AikiWeb Aikido Forums

AikiWeb Aikido Forums (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/index.php)
-   General (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=1)
-   -   To Test, or not to Test (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12243)

GBiddy 03-26-2007 04:26 PM

To Test, or not to Test
 
I've never been a big fan of the testing process in Aikdio.

At my first Aikido dojo, the only way to get tested was to be really chummy with a senior student. If you were lucky, they'd take you under their wing and give you a couple private 5 minute lessons before class. After that, at sensei's discretion, you might be asked to test at some point in the future, but for me, after about 6 years, that point had still never come.

At my second dojo, the only way to test was attend as many seminars as possible (to show your devotion) and then again hope and pray that some day sensei would notice you and ask you if you wanted to test. After a couple years, I still hadn't been asked to test.

At my third and fourth dojos (in Japan) the sensei were shocked to learn that I had never been tested and couldn't believe North American dojos were like that. Immediately I was asked to test and told that the test cycle was every 4 months.

The process was great. If you wanted to test (and had attended enough classes) you simply had to let them know and pay the test fee. Then a couple weeks before the test, a senior instructor would partner with you and spend half the class going over the test until you knew everything perfectly. The actual test was simply a formality (no seminars required).

It was in Japan that my listed rank finally started catching up with my actual ability. But then something strange happened. I was no longer asked to test. Every time I enquired, I simply told no without any explanation.

Students who had joined our dojo after me--and with no previous Aikido experience--were being tested ahead of me and bypassing my rank. I was stunned. Several senior students were just as shocked as I was, and the harmony in the dojo was certainly disrupted.

Then I met a fellow gaijin student from another dojo in Japan, and when I explained the situation to him, he nodded. "Of course," he said. "They never let white guys test as often, after a certain level. The only way to get tested from here on in is to make it plainly obvious in the dojo. You have to thrash some black belts. Only then the sensei won't be able to ignore you."

I couldn't believe this, but over the next few months saw how true it was with my own eyes, but I left Japan without testing again.

Now back in North America, I'm at a dojo where only devotion to sensei, chumminess with senior students, and $eminar attendance gets one invited to test. But I'm no longer interested.

At this point, I'm simply tired of the politics--in Japan and North America--around testing. I've reverted to the technique in Japan: revealing the holes in the techniques of senior students. But I do this not because I want to test, but but because I still need to learn where the holes are in my own technique.

I believe deeply in Aikido, but I have left behind the politics, rituals, brown-nosing, and approval-seeking surrounding the testing process at most of the dojo's I've attended.

My belt will continue to blacken, but only with sweat.

GB

Basia Halliop 03-26-2007 04:36 PM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
Where I practice tests are every three months, or actually I think this year it changed to every four months. The approximate dates are publicized months ahead of time. Every day in class we tick off attendance and when we have the requisite number of days for the next level we can test if we're ready. We can work on our test techniques during any of the free practice periods when the dojo is open, and there's a one hour a week class set aside for help with test techniques. I think dan students usually test at seminars.

I think your system sounds weird... Why wouldn't an instuctor want their students to test?

James Davis 03-26-2007 04:48 PM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
While they aren't testing you, are your abilities increasing? Are they still teaching you things that have value? Are they making you a better martial artist, or are they holding things back? If they aren't helping you to improve, I'd move on. If they still offer quality instruction, I'd stick around long enough to get as much of it as I could and test later on someplace else. It worked for you before.

shidoin 03-26-2007 04:52 PM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
Gordon, I wouldn't sweat the rank thing. Rank does not prove your ability! many seniors I have trained with over the years were not that great and wore the belt around their head instead of their waist where it belongs. I was once point part of a large Aikido organization , we had great instructors and would test (if
I remember correctly) twice a year, but the higher up you got the longer it was between tests. if your training with truth, that should be all that matters. I'm sure at times it get's frustrating, especially since you have devoted time into your training, and the belt represents accomplishments, and devotion to the art. But the real truth is rank doesn't really matter in the end.

Ron Tisdale 03-27-2007 09:32 AM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
I only reply because I have not had your experience. I have never trained in Japan, so I can't comment on that. In the states, I have only tested under the Doshinkan / Yoshinkan system, so I can't really say how common it is. My first instructor in this organization was sansei...the head instructor is Japanese.

Quote:

At my first Aikido dojo, the only way to get tested was to be really chummy with a senior student.
This has not been my experience at all.

