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Old 02-04-2009, 09:56 AM   #1
Brian Gillaspie
 
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Preparing for Test Outside of Regular Class Time

I have been studying Aikido for about 5 years and for every test that I have taken nearly all of the study time has been outside of class. I personally like this approach and I think there is a lot to be learned by getting together on your own time with other students. I just wish I had more time to do it.....although I will probably need to hire a divorce attorney if I increase my training time

So I am just curious to know if most dojos expect students to spend time outside of class to prepare for testing. I am not looking for a right or wrong answer....just wanting to hear everyone's thought on the subject.

Thanks,
Brian
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Old 02-04-2009, 10:08 AM   #2
Russ Q
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Re: Preparing for Test Outside of Regular Class Time

Hi Brian,

Yep, my teacher expected my sempai to help me prepare for tests outside of regular class time and that is the model I use in my dojo too. I, too, think there is much to be learned by getting together outside of regular training times. The keeners in my "home" dojo would always show up early so we could toss each other about before class. It is amazing how much you can learn in these short, informal sessions.

Cheers,

Russ
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Old 02-04-2009, 10:50 AM   #3
dalen7
 
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Re: Preparing for Test Outside of Regular Class Time

Quote:
Brian Gillaspie wrote: View Post
So I am just curious to know if most dojos expect students to spend time outside of class to prepare for testing.

Thanks,
Brian
Well, I cant tell you the intent of our instructor - but I can give you a perspective from my experience.

Interestingly enough there is not really any structure, per say.
Not that this is good or bad - but as far as preparing for an exam and knowing what material will be covered on your test...it can be frustrating.

As I pointed out in my thread on Yokomenuchi, there were many techniques for my past test that just were not covered in class, at least not till the last moment. And even then, there was not a high concentration on preparing for the examine.

I will say that I am thankful that he gave me the opportunity to have a private session videotaped, covering material for my exam, otherwise I would not have known the techniques for my exam.

Of course, the other problem is training - one thing to have it on tape, but how do you go about getting used to a new technique without a partner and just in pure kata?

Luckily for me, I have 4 kids - one of them is about tall enough to practice shihonage on, etc.
(I thank my kids for their enthusiasm and willingness to help their pappa - without them, I would not have passed the exam...)

A lot depends, on the end, on your goal.
Some people are fine learning 2 techniques in 2 years... to 'perfect them'. Others like the spontaneous nature of not knowing what is next, even if you only cover 1 or two moves - and they believe testing is useless, for the most part.

For me, testing is used for my own behalf as a means of rewarding myself at different levels that Im am happy to be at. This training in Aikido is a personal journey, as is life.

Personally, Im the guy that likes to see the outline, and set up a goal to reach. So, I have had to adapt a bit to how things are done at my dojo - also, learning in a language that is not my own, Hungarian, has been a challenge as well. (Im learning about ego and martial arts.)

Peace

dAlen

Last edited by dalen7 : 02-04-2009 at 10:58 AM.

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Old 02-12-2009, 07:30 AM   #4
Millerwc
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Re: Preparing for Test Outside of Regular Class Time

My sensei expects some preparation outside of regular class time, although it varies greatly. In early tests it's mostly vocabulary- knowing the name of that attacks ect. Whereas for the Shodan test I'm prepping for currently, I don't think I've even seen 1/10th of the techniques on the list taught before, although it's nothing more than advanced applications of the old basics, and a couple of us have gotten together with the videos outside of class to learn them.
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Old 02-12-2009, 04:02 PM   #5
Rosecarmethene
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Re: Preparing for Test Outside of Regular Class Time

Sensei starts prepping us with some techniques from the tests soon after the new year. We're each expected to get familiar with our tests on our own time however, and a lot of the stuff we have to know is never taught in class. We can always ask Sensei for corrections, etc. We seem to do a different version of some of the techniques every year, & different specifics are looked for.
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Old 02-19-2009, 11:39 PM   #6
dalen7
 
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Re: Preparing for Test Outside of Regular Class Time

Quote:
Rachel Zimmer wrote: View Post
Sensei starts prepping us with some techniques from the tests soon after the new year. We're each expected to get familiar with our tests on our own time however, and a lot of the stuff we have to know is never taught in class. We can always ask Sensei for corrections, etc. We seem to do a different version of some of the techniques every year, & different specifics are looked for.
See, that is what I dont get, and seems to be common in Aikido.
The "go figure it out yourself" mentality.

The irony is that what in the world are people practicing if not the newer techniques? I know - much of the same old techniques...not that there is anything wrong with that.

But the underlying problem is that there appears to be a consistent lack of a systematic approach.

