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Old 04-28-2006, 12:18 PM   #1
"New Student"
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What is the big deal w/ testing???

I'd like to hear thoughts on why so much emphasis seems to be placed on testing. I've been studying Aikido since the beginning of the year and proudly wear my white belt.

I'm been "invited" to test for 6th kyu next month. What is the big deal with formal testing? All my fellow students approached me after class congratulating me and what-not. It's like I've been bestowed some huge gift...

I'd personally be perfectly happy wearing a very dirty white belt for the next however many years it takes to acheive Shodan. Once acheiving Shodan, I'll tie my dogi with a black belt and confidently answer that I know very little about AIkido to any kyu ranked co-students.

So, I have 2 questions:

Can I respectfully request that I not take the test?

If I do have to take the test, can I respectfully request that I may continue to wear my white belt?

Thanks for your comments.
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Old 04-28-2006, 12:42 PM   #2
Lucy Smith
Dojo: Samurai Dojo
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

I have never seen anybody that doesn't want to achieve a new rank... I mean, why do you want to wear your white belt even if you are a yellow, or whatever? Every color has a different meaning. Testing's porpouse is to know what you are capable of. It's like school years. Every year you learn something new. And at the end of it, you need to test to be able to pass to the next year and learn the new stuff. Colors are also a good way to know who you are working with, especially for new students. I'm a new student, so I always practice with green or blue belts, since I know a yellow belt knows only a little bit more than I do, so a more advanced student will be able to teach me better. It's also nice to know that you've earned that belt, by hard work and a lot of practice.
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Old 04-28-2006, 01:13 PM   #3
Michael O'Brien
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

I'm sure can respectfully request not to test, although I don't know how that will be received by your Sensei.

What really confuses me though is that you made the comment that you'll wear your white belt until you achive Shodan and that tie on your black belt. How do you think you achieve Shodan? It is by testing up the ranks like every student who has come before you.

In our dojo everyone wears a white belt until they achieve Shodan. So rank beginner, 6th kyu, 2nd kyu, etc all wear white belts, before, during, and after our tests. LOL

However, if your dojo uses a colored belt system I personally would be honored that your Sensei feels you are ready to test, take your test, graciously accept your new rank AND belt, and go on with your training.

Harmony does not mean that there are no conflicts,
for the dynamic spiral of existence embraces both extremes.
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Old 04-28-2006, 02:17 PM   #4
Janet Rosen
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

Quote:
Michael O'Brien wrote:
However, if your dojo uses a colored belt system I personally would be honored that your Sensei feels you are ready to test, take your test, graciously accept your new rank AND belt, and go on with your training.
pretty much what I was going to say! I'd add:
Within a given dojo, the testing/belt system does help the individual have periods of ramping up training, hence kicking her butt into a higher level of practice than she might otherwise attain. At the same time, progressing in rank recognises a current level of training w/ which may come responsibility to those less advanced--which is often helpful in bringing along those now junior to you.

Janet Rosen
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Old 04-28-2006, 02:18 PM   #5
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

Testing is part of the training. The closest you can get to a "real live" attack is from Ran Dori and testing. How will you know how well you can do under pressure?

It is also a time to focus on a few techniques and hone them. Rather than coming in for class and getting this and that, here and there.

Testing shows the school how they have been as training partners. It also highlights, for all to see, how Sensei is doing. Is everyone doing a certain technique that way, or just you? Is it the way Sensei wants it done, or the way the senior students are pushing it?

Why not take the test? What is it that bothers you about it? Being in front of everyone and making a "mistake"? Don't you know that you will never find a more supportive group of people to get in front of and work on your "stage fright"? (if that is what it is).

Are you just a casual Aikidoist that wants to pick and choose what they learn? Or do you want the whole enchilada?

There are more reasons I am sure I am not listing, these just pop into my mind right now.

Maybe you are one of the few that does not need to test for any of these reasons. Let your Sensei decide, after all, your Sensei has seen a lot of Aikidoists and will be able to ascertain what you need better than someone that has only been praciticing a few months...

Good luck in you decision and training.

