Re: Ranking systems in different countries
The question we always get from beginners is how long does it take to get a black belt. "How long does it take to catch a fish?" is one reply that is used in jest sometimes. Realistically we say between 5 and 7 years depending on the individual, their dedication and "real life" commitments.
(a minimum of 600 days on the mat to get to 1st kyu which works out to 4.5 to 5 years at 2.5 per week and then another 200 mat days till Shodan) At our dojo we have also been advised by our Shihan in Japan that our testing intervals/requirements are too long compared to Japan and we have modified them minimally to maintain the quality we expect and get closer to his. Sometimes it does seem that we are being " More Catholic than the Pope" so to speak, but we believe that this is the tradition of our sensei who passed away a few years ago .
Our Shihan also tells us that Shodan is only a beginners level and after that we start learning aikido. It seems however, that in North America, we put greater expectations and credence on being a “Black Belt” and therefore we expect greater competency and therefore it is difficult to compare/equate one countries levels to the next.
As for weapons our dojo starts with basics at 6th kyu ( Bokken: Standing kamae, Drawing bokken, Putting back bokken, Ken nigiri (gripping sword) Jo: Standing kamae, Stepping in with Jo, Stepping back with Jo, Tsuki kamae, Menuchi kamae) and working the way to the higher ranks with more and complex kata, awaza, Kumijo, Kumitachi etc.
If a student comes form another system or country, especially if they have been training for a number of years we generally accept their ranking but they are expected to take more time before their next advancement as they must learn how we do our basics and the new expectations ,techniques/style of their new dojo.