Quote:

If you were lucky, they'd take you under their wing and give you a couple private 5 minute lessons before class.
Since we typically have set testing days about 2 months or so apart, everyone knows when the tests are, and the last 2 weeks before the test everyone who participates in regular or advanced training does test techinique preparation. Seniors are paired with juniors often, and everyone works on the waza for their level. For some tests (usually around 3rd to 1st kyu out of 9), a specific senior is more or less assigned to you as your uke and they work with you in specific preparation for your tests. This can include training before and after class, as well as during the test technique classes.

Quote:

After that, at sensei's discretion, you might be asked to test at some point in the future, but for me, after about 6 years, that point had still never come.
I can't imagine this happening where I have trained. Is this the same for everyone else in that dojo? Have you thought to look at yourself as critically as you seem to look at others?

Quote:

At my second dojo, the only way to test was attend as many seminars as possible (to show your devotion) and then again hope and pray that some day sensei would notice you and ask you if you wanted to test.
While seminars are a part of some of our test requirements, I have not found it to be excessive or prohibitive. Ususally 1 seminar since the last test period, or for some of the higher ranks, perhaps 2 or 3. But it is clearly spelled out in the dojo handbook along with ALL of the requirements for each rank. The head instructor or senior students might also prompt you to simply submit your minimal paper work for testing to the office.

Quote:

After a couple years, I still hadn't been asked to test.
Again, I am amazed.

Personally, I dislike testing or performing in front of a group. Just not my favorite thing to do. But as testing and the preparation process is one of the things that cements relationships in the dojo (and because I like anyone else have an ego and want to advance), I have tested, both at my own initiative, and when asked. I must admit that at one time I avoided testing like the plague, even disappearing if it seemed like people wanted me to test (not in the Doshinkan but at other dojo before this).

But hey, to each his own...

Quote:

The actual test was simply a formality (no seminars required).
I forgot to comment on this earlier. In the Doshinkan, you can indeed fail a test. While it is considered a formal occasion, it is not guaranteed that you will pass, and I have failed tests myself. I kind of like that...if there is no possibility of failing, I wonder why it would be called a "test"...perhaps "demonstration" would be a better choice of words. I have had tests of that nature in a branch / independant dojo...I have no problems with that.


Best,
Ron

jliebman 03-27-2007 10:11 AM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
Hi Gordon,

I have heard of situations like yours, but never in a dojo that belongs to a major organization (USAF, Birankai, etc.) where there exists a clearly-defined set of requirements for ascending the ladder of rank.

I dont want to go down the path of whether or not testing and rank are indicative of ability, etc. Aikido is a martial art governed by the Confucian traditions of Japanese education, and those traditions demand that one ascends the ladder of rank as one progresses so that one is in conformity with one's proper "position."

You need to train in a dojo that has well-defined standards and practices. Birankai and the Canadian Aikido Federation have dojos in your area, and I am sure that other reputable organizations do so as well. Talk to the senseis in a few and see what they say.

Jory

Ron Tisdale 03-28-2007 11:09 AM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
By the way, is this dojo in your neighborhood?

http://www.aikido-yoshinkai.org/burnaby/

I am aquainted with the instructor there, he spent many years training and teaching in Japan, and while not aikikai, I think he might have a lot to offer you.

Best,
Ron

HarlieG 03-28-2007 03:03 PM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
Gordon,

At our dojo, we join with others in our area about 4 times a year for testing.

The requirements are fairly straight forward: Number of Days required between ranks, specific techniques and skills for the rank.
We have our students sign in and keep count of their hours. When it is close to testing, we review the sign in book, look to see if anyone is close, and if they are.....and if they can do the techniques required, then we allow them to test. That is the way my original dojo did it. That is the way we do it.

I wouldn't allow someone to test if a) they can''t do the techniques on command. or b) if they don't come regularly to the dojo (meaning, they need to ramp up for the test...)

On the higher tests, however....including my own....I believe that you have to have more than just techniques and time. 1st kyu, shodan, nidan...sandan.....those tests are so similar that you have to ask yourself how can you differentiate yourself. What do you do differently on your nidan test that you didn't do on your shodan test? A little less tangible in terms of deciding 'when' to test.