Peace.
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Old 04-28-2006, 02:40 PM   #6
Robert Jackson
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

Quote:
I'd like to hear thoughts on why so much emphasis seems to be placed on testing. I've been studying Aikido since the beginning of the year and proudly wear my white belt.

I'm been "invited" to test for 6th kyu next month. What is the big deal with formal testing? All my fellow students approached me after class congratulating me and what-not. It's like I've been bestowed some huge gift...

I'd personally be perfectly happy wearing a very dirty white belt for the next however many years it takes to acheive Shodan. Once acheiving Shodan, I'll tie my dogi with a black belt and confidently answer that I know very little about AIkido to any kyu ranked co-students.

So, I have 2 questions:

Can I respectfully request that I not take the test?

If I do have to take the test, can I respectfully request that I may continue to wear my white belt?

Thanks for your comments.
You're saying testing is not a big deal (agreed). Yet by requesting not to test you are in turn making it a big deal. The instructor has decided you are ready to test... so in part he has decided you have already passed the test....

Basically, from my expereince, no instructor will allow you to test unless they know you will pass it. All you're doing during the test is a demnostration of the skills you have already shown you understand.

Take the test even though it is not a big deal. Accept your new rank gracefully... thank your partners and instructors and progress that way you can make your shodan goal.

I put my right foot in, I put my left foot out, I do the Aikipokey and throw you all about
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Old 04-28-2006, 03:07 PM   #7
giriasis
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

I second the above sentiment. Rank is something that should not be overemphasized or underemphasized. When balanced testing plays a role in establishing a measure to skill and acheivement and it also provides a motivation to train and increase one's skill level. Also, it is a way of the sensei saying that he believes that your skill has increased and he is telling you that you have accomplished a new level. Testing shows respect for that decision and it provides you the opportunity to demonstrate what you have learned.

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 04-28-2006, 03:18 PM   #8
MaryKaye
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

Insisting on bucking your school's established convention for testing and belt color *is* making a big deal of it, in my opinion. It can easily send a message to your teachers "I think your way of running your school is stupid."

It's okay to say that if that is what you really mean. I wouldn't advise saying it if the real message is something else, like "I don't feel ready" or "I have stage fright" or "I'm disappointed that my fellow students are so obsessed with rank."

Mary Kaye
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Old 04-28-2006, 04:15 PM   #9
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

Thank you all for the replies, I appreciate the time you spent to provide a comment.

Everything I read says that when you attain Shodan, you basically know enough to know that you don't know much. So, I don't see why there needs to be six ranks below the rank where you know that you know nothing.

My Sensei actually solidified my belief in a recent class. He commented to the effect that in Japan, new students spend the first year as an uke. Only after that time are they allowed to actually learn the techniques. He further commented that this style wouldn't work in America, where we all want instant gratification.

Again, thanks for your comments.
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Old 04-28-2006, 04:35 PM   #10
giriasis
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

[quote]Thank you all for the replies, I appreciate the time you spent to provide a comment.

Everything I read says that when you attain Shodan, you basically know enough to know that you don't know much. So, I don't see why there needs to be six ranks below the rank where you know that you know nothing.[quote]

Well, that doesn't mean you don't learn anything. I've trained for over 6.5 years now and am at the point where I'm really seeing that there is A LOT more to aikido than being able to do a specified technique. That is what I think your sensei means. It doesn't mean you will not learn anything as you might as well go to your local martial arts supply store and buy a black belt for $5.00.

Quote:
My Sensei actually solidified my belief in a recent class. He commented to the effect that in Japan, new students spend the first year as an uke. Only after that time are they allowed to actually learn the techniques. He further commented that this style wouldn't work in America, where we all want instant gratification.

Again, thanks for your comments.
I think your sensei is emphasizing the importance of learning good ukemi and not just standing techniques.

Anne Marie Giri
Women in Aikido: a place where us gals can come together and chat about aikido.
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Old 04-28-2006, 04:47 PM   #11
Michael O'Brien
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

Quote:
Thank you all for the replies, I appreciate the time you spent to provide a comment.

