View Full Version : Another "Should I test" question...

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Joezer M.
01-14-2005, 10:09 AM
First of all, I know this question has been asked a lot already, so I want to apologize if this bothers (or bores) you...

Here goes:
In about a month, there's going to be a dan-grade test held here... A group of local aikidokas, including me, have been thinking about taking it... and are encouraged by our instructors to do so...
Problem is:
It is very expensive... and because of that, a lot of our seniors haven't gotten their black-belt yet, or are considering not to take it (at least for quite a while)... and it would be very awkward for us to outrank people with decades more experience than us... Several of our sempais have been first kyus for more than ten years....

I would really appreciate any thoughts or comments on this... Should I go for it? Follow my sempai's example (Ikkyu Forever)? Or use the money I've saved till now for other things? A Playstation 2 or a new graphic card would be a lot more fun than a black belt... right? :D


01-14-2005, 10:41 AM
Up to you. Can you afford it?

I wouldn't be overly concerned with the ranks of others other than to say if you respect them and their aikido continue to do so even if on paper...or cloth you outrank them.

My thoughts are that it is a shame that people are inhibited from reaching their deserved status due to cost. Why is this? Where does the money go? Is yours an expensive federation or is the money going towards registration of your grade with a hombu organisation?

Good luck either way.


Joezer M.
01-14-2005, 11:56 AM
It's a bit complicated:
Most dojos in my town are affiliated to a foundation based in Jakarta (the national capital), and they organize the annual black-belt exams. It costs about 25,000 yen for shodan (big money here... ). A big chunk of it goes to the foundation, (same goes for kyu-grade exam fees) and the rest is used for registration at Hombu...
There are less expensive alternatives, but the higher ups in the foundation won't acknowledge dan grades for members who acquired it in exams not organized by them... at least that's what I heard as the reason why local organizers are reluctant to consider those alternatives...
Some, including me, can afford it, but still.... for most of us it's a huge amount. And outranking my sempais is even more uncomfortable because black belts are still relatively rare in my town. About 3-4 years ago, we had less than 10 black-belts in town, including those from dojos not affiliated to us...
I've received a lot of encouragement, but still... to think that I outrank somebody simply because I happen to be able to spend a bigger amount of money...
Deep inside, I know that I want it, that I need a sense of accomplishment... I like to believe that I deserve it, and some of the senior aikidoka I look up to say I do... It's just that I really, really don't like to outrank people who are teaching me...

Sorry for the rant... We're going to discuss this next time we go the the dojo... And I would appreciate any more thoughts, suggestions...

But of course, instead of a BLACK belt, I can instead buy a BLACK box-with-two-control-pads-and-a-dvd-drive-that-you-plug-in-to-your-tv... :D


Larry Feldman
01-14-2005, 12:23 PM
Why don't you see if your teacher is willing to bring the issue up to 'the powers that be'. It seems like a reasonable thing might be to allow testing for the 10 year Ikkyu's at a reduced rate, on a one time basis. Maybe you could consider it a 'quantity' discount!

If people aren't aware of the problem it is difficult for them to address it. Put the ball in the organization's court, and you may find that you don't have a problem.

01-14-2005, 12:41 PM
Maybe the community could organize a fund-raiser and give partial "scholarships" to the people who deserve rank but can't afford it? I know people around here who have set up hakama funds when someone was entitled to the hakama but couldn't buy one.

It isn't as much money if a bunch of people can contribute.

Mary Kaye

01-14-2005, 12:48 PM
My Advice: Take the test. Cash = Committment, in this case.

I don't mean to cast any disparegment on your sempais. Their reasons for not testing may have less to do with money than you might think. I knew a 20-year Ikkyu, once; his mates offered to take up a collection, and it turned out that he really enjoyed aikido, he just didn't want his name to end up in a national database of registered black belts.

01-14-2005, 12:52 PM
I've never really understood why the person being tested should pay a fee. The community that is the dojo should be celebrating the achievement and the should pay the fees as a part of the celebration.

But I do think that it would be inappropriate to jump ahead of those who haven't yet tested, if not out of courtesy then in protest. Eventually the powers that be will get the message. Especially if you all start holding your own unofficial dan testing. You could even then wear black belts with you sensei's permission and only in your own dojo.

01-14-2005, 05:57 PM
I must say that I am impressed. You have an uncommon amount of honesty. You've looked at both what you feel you should and should not do and actually admit to wanting to get your black belt for the reasons you've listed. I feel that you've already gotten more than you ever could from a piece of black cloth. However, I also feel that you should be able to get what you've earned in the form of rank in your dojo. Remember that shodan means you've got the basics down and are ready to start "really" learning. A black belt can have more meaning than just showing your general rank and I feel that you should get it.

I also feel that the organization you belong to has things a bit backward. If you have 30 people ready to test for black belt but don't because of high prices, the org. gets 1 person to test and makes 25000 yen. However, if they lower their prices to say, 10000 yen and get 10 people to test that's 100000 yen, plus the added benefit of more people that are able to teach.

This is the idiocity of beaurocracy.

Fred Little
01-14-2005, 08:09 PM
It's not clear from the context whether the fee is paid for testing or for registration of dan grades awarded as a result of the tests, though the amount quoted is so close to the US fees (Aikikai Registration Fee + Shodan Registration Fee) that I suspect the latter.

Sempai are sempai, without regard to dan grading, in any case. And perhaps, just perhaps, having someone within the ranks of the local yudansha who is sympathetic to the economic difficulties of those who are technically more advanced but behind economically gives them a voice in rooms where they might not otherwise have one.

We can be crabs in a bucket, pulling down any of our fellows who try to get out, or we can lift each other up as opportunities present and trust that some of those who are lifted up remember where they came from. In the first case, everyone loses. In the second, there's somebody who might be able to find a rope and throw it down.

But if the choice is a Playstation 2 or the dan testing fee, let me pose a counter-question:

Would you doubly feel guilty while playing viedo games because a) other people can't afford a Playstation 2 and b) you coulda been a contender?

Just a thought.

Fred Little

Joezer M.
01-14-2005, 09:39 PM
Thank you for all the replies...

Our aikido community is relatively small and close... and we don't put that much importance on rank anyway (it's not uncommon to see a black belt getting technical pointers from brown-belts)...
But it is generally encouraged to take exams...
There's going to be a meeting tomorrow, and more likely than not this issue will pop up again... I guess I'll wait and see...

And about the PS2 thingy...
2 years ago, a friend of mine managed to save enough money for the exam, but couldn't spend the day off to go to Jakarta where the exams were held... Seeing that the next exam would be a year away he bought a PS2... Now, everytime the dan-exam issue pops up, people here often mention how a PS2 is much more fun than a black belt... And you can't go to your friend's house on weekends to play with his black belt, right? :D :D