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Kung Fu Liane 03-21-2003 08:31 AM

refusing a grading

has anyone here refused a grading? if so why did you refuse? and what did your sensei say?

i ask this because my sensei wants to conduct a grading soon, something i have two issues with. firstly, it means joining an association, something one of my other teachers has warned me away from - as he has had some very bad experience with them. secondly, i have taken gradings before, and i feel that i would rather get more out of training because i want to train, than because to get a grade. yet on the other hand, i realise that gradings are important as they let teachers at other schools know what level a student is at (should the student move school). also, i don't want to let my sensei down, because he spends a lot of his time teaching us.

just testing the water really, so any comments/suggestions would be useful.



happysod 03-21-2003 09:53 AM

Hi Liane, I've managed to duck the grading ritual for the past 7 or so years (they finally got me this year) for a variety of reasons - but essentially it was because I didn't want to. I was at a grade I was comfortable with and I was just fed up with gradings - I'd already had to grade from ground-up to whatever in three previous associations due to differences in "style" etc. and just could not see the point in it anymore.

I didn't so much refuse to grade point-blank as postpone until the next one, then the next, until we both forgot all about it. The main problem will be your sensei. I'm lucky in that the teachers in our association realise they are teaching adults in a voluntary activity, so the more traditional dominance issues rarely arise. My own sensei was disappointed, but you should go with what suits you (if you can).

Nick P. 03-21-2003 09:57 AM


IMHO, though we as students should not blindly follow anything our Senseis ask of us, I think we "owe" it to our Senseis to do as they wish (within reason, of course). I personnaly look at it as part of my own training, but that's just me.

As you put it "i don't want to let my sensei down, because he spends a lot of his time teaching us."

As for federations, you will only know for sure once you try it if it's not for you. And you can always leave later, no?

Follow your heart.

PS That is a great quote!

acot 03-21-2003 10:13 AM

Check out this link. Maybe you have already read it here on Aikiweb, but I found to be great reading.


Greddy 03-21-2003 02:37 PM

testing, IMHO, is more of an intimate communication b/w a teacher and student. Some of us are guilty of training without a clear path on where we really want to go. Testing, maybe, is one way your sensei ensures that you are following a path. I've always looked at it as a time for me to review with my teacher where I am at with my training and not a "promotional" event that some people percieve it to be. On the other side, I dont think anyone should be "forced" to test - again it should be a mutual understanding b/w you and your teacher. Refusing a request to be reviewed or tested, IMHO, seems to be rude to your teacher - it shows that you do not trust them enough - to know that you are ready to take that step- in their eyes. As far as becoming part of an organization - thats inevitable - you made a concious descision to be part of that group when you selected to train with that teacher. Like someone mentioned before, you can always leave at a later time or maybe search for someone whose not affiliated. Just my two yen :)

ps. I've never refused to test, but I was asked to repeat a test before..

Michael Klieman 03-21-2003 03:51 PM

Refusing a grading
Hi Liane,

I've thought about this a little, especially since I just took a test myself, one that I was not initially that interested in taking. I agree 100% with what Nick said, that as a student you do owe something to your sensei, and I'd like to add that I felt a debt of gratitude for my fellow dojo members too. Testing is not only about the person who is up for the grade, but reflects on the sensei and the progress of the dojo in general. I think this is probably why your sensei wants you to test--the dojo is making as much progress as you are.

Also, I think the testing process is an important one to go through just in itself. During a test, a testee has to learn to deal with more pressure and nerves than normal, so it's even more challenging to deal with all those techniques and ukes. Even preparing for the test is a valuable experience, as the extra energy that you will put in will give your aikido a jump start.

I think it's great that you are not that interested in rank, that's the way it should be in my opinion. But I think that testing is an important experience to go through for many other reasons. And besides, if you don't care about the rank, you can just forget about it again after the test! ;)

Nick P. 03-21-2003 04:08 PM

Great topic, this one...

Our Sensei usually has repeated this several times; a test is a celebration of where you are in your training (both positive and negative, IMO).

He also points out that when asked to test, in his opinion you are allready at that level, though you can fail, he adds.

Last summer in Japan, HIS Sensei asked me to test for ikkyu. Maybe it was being there, but I had grown so accustomed to saying "Yes, Sensei." over the three weeks that before I knew it I had "agreed" to test. Oh man, was I freaked out.

Anyway, I passed the test, and when bowing to the rest of the class at the end, I was overwhelmed with gratitude towards them, as Michael points out above.

Test, exams and grading are all relevant anyway, IMO. It depends on the person, where they are in their training, if they have just joined a new club and have a new Sensei (which sounds like your case, Liane).

Marvin, if it's not too personal, were you asked to re-test due to a less-than-perfect first test, or was it due to changing style/teachers/federations?


akiy 03-21-2003 04:54 PM


Nick Pittson (Nick P.) wrote:
He also points out that when asked to test, in his opinion you are allready at that level, though you can fail, he adds.

