View Full Version : Standards in testing

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01-05-2004, 09:46 PM
Does your dojo have a standard? If so, do you know what it is? Or does it seem like it is all over the place?
We always say that at each level we are looking for specific things. 5th kyu - right foot/left foot, know technique by name, know where to go. 4th kyu - show knowledge of principles, gaining confidence, improve 5th kyu stuff, and so on...
Whatever that standard is for your style or dojo, is it mostly adhered to? Of course there are always exceptions but if someone were to visit your dojo would they be able to visual see rank by a uniform set of standards?
And I would also like to know does it matter to you?
It seems to me that many people train to test instead of just training. When they hear of test time they then come out of the wood works. Of course this will do nothing for their technique if this pattern continues. But what does it say about the dojo or our art for that matter if we allow that to happen? What can we do as blue collar aikidoka to help instead of complain?

01-06-2004, 04:01 AM
1. Standards: We definitely have a minimum standard for each grade, but there is quite a spectrum within grades from a technical point of view.

2. Does it matter? Nope, I do my own thang

3. Grade chasers: never really last so after 3-4 years they're gone anyway, so why worry

4. Blue collar response? None, it's their problem not mine, only affects you if you let it.

I don't consider myself an aroitor of aikido or even hold any of the answers to "true" aikido, so the only areas where I do hold strong opinions is

i) Personality cults/cliques and any abuse of students resulting from such nonsense

ii) impractical techniques taught as self-defense. Quite happy for the more esoteric aikido techniques to be taught, they're fun to learn, but if they're misrepresented as "defence", yes I do get annoyed.

01-06-2004, 09:42 AM
Thanks Ian. I know you are probably right on most of the points. But why does it bother me? Somehow I feel it not only affects me but the dojo and the aikido community at large. I can't quite put my finger on it but I am just being honest about my feeliings on this. This is probably the thing that I feel most strongly about. Not that I'm so good or all aikido has to be this or that. I am talking more about effort, sincerity, and intent. And you are right - I can't control it but somehow I feel that if I can bring the right spirit to the dojo there is a chance that it may have a positive effect. But there I go again - this is only MY reality and may not be that of others.

01-16-2004, 08:28 AM
This is a very interesting topic for me at the moment as I have been designing a new grading syllabus for kyu grades.

We have an existing syllabus, however I think there are some fundamental problems with it and am proposing a new structure for consideration by the head of my organisation (at the request of the organisation's committee).

There are several basic questions that one needs to consider when designing a syllabus, for instance:

1. Should the kyu grading syllabus include every standard technique or just a sample?

2. Should different grades focus on different areas, eg ukemi, suwariwaza, jiyuwaza,

3. Should/could gradings be objectively scored, and how?

4. Should there be minimum hour/month requirements, and why, if the grading is a fair assessment on its own?

5. Should there be any comparison with grades from other organisations?

6. What, if anything, is expected at each level in addition to 'knowing' the techniques. For instance, what about maai, zanshin, flow, attitude, attendance record, ability to deal with different uke, quality of attacks and so on. How can these be assessed?

7. As a student, is it clear to me why techniques a,b and c are required at 4th kyu and d,e,f at 3rd kyu? Is it level of difficulty, groupings based on aikido principles? Purely random?

I've been graded under three different organisations during my aikido career, and I've never seen any well documented expectations for each kyu grade level other than lists of techniques. The usual argument is that the examinar 'knows' what they want, but if so, how come it is rarely/never put into words? There must be some out there somewhere....

If it is possible to tell the difference between, say, a 2nd kyu and 3rd kyu, can this be written down? I think that in the west, where we spend a long time going through the kyu grades, this begins to matter. Lists of techniques alone make sense in an environment where it takes 2-3 years to shodan, but if it takes 8+ years?

Has anyone here designed a grading syllabus from scratch? If so, what principles did you use?

I'd be interested in any thoughts or advice!!



John Boswell
01-16-2004, 10:03 AM

What do you think of the idea of proposing such requirements... just as an idea, and have various sensei critique it.

I think if you take a 5-7 kyu rank setting and put stages of developement out there, ideas for what the student should be looking for, trying to achieve, points of interest, direction of students attention (hand position, hip movement, extension, etc.) you could end up with just the syllabus you've been looking for.

Whether or not it has formally been done before... I have no idea. But who says we can't start and work on such an idea in the meantime?? I think you could really be on to something here.

