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Old 10-20-2008, 03:26 PM   #1
Jacob Clapsadle
Dojo: Aikido Institute of Oakland
Location: Oakland California
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Advice for shodan test

Hello, I am new to this site and happy to see a nice online communtiy around Aikido.

I will be taking my shodan test sometime in the not-so-distant future, and I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to me.

Technically speaking, I'm pretty well prepared- my path to this point has been long and deliberate, and I've never been in a hurry to get promoted. I have been 1st kyuu for almost 2 years and I feel confident in my abillity (although I do hope to improve before test-time). I guess I'm wondering how to prepare for the occasion mentally.

I've gotten past thinking that having a blackbelt will somehow "complete" my training or "prove" my level of skill. I have been told that shodan is the true beginning of one's training. I don't know whether that is scary or comforting or both. I think maybe wearing a hakama is a sign of one's commitment to Aikido, and once I have one, I can no longer allow myself to just "get through" a training session, but I must strive to do my very best with every technique.

Also, I will have to get more serious about my dedication to the art and to my dojo. As a whitebelt, there have been times when I didn't train for over a month, and other periods where I would come in but only once or twice per week. As a blackbelt I should commit to a more steady regimen.

Sometimes I feel like I'm not ready for the responsibility, that I would like to be able to keep the excuse that I'm "just a whitebelt". Other times I feel like I'm way ahead of a lot of people at the shodan level. I know it's up to my sensei to determine my readiness, and I have spoken to him and others about it, but I'm interested in what folks on this forum think about this transition, and what being a blackbelt means to you.

Also two specific questions that have been bugging me:

I have always wanted to visit Japan and train at some specific dojos there. If I go as a shodan, will I have to "prove myself" on the mat more than I would as a whitebelt?

Once I have a blackbelt, is it too late to become an uchi-deshi?
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Old 10-20-2008, 06:58 PM   #2
gdandscompserv
 
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Re: Advice for shodan test

Good luck on your test Jacob. My shodan test was memorable and I value it greatly. But it was the experience that meant something, the belt just reminds me of it. It's kinda cool at first. Doesn't seem to matter as much after some years. Am still unable to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Not sure about the uchi-deshi question. I think teachers would prefer a 'fresher' sort for uchi-deshi though. But if ya got the money, quit yer job and go train in Japan, ALLOT. That's what I'd do if I was rich anyway.
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Old 10-21-2008, 07:46 AM   #3
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
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Re: Advice for shodan test

Quote:
Once I have a blackbelt, is it too late to become an uchi-deshi?
No, I don't think so in general. The important thing will be to put aside what you already know, and try to start as if from scratch. Keep what you've already learned kind of segmented off, and push yourself to embrace what is right in front of you.

The Yoshinkan offers a senshusei course, which is about as close as you can get to an uchideshi program of sorts. For the course, no matter what your rank, you wear a white belt. From what I understand, yudansha who go through the course prize the rank they earn in the year to 2 years they spend there very highly.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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Old 10-21-2008, 10:45 AM   #4
grondahl
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Re: Advice for shodan test

Uchi-deshi where?

You will have no problem going to Tanrenkan or Aiki-House in Iwama, and I know of several yudansha that have gone to dojos in California (especially San Leandro) for periods of intensive training.

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Jacob Clapsadle wrote: View Post
Once I have a blackbelt, is it too late to become an uchi-deshi?
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Old 10-21-2008, 01:42 PM   #5
gdandscompserv
 
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Re: Advice for shodan test

Quote:
Peter Gröndahl wrote: View Post
Uchi-deshi where?

You will have no problem going to Tanrenkan or Aiki-House in Iwama, and I know of several yudansha that have gone to dojos in California (especially San Leandro) for periods of intensive training.
Yes, I've heard good things about Pat Hendrick's uchi-deshi progam:
http://www.aikido-sanleandro.com/info.html#uchideshi
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Old 10-21-2008, 02:42 PM   #6
Jacob Clapsadle
Dojo: Aikido Institute of Oakland
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Re: Advice for shodan test

Thanks for the comments! Yes, Hendricks Sensei and her dojo are well-respected friends of my home dojo. We have a good uchi-deshi program here too, which I've been interested in, and I've also wanted to do a stint in Iwama if I can ever get the time and money put together.
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Old 10-21-2008, 02:44 PM   #7
Andrew S
 
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Re: Advice for shodan test

Quote:
Jacob Clapsadle wrote: View Post
I have always wanted to visit Japan and train at some specific dojos there. If I go as a shodan, will I have to "prove myself" on the mat more than I would as a whitebelt?
It all depends on where you train and who you train with. Some dojo/individuals still hold onto the idea that a shodan is a beginner. Others will be of the belief that "if you can't do this, you don't deserve to wear that hakama". It often comes down to "luck of the draw".