Interesting. Some teachers I know say that they ask people who are "ready to grow into the rank" to test for that rank.

My feeling is that if your teacher asks you to test, then you should. If you trust your teacher enough to help guide your training and practice, I would hope you can trust him/her enough to know when the appropriate time for you to test would be.

-- Jun

Paul Klembeck 03-21-2003 06:47 PM

When I first began training, I avoided testing, as I don't have a lot of interest in rank. However, after a while, I realized that not testing (in a dojo where testing was encouraged) meant that I was reserving a part of myself from participation. After entering the testing cycle I found my training improved, not because rank or testing is important in itself, but because I more fully bought into the life of the dojo.

Therefore my advice is: If your dojo tests, then test; if your dojo doesn't do tests, then don't worry about testing.

Paul Klembeck

Greddy 03-23-2003 04:19 PM


Nick Pittson (Nick P.) wrote:
Marvin, if it's not too personal, were you asked to re-test due to a less-than-perfect first test, or was it due to changing style/teachers/federations?


Nick, it was more of I did not take it upon myself to be ready to be tested, a fellow student and I were in a program(similar to an uchi-deschi but we didnt live in the dojo),so we were expected to participate, by our senseis, in every testing in schedule. Well it was my 4th kyu and since I've only tested once before - my perceptions of a "test" was quite immature - needless to say I crammed for it and tried to perform the required technique ..but as someone mentioned before, my Sensei didnt feel that "I can grow into that rank" I was testing for just yet so I was asked to continue my training and get ready to test again during the next cycle. I think that was the point for me were i realized that it wasnt really about the ranking ..ranking is relative to the person ..same grade aikidokas may not - in a grading standard way - exhibit the same level of proficiency as another. We all express aiki in our own special way and I think this is why I see testing as more of a review with your Sensei on where you are in your path. They can see it better than we do(the students)on where we in the path if Aiki. It was quite an experienced being asked to repeat a test. But the way I see it - not often do you get a great lesson in humility ;) Thank ya'll for the great post

Jappzz 03-24-2003 08:16 AM

Hi everybody.

I got pretty curious when i saw the title of this topic. I just want to ask those of you who oppose yourselves to ranking why. I understand if someone wants to wait to be able to make a fully representative grading later. But avoiding it. Why???



Carl Simard 03-24-2003 08:32 AM

In our dojo, nobody is forced to grade. But it's strongly suggested to. The reason isn't for the paper or for the rank but because testing force you to focus on different aspect of your training, depending on your level/skills... For example, if you're a beginner, you're probably better to focus on making a correct shomen uchi ikkio and learning secure falls/rolls than working on ushiro kotae gaeshi... In short, it helps you learn the techniques in a logical order.

As for association, again, nobody is forced to join. However, those that choose not to join the association are warned that their rank may not mean anything outside the dojo. Also, some seminars require a proof of membership to an association. Here in Canada, it cost only 10$/year to join the CAF, so most people joined for the "peace of mind" it gives.

Nick P. 03-24-2003 11:58 AM


Jun Akiyama (akiy) wrote:
Interesting. Some teachers I know say that they ask people who are "ready to grow into the rank" to test for that rank.


Oddly enough, when we were tested in Japan last year, it was with the understanding that we would all "grow" into our new ranks, including the 2 Shodans.

I think it is fair to say that, in circumstances where a Sensei or students are visiting/leaving, that the Sensei might take the opportunity to test the students, even if they are not quite "ready".

Back to the original post: what was Liane's final decision?

Ta Kung 03-24-2003 12:01 PM

When my sensei asks me to take a test, I usually go for it. I might not feel good enough sometimes, but I think his judgement is better than mine as far as Aikido goes... Of course, if I feel very insecure, I don't take the test.

Gradings are good because they let the student feel that they actually do make progress. They are a good measure. Especially when everything feels frustrating and you start to think if you've actually learned anyhing in the last year or two. Not that you learn more because of a new grade, but you still feel like your moving forward.

Just my thoughts.


Don_Modesto 03-24-2003 01:13 PM

Re: refusing a grading

Liane Guillou (Kung Fu Liane) wrote:
has anyone here refused a grading? if so why did you refuse? and what did your sensei say?

I was present once when Saotome ambushed a reluctant tester, asking for a "demonstration". It was a marvelous test and the only time I've ever seen anyone get through three-man SHINAI RANDORI unscathed.

Some regard refusing testing as coy or holier than thou. As a teacher (TESL), I see students working harder, achieving more, and more motivated when I test them regularly. (They whine to high heavens, but when term evaluations come through, the classes with the most tests consistently rate me higher.)