To some extent, I suppose I understand - as the user above you pointed out, some of the techniques are just variations/combinations of techniques already learned.

But up the ranks to 1st kyu, there are various positions, and techniques that arent necessarily just a variant of another technique that you can figure out on your own...suppose its easy to forget this fact after you have learned and taught for many years.

Personally, I feel that after each test, you should begin going over the new material...at minimum be introduced to the techniques.

True, I realize that this issue doesnt bother many people, and/or they work around it somehow - but it is one area that I just find a bit frustrating personally.

After all, the older techniques can be practiced at home or with friends...its the newer techniques your there to get instruction on. (Not to imply you cant adjust your older techniques, etc.)

Well, thats my rant for the morning.

Peace

dAlen

Last edited by dalen7 : 02-19-2009 at 11:54 PM.

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Old 02-20-2009, 12:07 AM   #7
dalen7
 
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Re: Preparing for Test Outside of Regular Class Time

Sorry, my edit window ran out.

I wanted to simply add this.

It would seem that the apparent lack of structure is why it takes so long to learn Aikido...its the bit that makes it somewhat intriguing and unattainable - because it 'works', but it take many people years to figure out why. (Trying to get that 'perfect' ikkyo.)

Personally I believe its much simpler than that.
Understanding the basic structure of Aikido and truly appreciating why its not a 'hard' art, will go a long way in making Aikido less mystified and practical for people.

Tohei, in an interview, said it should not take someone more than 6 months, and that taking years to learn it was just too long.

True, in his time, it was as unstructured - if not more so - then now. Suppose that is one training method...and people obviously choose it and even continue on that style.

Why is this? Out of habit?
What would happen if you just taught things in a structured manner with the basic concepts? Perhaps after 6 months to a year it would not be good for business...and/or you would have to many black belts that would make it look less valuable.

Perhaps we put to much emphasis on aspects of martial arts that are not important. (Not just in Aikido.) - you know, the 'mystical black belt', etc.

So after 6 months and people 'get it' what would that mean for the dojos? Would the instructors be concerned they dont have anything more to instruct? Or that people would still practice but do it on there own?

Dont get me wrong, Im not saying that 6 months is long enough to 'perfect' technique...but if Shodan is where it all 'starts' stateside, from what I understand, then Shodan should be at 6 months to a year and then you can figure out the kinks.

Personally instead of just learning all the movements I try to learn the in-and outs of it as I go. The emphasis is a bit different here, that is why a brown belt can teach here.

But anyway...just some thoughts/musings.

Peace

dAlen

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Old 02-20-2009, 01:58 AM   #8
grondahl
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Re: Preparing for Test Outside of Regular Class Time

On topic:
In my current dojo the testing criterias are easily available for everyone and students themselves apply for testing. So if you want to run trough the ranks as fast as possible you will probably need to team up with sempai and train outside of class to make sure that you are comfortable with the requirements. Or be ready to flunk a few exams.

In my first dojo the headinstructor tested you when he thought you were ready so almost no one did any extra training for examinations (exept maybe for ikkyu-exams).

Personally I think that the sooner the student realizes that they are responsible for their own training the better.

Off topic:
At Dalen:

There might be an apparent lack of structure where you train but many schools/styles are in fact highly structured and follows a more or less set curriculum.

Getting good at anything takes time. You need both the hours doing "it" (drilling techniques etc) and the rest between practice to let your cns take "it" into your body.

Sure, you can award shodan after 6 months but since the students would be as incompetent as 6 month-shodans as 6 month-rokyu. So whats the point?

Quote:
Dalen Johnson wrote: View Post
It would seem that the apparent lack of structure is why it takes so long to learn Aikido...its the bit that makes it somewhat intriguing and unattainable - because it 'works', but it take many people years to figure out why. (Trying to get that 'perfect' ikkyo.)

Personally I believe its much simpler than that.
Understanding the basic structure of Aikido and truly appreciating why its not a 'hard' art, will go a long way in making Aikido less mystified and practical for people.

Tohei, in an interview, said it should not take someone more than 6 months, and that taking years to learn it was just too long.

True, in his time, it was as unstructured - if not more so - then now. Suppose that is one training method...and people obviously choose it and even continue on that style.

Why is this? Out of habit?
What would happen if you just taught things in a structured manner with the basic concepts? Perhaps after 6 months to a year it would not be good for business...and/or you would have to many black belts that would make it look less valuable.

Perhaps we put to much emphasis on aspects of martial arts that are not important. (Not just in Aikido.) - you know, the 'mystical black belt', etc.

So after 6 months and people 'get it' what would that mean for the dojos? Would the instructors be concerned they dont have anything more to instruct? Or that people would still practice but do it on there own?

