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Christopher Latkowski
11-18-2003, 03:12 PM
i have done aikido for about 2.5 years and have never tested. i think ranks are a hindrance to the long term practice no matter what your goals are.
what do you guys think??

fvhale
11-18-2003, 03:25 PM
Shorter version:

Just do what your sensei asks, and keep practicing.

Longer version:

If your sensei invites you to test, take test. Maybe you pass, but since you are not attached to testing, you don't get big ego, and just practice. Maybe you fail, but since you are not attached to testing, you don't get crushed, and just practice.

If your sensei does not invite you to test, don't test (and don't ask!). If you are not attached to testing, it doesn't matter--just practice.

Peace,

Frank

Chuck Clark
11-18-2003, 03:53 PM
Great answer! The only problem I see is that many people don't have a committed relationship with a teacher. Trust is a large part of that realtionship and should go both ways.

In my opinion, that relationship is part of what rank is about.

aikidoc
11-18-2003, 05:18 PM
Rank is only a hindrance if you chose it to be. Testing challenges you to improve your aikido and, although subjective, it allows you to document your success. Testing give you a chance to challenge yourself and to validate your progress. If you don't test and move-you have no documentation of your progress other than what you say or do on the mat. If you chose to go to black belt you need to punch the tickets along the way. You are not likely to test for black belt without a history of successful progress. This is being addressed on another thread in this forum by the way.

sanosuke
11-18-2003, 08:02 PM
to me, rank is a milestone, not a goal nor a hindrance...

Jeanne Shepard
11-18-2003, 08:12 PM
Passing a test can be a major high, when you've worked really hard for it.

Jeanne

Clayton Kale
11-18-2003, 11:25 PM
In the style that I take, not testing is not an option -- unless you only want 10 techniques for the rest of your life. In order to progess you must test.

A non-MA friend of mine asked me when I'd get my next belt. I told him I didn't know, that I go to class and practice. If I go enough, my technique will get slightly better and the belt will change color on its own.:D

Nafis Zahir
11-18-2003, 11:30 PM
This thread ties in with the thread I started about rank. Now I must say that testing, as it is today, is a waste! I would much rather see people called up in front of their peers (Chiba, Yamada, Sugano) and told to demonstrate such & such, as opposed to knowing what techniques will be called and then doing them with an uke from their dojo who will take a fall even they don't control the uke's center or use tai subaki, as is the case with most test I've seen. It's really bad when someone of dan ranking has no tai subaki. Testing today is as ploitical as the ranking system. Check out the thread "Does Rank Really Matter."

Marty
11-19-2003, 12:02 AM
In my dojo testing is not about technique as much as it is about maintaining your center. My Sensei always tells us that when we test they know how our techniques look and if we are asked to test then it is of sufficient quality to test. The test is to see if we can still keep our center and do our arts while others are watching and while we are being evaluated.

On a personal note, I thought of testing and rank as a means to an end (I wanted to teach) so I did the testing thing to that end. My friend decided not to go that direction and he did not test for 3 years. Finally he came to the decision that it was time to test, and even though he was taking the first test with arts that he could do in his sleep and probably has, he was nervous! And I think that is IMPORTANT if we never test then we are missing a valuable opportunity to challenge our Aikido. After all if you canít keep your center when you are being watched by your sensei who you know then how can you when you are being attacked IRL?

Just my thoughts

Ai

Marty

Duarh
11-19-2003, 12:21 AM
. i think ranks are a hindrance to the long term practice no matter what your goals are.
Why are you asking the question?

BKimpel
11-19-2003, 01:47 AM
Testing give you a chance to challenge yourself and to validate your progress.
That's the sole purpose of testing; a tool to evaluate your own progress and identify areas that require improvement - and that is valuable, no argument.
If you don't test and move - you have no documentation of your progress other than what you say or do on the mat.
This just serves to demonstrate how little rank is tied to actual ability.

If you can't identify where a person's ability sits in your own organization (you are supposed to know your own syllabus, etc.) from watching them do Aikido (or feeling the techniques for yourself), knowing their rank wonít help you. If you have to ask them what rank they have (or see paper proof of that rank), rank is being used as a crutch to avoid taking the time to assess their ability or progress.

This is also reflected in the way organizations handle students from other organizations. Very few organizations honor other organization's ranking and force students to start over (an utterly amazing concept in my mind) because they can't (or wonít take the time to) identify what abilities an Aikidoka has.
After all if you canít keep your center when you are being watched by your sensei who you know then how can you when you are being attacked IRL?
Come on, now you are entering the realm of the ridiculous. Does an attacker give you 3 weeks to prepare for his attack (maybe he does in grade school)? Does a bystander callout what type of attack the attacker will be using (possibly golf commentary, ĎToday our attacker will be using the 5 iron and performing his patented forehead smash!í)?

The ďstressĒ involved with performing Aikido under test conditions will never come close to the fear of being hurt IRL unless sensei gives uke a baseball bat and says, ďreally hit him - hardĒ. Randori, and jiyu-waza will at least give you some of the dynamics of fluid movement, but it still can't match the fear factor of real attacks. Rank testing is on the bottom of the scale when it comes to real-world stress in my books.

happysod
11-19-2003, 04:18 AM
Clayton, you have my sincerest sympathies for the position you're in, not teaching certain techniques unless you pass their test is, to my mind, a form of blackmail and intimates a distinct lack of interest in students as individuals.

Testing, like any other form of assessment can be good or bad. It depends on how consistently it is applied, how objective it is and how applicable it is to what you're trying to measure.

