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Old 11-22-2007, 06:49 AM   #89
G DiPierro
Location: Ohio
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 365
Re: significance to testing/belt rank?

John Riggs wrote: View Post
I'm genuinely interested in how your tests went and am asking nicely.
OK, since you asked nicely, here is an overview of my experiences with rank and testing in aikido that have led me to my current opinions on rank.

I tested once in aikido: in 1998. The test itself was fairly standard and uneventful, but the experience as a whole fundamentally transformed my understanding and opinion of rank. Prior to the test, I had thought that having rank was relatively important and that I should take steps to seek it out and ensure that I had it. At the first dojo where I had trained, there was very little awareness or concern for rank, and as far I as know tests were not even held during the year that I trained there, so I did not worry about it much. But at the dojo to which I had then recently moved, there was far more consciousness of and interest in rank among the general membership, and since almost everybody had it and took some measure of pride in it I naturally assumed that it must be something important and that I too needed to have it.

Once I had actually tested I found out that nobody else really cared that much about my rank after all and that my teacher was not impressed by it in any way. Taking the test had entirely the opposite effect on him from what I had intended: he seemed disappointed that I was spending my time worrying about some ultimately trivial rank rather than focusing on the much more important matter of what he was trying to teach me. I realized then that rank is the teacher's responsibility, not the student's, and that the pursuit of rank is actually just a distraction from the things with which a student should be concerned.

When I later trained at other dojos, I noticed that the people in charge of these dojos put significantly more importance on rank as a measure of status and ability in the dojo than my previous teachers had. I think that if you are going to put a lot of emphasis on the ranking system in a dojo then you need to be prepared to deal with the problems that this might cause, particularly if you don't bother to do what is necessary to make sure that everyone is at a rank that is roughly appropriate for their relative level of skill. Instead, what I found was that these people, despite making such a big deal out of rank, were unwilling to properly maintain their ranking system or to deal with the issues that their refusal to do this was causing.

If you must have a ranking system in a non-competitive art like aikdo, then I think it is better to de-emphasize the importance of rank in everyday practice, as the teachers at the first few dojos I trained in did. Even then people will occasionally find a way to become attached to rank, so I don't think it is possible to eliminate rank-related problems entirely while still using a ranking system. The best approach I have seen is to not have any ranking system at all but just let students progress in their own ways and at their own paces. The differences between the groups I have worked with that have no ranking system and what I experienced in various aikido groups over the years are significant.

Last edited by G DiPierro : 11-22-2007 at 06:55 AM.