Dont get me wrong, Im not saying that 6 months is long enough to 'perfect' technique...but if Shodan is where it all 'starts' stateside, from what I understand, then Shodan should be at 6 months to a year and then you can figure out the kinks.

Personally instead of just learning all the movements I try to learn the in-and outs of it as I go. The emphasis is a bit different here, that is why a brown belt can teach here.
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Old 02-20-2009, 02:18 AM   #9
dalen7
 
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Re: Preparing for Test Outside of Regular Class Time

Quote:
Peter Gröndahl wrote: View Post
On topic:
In my current dojo the testing criterias are easily available for everyone and students themselves apply for testing.

There might be an apparent lack of structure where you train but many schools/styles are in fact highly structured and follows a more or less set curriculum.

Sure, you can award shodan after 6 months but since the students would be as incompetent as 6 month-shodans as 6 month-rokyu. So whats the point?
- Names on a sheet dont teach you the technique.

- Im going by the comments on this thread and elsewhere on the forum as far as the comment about lack of structure.

- you missed the point completely, but thats fine...not sure how to explain it otherwise. Aikido truly is an individual art.

Peace

dAlen

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Old 02-20-2009, 03:23 AM   #10
grondahl
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Re: Preparing for Test Outside of Regular Class Time

Quote:
Dalen Johnson wrote: View Post
- Names on a sheet dont teach you the technique.
But doing the regular classes will teach everything that you need, it´s just that if you want to make sure to climb up the ranks as fast as possible you need to do some extra training. Some waza are maybe done only once or twice per year (but we have a schedule to make sure that we cover everything annually).

Quote:
- you missed the point completely, but thats fine...not sure how to explain it otherwise. Aikido truly is an individual art.
Maybe, but I like to think that I simply disagree. IMHO rank in aikido isn´t a indicator of skill in the same way as in for example bjj and having or not having rank does not really make any major impact on your training. Mudansha trains with yudansha, everybody does more or less the same waza during training etc.
So I see that the primary reason for rank and examinations are the opportunity for the instructor to push the student a little bit out of his comfort zone and also force the student to ask him/herself the question "what do I really know". Ideally this should happen anyway but having the ranking system makes sure that it really does. So in that sense, the examination and the preparations for it constitutes a learning opportunity in itself.
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Old 02-20-2009, 09:08 PM   #11
Garth Jones
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Re: Preparing for Test Outside of Regular Class Time

Dalen,

A friend of mine studies American Kempo Karate. His sensei teaches classes in a strict cyle - each class is a set of techniques that come around every so many weeks. My friend has been doing this for awhile now (about 3 years) but he can only go to class 1-2 times a week due to career, kids, etc. I would say that he is progressing about as fast as an aikido student would in our less structured teaching environment who trains that much.

I wonder what level of training intensity Tohei Sensei had in mind when he mentioned 6 months to some basic level of competence? Most people with busy lives are able to train 4-6 hours a week - 6 months of that is not much. On the other hand, when my teacher Mary Heiny Sensei was first in Japan, she was training 6-7 hours a day, 6 days a week! Six months at that pace is a whole different story.

You can draw a line of skill and call it shodan where ever you want, I guess. In the ASU, the absolute minimums are 510 hours of training AND 37 months - in reality it is much more than that. Of course, Mary Heiny Sensei trained that many hours in about three months - her life was totally devoted to the study of aikido and she got shodan pretty fast.

In our dojo, the testing requirements are posted on the wall and on our website. If I ask a student taking a test to do a particular technique and they don't know it, then the fault is mine. Techniques are the vocabulary of the language that is aikido and it is my job to teach my students the basics of how to speak. That being said, training outside of class, going to seminars, and seeing other instructors is vital to good progress, especially as people get more senior.

For me, the 'go figure it out' aspect is that past a certain point we all have to discover how the techniques work best for our bodies and minds. Ikeda Sensei likes to say that he can show people his aikido, but not their aikido.

To come back to my original point, I think the level of dedication on the part of the student is more important than the structure, or lack thereof, of class. They put in the hours, they get up the mountain.

I hope this is a useful perspective.

Cheers,
Garth
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Old 02-21-2009, 01:56 AM   #12
dalen7
 
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Re: Preparing for Test Outside of Regular Class Time

Quote:
Garth Jones wrote: View Post
Dalen,

A friend of mine studies American Kempo Karate. His sensei teaches classes in a strict cyle - each class is a set of techniques that come around every so many weeks. My friend has been doing this for awhile now (about 3 years) but he can only go to class 1-2 times a week due to career, kids, etc. I would say that he is progressing about as fast as an aikido student would in our less structured teaching environment who trains that much.

