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Old 04-02-2013, 09:11 PM   #34
Walter Martindale
Location: Cambridge, ON
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 762
Re: Ranking systems in different countries

I'll agree with Mary.. It took me longer to get my shodan (but that's partly because I switched dojo a lot) than it did to get both my degrees.
Degree granting universities have standards that are fairly strictly controlled. Professional associations also have pretty strict standards.
Different organizations can set up a "dan" grading system that's fairly arbitrary. What I've noticed is that "shodan" in Japan is usually something you finish high school with, and higher ranks come after (particularly in judo). Most of the time (mentioned elsewhere) shodan is merely an indication that your sensei and/or shihan figures you know enough about the activity to be really worth teaching. In North America the shodan are usually a lot harder and more physically mature than Japanese shodan, it seems to even out at nidan, and then a Japanese-trained sandan plays with a North American sandan like they were children - unless the NA sandan was also trained and earned the rank in Japan.
That's my observation in judo, primarily, but even the Aikikai sandan I see trained in Japan GENERALLY (there are always exceptions) move more quickly, and have to think less about what they're doing, than "we" do. It could be because, when they're developing from shodan to nidan to sandan, they're surrounded by other shodan, nidan, sandan, yondan, and godan with whom to practice, and have access to that up to 7 days/week, whereas in Canada (can't speak for the US) it's harder to find a concentration of experienced black belts with whom to train, and train hard. - part of that is because a lot of the higher ranked Canucks are getting old. Back to judo, a Japanese sandan is usually a third or fourth year university student - young, very strong, very tough, very skilled, and (my observation) ready to work til he drops, and not so worried about getting injured because - well - they're judoka, and fear doesn't enter the equation.

So - Aikido ranking standards? They're published by most federations, but the results depend on the judgement of the examiner.

All that's missing is the panel of judges with their number cards "award for technical merit, 5.5, 6.0, 3.4 (oh, the judge from that dojo is being harsh, but the bottom score gets thrown out along with the high score), 5.7, 4.9; Award for artistic interpretation, 3.9, 4.0, 4.5, 5.0, 4.2 - oh, the judges punished this candidate for being a little rough around the edges and slamming his uke to the mats instead of having flowery movements - I think this one's going to fail his test."

Most sensei I've dealt with have considered a grading test to be more a test of the teaching than of the student going through the test. I've seen Kawahara turn to a sensei and ask who the hell taught the student to do "that" (whatever it was), was that you? What are you doing in this dojo? That was one of the fun things about the late shihan. Very soft spoken, but one "What are you doing?" had various sensei trembling.

Oh, sorry, off topic ramble..

Last edited by Walter Martindale : 04-02-2013 at 09:14 PM.
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