View Full Version : Announced Vs. Unannounced Testing

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11-27-2004, 11:06 PM
Hello all,

I was administered, for the first time in my martial arts career, a surprise promotion test on Wednesday night after our evening classes. This is atypical for our dojo. Usually, testing dates are announced and students have at least 2 weeks to practice the techniques.

I was wondering if unannounced testing is common or even the
norm in other dojos, and whether or not people feel that it is a better learning tool and measure of ability/development than announced testing.

Personally, I'm the type of person who likes to be fanatically prepared, so I was pretty shocked when I was suddenly asked to test immediately following 3 hours of class. Although I felt my techniques could have been more technically correct and better executed if i had practiced, the element of surprise forced me to have a mushin type of attitude toward the test. Made it a completely different experience...learned a lot about myself.

Jeanne Shepard
11-28-2004, 09:00 AM
You said it yourself, unannounced testing has its advantages. But so does announced.


Larry Feldman
11-28-2004, 09:55 AM
I've used both methods of testing.
When your teacher asks you to test it is because you are demonstrating that ability day to day in class. You have the skill level, now you need to demonstrate that to the class. He probably saw you exhibiting the appropriate skill and felt it was a good time for you to test. For some people weeks of preparation is better, and it can polish up technique, but on impromptu tests I allow leeway for not spending weeks getting ready. Trust your teachers judgment, he is setting the standard for the dojo.

It's about 'testing' everyday you practice - trying to learn and getting better.

Congrats on your test.

11-28-2004, 11:00 PM
Sounds like someones's sensei was tired of them dodging gradings & fixed it... ;-)

Michael Cardwell
11-29-2004, 12:52 AM
My sensei told our class that he would never throw a surprise test on anyone since the only time he had seen that done the testie had just returned from a big pizza lunch and promptly threw up when he heard about the test. :crazy:

Dario Rosati
12-01-2004, 05:48 AM
There's actually a third way, at least for low ranks :)

My sensei, for our first exam, "announced an unannounced" exam: he said we will act as in test for the next 4 lessons, but didn't reveal which one was the real exam... maybe all of them where, maybe only the one where a godan friend of him came to watch... who knows?

Personally, my only concerns about surprise is the name of the techniques, which I still find difficult to master in all the variants I've trained in at this stage and surely need a special rethinking the day before the exam... but I don't think a few day of pre-advice may change a year of practice, so by a technical standpoint I think surprise or not, you'll do on the mat exactly the same stuff.


Tim Griffiths
12-01-2004, 06:08 AM
I'd like the best of both worlds - a couple of weeks of a student concentrating on getting a movement technically correct, not being flashy, fast and whathaveyou. This can be some of the best technical training of all.
Then I want to spring a test on them, to see their reaction.

All in all, I prefer anounced.


Diana Frese
12-16-2010, 10:18 AM
Having just posted twice this morning, I couldn't keep from a third
when I found this topic. I'll read more of it later, it's fascinating.
Iwas "guilty" of unannounced testing when teaching at the local
YMCA. I had heard of the Asian custom of announcing to the
ancestors, about high school grades and graduations so I told
my students I had to let my teachers know about the students in a
formal way, so I tested them and sent in on the official forms.
As Spock of Star Trek said, "It seemed to be the right thing at
the time."

Sometimes it just seems to be a good day when enough people
are there, and in good spirits, and you just feel you have to go
ahead with it. When I next log on, I will look to read the rest
of the posts on this thread. I guess my post reactivates a thread
from 2004. This is probably a good thing, because perhaps
others might want to join in, since it has been about 6 years
since the last person posted.

Michael Hackett
12-16-2010, 11:50 AM
Our tests are almost invariably announced. Several years ago I was called up to do a third kyu test with two other students. I had been 3d kyu for about 18 months at the time. I thought nothing of it and did the test along with the others. I got recalled immediately after sitting down to do my 2d kyu test. I was surprised and I did it, but did one technique pretty poorly. My attitude at the time was that I had nothing to lose - the worst possible consequence was that I would fail, come back to training the next class, and retest sometime in the future. As a result the test was actually relaxing and fun and I passed. I prefer being really prepared for a test and that requires a lot of polishing and work during the off hours, but the unannounced test was probably my most enjoyable and a real highlight for me.

12-17-2010, 04:07 AM
Sounds like someones's sensei was tired of them dodging gradings & fixed it... ;-)

ha ha ...yes - I've seen that approach deployed ;-)

As others have posted, both approaches have their merits.

Personally I'm in favour of using announced gradings to encourage the extra focus among those in the frame but at the same time we are not all the same ...If you leave some people to grade when they think they are ready they will never be ready.

So helping them help themselves is called for.



