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Old 05-22-2009, 02:50 PM   #1
Randy Sexton
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How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

I have seen many receive their Black Belt over the years and I have observed everything from a simple bow and passing the belt to a more formal presentation.
Maybe it is just me but when I do earn my Black Belt in Aikido I would like it to be more ceremonious than when I received my Black Belt in Taekwondo. That was very simple and no family was present. It felt like "here you go and good luck."
I was pleased at the accomplishment but felt a little let down in the presentation. I hoped for and wanted more than that. Maybe I just enjoy a good ceremony more than some people. My military background taught me to appreciate a bit of pomp and circumstance!
IMHO I would think it would be very nice to have family present to celebrate the occasion as well as my dojo mates. I would like a sense of formality and etiquette. We make a great effort to maintain a sense of etiquette in Aikido and when we have a great opportunity for a excellent presentation are we missing it?
I watch similar presentations in the movies and tthey seem to make things look really cool. Remember the scene in "Kill Bill" when she received her sword?
Yes, I know the typical responses, "Take pride in your accomplishment and the Black Belt is just the beginning, etc. etc."
My point is this; are we minimizing the accomplishment by not taking advantage of the opportunity to show students that we recognize their hard work and create a sense of deep significance?

1. What was your experience like when you got your Black Belt?
2. Should Sensei take the effort to create a formal occasion for it?
3. What would you imagine a really cool presentation to be like?
4. If your Dojo has a nice ceremony tell us about it?

Doc

"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will"
Gandhi
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Old 05-22-2009, 04:16 PM   #2
Janet Rosen
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

We often see family attend rankings for kyu ranks, not just shodan. This has been true at a couple of the dojos I've been a member of.

We had several people up for higher kyu ranks recently and one thing that impressed me, that I hadn't seen the other places I've trained, is that after each person is told s/he has passed, there is an opportunity for every other dojo member present, starting with sensei and moving down through the newest newbie, to saw something about the test or about training with the person. It made it very personalized, very much a community event (recognizing both the person's role in the dojo community and the role everyone plays in his achievement) and was incredibly moving.

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Old 05-22-2009, 08:39 PM   #3
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

This is interesting, because I had received my Aikido blackbelt twice, in very different ways:

The first time, I had moved away from my first dojo's area to pursue work. I was poor and felt out of practice, so I very sadly declined the invitation to come back and test with my peers, saying "I'm not ready.". About a year later, a good friend and peer from the dojo was visiting the area and dropped in on me. At some time in the evening, he told me he had something for me. He pulled out a blackbelt embroidered with my name and handed it to me, saying: "Sensei says to wear this when you are ready."

The second time was years and years later. I started in a different style and was not on the books with the Aikikai, so I took the opportunity to test after a year or so with them. This was small, but formal with an invited senior instructor whom I respect present. Family and friends were present, food was prepared, and we had a bit of a party.

The recognition of rank in the two ways was neither the same nor truly different, but I'll tell you this: I wore that first belt during that second test...

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Old 05-22-2009, 10:32 PM   #4
Dan Richards
 
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

Quote:
Randy Sexton wrote: View Post
Maybe it is just me but when I do earn my Black Belt in Aikido I would like it to be more ceremonious than when I received my Black Belt in Taekwondo.
Aikido is the study of non-resistance. You could kick and scream and make wishes about how you want something to be. Or you can allow it to be how it's going to be. And then you can be.

Or not. : )

What did that Shakespeare dude say?

FWIW, I recently graduated a student to shodan over the cel phone. He was in the middle of dinner at a nice restaurant with his wife. He'd earned it. I realized it - and offered no resistance.
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Old 05-22-2009, 11:19 PM   #5
nekobaka
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

after my shodan test we went out for a drink. since this was in Japan we ate at a place where you take off your shoes to sit at a low table. the step down to my shoes was higher than I thought and when I stepped down I sprained my ankle quite badly and was out of practice for a month. luckily my roommate had come to watch, and I got home ok. my dojo mates still tell the story, if I don't tell it first.
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Old 05-22-2009, 11:48 PM   #6
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

In my own dojo, we do not call it 'black belt', we call it --dan. The shodan is intended to be the first of several.

Quote:
Randy Sexton wrote: View Post
1. What was your experience like when you got your Black Belt?
The examination was unannounced. When the diploma arrived from Japan, I received it from my instructor in a formal ceremony. It was read out in Japanese.