If you're feeling is that a standard aikido grading is somehow linked to how good you are at self-defence, I agree with Bruce, you are mistaken. However, as a test of your knowledge and personal development within aikido, most I've seen do measure up pretty well. Why have them, again it's my opinion that it's attempt at standardisation across an association and many need attainable milestones to aid their training. If you don't like them, don't do them. However, if you won't test, don't then expect your dojo to make special considerations for your "ideals".

paw
11-19-2003, 06:02 AM
The ďstressĒ involved with performing Aikido under test conditions will never come close to the fear of being hurt IRL unless sensei gives uke a baseball bat and says, ďreally hit him - hardĒ. Randori, and jiyu-waza will at least give you some of the dynamics of fluid movement, but it still can't match the fear factor of real attacks. Rank testing is on the bottom of the scale when it comes to real-world stress in my books.

Absolutely correct. Clearly and concisely put.

Regards,

Paul

kung fu hamster
11-19-2003, 08:16 AM
At another organization I saw a sandan test, they called a shodan up for uke. The guy who was testing for sandan was really psyched and he was throwing this shodan around like a bag of beans, I could tell she was hurt but she still kept going. Later she was crying and went to the hospital. When I mentioned this to another blackbelt he said "She's a shodan, if they call you up for uke you have to be able to take it." How do people feel about this? Does a rank of blackbelt automatically create the assumption that you must deal with any level of ukemi?

aikidoc
11-19-2003, 09:49 AM
Bruce: I agree rank is tied little to ability and I'm sure we have all seen cases where rank and skill were not well matched. However, documentation of your progress is necessary to move forward. I will evaluate someone on the basis of their skill if they have trained and not achieved any rank and test them appropriately since organizational requirements vary.

"She's a shodan, if they call you up for uke you have to be able to take it.

IMHO testing can be a dangerous and risky venture for the uke due to the addition of adrenaline and in some cases testosterone-especially in young people. I don't agree everyone should be able to "take it". Physical limitations or old injuries may make it difficult for someone to take tobu ukemi for example. Varying levels of joint flexibility, age, etc. all play a factor in someone's ability to taken anything directed at them. The responsibility for the safety of the uke is the person testing-i.e., you must have enough zanshin of what is taking place to adapt your level of technique to the ability of the uke. Is this what O'Sensei wanted-not to destroy the attacker? Injuries suffered during a test are generally a lack of control on the part of the testee-and this is a problem for me. I look for that person's ability to adapt to different body styles and abilities and to protect the uke-I would fail someone deliberately or repeatedly injuring an uke. On the other hand, part of the testing is to be able to take ukemi at the level of your rank. A sandan might be able to dish it out a little more than a shodan is able to take. To injure another says something about your skill and about you as a person more than it does about the skill of the uke. Unintentional injuries do occur. But over zealous testees should be admonished to maintain control and protect their ukes. I personally would not throw an 70 year old student into a break fall no matter what their rank is unless they let me know they can do it safely.

aikidoc
11-19-2003, 09:58 AM
Bruce: I agree rank is tied little to ability and I'm sure we have all seen cases where rank and skill were not well matched. However, documentation of your progress is necessary to move forward. I will evaluate someone on the basis of their skill if they have trained and not achieved any rank and test them appropriately since organizational requirements vary.

"She's a shodan, if they call you up for uke you have to be able to take it.

IMHO testing can be a dangerous and risky venture for the uke due to the addition of adrenaline and in some cases testosterone-especially in young people. I don't agree everyone should be able to "take it". Physical limitations or old injuries may make it difficult for someone to take tobu ukemi for example. Varying levels of joint flexibility, age, etc. all play a factor in someone's ability to taken anything directed at them. The responsibility for the safety of the uke is the person testing-i.e., you must have enough zanshin of what is taking place to adapt your level of technique to the ability of the uke. Is this what O'Sensei wanted-not to destroy the attacker? Injuries suffered during a test are generally a lack of control on the part of the testee-and this is a problem for me. I look for that person's ability to adapt to different body styles and abilities and to protect the uke-I would fail someone deliberately or repeatedly injuring an uke. On the other hand, part of the testing is to be able to take ukemi at the level of your rank. A sandan might be able to dish it out a little more than a shodan is able to take. To injure another says something about your skill and about you as a person more than it does about the skill of the uke. Unintentional injuries do occur. But over zealous testees should be admonished to maintain control and protect their ukes. I personally would not throw an 70 year old student into a break fall no matter what their rank is unless they let me know they can do it safely.

rachmass
11-19-2003, 10:24 AM
A sandan might be able to dish it out a little more than a shodan is able to take. To injure another says something about your skill and about you as a person more than it does about the skill of the uke.

A very dear friend of mine was injured beyond repair in someone's shodan test. She had her wrist snapped clean through, and continued to take ukemi for the test because she wanted to be a good uke (?). She was one of the most talented nidans I have ever seen! She had an operation and could not repair the damage that was done to the wrist, and cannot train anymore. She tried to come back six months after the operation, but couldn't even hold a bokken on the offending hand. She used to do lovely iaido, and can't do that either. While I was not at the test and did not see it happen, I cannot fathom how the person who hurt her passed. The testing committe must have seen something! In any case, it is one of the saddest things I've ever heard of happening in a test. She should not have continued to take ukemi when she was injured; she should not have run out to take ukemi for someone she had never trained with before; she should not have been a fraction behind (which is apparently how this happened), but at the same time, she was a superb aikidoka, and weighed probably all of 95 lbs, and shouldn't have been cranked on so hard, no matter what.

deepsoup
11-19-2003, 10:32 AM
At another organization I saw a sandan test, they called a shodan up for uke. The guy who was testing for sandan was really psyched and he was throwing this shodan around like a bag of beans, I could tell she was hurt but she still kept going. Later she was crying and went to the hospital. When I mentioned this to another blackbelt he said "She's a shodan, if they call you up for uke you have to be able to take it." How do people feel about this? Does a rank of blackbelt automatically create the assumption that you must deal with any level of ukemi?
I wouldn't assume that any blackbelt can handle any ukemi, but personally, I would expect any blackbelt to have the sense to stop if they're injured.