Any high ranking Sensei out there gonna chime in on this subject? idea? Please feel free! :D

01-16-2004, 10:25 AM

I think it would definitely help to have specific learning objectives in writing. I have always heard and believe that "people come to aikido for many different reasons". If this is true, then why does it seem that everyone wants rank?

I believe at certain levels, besides technical proficiency, the examanee should have a certain level of confidence or martial spirit. Too many times I see people going to test and walk through the motions in such a slack manner.

I know in karate I would never promote someone who "dialed it in". My feelings is that it can promote a false sense of security. It also lowers the expectations of new students.

I agree that we need to take a page from the business world in that expectations need to be spelled out. But these should also be emphasized during training not just test time.

04-25-2004, 05:42 AM
In regards to testing

:ai: The requirements for the Honbu Aikido Dojo in Tokyo can be found on their website. The Hakodate Dojo follows these requirements very closely.

:ki: As I understand it, in Canada and the US, there is a national body that defines the testing for each rank. Or, a dojo will have an affiliation with another dojo and use that dojo's testing system.

:do: As to the question of a time requirement, yes definitely should have one. This would help reduce the number of people that only show up at testing time.

:drool: One thing that I would like to say is, if you are going to test the same technique at different levels, please xhange the type of attack. I have seen testing requirements that have shomen uchi ikkyo at ever level. This is not necessary i feel.

Just my opinion :hypno:
Robb Sims

Nick Simpson
04-28-2004, 08:37 AM
Our grading syllabus is progressively free from, it lists attacks and a testee can do any techniques they wish, if the examiner wants to see a certain technique then they will ask for it, many things are watched for such as knowledge, spirit, zanshin, mai, effectiveness of technique, ukemi, correctness of technique, ettiquette and some other stuff I cant remember. Spirit is a big deal, I really like the way we are tested in our organisation. Weapons suburi is the only thing that is set I think.

05-12-2004, 08:48 PM
The testing requirements in our dojo are progressive. Starting with Go Kyu up to Sho Dan, each rank requires to take the test of the previous rank. This way we are sure they are not just studying for the next test but keeping up with all techniques, applications, and other areas we focus on in each rank. There is no testing scheduled dates, this is completely up to our Chief Instructor and his evaluation of your progress. Each ranks tests are broken up over several classes and all ranks having a self defense test for the final test showing they have the concepts for that rank and ability to apply the techniques learned for the rank. Each ranks self defense test is increasingly harder with more attacks to defend against, multiple attackers, and weapons self defense. The standards in our dojo for testing have remained as long as the oldest student can remember. Each ranks technique and application test is based on rank, a Sho Dan must show complete knowledge of all the techniques, a Go Kyu, on the other hand, must show they under stand the concepts and know the techniques well but not to the level of a Sho Dan. A Yon Kyu must show they have more understanding of the techniques and applications they learned as a Go Kyu, and an basic understanding of the techniques of that rank. This continues up all our ranks.

05-12-2004, 11:47 PM
For various reasons my dojo has seldom had testing dates during recent years, and students' formal rank is not all that tightly correlated with ability anymore.

Far from making things less competitive, I think this actually leads to a bit more covert competitiveness. We allow a good deal of peer teaching and advice--more, I think, than most dojo. I find that I really want to classify my fellow students: A's advice is worth considering only when it makes sense, B's advice needs to be heeded even when it seems counterintuitive. This is not perfectly correlated with ranking, of course. We had one novice who really understood ma'ai (boxing background) and his seniors learned to listen to him on that topic. But in general, a first kyu's advice is more reliable than a fifth kyu's. If the ranks go away, you have to establish this some other way; in my experience, by a certain amount of jostling and testing. Straight seniority doesn't work for us because someone who trains four times a week learns so much faster than someone who trains twice a month--and some people just plain learn faster than others.

I wish we'd do more testing, because I think we'd get along more smoothly if we didn't periodically try to compensate for the lack of accurate ranks by, well, testing each other. I also think it leads us to undervalue the abilities of shy students: they don't catch the eye, and you can miss their improvement without the focus of a test. This is exacerbated by having multiple people teaching, so that no sensei sees the students every day.