As far as to test or not....well, I'm not a rank hog, but testing provides some level of measurement and qualification (...some...)....they show you and your teacher where you are physically, and emotionally....so not a total waste of time

HarlieG

cherif morsi 10-30-2007 07:59 AM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
Just passed my 5th kyu test yetserday.
Our curriculum for 5th kyu in our dojo Shooting Club, Cairo, Egypt was as follows:

mae ukemi, shiro ukemi, shikko
Shomenuchi ikkyu (omote and ura)
Katedori nikkyu (omote, ura)
Katatedori shihonage(omote, urs)
Shomenuchi iriminage
Ryotedori KokyuHo Suwariwasa
6 kata jo
7 kata bokken suburi

I think the mental and psychological buildup to it is the most challenging. I was so tense that I injured my right ac joint (after just have heeled from exactly the same injury but on the left shoulder) while practicing mae ukemi just before the test. Without the adrelanin jump temporarily removing all notion of pain, I would not have been able to pass the test but the injury got worse of course after the test, but I just needed that, to break this huge difficulty, well for me at least, of passing tests in front of people and realizing where I really stand. And i passed, without being pretentious as I did so many mistakes and stupid blockages or missing whole steps of a technique, mostly because of the stress. But I guess I must have done a few other things a little bit better to pass.
Another advantage of this test, is to really start focusing on your mistakes, where did I raise my arm way too high in shihonage because of poor entry below uke's arm, when did i lose concentration while applying nikkyu, why did I raise my side shoulders high in kokyuho suwariwasa etc. the list is very long. I believe without this test, one cannot improve as good as he/she should or could. It gives you a much needed boost to help you start taking Aikido way more seriously than before and think of the techniques more intelligently and most of all to focus on the importance on ki that is still non existent in me.
To anybody hesitating taking tests because of the stress buildup etc., just hold your nose and jump.......You won't regret it.
Your thoughts? Cheers!

Amir Krause 10-30-2007 09:20 AM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
Sounds like you had a very bad experiance regarding tests.

All I can say is that your experiance s far removed from the way things go around in the dojo at which I learn. Our tests are not frequent (we only hold 1st Kyu and above ranks & tests), but Sensei normally invites people to test long before they ask for it (and this is twice astrue rearding theYundasha).

Amir

Pierre Kewcharoen 10-30-2007 09:27 AM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
Hmm, I'm not too interested in rank. Only gives people big ego's and such. I rather concentrate on working on my skills and techniques.

Will Prusner 10-30-2007 10:00 AM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
I've never heard of a blue belt samurai. I've never read anything about Musashi having to wait 6 months before he could take his 3rd kyu test. At this stage, I care about learning and improving and pushing myself past my own goals and milestones. I care very little about being told how qualified I am by someone else (except my own sensei). And if my sensei were to express that he felt I had reached a certain degree of understanding regarding some of the techniques of Aikido, Great, but I don't feel that a piece of paper or a different colored belt is gonna make the situation any better (or any worse). To each his own.

If a 4th Kyu and a Sandan get jumped walking down the street by a guy with a knife and the Sandan freezes up (because no one has ever pulled a knife on him before), but the 4th kyu (who's been in lots of streetfights) takes the attacker down and pins him, then how does rank fit in to reality?

I think ranking is convenient because generally (with exceptions) you can identify who, in a group of people practicing, would be capable of giving sound, accurate advice on a technique or other point. However, if there is an obstacle in your path, as it seems like there is, then let your technique speak for itself.

Just train as hard as possible, and then do it a little harder than that.

Stefan Stenudd 10-30-2007 11:27 AM

Grades
 
Although I am member of a grading committee, I strongly believe that aikido would be better without any grades. They become instruments of power and oppression, they involve a lot of money, and so on.
But we have them, so we should try to do it right. I want everybody to take their grades, otherwise only those who want them will do so, and the attitude in the aikido community will change for the worse.

Testing should be a routine thing, at regular intervals where those who have done the time get invited - or apply and try, without invitation.
If a teacher consistently refuses a student to test for the next grade, without giving good reason for it, then the student needs to find another teacher. That's really what the teacher is saying, even if unknowingly, with such an attitude.

Basia Halliop 10-30-2007 11:45 AM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
I find it interesting in light of this discussion that in university (grad school) I actually find people arguing for more small quizzes and assignments, or for having the first graded thing earlier in the semester, and complaing about profs not getting things back graded fast enough. It's feedback, pure and simple, with the bonus of being an effective aid to time organization. If someone finds it does crazy things to their ego, is it not possible the problem is with their ego, rather than with the test?