Everything I read says that when you attain Shodan, you basically know enough to know that you don't know much. So, I don't see why there needs to be six ranks below the rank where you know that you know nothing.

My Sensei actually solidified my belief in a recent class. He commented to the effect that in Japan, new students spend the first year as an uke. Only after that time are they allowed to actually learn the techniques. He further commented that this style wouldn't work in America, where we all want instant gratification.

Again, thanks for your comments.
There are many of us that hold the philosophy that once you reach Shodan that is the point where you "start to learn" per se. Not exactly the way I want to word it but I won't get into a whole typing out a long explanation here.

Regardless of your personal belief or the belief of your Sensei, your Sensei still requires those 6 tests to achieve Shodan so if that is your goal then these are the steps you must take to achieve that goal.

Also, remember Shodan should not be a "goal", because it is the rank where you have enough knowledge to truly begin to understand. So enjoy the journey, the entire journey, including the 6 kyu steps to get you to Shodan. Then enjoy the steps beyond that as well.

Harmony does not mean that there are no conflicts,
for the dynamic spiral of existence embraces both extremes.
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Old 04-28-2006, 10:22 PM   #12
wmreed
 
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

Quote:
Everything I read says that when you attain Shodan, you basically know enough to know that you don't know much. So, I don't see why there needs to be six ranks below the rank where you know that you know nothing.
You seem to be a straightforward, speak-your-mind person, so while I know it's tactless, I'll be as straightforward as I can be: you need to read more, practice more, and trust your sensei more.

Testing in aikido serves many purposes. You can't understand them all as a beginner. Many people have mentioned many of them in this thread, so I won't repeat them. There are many other reasons to test, I believe, of which I'm still not aware.

The "shodan is where you realize you don't know anything" line means this to me: I have learned all the basic skills of aikido, and now it is my task to more fully understand and perfect them. Much in the same way that you learn the basic skills of writing and then write to perfect those skills. Just knowing the "rules" for composing an essay doesn't mean I am proficient at it.

Just testing on shihonage at 6th kyu doesn't mean that I have a master's level of proficiency.

So why test?

In addition to the many ideas already shared, here are some of mine:
1. To more clearly display to my sensei my understanding and skill in technique.
2. To show myself how well I maintain composure under a stressful setting.
3. To show students who are my juniors the level of proficiency to which they will be expected to rise.
4. To show students who are my seniors how well or poorly they have helped to prepare me. (This may have been mentioned already, but I couldn't find it on subsequent readings of the thread to be sure)
5. To maintain tradition.
6. Because it's a reasonable request, and it's polite to do as I'm asked by my teacher.

That being said, I find testing personally pointless. It's not why I practice aikido. I was at second kyu for several years, because I didn't ask to test, and nobody else really paid attention to my hours. Hreha Sensei was at the dojo for a seminar, watched me, looked at the rank board, shook his head and walked away. The next day he promoted me to 1st kyu without testing me.

I would likely have stayed there, too, except that it was pointed out to me that my children's class students needed to see that I was continuing my aikido education, and that for them, the easiest way to do that was for me to go forward and test for shodan.

I'm glad I did. I proved to myself that I could do it (yes I had doubts). It was one of the most mentally and physically challenging things I have done.

The shodan test is not "THE" test. It's one in a series that shows stages of progression. It's the one OF the series that tests on ALL the required techniques. Future tests will help me to evaluate my level of refinement.

And I'll take them when asked to. It's no big deal.

(Yikes. That's a lot longer than I set out to write.)

Last edited by wmreed : 04-28-2006 at 10:24 PM.

William M. Reed
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Old 04-29-2006, 02:31 AM   #13
Michael Meister
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

The level of proficiency is one aspect of rank. But it's also about knowing one's place. That's true for Aikido, and that's true for life. Moving up ranks, even with kyu grades, defines in a way your place in the dojo, and the responsibility coming with your rank.
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Old 04-29-2006, 04:13 AM   #14
Hanna B
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

I have much sympathy for you feelings, anon. Testing and ranks are often much overemphasized. I was myself a difficult student who was reluctant to take grading tests, not taking grading tests even when the main teacher of the dojo told me I should. (In that dojo, tests are given a couple of times a year and you decide yourself if you want to try or not - the main teacher only pushed those he felt lagged behind in the ranking scale.)

