I'm just curious if anyone's implemented or seen anything innovative and new in the testing realm. I sense, and personally feel, a general boredom with what goes on during tests. Actually, I more than sense it, I hear it but still it seems like most just go forward in the same old way.
To paraphrase Wellington:
"They came on in the same old way, and we tested them in the same old way."
So has anybody witnessed or implemented any innovations?
I've undoubtedly had less experience in seeing and being tested than you, as I do not find the same boredom. However I can relate some experiences. I think it very much depends on the grade your testing (I presume your talking about gradings). It always seems more fun when 2nd dans or higher are being graded.
- get the best karateka (or at least a good one) to do the karate style attacks. During a grading a dan grade was thrown across the room from a Mae Geri (front kick) coming from a lower grade Aikidoka.
- always make sure there is maximum pressure on the student. This can be achieved by:
1. inviting the highest grade sensei you can get along to grade them
2. do enough multiple attacks so that they are doing techniques when they tired, and use fresh ukes.
3. do randori using ANY technique. (I once saw a high grade uke jump up at someone grading to get a strangle hold using his legs).
Although many of these result in mistakes and problems, it does help to develop the feeling of calmness in the person grading, and to forget the mistake just made and move on to a new technique.
For lower grades it is difficult. However my sensei always made sure that the attack followed him calling out the attack and defence in japanese so the student must know exactly what it is called and must also be able to react quickly. If you use a syllabus, cover certain bits of it but always ask for a few techniques that aren't on the syllabus. This may seem cruel but it will indicate one of three things:
1. student has picked up more in the lessons than you realised and is not just doing aikido to reach black belt.
2. student can't do that technique, but will improvise a technique based on the techniques he knows, showing that; if all else fails he can still do Aikido.
3. student does nothing (possibly resulting on being bonked on the head), and therefore fails his grading.
Our sensei used to change from a pleasant man into a grim old japanese speaking beast when gradings occured.
Hope this helps - if all else fails, judge them on the length of ukemi they can do!
Not sure if this helps, but during a recent grading of 3 pupils for 6th Kyu Sensei threw in some free practice against 2 opponents!! (Jiyuwaza?)
Came as a shock to the three gradee's but they coped really well and surprised everyone!!
Obviously the pace and strength of the attacks was such that they wouldn't hurt each other, but it really made them work!!
They had been told before the grading that Sensei would likely ask them to show her a technique of their choice and even their instructors were taken by surprise!!
Where I train, our teacher usually calls out for freestyle techniques starting at nidan. He'll usually ask the candidate to show one or two techniques from a particular attack and then he'll let the candidate do jiyuwaza with that attack. I think we do freestyle tanto, jo, and bokken attacks (and freestyle responses, of course) at sandan. Our yondan exams are the same kind of thing, too.
I've also seen tests (usually sandan exams) within our organization in which the testing instructor called for the person being tested to take his uke, treat him or her as a beginner, and show how he would teach that person how to do a particular technique. Sometimes, he asks that the person being tested not speak while doing this, too.
However, I will concede that most of the tests for dan ranking that I've seen (probably close to a hundred now) have been pretty much the same old "now, please show us yokomenuchi iriminage" kind of exams. Sure, different organizations have different emphasis (eg kumitachi and kumijo in some aikikai affiliations, ki testing and taigi in Ki Society dojo, kata in Tomiki-based places), but it's usually not that much different...
At our dojo, all the kyu tests are basically scripted. The student knows in advance what basic movements and techniques are going to be required.
The only exception to this is the requirement of one (or two at the higher kyus) "previous techniques" -- anything from an earlier kyu. That's not really a problem for people, until you're an ikkyu and then sensei changes ALL the lists, down to 9th kyu. The 8 kyus worth of "previous techniques" become "additional new techniques" in many cases! :)
I think the above isn't too revolutionary, though.
On our last shodan test, the candidate only knew what weapons kata were going to be asked, and what attacks uke would use.
After basic movements and weapons kata, the test consisted of sections based on the known attacks. This particular test had yokomenuchi, ushiro ryotemochi, and another that I don't remember...
Anyway, for each section, sensei simply called out techniques at random. The candidate had to perform them from right stance and left stance, then be uke for one.
After sensei was satisfied that he had called enough techniques, then he called for jiyuwaza based on that attack.
Repeat above for each type of attack.
At the end, the candidate had to give an oral talk on some budo- or aikido- related topic chosen by sensei.
(I always thought that was cruel -- this poor fellow can't even catch his breath, he's so exhausted. Quick! Make him give an oral report! Sheesh.)
For higher dan testing, I have (like Jun) seen multiple-uke jiyuwaza, and "teach-a-technique". The last, I think is a really great idea, and appropriate for higher-level yudansha testing.
Perhaps nothing really startling here, but what the heck. It's Friday, so I thought I'd post... ;)
Tests/Exams or Demonstration of Skill
For the early ranks, especially, no one should be put up for their rank exams unless it is certain they will be able to execute the techniques for their rank passably well. This is the responsibility of the instructor. Some students may complete their hours of training and still not be ready.