HarlieG 10-30-2007 11:52 AM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
Quote:

Pierre Kewcharoen wrote: (Post 192747)
Hmm, I'm not too interested in rank. Only gives people big ego's and such. I rather concentrate on working on my skills and techniques.

No offense...really...but statements like this make me laugh. When a student says that to me, I think "wow, how big (and fragile) your ego must be that you refuse to get up, in front of people, and take a simple little test." (because, come on....if you are working hard on your skills and techniques, then a test should be nothing...nothing!)...

Testing isn't for YOU. Testing is so that your Sensei (and maybe his Sensei) can see your strengths and weaknesses (and maybe recognize some issues in their instruction!). Testing is, in fact, part of your training, so by refusing to test for non-injury reasons, is like throwing down your bokken in class and saying you are not going to do bokken cuts anymore. Or refusing to do Sankyo. Or forward rolls.

<As far as the poor guy who started this thread....well...there are lots of dojos in this world. I've been to some that are good and some that I would never go back to. You have to find the right kind of place.>

HarlieG

Pierre Kewcharoen 10-30-2007 12:26 PM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
Quote:

Donna Grant wrote: (Post 192762)
No offense...really...but statements like this make me laugh. When a student says that to me, I think "wow, how big (and fragile) your ego must be that you refuse to get up, in front of people, and take a simple little test." (because, come on....if you are working hard on your skills and techniques, then a test should be nothing...nothing!)...

Testing isn't for YOU. Testing is so that your Sensei (and maybe his Sensei) can see your strengths and weaknesses (and maybe recognize some issues in their instruction!). Testing is, in fact, part of your training, so by refusing to test for non-injury reasons, is like throwing down your bokken in class and saying you are not going to do bokken cuts anymore. Or refusing to do Sankyo. Or forward rolls.

HarlieG

Apparently you didn't understand my post clearly. I NEVER said anything was wrong with testing. I enjoy testing actually. If I could I would get tested as much as possible. I work hard just like anybody else here. I train to fix my weaknesses. Of course I believe testing is required, but when you have to jump through political loopholes to get it becomes ridiculous. All I said was that I just don't put emphasis on RANKS. I seen alot of 20+ y/o individuals brag about being black belts in their discipline with a skill level of a 7 year old. I also do believe that people get ranked up higher soley by politically means eventhough their skill level doesnt necessarily reflect that. So try to see it from my side and get the whole story before you try to belittle me.

HarlieG 10-30-2007 04:23 PM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
Quote:

Pierre Kewcharoen wrote: (Post 192765)
Apparently you didn't understand my post clearly. .

Apparently I didn't.

To me, the two go hand in hand: Testing and Rank....(and yes, higher up there are recommendations - but in my experience those are conditional based on age, health, etc.....) - so sorry for the misunderstanding.

To be honest, in my experience, ego comes with the person, not the rank. If they brag about their rank, they would have bragged at 5th kyu as well as at 5th dan....and those kind of people brag about a lot more than just their rank! (IMO, of course)

HarlieG

Conrad Gus 10-30-2007 05:17 PM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
I have been in both kinds of test environments, the one where the test requirements and times are extremely clear and the one where it is a complete mystery when you will be asked to test.

I can see the merits of each, but I far prefer the "open" style where there is no hidden criteria for who tests when. If you practice a lot and get the minimum hours, you can generally test.

I think it is important with this system that people can fail the tests, which is not always the case. Interestingly, in the organization I was in that had the "closed" criteria (you will be asked to test someday), nobody ever fails. In the one with the "open" criteria (test when you have the required hours) failure is an ever-present reality.

Also, in the "open" system, Sensei is usually testing his own students, so if they fail he doesn't look bad in front of his own teacher. In the "closed" system, students are tested by a shihan with whom they don't train regularly and who may not know them, so a poor performance reflects poorly on their sensei. I think this contributes to long wait times between tests in that system.

I think that they both serve the same purpose in the end, but I agree that they feel very different. These are only my direct observations -- I'm sure there are all kinds of variations out there.

Christopher Gee 10-30-2007 05:20 PM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
I favour the dosekai system favoured in the good olde days before we needed coloured belts as tasty carrots. I've seen some awesomely powerful yondans and some hachidans that didnt inspire me (I probably missed something).

Train for the perfection of technique and spirit (not necessarily in that order) and forget the dan-age....