Quote:
Randy Sexton wrote: View Post
2. Should Sensei take the effort to create a formal occasion for it?
Yes.

Quote:
Randy Sexton wrote: View Post
3. What would you imagine a really cool presentation to be like?
The dojos I visit in Europe have various rules about kyu-grade students wearing hakama. However, when they receive their shodan diploma, students do not wear hakama. After I have read out the diploma in Japanese and presented it, the student takes off the white belt, puts on the new black belt and thens put on the hakama at the side of the mat, while everyone waits. (This is also a check whether the student can put on the hakama properly: senior students are available to assist, if necessary.) Then training begins, or continues.

Quote:
Randy Sexton wrote: View Post
4. If your Dojo has a nice ceremony tell us about it?
In my own dojo, the dojo supplies both the belt and the hakama, which are presented to the students, together with the diploma.

PAG

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Old 05-23-2009, 06:54 AM   #7
dps
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

Quote:
Randy Sexton wrote: View Post

1. What was your experience like when you got your Black Belt?
2. Should Sensei take the effort to create a formal occasion for it?
3. What would you imagine a really cool presentation to be like?
4. If your Dojo has a nice ceremony tell us about it?

Doc
5. Who pays for the belt?
6.Who pays for the hakama?
7.Who pays for the ceremony?
8.Who pays for the food?
9. Who pays for the drinks?

David
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Old 05-23-2009, 07:45 AM   #8
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

Hello,

All our students pay a fee of 2,500 yen per month (just over $US 26) for general dojo expenses. (None of the instructors takes a fee.)

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote: View Post
5. Who pays for the belt?
The dojo--not the students individually.

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote: View Post
6.Who pays for the hakama?
The dojo--not the students individually.

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote: View Post
7.Who pays for the ceremony?
The ceremony is part of the dojo training.

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote: View Post
8.Who pays for the food?
The students receiving their black belts/hakama pay nothing. The rest of the dojo memberships pays a proportion: the dojo pays the rest.
Quote:
David Skaggs wrote: View Post
9. Who pays for the drinks?
The students receiving their black belts/hakama pay nothing. The rest of the dojo memberships pays a proportion: the dojo pays the rest.

Really, it is not such a big deal.

PAG

P A Goldsbury
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Old 05-23-2009, 11:12 AM   #9
erikmenzel
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

Of course anything is a good excuse to have some party or celebration.

The only thing I worry about is the more formal you make it the more you risk planting the idea that having a black belt is realy realy important.

Erik Jurrien Menzel
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Old 05-23-2009, 03:25 PM   #10
Joe McParland
 
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

Quote:
Erik Jurrien Menzel wrote: View Post
The only thing I worry about is the more formal you make it the more you risk planting the idea that having a black belt is realy realy important.
It is really important, right up until it's not.

If you feel strongly for or against having a formal ceremony, the odds are that you haven't examined the meaning of rank very deeply. On the other hand, if you understand it, you'll be quite content whether one is simply mailed to you, if your the honored guest at a big shindig, or if you never have rank awarded at all.

The black belt I currently wear (replacing the one that somehow must have shrunk a bit over the years )? I walked into the supply shop and bought it. Somehow, that action felt a little sacrilegious, but it passed. I think that was the last bit of weirdness that hung around me regarding the meaning of rank.

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Old 05-23-2009, 10:33 PM   #11
Michael Hackett
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

In our dojo, the ceremony is about the same for mudansha and yudansha. Immediately after the test, successful candidates have their mudansha passbook signed by the Dojo Cho. At the next class, the Dojo Cho will call each individual up in front of the class and present him with his new belt. The student will turn away from the shomen and put on his new belt. After that class bows out, the student is expected to move his name board to the proper place on the nafudakake. Later, when the certificates arrive from the association headquarters (for mudansha) or from Japan (for yudansha) the Dojo Cho calls the student up before the class and presents the certificate to him. The belts are paid for by the dojo and hakama are purchased by the individual student. The reason that belts are presented at the next class after testing is because oftentimes belts are passed down as gifts from senior to junior and that takes a day or so to sort out.

We usually have a barbeque after testing, or order a number pizzas and each person kicks in approximately $5.00 for the meal. Families and friends are welcome to observe the tests and take pictures, and are encouraged to stay afterwards for the party. Many times the test candidate will have his picture taken with the Dojo Cho and Test Committee after the testing as well.