I tell all my students that the hours for each rank are minimums not maximum.
The standards for each rank should be clearly posted and stated. While some students will always prepare only for the minimum, fortunately I have found them to be in the minority. The majority of students are anxious to show their instructor how well they are doing.
Generally, I view "tests" more as demonstrations of skill levels in a focused situation. After the student "passes" I then inform them they passed the first step for the rank. They must now earn their rank in the coming weeks and months. For this reason I do not present certificates or belts for the rank until well after the exam date to see if the student will continue training. I have heard from instructors over the years complaining that as soon as they handed out belts on test night, they did not see the students again.
In the advanced ranks, while there are still specific arts required, the advanced student should be able to handle "surprises" and mutliple ukes. At the same time, the advanced student should also be able to control their techniques much better so as to not injure their ukes.
Yudansha should be able to execute most any art well and show an increased intellectual understanding of the Aikido fundamentals as well.
Just some ramblings from an increasingly older Aikidoka.
I just wanted to share how it's done where I'm at. Kyu ranks are handled accordingly and pretty much like everywhere else. In fact, we are probably Aikikai standard (although I know the dan time requirements are longer than Aikikai standard) in our requirements.
However at yudansha level my instructor has chosen to walk a different path. All yudansha exams are demos. You get 5 minutes +/- to do your thing (literally). Music is perfectly acceptable during the test. I believe we will one day see some really bizarre stuff.
On our last batch, the board consisted of 2 sixth dans, 2 fifth dans and a fourth dan and while all were Aikikai, some were different branches of the Aikikai (we also had a Capoeira demo at the end of the tests). Whether they were thrilled that we were done in under an hour or genuinely liked the tests I don't know. The consensus however is that good Aikido was performed. This seemed to surprise a couple of people who believed we are pretty out there in what we do (we are, just not in the way they thought). A couple of the demos were flat out outstanding in my opinion and admittedly a couple were so-so.
We've received a handful of compliments from those in attendance (maybe those who thought we were total losers didn't bother to comment?). The general line was that we actually brought a bit of art into this martial art and at least 2 instructors have admitted to rethinking their testing process after this (changing it remains to be seen).
My own take is that with this methodology I saw unique individuals showing a bit of who and what they are. What I more typically see in tests is individuals showing what their instructors or shihan are. For me personally, that is a huge difference.
[Edited by Erik on October 30, 2000 at 11:50pm]
An interesting take on upper level exams. I think one could argue a good case for this type of exam being appropriate at senior levels (although I would wonder about the strict time limit).
I notice, however, that you've only mentioned 4th dan and above. Is the format the same for shodan? For nidan?
IMHO, the type of test you describe might be better suited for the senior-level folks you've mentioned. However, at shodan/nidan/sandan, it seems to me that maybe one should be still learning the basics, rather than doing their own thing.
Just another point of view -- I'm not disparaging the way anyone runs their dojo.
I simply want to keep the discussion going...
The demos were 4 shodan, 2 nidan and 2 sandan.
Disparage away. I put this out there because I'm curious how it's received and I too come from a more conventional background so this is new to me as well. I know we run directly counter to some (probably almost all) dojos out there. I recently saw Saotome's (ASU) expectations on testing and he was quite explicit that yudansha exams are not demos.
[Edited by Erik on October 31, 2000 at 03:49pm]
Well, my point is still not to disparage. However... ;)
In my personal and humble opinion, it seems to me that sho-dan ("beginning level") tests shouldn't focus on each individual's personal interpretation of what aikido should be.
I think it's fine that people think about these issues -- what is aikido to me, how do I want to incorporate it in my life, how do I approach it, etc... Absolutely legitimate concerns.
However, IMHO, people should have a lot more experience before their entire testing and evaluation should be based on their personal interpretations.
Basics first. Without a strong foundation, how can you expect to build a great structure?
Just some morning ramblings...
All I know from my yudansha exams is that each one was as different from the previous as to be a complete surprise to me.
My shodan and nidan exams were fairly straight forward, focused on techniques, history and philosophical understanding.
My Sandan consisted of Roderick Kobayashi, Sensei telling me in my driveway after I had hosted him for a seminar in St. Louis in 1987 that I was now a Sandan. I was the one who insisted that I be tested. So right there he had me grab my jo and go through all of the staff forms. Then he critiqued me and said that I had passed.
A friend of mine made the mistake of mentioning to his sensei that he though he was ready for his sandan exam. His sensei then turned several students loose with shinai to go after him. he was fairly knocked senseless. Later at another time, my friend walked across a room full of aikidoka busily practicing topay his respects to his sensei. Because he did so without stopping anyone or getting intheir way, he was promoted to sandan.
Over the years, I find that it makes little difference in terms of the rank. A Godan who stops training and teaching may have qualified for the rank, but they have ceased earning it. This remains, for me the truth surrounding any ranking system. Those who continue earn the rank. Those who stop have a pretty piece of paper.
So enjoy your system's way of doing things. Continue training. inspire others to join in. This gives the meaning to the art.
Yours In Aiki,
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