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Old 11-20-2007, 05:41 PM   #70
Keith Larman
Dojo: AIA, Los Angeles, CA
Location: California
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 1,604
Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

John and Ron:

Agreed completely.

To me it is much like learning anything of value. There is the surface, obvious, "omote" appearances. The ura stuff, however, comes much later. Only after fully integrating everything else.

In aikido you get a few promotions and at around nikyu or ikkyu you develop the dreaded "ikkyu-wisdom" problem. You figure you've got it all figured out. And frankly you're supposed to kinda be at that place when you get to that rank. You should now be familiar with the techniques, with the ideas, with the philosophy, etc. And people get to this point and often go no further. After all, they've got it all now, right?

I'm sure I was a royal pain in the butt at that level. I don't really remember, but I can only imagine how insufferable I must have been (considering how insufferable I am now that should really say something).

Well, all I can say is that in my own experience what happens is that you will hopefully develop some degree of humility along the way as you find out how little you really know. There is no surprise that shodan is really considered a "beginner" in many senses. From now on the focus is on learning how to do all those things well. How to do them with the right spirit. And to start integrating all those things together. Nidan comes and goes, then sandan and you're still wondering if you're ever going to really get it.

In a way all that work to learn the techniques, names, etc. to get to shodan was really in preparation to allow you to see that you've really only now scratched the surface. You can't see it until you get past that point. And many never see it.

In the end rank is about a lot of things. Not the least of which is that it is one measure of some one's ability to "tough it out" and to persevere. It also hopefully shows that the student has never stopped learning. Unfortunately many will stop at the nikyu/ikkyu level because they hit that point where they're in too much of a rush to "get to the good stuff" and jump ship before they're ready to really do it really well. So many leave right at that juncture convinced they've got the essence of it all. When in fact they've missed everything essential and only grasp the outer, most trivial aspects.

Rank is no guarantee that someone "gets it". But getting a high rank is an accomplishment in most organizations and is indicative of someone willing to work through and beyond the cursory and what is ultimately trivial. Sticking it out to get a strong enough foundation to really begin to grasp at the deeper aspects is something precious few ever really do.

Youtube is full of self-appointed "sensei" and "chief instructors" who clearly never toughed it out long term to really learn anything. They're marginally effective, often brutal, and usually sloppy. Me, well, I keep training trying to even begin to approach the level of several shichidan I have the honor of training with fairly regularly. The gulf between them and me is huge even if I can throw regularly and perform adequately. It's jumping to those higher levels that is so difficult. And no, it has nothing to do with rank. But the rank tends to go to those who do...

Last edited by Keith Larman : 11-20-2007 at 05:44 PM.