for instance, are often quite, quite good, often having 5 years or so behind their backs. I don't see how it matters, though - rank only has meaning within the context of a single dojo/small organization. You can't really compare rank on a larger scale - a black belt's skill at one dojo is 4th kyu's at another - and it makes no difference. It's fine to have a black belt after 2 years IF you are aware what your level of aikido is, it's fine to have it after 10 too and to know that you are not being slower than the 2-year blackbelts, but that you are merely working in a different frame of reference.

When I came to college and took the aikido class here, I saw 2nd and 1st kyus with the skill levels of 5th kyus at my home dojo - but they have been training only once or twice a week and in a college PE class. . .it did not bother me in the least that it would take me much more to get to the same rank, because I was quite aware of the different meanings behind mine and their ranks.

Jerry Miller
11-05-2003, 04:31 PM
I can remember asking my father when I was young "How deep is that lake?" His reply was "All the way to the bottom." I think that it is the journey that matters.

11-05-2003, 07:00 PM
Poll: How long did it take you to reach shodan in aikido? - 5/26/2001


-- Jun
And this is the thread that corresponded to the poll. Brings back some old memories and a lesson learnt in that the "small, simple questions" can turn into the biggest discussions.

Needless to say...I'm not so verbose...


11-05-2003, 09:51 PM
I have seen 10 year olds with blackbelts in Tae Kwan Do here in Taiwan. At the dojo which I am practicing at how their is a 17 year old shodan (he is quite talanted) . It takes about 2 to 3 years in the Republic of China(Taiwan) Aikikai.


11-06-2003, 12:45 AM
At my university, we share a room with the tae kwon do club. After I reached 3rd kyu and started weaking a hakama, one of the tae kwon do students (a black belt, of course, who isn't?) congratulated me for getting to wear the "master pants."

Here's something more black-belt related:

An average person equates a black belt with mastery, but in the aiki world, it seems to be more of an invitation to really practice, as if to say, enough with the kid stuff... If I remember correctly, at this year's kigami biraki in Minneapolis, Okamura (sp?) sensei talked for a while about "shodan" as a word sometimes used for the first step leading from the outside world into someone's home.

Black belt as invitation; any thoughts? I like it. Makes me smile to myself everytime I hear "He/she's got a black belt?! Wow!!!!"

11-06-2003, 01:24 AM
Well, it took me 5 years and in my opinion that was kinda fast. I trained 3x a week to as much as 6x a week.


11-06-2003, 08:07 AM
I started on the path of Aiki in 1986. In 1998 the result of years of wonderful training by my, now departed, Sensei was a piece of black cloth that holds the top of my gi closed. I never cared about belt color or status. I have just always loved Aikido and the people the are part of the Aikido family. I started in Ki-Aikido. After my Sensei Len passed, I started with Bill Gleason Sensei of Shobu Boston. I was told that there would be such a difference between Ki-Aikido and Gleason Sensei's Aikido that understanding would be difficult.

I have found that Aikido is the same everywhere if those instructing me,

translation(trying to get through my thick skull)

teach with the intent of not watering down Aikido.

Well....I think I have wondered off the path of this discussion.....

I am new to the AikiWeb group and it is a pleasure..


11-06-2003, 12:29 PM
Too many martial artists see Shodan rank as the goal and dont look beyond it to all the training that still lies ahead. Achieving Shodan rank in any martial art is akin to graduating elementary school. You have gained proficiency (not mastery!) of all the basics and are now ready for higher learning.

Into the river with the belts and let's focus on learning and growing as martial artists!

White belt is fine for me................


11-06-2003, 01:02 PM
A previous post likens shodan to graduating elementary school. I'm not there yet but it seems to me to be more like graduating high school. It provides a basic understanding of principles and technique. A deeper understanding is possible but only after the basics are learned. Also, pursuing the high school analogy, many folks move off into their successful adult lives after a high school education. Many others pursue higher education. Very few are able to jump into higher education without completing (at least the equivalent of) high school first.

For me, I hope to reach shodan in 4 or 5 more years. I can now see some distinct differences in technique between the shodans and nidans or higher. To me, that suggests that more learning will come with more practice after I reach shodan.

I have been enjoying this thread!


11-06-2003, 02:28 PM
When one passes a black belt test, it is a sign from the testing Sensei that she/he now has attained the knowledge required to go to the next level. Whether it is a step to elementary school...or middle school or whatever, it is merely a step. The color of one's belt is not what is seen. Perhaps when she/he steps onto the mat for the first time in a new dojo, with a black belt, it is seen. But what is remembered is the ability. And I do not mean only ability in the technique. But more importantly ability to learn more. To teach. To show that she/he does not look for a platform to demonstrate that, "I have attained Black Belt status"

I have practiced with many wearing a white belt that have demostrated technique and peace of mind greater than that of many black belt holders.

White belt.....Black belt......who cares.....it is the enjoyment of practice with fellow aikidoka that I enjoy