Phil Van Treese
12-27-2010, 12:24 PM
I do unannounced tests for everyone, including yudansha. Either they know it or they don't---either they can defend themselves from an "unannounced" attack or they can't. It serves as a great self evaluation tool because I don't tell them what they did "wrong" but rather they tell me where they feel that they can improve and how. I don't throw in any "off the wall" techniques but I do expect them to react to an attack, enter and execute with effectiveness. I usually get great results.

Amir Krause
12-28-2010, 01:30 AM
My Sensei has used both testing options on me

For the 1st Kyu and Shodan, I had a very long early warning, and practiced for weeks and possibly even months prior to the test.

My Nidan test was only announced after the test had finished. A friend was being tested for Shodan, and myself and another Shodan were asked to demonstrate various things while he was resting, between the test chapters. All of the demonstrations were in free-form types, thus did not require preparation and pre-agreement with Uke. E.g. instead of demonstrating grab releases with Uke doing several pre-set states in an organized manner, we walked around, close eyed, and reacted to Uke grabbing us as he wishes. We did not demonstrate strike techniques separately - only did free-play randori (both sides, attack, perform techniques and counters as they feel) with the guy testing for Shodan ...). After that guys test ended, Sensei and a couple of other Sempai (My Sensei has the authority to promote up to Yondan or so, in Korindo Aikido) consulted and then announced "the friend is Shodan and XX and me are Nidan", I did not know it had been a test until that point.

An announced test has the advantage of lettign the student prepare, the preparation stage often lets the student organize his knowledge, train more seriously and at times, even gets him to advance much further then without testing.

An surprise test, has the advantage of letting the student see his own level when surprised. An un-annonced test (like I had) has the advantage of student not having a chance to complain he is not ready (as I did every time a test as mentioned since the Shodan test) and no pressure.


02-01-2011, 10:00 PM
I have severe stage fright. I would really appreciate at least a one hour notice before a test and having to perform in front of a group of people who are all focusing just on me. If I had an hour to prepare my mind and splash water on my face and breathe etc I think i would do ok. But to spring it on me on the spot I would just die. :) So I sincerely hope that for my first test that I have a little bit of notice. On the other hand if I knew too far in advance the anticipation would kill me. So I just hope they set a date and say make sure you show up. :) especially since I will be testing in front of people I have only met once. I certainly do not want to make the people I train with look bad. HA. I am going to try to attend the dojo I will test at , at least once a month.

04-22-2011, 07:53 PM
you know just for shits and grins i thought I would get on youtube and look at how other people did on their first aikido test. I have to say it is not really all that bad. I think I feel more comfortable about testing now. :)

Pauliina Lievonen
04-23-2011, 08:53 AM
you know just for shits and grins i thought I would get on youtube and look at how other people did on their first aikido test. I have to say it is not really all that bad. I think I feel more comfortable about testing now. :)It's easy to imagine something is much more difficult and scary than it really is isn't it? :)

Something I think is useful for any beginner to do is go watch tests at you own dojo before you have tested the first time yourself, if at all possible.

You'll see how the whole testing situation is run, what people do, where they sit, when to bow. And how other people do at their tests. And hopefully find out that the whole situation is less intimidating than the idea of it sounds.


Tony Wagstaffe
04-24-2011, 03:25 AM
Best type of grading..... Makes sure students turn up for practice on a regular basis!! They never know when it's going to happen and if they miss their chance? Well they can only get better for the next one........when ever that is?evileyes
They don't realise until afterwards when the usual comment is flaming heck sensei, that was a really hard session, the thing is I would join in as usual as uke, as well as tori to "feel" what they were doing had substance, they wouldn't know till the following session that they had been graded..... Works a treat!!

Most of mine were off the cuff except the Dan grades, one of my problems I was not interested in grades just the practice.....

04-27-2011, 11:13 AM
I would prepare unannounced testing because, from when I find out to when I have to grade, I get so nervous and try to perfect the kata(s) and then during the grading I just think 'I have to do this and oh no i did that wrong'. Which means I don't do it properly.

If you don't know about it you just do the techniques the way you normally do, which is normally better for me. Plus you have to actually go often, my friend started training again 1 month before her grading, just so she would be the same grade as me.

Dave Forde
04-28-2011, 05:58 AM
My 4th Kyu test was unannounced. I didn't even know I was being tested. it was a multiple attack that went on for about 10 minutes. as I stood there jelly kneed i was told I had demonstrated the ability to move and protect myself to that level. I am sure looking back that the whole class that night was also part of the grading process. I was quite happy to be tested that way. my teacher then explained that all the grade really was was a recognition among all the members of our dojo of the journey we undertake as a group. I kinda like that way of viewing the thing. however I think as someone else posted that that is more suited to the low grades. our club members who are at higher grades do grade externally at seminars etc.but there is no real heavy emphasis at our club on the grading or syllabus as such.