Michael
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Old 05-24-2009, 12:49 PM   #12
Lan Powers
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

It is nice to acknowledge the acheivement....but it isn't THAT big a deal.

We do it a lot as described by Mr. Hackett.
L

Play nice, practice hard, but remember, this is a MARTIAL art!
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Old 05-26-2009, 01:20 PM   #13
Randy Sexton
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

Thanks for the feed back!
Learning points:
-Obtaining Shodan is a milestone that we acknowledge with various levels of formality.
-It is both a personal accomplishment and an accomplishment of the Dojo in bringing the person to that level.
-Family understanding and contributions in supporting training should be recognized and possibly acknowledged.
-What is important is the training not the color of our belt or our Dan level.
-Our ego needs to be checked and as one person said we should be of the same mind whether we received our certificate in the mail or in an elaborate ceremony.

Doc

p.s. I know it is my ego but I do love a good ceremony!

"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will"
Gandhi
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Old 05-26-2009, 03:03 PM   #14
SmilingNage
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

What no juggling clowns with honking red noses???????

Dont make me, make you, grab my wrist.
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Old 05-26-2009, 03:23 PM   #15
dalen7
 
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

Well, I make a big deal out of each belt/rank i get. lol
And come July is a key milestone for me, which Ill make a big deal out of as well.

So when I get shodan, Ill make a ceremony even if they dont have one...dragging my family, kids and everyone to watch the testing.

Now I will say that everyone present in kyu grades congratulate each other, and we have a formal 'award' ceremony where we approach Sensei for our certificates, bow, etc. A lot of people/family are present and videotaping. [again this is kyu, not dan ranks.]

Ive never seen a dan grading, but would like to...hopefully mine wont be to far off in the distant future. [maybe 2 more years...sounds long after already practicing for 2 years...]

Peace

dAlen

p.s. - Brown belt/1st kyu is a pretty big thing here as well...its practically like getting your shodan.
[and hakama is worn from 2nd kyu.]

Last edited by dalen7 : 05-26-2009 at 03:26 PM.

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Old 05-26-2009, 07:26 PM   #16
JO
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

I did not get a ceremony. But the members of the dojo, including my instructors, that were present at the testing all came out to the seminar party after the exams and my sensei paid for the beer of my choice (Fin du Monde by Unibroue) which was much better than the cheap stuff that was free for participants in the seminar. However, I did get my glass of the free beer topped up by Tamura sensei (he was doing the rounds meeting everybody). I also got to be congratulated by Tamura.

I paid for my own hakama and belt. When my certificate came in from Japan, my senseis formally handed it to me in the dojo (with bowing and clapping) just as they do for the kyu certificates.

While I agree that shodan is meant ot be the first of many. I would say it is a big deal with the change in Uniform and change in testing procedure (kyu tests are done in our dojoin front of our senseis, dan tests are done at major seminars in front of a panel of shihans with what feels like the whole world watching).

Jonathan Olson
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Old 05-27-2009, 06:59 AM   #17
dalen7
 
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

Quote:
Jonathan Olson wrote: View Post
While I agree that shodan is meant ot be the first of many. I would say it is a big deal with the change in Uniform and change in testing procedure (kyu tests are done in our dojoin front of our senseis, dan tests are done at major seminars in front of a panel of shihans with what feels like the whole world watching).
I totally agree - while I understand the concept as well that 'Shodan is the beginning' - in a way it feels like that it has been somewhat trivialized amongst the Aikido community.

4-5, or even 7-10 years of your life spent in trying to reach black belt is nothing to sneer at.
And is quite a feat and dedication in and of itself. [especially as many of us have family lives, jobs, and other interest.]

Peace

dAlen

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Old 05-27-2009, 10:25 AM   #18
JO
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

I hear you dAlen, especially since I'm in the 7-10 year bracket, with a full time job and soon to be three children (two at the time of my shodan test).

Jonathan Olson
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Old 06-11-2009, 11:41 AM   #19
Jason Morgan
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

Quote:
Erik Jurrien Menzel wrote: View Post

The only thing I worry about is the more formal you make it the more you risk planting the idea that having a black belt is realy realy important.
When I was practicing judo we had a ritual to keep the recently promoted humble. After the certificate/belt had been presented the newly promoted person would be thrown by everyone in the dojo. They would start with the highest ranked person present and work their way down the line and each person was allowed to use a favorite technique.