Respectfully

mriehle 10-30-2007 06:36 PM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
Gordon:

I've never encountered a dojo where the politics was as pathological as you describe. You can't help having politics in a dojo, it's an organization of people run by people. But what you describe is just poisonous.

For those who think rank doesn't matter:

Okay, well, it's a communication tool. When I show up at a dojo that I don't normally train at and say, "I'm nidan", they can set expectations about my abilities and what I can handle. Clearly, this means I need to be honest. And, of course, standards vary from one organization to the other, but it still provides a sort of baseline. Corrections to that baseline happen pretty quickly once I'm on the mat, but in the meantime nobody gets hurt due to incorrect expectations.

And it provides feedback to the student about what is expected of him or her. I'm way harder, for example, on a first kyu student about rolls than I am on a 10th kyu student.

Finally, Gordon, I think you should read Ron Tisdale's response very carefully. I'm not saying he's right, but I, too, wonder. I've just never run into a teacher this bent on ego strokes.

mathewjgano 10-30-2007 07:14 PM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
Quote:

Donna Grant wrote: (Post 192762)
Testing isn't for YOU. Testing is so that your Sensei (and maybe his Sensei) can see your strengths and weaknesses (and maybe recognize some issues in their instruction!). HarlieG

I think it depends on a few things. Tests are for the student too. Being put on the spot; performng on demand is a valuable lesson after all.
I think in more than a few cases tests are a major source of income, but they also provide an organizational system for measuring ability, though it varies from group to group. I think most sensei's know the level of ability well before a student tests so I think in many cases at least, it's not really a testing of ability as much as an acknowledgement of progression.
From what I can tell, in larger systems it's a useful way of quickly referencing general ability and familiarity. If you go from one Shodokan school to another, for example, I imagine telling someone your rank gives a really good idea of what you're capable of.

Pierre Kewcharoen 10-30-2007 08:37 PM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
Quote:

Donna Grant wrote: (Post 192788)
Apparently I didn't.

To me, the two go hand in hand: Testing and Rank....(and yes, higher up there are recommendations - but in my experience those are conditional based on age, health, etc.....) - so sorry for the misunderstanding.

To be honest, in my experience, ego comes with the person, not the rank. If they brag about their rank, they would have bragged at 5th kyu as well as at 5th dan....and those kind of people brag about a lot more than just their rank! (IMO, of course)

HarlieG

No worries, this is why its a good thing to communicate :D

Hell people brag after only taken ONE Class!

John Longford 10-31-2007 01:31 PM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
Personally I think gradings are important.
1. They allow the student to see how his/her techniques work under pressure.
2. When told that they are ready to grade (you should never, ever, ask) the student will usually intensify his/her training thus improving even more. After all we are only human and we cannot train flat out all the time.
3. Gradings allow the student to assess if he/she is improving.
4. As an earlier Aikidoka said, it also lets you decide how much leeway you should give your Uke depending on their grade.
If the grade goes to the student's head then it is up to the Sensei to try to bring them back down to earth. I say try because unfortunately there are a small number of people out there that cannot be told. The only consolation is that they will never really get anywhere.

HarlieG 10-31-2007 02:04 PM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
Quote:

John Longford wrote: (Post 192872)
When told that they are ready to grade (you should never, ever, ask).....

When I was a young, wee thing - just starting aikido, I was at a dojo where we were taught that you should never, ever ask to test....

....but then I moved into a larger dojo where, if you wanted to test, you were expected to approach Sensei and ask permission at least two weeks prior to the test.

....to make matters worse. Sensei never, ever said 'no' to anyone asking. So, it was left up to the asker to differentiate the many ways he would answer 'yes'. I spent many hours (ok, maybe not HOURS) in the dressing room with sempai and kohai trying to interpret his 'yes' answer....Did he say, 'yes, of course you should test'....or did he say, 'well, do you think you are ready?'....or, like the last time I ask....'I thought you were going to test for Nidan over a year ago!')

It is a crazy world!

HarlieG

Avery Jenkins 10-31-2007 07:04 PM

Re: To Test, or not to Test
 
Hey Gordon,

Somewhat voluntarily, I gave up my title of North America's Longest Training Mudansha last year. It's up for grabs, you might be a contender...

I took my 5th kyu test in 1990, and passed my shodan in December, 2006. The tengu take special interest in those of us who have chosen the long road, and will endow you with special skills once you reach shodan. So take heart, keep training, and find a non-dysfunctional dojo.


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 10:18 PM.

Powered by: vBulletin
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.