View Full Version : Shodan!

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06-01-2001, 12:29 PM
Hi. I had an interesting experience some months back. A visitor to our club, who had been 1st kyu, had gained his shodan and came to our club in his new hakama and black belt, soon after his passing his grading. Now, I had trained with him before, he deserved his grade, but... now that he was a Dan!... he was useless, I mean everything went to hell, never mind the techniques, he could hardly think. My 6 year old daughter would have knocked him up and down the mat while he figured out what to do.
I'm an old judo guy, and what I described above is very, very common in judo. On winning a black belt in judo people go through 6-8 weeks of hell, being beaten by everyone. So, is this common in aikido? In every MA? Having practiced so long... and 'achieving' something like a Dan!... do most people have a collapse? I'd be interested to hear what others have seen...
And of course, I am not being disrespectful, it just seems to happen. People get through it.

06-01-2001, 01:08 PM
I find this interesting as well. I havenīt seen this happen in Aikido, although itīs quite possible. I know, as a teacher, that students often learn a bit, then reach a plateau, then dip a bit while their brains organize the new information, then shoot above the previous knowledge mark. After learning some more, the same occurs, a slight drop, then another rise above the previous level. Itīs interesting to see as a graph.

Ray Kissane
06-01-2001, 02:52 PM
What I have seen is that when someone gets to Dan level they do not want to make any mistakes and look bad to others on the mat. So they start thinking to much and not moving and end up looking bad.

After about 2-3 months they seem to make a big transformation and move better than they ever did. They learn to relax because they have gotten use to the fact that they know the mechanics of techniques and now they just have to flow and not think.

06-01-2001, 04:05 PM
Good question mj.

My experience is that if someone is promoted too quickly -- I'm talking about their skill not years training -- then this can happen. Usually, if the person is really deserving, they'll have little problem wearing a different belt.

I have to say that I feel most people are promoted too quickly (all belts and not just in aikido) and I don't buy the argument that shodan level is just the start of serious training.

I find it difficult to respect someone wearing a black belt who has weak/clumsy/unstable technique. I won't say anything to them about it (or anyone else for that matter), but I feel it drags the whole art down.


06-01-2001, 04:10 PM
True, Jim...
But I'm talking about people that work their butts off for years... get that 'holy grail' (in the mind,) and lose it for a while, totally.

Chuck Clark
06-01-2001, 04:25 PM
When you get promoted to sophmore year from freshman and you're at school for the first day... are you a "good" sophmore student?

Every promotional level has pass and fail criteria. If you barely pass as an acceptable shodan or you're at the top of the group with outstanding abilities, you're still a shodan.

How many people have most of you taught and brought to shodan or higher level? It changes your outlook.


06-01-2001, 04:30 PM
Hi Chuck, I see what you are saying, but it's still not what I mean. I mean people that get the 'grade' because they deserve it, and then become abysmal for a time. Perhaps more like what Ray described. On the other hand, maybe it is rare in aikido and I was lucky (hehe) to see it.

06-03-2001, 09:16 AM
Er this might sound like a lame excuse but maybe he wasn't used to his hakama? The girls in my club who wear ther blue hakama says it takes a while to get used to it? :D

06-03-2001, 11:47 AM
Hi again....
I wasn't being disrespectful to the new dan.
In fact, only Ray seemed to know what I was talking about. It's OK, just my inability to express myself. :rolleyes:

Richard Harnack
06-04-2001, 08:58 PM
Regardless if it is a shodan exam or a physics exam, there is always a period right afterwards where the person begins to lose some of the edge they developed under the pressure of preparation for the exam. This happens.

What needs to happen after the exam is that the new yudansha should start immediately reviewing the basics then the "dan" arts. This will allow them to consolidate their skill and thus "earn" their rank.

Years ago a close training partner of mine went to Japan and got his Yondan from Nishio, Sensei (it was 1989, I think). He came to my dojo in the mid 1990's for a visit and told me this. I congratulated him and asked where he was training or teaching. He then informed me that he had not done much since his exam. In my mind, he may have passed the exam and gotten his certificate, but he still hadn't earned his rank.

A true yudansha is one who may "backslide" after their exam, but they stick with it and improve by refining their art and gaining more depth of character in Aikido.

Remember "Shodan" means "First Grade", Kyu's thus are primary and pre-school.

06-05-2001, 06:09 AM
I think there are two things; first, a grading is different from training 'cos you concetrate on different aspects: often on the names and variations of techniques and multiple attacks etc. After settling down for a while you get back in to learning REAL aikido mode where you again study concepts of aikido. That is why I think too much grading can be a bad thing.

Second; I noticed with a friend of mine that his aikido had suddenly improved over the last few weeks; and it wasn't just a small improvement it was like he had discovered something magic in his aikido. It's taken me ages to work out what had happened: he had been unemployed and as soon as he got a new job it had improved his confidence and his aikido benefitted amazingly as a result.

Therefore this new Dan grade probably still feels unconfident with his new title and it will take a while before he feels happy with it - also; improvement isn't step by step as you go up the grades. The grades are just an approximation of the ability. Most Dan grades you know probably have been Dan grades for longer than a few weeks.