04-28-2011, 10:00 AM
announced or unannounced.. if you practice Aikido for a long time now, than it doesn't really matter.. does it?

Zoe S Toth
05-01-2011, 06:04 PM
Hm, well I feel I should weigh in on this. I came into Aikido with no martial arts background. When I found out I was testing, I somewhat freaked out. Normally, in school, I excell at tests. But I had never seen a single test in Aikido before. Mercifully, our sensei rearranged the testing schedule so I was on the second day. I got to watch another girl test for 5th kyu before me; it was insane how much calmer I felt the next day.

If I hadn't been told (until the day of) I was testing, I know I wouldn't have done as well. Now that I have had one test under my belt (oh, puns!) I think I would be fine with unannounced testing. After all, I keep track of my hours so I should have a decent estimate of when I am eligible.

But that is just my 2 cents.

Janet Rosen
05-01-2011, 07:10 PM
I've never done an unnanounced test but have always wanted to, just to see how I would do.

Dave de Vos
06-21-2011, 05:17 PM
Today I had my first aikido test. It was unannounced and not mentioned until the class ended.

But I think the five of us quickly became aware we were tested, because between group training intervals, we had to pick our uke and show several techniques as tori only before the rest of the class.

I am 5 kyu now :)

Janet Rosen
06-21-2011, 05:28 PM
I am 5 kyu now :)

Congratulations...now get back to training! :D

Tim Ruijs
06-22-2011, 01:16 AM
As a teacher I give grades when I see fit. Sometimes during class I will ask someone to show a technique, or explain something.
I would hate to have my students train for the next grade instead of trying to understand Aikido. Much debate has been had over this topic, so to each his own ;)

Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.
Understand simply this: it is the way a teacher shows his/her appreciation of your hard work. Be proud for a (very) short time and go back to practise! :D

Mario Tobias
06-22-2011, 06:48 AM
Today I had my first aikido test. It was unannounced and not mentioned until the class ended.

But I think the five of us quickly became aware we were tested, because between group training intervals, we had to pick our uke and show several techniques as tori only before the rest of the class.

I am 5 kyu now :)

Congrats Dave...now get back to practice! :D

06-22-2011, 09:19 AM
Gefeliciteerd Dave,

wel je oefeningen doen he?

Dave de Vos
06-22-2011, 11:45 AM
Gefeliciteerd Dave,

wel je oefeningen doen he?

Ik oefen iedere dag ongeveer een half uurtje :)

06-22-2011, 12:47 PM
Ik oefen iedere dag ongeveer een half uurtje :)

We should be talking English overhere :p

Back to training

06-28-2011, 02:25 AM
Congrats also Dave!!
A couple of weeks ago towards the end of class my sensei sat down on the mats next to the students and then motioned for my sempei to go out onto the mat... Then sensei said my name to go out on the mat. I though ohhh no he is going to test me now? Whats going on? Now way. So I go out and sit and bow to a very grinning uke. Sensei started naming off techniques and I did my best. Then at the end of class he said... Hmm I like pop quizzes. I was soo darn relieved that it wasn't my test. HAHA. Now I have to be on guard because I don't know if what I am doing is a pop quiz or a test.

That next week my sempei had his testing. He knew a week ahead of time about his test. It went really well. After seeing the way it was conducted I am not nearly ready to test now. :) So no one has talked about it and I have not brought it up for the past couple weeks. I think we should wait for another couple of months.

06-28-2011, 05:30 AM
We typically have many weeks' notice. We're a small dojo made up of busy adults, and finding a date that everyone can make is not easy (and there are usually a few people who are short a few hours, too). If you don't block out the date well in advance, it ain't gonna happen.

Mary Eastland
06-28-2011, 06:37 AM
I was taught that testing was just another day of training, no more important than any other. It really isn't all about me . I must take care of my uke, relax and do my best just like every class.

We can creat stories in our mind about anything. The truth happens in the moment.

07-23-2011, 08:08 PM
We had a gassuku/grading day yesterday - after the first hour class one of our members was invited to walk with sensei to his car. It made sense later on when he was called on to do his shodan test.

Eek, glad it wasn't me! Though I'm sure the nature of it helped him keep his cool and perspective. (He passed. :) )

Linda Eskin
08-01-2011, 12:23 AM
Our test days are about every 3 months, on Saturdays, and announced well in advance so as many people as possible can be there. We you are being tested, you find a mentor to work with, which is a great opportunity to really work out the finer points of techniques, and to get all your questions answered. For most is it a period of more-intensive-than-usual training, which is fun. And on the flip side, as a mentor you get to do the same intensive training, and refine your own understanding by helping your kohai prepare for their exams.

Of course with unannounced testing people could still do the same thing (train harder and help each other, just whenever), but I find the structure, deadlines, and goals useful, personally.