For organizational reasons, our tests are conducted by people from outside the dojo, so I have no idea what the criteria are beyond a list of techniques. This is not very satisfactory to me. All of our sensei like to teach beginners regular forward rolls, which seem easier and less dangerous to the neck than cross-rolls, but the testing criteria for fifth kyu call for cross-rolls. When I was tested, all six of us fifth-kyu candidates went ahead and did regular rolls in defiance of the criteria; and we passed, but I don't think this is ideal.

So this would be my advice to anyone drawing up testing criteria: Be realistic about what you actually do. Criteria should formalize your natural teaching progression, not attempt to change it. In other words, don't ask for things because you have an uneasy feeling you should be teaching them at that level: ask for the things you actually do teach and build on. For the same reason, if at all possible the criteria-writers should work very closely with the actual teachers.

I don't care for minimum time requirements: sooner or later you'll be looking at a case where they just don't make sense for that particular student. We have people who seem to appear only for testing, but I figure that's their lookout--if they can somehow learn the material, that's okay. It's not as if their ranks matter all that much--if they aren't training with us, there's no question for those ranks to settle.

Mary Kaye

05-28-2004, 07:06 AM
For myself it appears that trainees are both objectively and subjectively. for the Objective grading there is the objective standard, techniques, etc, with it's attendant required training hours, plus pre-grading test. However there also appears to be an assessment of the student individually taking into account the individula challenges they face, their attendance, spirit, focus, attitude to others, etc. Whilst it's not written into the syllabus i have no doubt it's there.

05-28-2004, 08:56 AM
I tend to think concepts are more important than imitating technique. At 5th and 4th kyu, I agree that you are in the imitation stage but from 3 kyu up I believe the trainee should start to understand the concepts and be able to apply them across the board regardless of the attack. Also I don't know how many times I have seen someone test and they showed no spirit what so ever - no life in their form. That is the most disturbing to me. I thought the purpose of our training was to develop forge the spirit. This doesn't mean being aggessive but being assertive (I'm borrowing this from Okimura Sensei).
And I agree with Mary and Nick in that at certain levels the instructor should see some tangible, measurable things. Not someone just sleep walking through their test.

06-24-2004, 04:53 AM
Mary, gee... cross rolls... I think i've only seen it from Ki Society aikido...

its the one where you start with one hand but you sort of exchange your leg in between and rise up on the other leg right? Love it!

06-24-2004, 08:29 AM
In Turkey, the aikido federation made a list of techniques, which are asked during the test, for each level of Kyu's. The test is hold every 3 month. Therefore, if you go to a different dojo, each aikidoka with the same Kyu must have learned the same techniques. At the test, there has to be your sensei and 2 different instructors with at least 3.th Dan degree. Yesterday I have taken my 3.th Kyu test, I was responsible for these techniques;
- shomen uchi ikkyo-nikkyo-sankyo-yonkyo (omote-ura) suwari wasa
- shomen uchi ikkyo-nikkyo-sankyo-yonkyo (omote-ura) tachi wasa
- tsuki iriminage
- tsuki kotegashi
- shomen uchi iriminage
- shomen uchi kotegashi
- rioto tori tenchinage
- rioto tori shihonage (omote-ura)
- yokomen uchi shihonage (omote-ura)

sensei asked me to start with suwari wasa and asked shomen uchi iriminage after. However, after I did iriminage, the quest instructor said that It is enough and I could sit...It means, we have to know every technique but they do not ask every one if they want. Sensei knows already if you are ready for an upper Kyu or not...

06-24-2004, 11:58 AM
Testing is simply a point in time evaluation of a students performance on that day. My feeling is the testing process is ongoing and includes many things besides the formal testing: progress, consistency, etc. For formal testing, I generally evaluate: extension, foot work/body work (tai sabaki), knowledge of the technique, relaxation, control, safety (care of the uke), improvement over the last test, maai, etc. Formal testing is frequently not reflective of the student's skill as much as it is reflective of their ability to perform under stress while being observed. Some people simply do not test well due to nerves.

Lyle Laizure
07-19-2004, 12:58 AM
In my sensei's dojo there is a set standard for each test. A board is put together of yudansha and the techniques are performed then the board (with Sensei) discuss the test afterwards, then the test candidate is critqued. This is all done in front of the entire class. As time progresses new students know what is expected of them. There is a grading sylabus used. I think the sylabus used is set in a manner that it allows for vairence between individuals as each person on the board is looking for something different during a test. In addition to the techniques on a test a persons attitude is judged as well.