This issue is a tough one for sure because the reasons that every individual will have for not wanting to test will be different and the particular fears that we each have about testing will be different, maybe every time, even for the same person. There won't be one cure all answer for everyone so the sensei will have to be both sensitive and creative to figure out each individual situation.
I , for example, am a public speaker with over 20 years experience, but I can't ever remember being more scared that when I took my kyu tests in front of Akira Tohei sensei of the Midwest Aikido federation. I think though that there were several factors involved. One, as a speaker, I was doing something I was confident in, while as an aikidoist, I was doing something I was not very good at. I also know that the fact I was doing it in front of Tohei sensei himself didn't help either. Then, you have the thought of all the people he's seen test who probably looked so much better than you are about to look. Also, Midwest did their testing at seminars where there would be a lot of students from the neighboring dojos and the test would be conducted with the other instructors sitting on the front row.In our dojo, we were always afraid of embarrasing our instructor. If you did something wrong and Tohei sensei stopped you and asked you,"Is this correct?" If you said yes and it wasn't, the follow up question in front of all those people would be,"Who is your instructor?!!!" Then your poor instructor with his peers all around him would have to raise his hand and say,"I am, sensei" and then with the follow up question,"instructor, is this correct?", your own instructor would have to disavow you by saying,"No it's not sensei".
This all made for a pretty frightening atmosphere. While I know that what I have described wouldn't apply to everyone who tested in Midwest, at least in our dojo, it tended to have a fear engendering effect. I know people who were so scared that they don't remember their test at all. We had one big tough guy that would go to the restroom before the test and "loose his lunch" everytime. By the way, he avoided testing whenever he could. I knew of another fellow that would try to avoid testing whenever he could and eventually quit aikido because of it. Once he was at brown belt, the pressure was really bad on him (because he felt he was suppose to be much better than he was) so he quit rather than having to face the test again.
Conversely, my experience with Hiroshi Kato sensei has been very different. He tends to be more informal in his daily demeanor and before the test, when people are out there getting ready by practicing their techniques, he will go out there, talk to you and give you pointers and advice. When I was tesing for 1st kyu, we were practicing like that one day and he came over and said, "I want you to do some techniques for me" and he went on to call out techniques for 15 minutes in an informal kind of way. When I actually took the test, he gave me a real short test and left out the stuff he had already called out previously. I was very relaxed (and relieved)!
By the way, I mean no disrespect for Tohei sensei. I feel that although his way was pretty strict and he could be an intimidating figure, it gave more value to the test and for me, the fact that I was able to go through that and still gain the promotion made those kyu certificates something I value almost as much as my Dan certificate today. I think though, that if I had my choice, I would prefer Kato sensei's way but again, there probably is no one best way. Anyway, that's my two cents! God's blessings to all!
Last edited by Jorge Garcia : 08-19-2001 at 08:32 AM.