I guess it depends on the atmosphere in the dojo to a degree.

But yes, the responsibility to look after one's training partner doesn't go away just because its a grading.

Occasionally, where I train, testee's are given uke's rather less experienced than themselves, and the examiner(s) are specifically looking to see them excercising the control they need to look after a less capable uke.

Sean

x

ajbarron
11-19-2003, 10:34 AM
To Be Kyuless, or not to be!

Whether my title makes sense or not it did sound good when it popped into my brain even though I am neither kyu-less, or I hope clueless, although some days I do feel kyu-less on the mat and other days partially kyu-ed. I have read the contributions to this forum and feel the need to reply if only to attempt to clarify in my mind what I believe. I admire some of your very coherent discourses, so you will have to bear with my ramblings if you decide to read further.

What is ranking? What does it do and what does it not do? What does it mean and does it mean the same to everyone? Who should decide on when a test takes place and how long it should be between tests? Since the last question seems to be the easiest Iíll tackle it first.

You should decide first if you are ready to test by demonstrating your technique and dedication in each practice. Then your sensei should help you really decide. Now your sensei might work within an existing framework of set hours etc. but ultimately she/he if he/she is worth her/his salt should determine whether a student is ready either technically or psychologically.

The criteria for testing of techniques should definitely be standardized within a dojo or associated group of dojos for this allows the sharing of experience based upon a common understanding and level of what is necessary for successful interaction. The other readiness aspect (the heady stuff: psychological/ethical etc.) is the responsibility of the sensei. He or she should set the tone/atmosphere for the dojo. What is the sensei and dojo trying to promote? You as a student have the freedom to buy into it or not. If you donít, seek out a teacher who fits in more with where you are at this point in your development/life.

In our dojo our sensei asks us if we are going to test. If we put it off too long he will certainly let us know. We then have a pre-test and Sensei then tells the student if he or she is ready to grade. Our Sensei also might allow a person to test and then put them on probation for a period of time before awarding them with their next level. This could either be to allow more time to practice or work on an aspect of their aikido that falls outside of the purely technical(i.e. attitude, respect, being a role model, helping promote the dojo etc). I believe the whole process is established to honor the development of the person and the ideal of aikido as a process verses a destination.

To work backwards now, I believe that belts and rank certainly do mean different things to different people. Now thatís not exactly rocket science is it, just read the forum? To one it is a badge of their proficiency to show others what they have accomplished, to others it is their personal progress tracker, for others it shows their dedication, and for yet others their contribution to the art, in some ways similar to University degrees, some earned, some honorary.

Every time I test it allows me to press the envelope of my abilities , it sharpens my focus for those three to four months before I think Iím ready. (right now Iím preparing five months in advance of my next kyu test and twelve months after my last) When I have completed my tests I feel relief in that I can go back and really start learning those techniques. I still remember, just after I started Aikido, my Sensei telling some 2nd kyu students who had just been promoted that now they can really start learning the techniques they had just performed. (Now I realize that we should be always be analyzing and relearning our techniques.)

Why should there be ranking? Ideally it is a method of self judgment/testing to determine if you personally have been able to master the techniques, yourself, and your personal limitations. Does ranking mean the same to everyone? No it doesnít, but then again why should it and why does it have to. Are we all the same in physiology or aptitude? If you have ever worked the finish line of a marathon and seen the elite runners finish, and then the next four to five hours (or longer) of the others, one can start to appreciate that not everyone is equally endowed yet we all can find our personal way to cross that finish line. There are as many different types of egos in the dojo as it the real world since we donít live in some utopian cult; but that was another forum wasnít it! Why do some dojos have colored belts, some not; well it works for them. Are they right and you are wrong or can you both be right?

Personally I like my white belt. I wore it in my career in Hapkido and now for the first four in aikido. It feels good. It is soft, broken in, has my name on it in Japanese courtesy of my aikido sensei. It has traveled in my bag to every practice and to every dojo I have visited on business or holidays and will do for the foreseeable future. When I get my shodan I am going to ask sensei if I can wear my white belt under my hakama and save my black belt for special occasions because it will remind me I am learning all the time. Iím not sure what he will say perhaps he will agree or perhaps he will feel that it is important that we are comfortable with ourselves and his teaching that we can wear it; Iíll cross that bridge when I get to it.

The other night when we were sitting in seiza, as sensei talked about learning technique, he said how much the learned from teaching even the lowest level beginner and how it made him think about, and analyze his technique. This from a 6th dan teacher who has been instructing for almost twenty-five years!

What is ranking and what it is not? Ranking does not mean you can go fearlessly into the streets at night. Ranking can not, and does not, give you divine insight as it is simply a landmark on a personal journey towards a destination that some of us will not achieve but will put up the good fight for anyway. To use the much abused quote from Robert Browning, I might be paraphrasing, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp. Or what's a heaven for?"

What are we purported to be teaching in Aikido? We teach to enter, to blend, to work with others energy to resolve a conflict in an appropriate manner. We strive to do this on the mat with varying degrees of success and with, I would forward, possibly less success in our day to day interactions with our peers, our siblings or companions. But, we keep on trying with our imperfect techniques, bodies and psyches.

So rankle smankle, if I practice in a dojo that pushes testing I will probably do lots of tests if I have decided that the sensei will help me along the path. If I practice at a dojo with colored belts Iíll probably wear colored belts and if they donít I wonít. So belts and testing arenít important and are important. Love the process, enjoy what you do, do what you love and suffer with humility and humour the failure and the elation of success when a technique works; and realize that in Aikido humility and elation are an every day experiences.

Deep down, whether you are white, brown, black or blue belted, if we are honest with ourselves, we know what level we are at. Some nights we are simply kyu-less and others, for an instance, even dan-full.

