I was told by a shihan that there is value in the process of testing. Preparing for a test and the event of the test itself are a chance to practice aikido under pressure, which is very different from just doing keiko all the time with no real scrutiny or consequences.
He said that a single test is worth something like two months of practice in terms of aikido lessons learned.
He didn't particularly emphasize that it was the rank that was important, but the process.
That's a good point. Most people in aikido usually train in a fairly low-pressure environment where uke always takes a nice fall and there's never any (overt) conflict allowed on the mat (this environment is often what people in aikido mean when they talk about "harmony"). For them the pressure of getting up in front of people and being scrutinized can be a challenging experience. However, if all of those testing are going to pass their 'test', then what purpose does this alleged test serve that a simple demonstration in front of the same people would not serve?
Does the potential, however remote and inconsequential, for failure increase the pressure? If so, would the process not be even more beneficial if the possibility of failure was greater (ie, if it was really a test)? What about if it were a competition where two people were being tested against each other? Wouldn't that be even more pressure? What about a real fight, on the mat but outside the bounds of training rules and customs, where the consequences of failure are much greater than just a little public embarrassment? Surely one would learn even more from such an experience than they would from a test that they are almost certainly not going to fail (and even if they do the consequences are not that great).
I would agree with your shihan that increasing the pressure and consequences to a level above what is found in the typical aikido dojo is a valuable and perhaps even essential training device. However, I don't consider the so-called tests I have seen in aikido, almost always with a very compliant uke, to be anywhere near adequate for this purpose.
Are you sure you are not spinning that Shihan's words way beyond his intention?
There is a huge difference between testing skill under pressure and learning under pressure. The first can provide an indication for a slow in depth study, the latter is the hurried approach. And I am not sure both climb the same mountain.
Increasing the pressure as you kind of suggested is not constructive to the learning process. In a fight, one is fighting, not learning (the modern science of sports training even talks about maximal levels of acids in the blood for efficient learning). I doubt the purpose of being tested under pressure is to crash the person, I would think one who feels he succeeded would gain more from it, psychologicly, then the one who continously fails after crashing from the pressure. After one coupes successfuly, it might be possible to gradually increase the requiemnts from him, and the level of pressue, and it would work, but only up to some point.
A test only happens when the person is ready for it(in the eyes of his teacher). The person is expected to succeed, since he only approaches the barrier after his teacher believes e can pass it. Hence, one should expect rather high success ratios. From my own experiance in our dojo, most failures happened due to over pressure, and not due to lack of abilty. And almost everyone, have passed two months later.
A contest is not a test, the buildup is different. The controlebility of the experiance is not the same.
Further, competitions tend to change the M.A. which uses them (this definitly applies to Judo, Kendo , TKD and most probably to Tomiki Aikido as well). People start practicing only to win the competition, some technical variations are found to be too dangerous to be used full force. Etc.
It would be interesting to compare the failure rates of dan test in various organizations. For example, the failure rate (in 2005) of the ZNKR 8-dan exam that I mentioned earlier was 99.1% (12 applicants passed out of 1357 -- keep in mind the requirement to test for 8-dan is having been 7-dan for at least 10 years). My guess would be that in the USAF the failure rate over the last several years for 1- through 3-dan (these are the only dan ranks for which they test) would be close to zero. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it is exactly zero, though I would be very surprised if it was even as high as 5%. I would also guess that the ASU numbers are similar, though I don't expect either of these groups (or any other aikido groups) to release that kind of information. Of course, anyone who knows for sure or cares to speculate about their own organization is welcome to do so.
Can you seriously compare 8th dan failure rates to Shodan to Sandan failure rates???
Why should the results be similar???
Mr. G DiPierro
What is your beef with Aikikai? You seem to try and blacken them at every opportunity, and I start wondering why?
I would like to mention I am not of Aikikai affiliation, or even Ushiba Aikido affiliation. If I have this feeling, what do members of that organization feel?