To come back to my original point, I think the level of dedication on the part of the student is more important than the structure, or lack thereof, of class. They put in the hours, they get up the mountain.

I hope this is a useful perspective.

Cheers,
Garth
Garth,

I think I can agree with the assessment in your first part above, at least to where it is pointing.

Though I believe a strong class structure will better help assist the student who is willing to put forth the effort - but can only train twice a week.

Students responsibility:
If you can only make it to practice twice a week, I understand.
- Though in America where prices in martial arts is sky high, I would make every effort to be in every class.

- If you can only make it to class twice a week, it is the students responsibility to practice during the week. If they dont do this, then their advancement, (not in rank necessarily - but in skill), will be slow.

I see this first hand. We only have classes twice a week...and some people don't show up for those classes, let alone practice outside of class. (Some of them may have legit reasons...life is tougher here, and people struggle to make a living unfortunately...)

But the point is it shows...the need to practice in & out of class cannot be stressed enough. I believe people dont realize the difference it truly can make just doing an hour or so extra on your own in the week.

I noticed in the past, that by the time the next class came around, I was already rusty on what had been taught. (If I did not practice.)
And then we would move on to some other technique, etc.

In the beginning stages this can lead to high drop out rate.

Now I dont know what the drop out rate is in Aikido compared to other martial arts, but I can assume that this is why Aikido instructors tend to let people try it out for free for the first few lessons. (as it is vastly different then a striking art.)

Class Structure
Point being is structure.
Without it, the beginner will become frustrated and just drop it - especially if they only train twice a week and dont have the basic fundamentals down.

I tend to like, at least what I understand of it anyway, the Yoshinkan style - they take you and make sure you can move your feet before you do anything else.

You would not believe how many people in the lower to mid kyu ranks look like they have two left feet as they try to make a move.
Or even more, how many lack the power in their moves because they dont do a basic shift of their weight and twist with their hip in the movement...their feet stay put and they are off balance.

I dont know, this is like a personal testimony - for me, learning the basic foot movements...or getting more comfortable with it, has made a huge difference. (That and the philosophy I have taken away from Tohei Sensei of letting the uke go where they want to go and 'trip over themselves' as it were.)

Basic setup:
Its hard to convey succinctly what I want here, but this will have to suffice.

In short, I believe we are in agreement, for the most part.

Here is how I would summarize an ideal setup, based on my personal experience. (This is not the path I took, mine was more complicated for sure...)

- Beginners master the footwork & stances as well as playing with a couple of pins and a couple of throws.

- Focus on key concepts of what works and why.
i.e., leverage & twist, balance, etc. (again these are pointers, you may not necessarily use the same terms, etc.)

- Then focus on practicing the moves.
Everyone should know the requirements for testing.
If the dojo has 3 or more classes per week, then one of those could focus on techniques for testing, etc. (Just an example.)

I have noticed that beginners are rough on each other...at least they can be, especially if the build of the person is different.
Aikido is truly a different ball game as you learn to work with other peoples energy...and your own.

There have been numerous occasion where techniques have been over applied. I think for the beginning, I would not have beginners train together. (Nikkyo hurts...that is all I can tell you.)

Conclusion:
You know, words are tricky, and often easy to misunderstand.

In no way am I trying to imply that I have the 'way to do it.'

I have only tried to point out some of the areas that seemed could be improved upon, both from my experience, and from what I have read from others here, in regards to class structure and training.

You can have an idea set up, but it does depend on what the individual puts into it, as you rightfully pointed out.

Peace

dAlen

Last edited by dalen7 : 02-21-2009 at 02:03 AM.

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Old 09-18-2009, 05:59 AM   #13
macamboy
 
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Re: Preparing for Test Outside of Regular Class Time

I remember when I was preparing for my first grading test, I was given a photocopy of the nine basic techniques from the book "Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere".
When I'd come home from school I'd spend around 1/2 hour just going through the moves by myself, refering to these copies. This helped enormously, as I only trained at a dojo for 2 hours a week.

Returning to Aikido after a lengthy break, I intend to practise at home again, hopefully with the help of my 15 year old son.

You only get out of something what you put into it, therefore training in your own time has to be of benefit, albeit I can see the greater benefit of training with others from your dojo outside of class times.
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Old 10-15-2009, 01:19 PM   #14
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Re: Preparing for Test Outside of Regular Class Time

I found that practice outside of the regular classes helped a great deal; my uke was kind enough to take time in between and after classes to work with me, and some of the other students helped me during the few "open" classes I attended before the test. Actually, the "open" class 2 days before the test was really valuable, since someone was able to give me a bit of a trick that helped me with my katatetori shihonage.
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