I think that ten years or so from now when I finally can teach Aikido I'll include the practice.
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Old 06-12-2009, 10:20 AM   #20
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

I am still a 6th kyu in aikido, but in my aikijitsu class I earned my black belt. It was rather simple. You don't test in that class. When you earn it, they give it to you. You never really know when you are going to get it and oftentimes, they are watching you for a full month before you get it. You mess up, bye bye belt. Anywho, at the end of class, I turned around and one of my teachers was holding the belt. I reid, took off my brown belt, put on the black belt and then was called out to the center of the mat to do several kata. After that, class was over. In that dojo, you didn't get your first degree right away. It was an additional six months for you to earn it. You had to show that you didn't get a big ego or anything like that. Unfortunately, I never did get to shodan! HAHA.... but it wasn't because of an ego, I ended up moving for grad school. Anywho, I never did get to wear that belt again after class and I can honestly say, because of that reason, I don't really consider myself a "black belt"

To answer your question, would I have liked a ceremony? Meh. Not too sure. My friends from class gave me congrats and hugs after, my parents were there (my sensei snuck them down) and my boyfriend (who is now my hubby) was there to see me get it. I think it was nice to have a few family members there, but I don't think it is a mandatory thing for me.

The funny part was, when I saw my parents, I purposely lined up as far away from them as possible. Because of that.... they weren't even able to get a picture of me receiving or putting on my black belt. DOH!

I think it is a belt to be proud of (if you honestly feel proud of earning it) and you should feel accomoplished, but it is just another step up the ladder. It should be neither minimized or capitalized.

Well, that is the opinion of a lowly white belt. HAH!
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Old 06-12-2009, 10:22 AM   #21
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

That is a good idea Jason. We did things like that in my aikijitsu class as well. We mainly did it on their birthday though! Hehe. My last night of class I was thrown by everyone (before getting my belt) and several students have received their belts after being thrown by everyone. Except, we started with the white belts and worked our way up to the highest ranker throwing last.
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Old 06-12-2009, 10:46 AM   #22
Scott Stahurski
 
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

I received my shodan in a victoria secrets bag in front of the whole dojo. (I tried to take the joke in stride)

I paid for my own hakama as well so it may be different from dojo to dojo......Anyway

Make the most of someone making their shodan, I was the first shodan from ikkyu to shodan in my dojo, and well I felt like I didnt get the joke with the bag.
But also realize that the ceremony itself is just the beginning, that a new shodan may not know that what roles and responsibilities that may be incurred...that is based on the dojo as well. Small dojos may have larger demands than larger dojos.

7+ years of practice is nothing but hard work, and its a right of passage. Its an accomplishment for the student, the dojo, and organization as well. Make the student feel like he/she accomplished the goal, and not feel like its and everyday occurrence....because it isnt.

BTW, students will react differently when they get their shodan. Some will be relieved that the hard training will be over for a while, and they may sporadically practice, some will get a big head and some will just continue normally, some will trip over hakama for a while...

In any case shodan is a big step, and it will take some time for that person to 'feel' his/her way thru it....but most importantly celebrate! How often do people get a chance to do something like this?
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Old 06-12-2009, 12:24 PM   #23
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

We've never been much for ceremony at my dojo -- sensei just says that so-and-so passed, and everyone claps (likewise when certificates arrive, which is usually a long time later). Individual congratulations are a bit different, and are just that: individual. What's probably more important for us is for the person who was just promoted to thank those who helped them get there.
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Old 06-12-2009, 03:15 PM   #24
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

Scott. Maybe they were trying to say you know all the "secrets" or something like that... who knows! I am glad I don't have to wear a hakama for many years. I am convinced I will be the one who trips over and over again!
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Old 06-12-2009, 07:11 PM   #25
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Re: How Should We Conduct a Black Belt Presentation?

Quote:
Ashley Carter wrote: View Post
Scott. Maybe they were trying to say you know all the "secrets" or something like that... who knows! I am glad I don't have to wear a hakama for many years. I am convinced I will be the one who trips over and over again!
LOL on the secrets...I wish!!!

yea...I tried to get into the joke...oh well. BTW there is a picture of it on the dojo webpage, but I'm not going to link to it.

But I think my main point is that celebrate the accomplishment, and remember that the person achieving it will go thru a change. Direct them thru it accordingly, and it will make a happier dojo.
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