Quote:
Jacob Clapsadle wrote: View Post
Once I have a blackbelt, is it too late to become an uchi-deshi?
I know several people who became actual uchideshi after achieving shodan. Some dojo also offer a kenshusei course, which is like being a temporary (a couple of months or so) uchideshi. Kobayashi Sensei and Hatayama Sensei sometimes have kenshusei from overseas. You need a fair amount of money to do something like that, though.

Good luck with your test. My tip - find a helpful nidan or sandan and have them run through your grading syllabus with you until they are satisfied.

Warning: Do not bend, fold or otherwise abuse... until we get to the dojo..


合気道研心会 Aikido Kenshinkai
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Old 10-24-2008, 01:00 PM   #8
dalen7
 
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Re: Advice for shodan test

Well if you train in Hungary you have arrived once you get to black belt. (As far as Im concerned anyway.) These guys are hardcore by the time the belt roles around, at least the guys I have seen.

The point is this varies around the world...I have read in Japan it is the starting point...seems black belt isnt that serious.

Point is, but then you know Aikido and can move around fluently, improvise, and combine it with normal atemi attacks...whether it be kicks, etc. - if you cant, then at black belt, your can say your at the beginning.

Either way, I will congratulate you, as your further by far it would appear then myself who am not even in the shadow of the black belt yet.

Seriously, congrats on this, I bet you are excited.
As far as what you should do once you get it, nothing different than now. If you are into Aikido, your into it, and black or not wont change it that much...what will change is when you reach the point where you can easily convey why it is the techniques do what they do and you become a teacher.

So black belt, in my humble opinion, is time to start transmitting what you know. (But in honesty, I think that starts at any level, though at a more proficient level, of course, by the time you reach the level I mentioned earlier.)

Peace

dAlen

dAlen [day•lynn]
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Old 10-24-2008, 01:38 PM   #9
dave9nine
Dojo: Aikido Institute - Oakland
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Re: Advice for shodan test

Hi Jacob,
Funny to find your post here--nice to see you mentally preparing (i knew i saw Sensei scouting you out for shodan!). Having passed you up going from 3rd kyu to shodan, and having just been uchi deshi at our dojo for 1.5 years, i think i can answer both questions.

Regarding the test: you are more than ready. For my part it has been a pleasure to know you and train with you, and you're actually one of my inspirations for improving myself and working hard to have my skill level match my rank. Your ukemi is natural and beautiful and it's only been my secret envy in watching you that has propelled me to get better at it. Work on the jo and bokken stuff, though! let me know and we can arrange to practice outside of class hours--if you want.

As far as uchi deshi, i dont think reaching shodan means your too late. We've known of people and heard stories of uchi deshi in their shodan and nidan ranks. There is so much to learn and pick up on, that i would think being uchi deshi at those ranks is better: having already become proficient in ukemi and basics, one should be in good position to focus more on the intricacies and really get some in depth exposure.
We can take (enter name of you-know-who here) as an example. If you start as uchi deshi too soon, you are spending too much time going over basics and all that time that you would have for in depth studying is kinda wasted, IMHO.

In any event, I too wonder about being "tested" more in Japan because one has a hakama on, but I want to go, so that's that. Perhaps we can rally some of our gang together for an iwama trip, and some can stay longer than others.

hope this helps. but i know first hand that you'll be great.

see u soon.

-dave
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Old 10-24-2008, 09:13 PM   #10
Jacob Clapsadle
Dojo: Aikido Institute of Oakland
Location: Oakland California
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Re: Advice for shodan test

Thanks for the kind words, Dave! I was wondering if there were any other Oaklanders on here I'm trying not to think about the whole thing too much- I'll give it my best, and I know I have lots of support in the dojo!
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Old 11-01-2008, 10:38 AM   #11
Mark Uttech
Dojo: Yoshin-ji Aikido of Marshall
Location: Wisconsin
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Re: Advice for shodan test

Onegaishimasu. You should keep a steady training, with kihon waza, suwariwaza, handmi handachi, and randori. You should attend seminars and camps and continually push yourself. Don't
'buddy up' to sensei or senior students. Practice weapons suburi at home early in the morning and also some evenings in all seasons.
These things have stood me in good stead for 24 years. When I got to shodan, I already knew I was there.

In gassho,

Mark

- Right combination works wonders -
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Old 11-05-2008, 05:42 PM   #12
Nathan Wallace
 
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Re: Advice for shodan test

Quote:
Ricky Wood wrote: View Post
Am still unable to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
THEN YOU ARE NOT TRAINING HARD ENOUGH!!! lol

Northern Virginia Tenshinkai Aikido
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