Bogeyman 03-24-2003 06:52 PM

I think that testing is a good thing as it requires students to train techniques that they may not do very often and try to avoid for whatever reason. Some of these people forget that there is more to learning a technique than just that one but also some principles. I believe that if sensei asks someone to test that they should as it will continue this growth and, at higher ranks, a greater understanding of the art itself. I personally have a bit of a quandary as I begin to catch up to my senseis in rank. I don't believe that I should be their equal in rank as I do not believe that I am as good or hold their understanding. Then again if sensei asks... As far as testing for another organization, if you are training with a different organization than you last tested with I don't understand the problem. The old sensei may not like it but if you will not be training with him/her for a long time should you halt grading for that? If it is a short term switch of organizations I understand but not if it is long term. When it comes to different organizations I may border on being blastphemous but aren't we really trying to train aikido? Does it matter who we follow as long as we like how and what our senseis teach? Just my $.02.


shadow 03-24-2003 07:13 PM

doing a grading also lets you sit further up the line which gives you the oppurtunity to train with people of a higher rank than you.

i dont know about your place of training but the style i train we train with the one partner all class and its always a race to get to the best sempai in the class.

Bogeyman 03-24-2003 07:22 PM

In our dojo we don't sit by rank. We just line up at the beginning of class and keep changing partners throughout.


paw 03-24-2003 08:29 PM

I couldn't help myself......

I was present once when Saotome ambushed a reluctant tester, asking for a "demonstration". It was a marvelous test and the only time I've ever seen anyone get through three-man SHINAI RANDORI unscathed.
Which leaves me to wonder... clearly Sensei knew the student's abilities, why not just award the rank?



tedehara 03-24-2003 10:33 PM

Re: I couldn't help myself......

paul watt (paw) wrote:
...Which leaves me to wonder... clearly Sensei knew the student's abilities, why not just award the rank?...

Maybe the sensei knew the student's abilities, but the student didn't. That's why a test was needed.

Amendes 03-24-2003 10:39 PM

First of all,

Other schools don't care what your rank is at your previous school. This seems to be my experiance.

I know our schools ranking system is different then others. I have looked at other schools in different cityes and even been told by a few that my previous schools rank means nothing, they will determin what my rank will be when you train there. That is also what we do at our school. You can train here if you are a 1st dan, however if you want to test, Sensi won't invite you to test unless he thinks you are up to par.

Second, to be asked to test should be only an invitation, not a demand.

Third, you should not be diallowed the opurtunity to test if you don't want to join some organization. Of course I don't know what this organization is, prehapse you could elaborate on what this organization is that they make you join.

happysod 03-25-2003 03:25 AM

Read the replies with interest - Lianne, I still say go with how you feel about the grading yourself. Yes, you may have to compromise vis a vis your sensei, but you obviously have ceratin issues with your aikido you want to address prior to grading, so go for it, I'd be very interested in what happens.

As for some of the other "advice", which basically boils down to "do what sensei says you 'orrible little oik" - nah, never been a fan of this one. Firstly, it implies that there is going to be some sort of struggle between you and your sensei. Secondly, it also implies your own opinions about yourself and your training should be subsumed into those of the dojo (and it's prophet on earth, the sensei).

Well, firstly, I have a person who teaches me aikido, I do not have a acolyte relationship with this person. While I am more than happy to accept their authority regarding teaching aikido , their dojo etiquette etc., a grading is different as it can be an intensely personal experience. I have seen many aikidokas driven out of a dojo because of grading mania and find the more successful teachers are those who lead by example rather than fiat.

The second main argument (which was disturbingly present) is false. A person is ultimately training for themselves, not a group and hopefully not for their sensei. To (badly) paraphrase the Prisoner - "I am not a coloured belt, I am a free man"

Nick P. 03-25-2003 06:52 AM

I've often wondered where the balance between striving to find and further your own path and "falling into line" lies.

I guess it's just like everything else; it's very personal, and who can say anyone else is wrong.

Kung Fu Liane 03-25-2003 07:23 AM


always with interest, i know i'm still learning :)

its not that i don't like gradings, i quite enjoy working under pressure - the last grading i did was on an injured leg ( i'd run up the steps to my friend's house, an hour before the grading, slipped and opened up a huge cut all the way down my left thigh. i was actually more worried about not being able to walk properly, or turning my gi bright red and being told to leave the mat :) ). i just don't really know the aikido system well enough to know whether i'd actually deserve a grade. i've heard of other students who have been given grades, when the teacher claims they weren't really deserved. i don't want to be given something that i haven't earned.


incidentally, has anyone else ever heard of this sort of thing before?


Nick P. 03-25-2003 02:00 PM

I have personally met, and briefly trained with, someone who hasn't tested since reaching Nidan...some 15 years ago.

Most would agree his Aikido is at the very least comporable to the Sensei's. Arguably (sp?) THE most powerful Aikidoka I have ever learnt from.

Once again brings up just how grading and testing can be important or trivial, or both at once.

I have no idea if that person is asked/approached on a regular basis to test or not. I'm sure he has his reasons.

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