And thatís how I feel for now.

Christopher Latkowski
11-19-2003, 12:33 PM
Why are you asking the question?
Good point tom, however I was interested in some outside perspectives. I do not have a very close affiliation to any dojo; I trained a little in a lot of different places, N.Y.C, Japan, CO, WA.

I guess another reason why testing does not seem like my thing, is because I donít have a goal.

I donít wake-up in the morning and think, "in two years (5 ranks layer) Iím gonna be in total harmony with my enemies.":freaky:

In this art I donít think there is room for goals. Thereís too much depth to go in every direction.

:do: :do: :do: :do: :do: :do: !!

John Boswell
11-19-2003, 02:03 PM
Dan is made up of one kanji meaning "level" or "step". The various dan of black belts therefore, reflect the various steps or levels of proficiency after attaining the black belt. When put together with the kanji "sho", to make "shodan", it takes on the meaning of "first" or "beginning". When attaining a "shodan" black belt it symbolizes that this is the first or beginning level or step within the dan ranks. One can only realize that the few years required to attain a black belt is really just the beginning of a life long commitment of training. Just how much further you progress beyond "shodan" depends entirely on your commitment and effort to your training.

http://www.shuyokan.com/members/articles/5kanji.html
If you consider this definition of Dan and the meaning behind "rank" and all the previous training for it, it becomes obvious that the attitude of "should be able to take it" is rather arrogant and is completely against the whole concept of Shodan and of ranking.

Personally, I'm not even a Shodan yet as far as my belt rank goes, but even I have more of the philosophy and theory behind Aikido, and of ranking, than some aikidoka in the world. Never would I expect any person of any rank to take all the technique that even I can dish out.

In real life, I'm a huge man. I have the responsibility to control my center and not hurt or injure my uke. On the occassions when my technique is "right on", I can send someone flying! It's amazing to see and to feel. But if that individual isn't ready for it... no matter their rank, they can still be injured.

The original question was "Why test?" You test to for the very meaning of the word: to critically examine, observe and evaluate yourself. It will be your dojo's and your Sensei's responsiblity to acknowledge if you measure up or not. It will always be your personal responsiblity to live up to the rank awarded to you.

:ai: :ki: :do:

Clayton Kale
11-19-2003, 02:15 PM
Ian Hurst, I appreciate your sympathies, but I like the way my school is set up. I don't feel like withholding techniques is blakmail, at least not the way we do it. Students of certain levels are taught only certain techniques to allow them to focus on those techniques (and the techniques taught in the earlier "set(s)") and the body movements required. Some require blending in, some require blending back, some require entering. But because we're not overloaded as beginners and mid-level students, we're given a chance to work on the "big techniques," such as keeping one point, tai sabaki, irimi and tenkan. Later, as we progress and learn new techniques and applications, we apply the body movements from earlier techniques to what we just learned. I believe it's like building a house: The foundation must be laid first.

As for lack of interest on the part of the instructor: One of my favorite traits of my instructor is his interest in us students. He makes great effort to get to every student during regular class and is always available after class (or by e-mail) for questions or concerns.

I don't believe that the color of my belt determines my level of self-defense profeciency. I'm still in the early stages (I'll be testing for Yon Kyu next month), but it shows me that I've improved since the day I walked in the door.

Thanks for your reply!

Respectfully,

Clayton.

John Boswell
11-19-2003, 02:28 PM
PS: One other point I wanted to bring up with regard to something Chris Latkawski said -
"I guess another reason why testing does not seem like my thing, is because I donít have a goal.

I donít wake-up in the morning and think, "in two years (5 ranks layer) Iím gonna be in total harmony with my enemies."

In this art I donít think there is room for goals. Thereís too much depth to go in every direction."
Though it is true that Aikido can go very in depth in various "directions" and styles and whatever... don't you have SOME expectations on yourself and your ability a year or two from now?

When I first started Aikido, I was so out of shape that I could barely do decent rolls for ukemi. My goal was to be able to roll well and take some freakin' ukemi! :D Took a couple months, but I got there... and that was completely aside from any "ranking" issue.

Goals are good. They bring structure and direction to ones growth in any venture. Just wanted to share that. Take it or not... but wanted to say it just the same.

Domo! :D

jxa127
11-19-2003, 02:46 PM
There's a fair amount of arrogance in the idea of refusing to test. If testing is required, then test. If you don't want to jump through hoops, or you have some sort of philosophical (and, in my opinion, selfish) problem with testing and rank, then find a teacher who doesn't test or award rank.

Meta-discussions like this are fine, and sometimes fun, but in the end I'll still have to test and continue testing as long as I stay in a dojo affiliated with the AAA -- regardless of what's said on this board. We have one student, who because of time and work constraints, hasn't tested in the four years that I've been practicing (our instructor can only test up to 1st kyu). As I understand it, however, our sensei is working with the eastern region director to make accommodations for this student so he can test for shodan.

In our dojo, rank and testing matter. They're not the only things that matter, or what matters most, but they do matter. There are two aspects to rank and testing. The first is what's discussed here the most: how an individual performs, in the instructor's judgment, relative to a set of standards laid out by the organization. The second is an outgrowth of the first, but those of higher rank are expected to set an example for those of lower rank, take more responsibility for the running of the dojo, willingly help lower ranked students when they request it (usually this is an after class request for help on certain techniques), etc.

In other words, rank is important to the dojo as a whole (again, it's not the only important thing, or the things that most important). With rank comes responsibility and refusing to test can be seen as a refusal to take on additional responsibility.

One could argue that the situation needn't be that way. That one's skill could speak for itself and that rank would be superfluous. Sure. That's true. But that's not the way things are at my dojo, and frankly, we like it the way it is now.

Regards,

-Drew

Victor Ditoro
11-19-2003, 02:56 PM
Let's not forget there may be a more practical, and less philosophical answer to this...

In my dojo, and I'm sure in many others, the belt ranks serve to organize the curriculum. This allows you learn technique in small "sets" that later build on one another. The tai sabaki for a white belt technique may be different from a similar technique at gold, and different still from blue. Using "rank" as an aide for organizing instruction is just the same as organizing college degrees in terms of courses and pre-requisites.

If colleges conferred engineering degrees by piling freshman through seniors in one room and lecturing on a broad variety of topics for four years, I'm pretty sure it would be pandemonium.

Thalib
11-19-2003, 03:23 PM
I can't stop thinking of Massey-san's and Morimoto-san's story. It is just horrifying.

I would be ashamed and embarassed if I know of a fellow Aikidoka that hurts people. Apparently, I know a few. Everytime I think of these people, I couldn't help feeling angry and sad, but at the same time I also feel sorry for them.

Part of the test is to be sensitive to one another. Even when one has never practiced with the other, one must learn each other's limitations. The real test is not within the techniques, but within the Aikido itself. How far does one understand Aikido? This is the way of testing.

In Massey-san's and Morimoto-san's stories, I would have to agree that the one that is taking the test should have their qualifications questioned. As one gets higher in rank, one should reflect more on the ideology and philosophy of Aikido. But, alas, many actually reverts back to their primitive state.

Wether it is practice, test, or even real life situation, one should always look out for the other's welfare.

Marty
11-19-2003, 03:27 PM
Please note my statement was If YOU CANíT KEEP your center during a test then how can you HOPE to keep it IRL, not if you can keep your center during a test then you CAN IRL. It is like every thing else we do. Just one more level, e.g. we start off with paired one on one simple attack simple art. We then at some point add more speed and intent to the attack, then more attackers. There by testing our center and ability to maintain our composure, testing is doing this in a different arena.

The other thing I wanted to say is in our organization rank = responsibility nothing else. We learn nothing new just have to do more around the dojo. It means that we will clean after class we will teach if the regular instructors are sick or take a class of our own. It does not mean that they can take anything that is dished out or that they should even try. It means this person is some one to go and ask questions of in class if you need help and they should be (depending on rank) more and more able to teach you the fundmantles of the arts. Now applying the arts themselves is a different story some times. But they should know how it works, if not from there own experience then for hearing it said over and over again. And finally we do accept rank from other styles. They just don't test until they can do the arts like we do them.

paw
11-19-2003, 03:49 PM
Marty,
Please note my statement was If YOU CANíT KEEP your center during a test then how can you HOPE to keep it IRL, not if you can keep your center during a test then you CAN IRL.

At the risk of speaking for Bruce, he was well aware of what you said. He disagreed. Sometimes it's that simple.

FWIW, I agree with Bruce, based on my experiences with aikido tests, bjj tests, randori, shiai and real world assaults. Each is different and each may be "stressful" for different reasons. I've sparred with professional fighters who have said that real world assaults are far less stressful for them because the event just happens. Given a worthy opponent, a set time, a place, and time to think about it, a shiai becomes more stressful to them.

Ultimately, it behooves us all to train for what we want. If we have a strong desire for real world self-defense skills, our training should reflect, as closely as possible, a real world self-defense situation.
The other thing I wanted to say is in our organization rank = responsibility nothing else.

Drew mentioned something similar. If you enjoy things there, good on you, mate. I choose to train where responsibility is expected from everyone regardless of rank. That's just my personal preference, not a value judgement.

Regards,

Paul

indomaresa
11-19-2003, 07:16 PM
True, there's a fair amount of arrogance in refusing to test

nicely spoken, drew

Pretoriano
11-19-2003, 09:58 PM
You should achieve YOUR OWN very personal goal, you must pass your own test, Every time you practise, or it is a loss, every practice is a victory, the most important thing here said was: "you know were you are"

In Aikido you know were you are in terms of the hierarchical chain that determine ones "comprehension and skill", let you know "Were and Who you are in the organization.

But few people like me doesnt care at All about climbimbing up in an organization

In other arts were one gets acostummed to frecuent presure and combat "you know were you are" reality is constanttly measured and always changing, any facade is totally out.

It is valid to test as well as to refuse to test.

Personally I Dont Believe in Ranks Because:

.-I know it will make me prepotent and arrogant.

.-Because I know that early in aikido eg. people climbed too fast and made instructor shihan in few years, been kids.

.-Because I ve seen that rank and deep comprenhsion of martial arts many times not goes parallel.

.-Because I know that the higher ranks in martial arts (mostly) were not the better ones on their classes, they just "stayed" there.

.-Because many Dan instructors get pleasantly accostumed to their positions and "sleep on the olives garden"

.-Because some high ranks doesnt get into the heat centuries ago, although they just enjoy their power positions.

.-Because Ive seen that practicants play somehow a crazy race for to grade, making it in less time posible, This is obiously Not the goal.

This may sound somewhat rude but it is Not,ther re just my true convictions, not intended to challenge anyone, I could accept.

I Recomend to General people to test, and to climb naturally, enjoy you train, if your goal is a grade or a belt go get it, be sure that youre going exactly were you want.

One of the Best sayings Ive read was: "Be responsable of your own trainning".

PRAETORIAN

BKimpel
11-19-2003, 10:27 PM
ultimately she/he if he/she is worth her/his salt should determine whether a student is ready either technically or psychologically
Agreed, and that is certainly the ideal. If a sensei can know where his/her students progress is, he/she will be able to guide and let you know what areas are weak, what needs improvement and what your next steps are Ė regardless of testing or rank.
The criteria for testing of techniques should definitely be standardized within a dojo or associated group of dojos for this allows the sharing of experience based upon a common understanding and level of what is necessary for successful interaction
Therein lies the rub! Aikido syllabuses arenít even standard within the same organization! Bob Moline (on the does rank matter thread) alluded to the weapons issue Ė half of the dojos I have trained in donít even tech weapons at all Ė thatís difficult to translate when you go to another dojo that does emphasize weapons.

By the way Bob, we trained together in the early 90ís when you visited Winnipeg from time to time (seminars and when your group came in to test).
If we put it off too long he will certainly let us know.
Thatís where I have a problem. I have heard of (on this very forum) many people that have been ďforcedĒ to get their next rank because they have lingered too long. What is too long? And what really motivates a sensei to nudge his students to rank, when the student isnít interested in it? How will that benefit the student again?
Why should there be ranking? Ideally it is a method of self judgment/testing to determine if you personally have been able to master the techniques, yourself, and your personal limitations.
A colorful belt and a made up standard wonít give you that. If one should where a white belt to ďremindĒ him/herself to keep a beginners mind (an excellent concept in my mind), what is it that one reminds themselves of when they where a black beltÖI wonder.
To use the much abused quote from Robert Browning, I might be paraphrasing, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp. Or what's a heaven for?"
It seems that there is such a fine line between aspirations and greed. And rank seems to teeter on that line.
At the risk of speaking for Bruce, he was well aware of what you said. He disagreed. Sometimes it's that simple.
Yup, I understood, and yup I disagree. The stress value of testing is about as valuable as tennis lessons to improve your hiriki (elbow power). You may coincidentally touch upon the same movements and muscles Ė but it doesnít in any way train you for implementation in real life.
In addition, what rewards does a teacher get in all his efforts to teach his students? I am very proud of my black belts and my own selfish reward for what I do is to see my student progress well and go through the ranks and become good Aikidoists.
I suppose that from a selfish perspective I see no benefit for me to obtain rank, and in most cases I have only seen commercial benefit for a sensei to promote testing / ranking which really turns me offÖbut I have never really looked at it from a pure teacher / student perspective before. In that light (having been a teacher by profession) I guess your right that there is a measure of satisfaction from seeing your students progress Ė and by not visibly demonstrating your progress we rob our sensei of that little bit of job satisfaction that may just keep his engine running on those cold, tired nights.

I must think about that oneÖ

sanosuke
11-19-2003, 11:02 PM
In Massey-san's and Morimoto-san's stories, I would have to agree that the one that is taking the test should have their qualifications questioned. As one gets higher in rank, one should reflect more on the ideology and philosophy of Aikido. But, alas, many actually reverts back to their primitive state.

a double-edged sword on aikido is that aikido allow their own student to develop their aikido according to their preferences, which results in either so-called 'soft' and 'hard' aikidokas, and they passed their style through their students and so on. The person who injured their uke might not realize what they done because they are used to what they train at the dojo. but, this conduct is also unacceptable by me. i would suggest if there's any demotion or suspension in aikido grading like International Taekwon-do Federation has.

back to the rank issue, in my opinion it's up to the people whether they want to grade or not, but it's not polite to refuse the offer to take one. The important thing is, in whatever art you train, don't be a belt-chaser, because the higher your rank is the more burden you have to carry.

Alan Lomax
11-20-2003, 02:37 AM
Shorter version:

Just do what your sensei asks, and keep practicing.
Frank,

I sure like your answer. In my perspective, I really enjoy the tests. In our Club tests are much like a celebration, a special get together night for all. Sure there are all of the pressures, variables and all that goes along with it but still a celebration. Afterwards, we usually go out to a close by hizakaya and yuk it up for awhile. This can be equally as entertaining.

At the test, we get the tatami almost completely to ourselves. Just the person testing and the necessary Uke or Ukeís. All that room and partners not only willing but focused on letting the person being tested have all the fun of demonstrating waza time and time again. Itís great! With few exceptions, the Ukes are only there to allow you to perform. They donít even ask for their reciprocal turn of the card. How cool is this?!

Generally speaking, if Sensei tells us it is time to test, who are we to disagree. Do we know this Aikido stuff better than Sensei? I have enjoyed each successive test even more than the one before it. I have gotten better at taking them. Not better necessarily in the skill of my waza, but better at letting go and enjoying the opportunity to get out there and demonstrate that I like the training I have been receiving.

I enjoy it for the example I get to set with all of the others who attend. I get to show them how I have learned to treat the willing Ukeís even better now than in earlier testing. I will not speak for anyone else, but for me, I was so nervous and unsure of myself during my early tests, I moved too quickly, used much too much force and really did not have a good connection to what Uke was going through. (Kowai so Uke)

My latest test was a San Dan test. It was the easiest test I have taken to date. I had completely let go of the burden of worrying how I would do. I didnít even consider what the Ukeís would do, they were all Ni Dan. I can tell you the Ukeís were plenty worried, they were sweating bullets. To them, all they could see was this rather large gaigin who they thought was probably going to go full on and going to cause them a great degree of discomfort. I know this because the Ukeís who knew they would be up with me, approached me before the test began and asked if I would please be careful not to injure them.

My whole focus for this test was to demonstrate to the club and my Sensei, that I had in fact been paying attention over the years. I wanted Sensei to be pleased with the work he had poured out over the years. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to demonstrate during each and every waza that I could do it in my own interpretation of what Sensei had been teaching me, yet still with his distinctive flavor and with kind regard to the Ukeís, so that it came across as genuine but not abusive by design or neglect. I had wonderful time of it.

Regards,

jxa127
11-20-2003, 08:19 AM
Drew mentioned something similar [about those with higher rank having more responsibility]. If you enjoy things there, good on you, mate. I choose to train where responsibility is expected from everyone regardless of rank. That's just my personal preference, not a value judgement.
Hi Paul,

I think you're missing the point a little bit. Of course everyone is expected to act responsibly regardless of rank. But, I wouldn't go up to somebody who has been training for less than a year and ask for help on nikkyo. I go to students who are senior to me for that kind of help.

That's the biggest area where rank is important in our dojo. Senior students are expected to know the kihon waza, ki tests, and ukemi for all requirements up to the rank they've tested for, and be able to pass on that information (to the best of their ability) to junior students when asked. The other area where it's important is in setting a good example regarding etiquette and basic dojo operations.

This is a quiet kind of responsibility. We don't stand around correcting students of lower rank, but we strive to set a good example, and we're willing to help when we're asked questions. There are plenty of opportunities to stay humble during class. There are students who are junior to me in rank who actually have better skills in some areas. There are those who are senior to me who have trouble with things that I find easier. Rank is not an absolute, hard demarcation, and we don't treat it that way. But, in aggregate, those who have been studying longer have higher rank and know more about the art.

Regards,

jamara
04-24-2004, 06:05 PM
I think that one of the only ways to know if you are getting any better is to measure improvement. If your teacher thinks that you are getting on well enough he/she will invite you to grade.

I think that it is also important to know or at least have an good idea how good your training partner is, especially if you don't know them very well.

Also grades are one of the few ways that you can know if your teacher is actually qualified to teach you, which from a safety point of view is very important.

JasonFDeLucia
04-25-2004, 06:55 PM
i have done aikido for about 2.5 years and have never tested. i think ranks are a hindrance to the long term practice no matter what your goals are.
what do you guys think??
Christopher,a good test is really a certification .when invited to attend your sensei knows that you're ready to absorb and by the end of your test ,whatever your kyu content is for that kyu ,you should have absorbed it.in truely old school dojos the
nature of the ''test''(certification)is repetition '' uchi komi''.like before you could ride a bike ,then suddenly you got it and never forget.repetition is the mother of skill.

PeaceHeather
04-25-2004, 09:09 PM
"She's a shodan, if they call you up for uke you have to be able to take it."

Screaming white belt newbie opinion to follow...

Ex-CUSE me?! You "have" to be able to take getting so injured by someone who is testing for his belt that you end up going to the hospital afterward?

:evileyes:

1. If the guy testing is being that nasty to his uke, is he really demonstrating the control, fluidity, blending, compassion, or anything else that aikido is supposed to be all about?

2. Since when does aikido require you give up your self-respect? Ego, sure, but self-preservation? If that dojo's policy demands that ukes get the sh!t kicked out of them (okay, thrown, you know what I meant) and does not give them the right or the opportunity to protest such demeaning treatment, then the people who run that dojo should be sued bankrupt, shut down, and their execrable techniques made public.

I don't tolerate abuse. I don't tolerate any institution that tries to pass off abuse as "policy". Abuse is perpetrated by making sure everyone involved keeps their mouths shut. Abuse is ended by shouting the truth and refusing to be silenced.

This uke should start shouting... and Linda, so should you.

Heather, steamed and hoping she is merely missing some piece of information that justifies this!

Nick Simpson
04-27-2004, 08:51 AM
Ive heard of shihan say " if a black belt cant take the technique I give them then I'll take their rank off them." Breaking someones wrist in a test isnt very nice and is totally unfortuante but some people hold these attitudes unfortuantely. I heard of a instuctor who called his entire class up for tenchinage and broke each of their noses, one after the other, they still got up for it though...

stuartjvnorton
04-27-2004, 09:22 PM
Ive heard of shihan say " if a black belt cant take the technique I give them then I'll take their rank off them." Breaking someones wrist in a test isnt very nice and is totally unfortuante but some people hold these attitudes unfortuantely. I heard of a instuctor who called his entire class up for tenchinage and broke each of their noses, one after the other, they still got up for it though...

Just proves that ownership of a brain or conscience is not necessarily a prerequisite of having a black-belt.
Shihan or not, I'm not sure I'd want rank under an idiot like that.

PS: How on Earth (or in Heaven lol) do you break someone's nose in Tenchinage?

PeterR
04-27-2004, 09:39 PM
Tenchinage is a form of Aigamae-ate. The ten (heaven) hand can go past the head or to the head. We prefer to cradle the chin with some twisting action provide by the fingers on the side of the head but shote to the nose could also work.

That said abuse is abuse - and the above mentioned instructor is a wanker. Anything that potentially disfigures or becomes chronic deliberately applied is assault - broken noses are way beyond the occasional split lip.

Friend of mine had his nose broken during training in the Israeli Army (weapon retention). Considering what he was being asked to do and where he was being asked to do it you could make a case for it. But not in an Aikido dojo.

Taliesin
04-28-2004, 04:22 AM
For myself as far as testing and ranking is concerened they are two overlapping but identifiable issues. I train in a dojo which has gradings regularly. It also has a pre-test before you do your grading. It is carefully structured so that the students are always building and developing what they learnt before. However what i believe my Sensei wishes to see at each step is a clear step up in form, posture, movement, control, etc, he also likes testing as a means of putting pressure on someone it is deliberately stressful and the fact you know its coming means you have more time to stress and worry about about (failure is a real consequence), but it also sets you in the mind frame of dealing with stress. It may not be the same as an attack in the street but should be helpful in dealing with it (that's if you don't react immediately).

As far as rank is concerned, It breaks down what you have to learn into digestible pieces, it tells someone who is training with someone new how hard or not a tecnique can be applied. It also means there are always goals to aim for.

Nick Simpson
04-28-2004, 06:35 AM
Apparently the instructor (wanker is what I would call him too) called everyone up for ushiro ryote dori tenchinage and as he turned round into uke struck the nose instead of the collarbone/shoulder. I couldnt believe that an entire class would allow this to happen to themselves.

Don_Modesto
04-28-2004, 09:28 AM
Screaming white belt newbie opinion to follow...

Ex-CUSE me?! You "have" to be able to take getting so injured by someone who is testing for his belt that you end up going to the hospital afterward? (1)


....I don't tolerate abuse. I don't tolerate any institution that tries to pass off abuse as "policy". Abuse is perpetrated by making sure everyone involved keeps their mouths shut. Abuse is ended by shouting the truth and refusing to be silenced. (2)

1--FWIW, I have seen Saotome interupt tests several times to admonish NAGE, "Don't break UKE!"

2--Shouting sounds a little hysterical, but a firm "No" followed by a deposition ought to open eyes. I'd like to see abuse publicized sometime, actually. You hear about it so much on the boards here, but I've seen nothing on a successful prosecution for battery in a dojo in the news. What's wrong with this picture? (You've already answered that, Miss Bungard Janney: "everyone involved keeps their mouths shut".)

PeaceHeather
04-28-2004, 10:58 AM
2--Shouting sounds a little hysterical, but a firm "No" followed by a deposition ought to open eyes.

Metaphor, if you wish. The point is, no matter where abuse takes place and who the participants are (parent/child, spouse/spouse, boss/employee), it can only *ever* continue to exist because the abuser keeps his or her mouth shut, and the victim is shamed or intimidated into keeping his or her mouth shut.

I'd like to see abuse publicized sometime, actually. You hear about it so much on the boards here, but I've seen nothing on a successful prosecution for battery in a dojo in the news. What's wrong with this picture? (You've already answered that, Miss Bungard Janney: "everyone involved keeps their mouths shut".)

Exactly. Look at some of the cultural mindgames we play with abuse victims:

First, we make them think that healthy relationships involve this kind of behavior.
Then, we tell them that if it's happening they should protest.
If they do protest, we label them "victims" and imply they must be "weak" if they can't handle it themselves. (And, in America, heaven forfend that you should admit you need help from anyone. We're obsessed with an unhealthy notion of "independence".)
If they don't protest, we tell them they must want it to happen on some level -- in other words, it's basically their fault.

Is it any wonder most abuse goes unreported?
*sigh* Need to go think about something else now.

Heather

roninja
04-28-2004, 11:33 PM
is there anything wrong with testing? I've never noticed its counter-productiveness.

PeterR
04-29-2004, 12:20 AM
is there anything wrong with testing? I've never noticed its counter-productiveness.
Absolutely nothing. It provides focus and a bench mark of your progression within the group.

The only problem with awarding rank is the few individuals see it as a path to status. However, if you didn't have tests they would still find ways to increase their status.

I personally don't think rank is all that important but I came to that realization as I advanced. Coincidently, as you advance the time between tests will increase. You are weaned off the need or the particular benefit provided by testing decreases.

Of course I will test again when the time is right - if I didn't the harmony (wa) of the dojo would be disturbed.

Don_Modesto
04-29-2004, 10:53 AM
is there anything wrong with testing? I've never noticed its counter-productiveness.

As a teacher, testing has a lot to offer: Motivation and morale being high on the list. (Ugly and imperfect as it is, there is also the more familiar rationale of establishing competence.)

mantis
04-29-2004, 11:04 AM
I for one love rank tests, but rank tests are really more of a formality than anything else. They help new students see what is expected from them in the future, and helps document what has been learned by the student who is performing the test.

Before any rank is given out, I would hope that the instructor of the student knows that students abilities, and is well aware if that student has the requirements for the rank that is given.

So in reality there is no need for the formal rank test other than making the student feel that he/she has accomplished something.

It's like a graduation ceremony in college. If you miss the ceremony, you will still get your diploma if you finish all of your requirements.

As far as the nose breaking story goes, I can't believe this ever happened. If so, what was the sensei's name? I do hear of students that get hurt by their instructor, but it makes me think twice about that instructors abilities!

jgrowney
04-30-2004, 10:03 AM
Chris,

I can totally identify with your train of thought here. I trained for about 2 years at a dojo because I loved to train. I didn't care about testing at all, and had no desire to test. I just wanted to train. As I began to progress and have questions that my seniors could not answer, I began to look for a new teacher. 5 years later I found him. About a year after that I began testing.

At first I thought the same as you. It was hindering me from learning more and expanding my knowledge base. It felt like a total distraction. This is when I began to see the difference between accumulation of knowledge and depth of knowledge. I knew a lot of techniques. But it was not unitl I was forced (by the testing process) to focus on the same 5 techniques for an extended period of time (4 months), that I really began to understand and apply the principles behind the techniques.

It's really forced me to take my aikido to the next level. My attitude now seems to be that I'd rather have 5 techniques that I really know well, and can apply in a real situation than 30 techniques that I can not apply in a self defense situation.

I'd encourage you to go through testing, because the process will force you to polish what you have in your toolbox... if you take the right approach to it. Focus on depth of knowledge and not quantity. Challenge yourself to really understand each technique at a deeper level and search for the similarities between them. Find some of the underlying principles and learn to apply them.
Jim

PeterR
05-01-2004, 10:13 PM
But it was not unitl I was forced (by the testing process) to focus on the same 5 techniques for an extended period of time (4 months), that I really began to understand and apply the principles behind the techniques.
Yes.

And by extension - a vast collection of variations does not mean your Aikido is any good. Too much too fast will get you no where. Regular testing keeps this in check.

tedehara
05-02-2004, 05:13 AM
There was a guy in a dojo I heard of, who just kept ducking out of testing. Everytime he was to be tested or when there was testing, he didn't show up. This went on for twenty years.

Things got to be a little strange when he started teaching. Of course he had twenty years of Aikido and he knew his stuff. But a visitor would just see a white belt instructing the class.

Finally the head instructor saw him one day and had an impromptu test. He passed and was given a black belt.