Anyhow, in this weird little aikido world ranks and tests do exist. One has to adapt to one's environments, or life will be very difficult. Then of course is the question how much one needs to adapt.

Quote:
Can I respectfully request that I not take the test?

If I do have to take the test, can I respectfully request that I may continue to wear my white belt?
You can ask not to test, of course. Then is the question how your teacher will respond to it. You can ask if it is OK to wear a white belt even if your rank in your dojo usually wears another colour. My guess is your teacher will tell you to join the line and do like everyone else, i.e. take the tests when he tells you to and wear the rank you have. There is a system to it, and people who do not follow the system is a disturbance. "A nail that sticks up, will be hammered down".

Probably not in your dojo (since your teacher tells students when they should test) but in some other places it happens that individuals stay on kyu rank forever simply because they do not want to test. Around here belts are either white or black, no colour, so they stay white belts forever. People who do the same thing often have their individual reasons that might be all different, but one aspect of it can be.. a kind of reverse snobbery, which is a kind of snobbery in itself. I remember looking down on people hurrying up the rank scale. Later I realised that if I could stay on a lower rank and not look down on those who tried to take as big chunks of the pie as they could, the way they saw fit - then my take on it would have been OK. I could not, and if staying on a lower rank made me despise people I should change. At this stage I went back to accepting to take the grading tests.

Last edited by Hanna B : 04-29-2006 at 04:18 AM.
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Old 04-29-2006, 05:27 AM   #15
Mark Uttech
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

Who doesn't want to resist any type of test? We human beings are funny in the way that we try to "get out of" anything that comes our way. We need to learn to receive things. That is why ukemi is such a great part of aikido. 100% comes with 50% times two.
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Old 04-29-2006, 05:30 AM   #16
Mark Uttech
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

I remember reading that O Sensei was a white belt his whole life.
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Old 04-29-2006, 06:36 AM   #17
Josh Reyer
 
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

Quote:
My Sensei actually solidified my belief in a recent class. He commented to the effect that in Japan, new students spend the first year as an uke. Only after that time are they allowed to actually learn the techniques. He further commented that this style wouldn't work in America, where we all want instant gratification.
You're Sensei is wrong, incidently. There are no mainstream schools of aikido in Japan that follow that procedure. They are conducted very much like classes in America.

As for testing, well, why wear a white belt? Why wear a keikogi at all? Why not just wear sweats or other durable, comfortable wear?

A sixth kyu has the same essential meaning as a shodan: it means you have achieved a certain understanding of techniques, that you can execute them if asked, and that you are ready for more responsibility than a dojo. It means no more, and no less. Why are there kyu ranks below shodan? Because there are varying levels of skill below shodan. The ranks give the instructors a rough understanding of those levels of skill. They wouldn't be necessary in a small, private dojo with only a few students, but they are useful in large organized dojo.

I think Michael O'Brien said it best: don't think anything of it. Take the test, accept the rank, and move on.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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Old 04-29-2006, 01:23 PM   #18
Koren Ko
 
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

Quote:
Mary Kuhner wrote:
Insisting on bucking your school's established convention for testing and belt color *is* making a big deal of it, in my opinion. It can easily send a message to your teachers "I think your way of running your school is stupid."

It's okay to say that if that is what you really mean. I wouldn't advise saying it if the real message is something else, like "I don't feel ready" or "I have stage fright" or "I'm disappointed that my fellow students are so obsessed with rank."

Mary Kaye
Err, just a thought in a $$ eyes way:
Test = Paying for it.

Although most of the trainees are too paying small amount to the dojo while learning aikido, whether they are white or colored as training fees.
Test may be just too much for him to pay for at the moment?

Err, another thought in "Too-much-Pie-make-Jack-sick-of-it" way.
Or may be he got sick of getting into exam after years of academic testing and being measured up by marks?

Getting a feel of being "tested on" could really have some upsetting feeling to people. Is this the case?

Err, yet another thought on test with daily life...
Although I agree on testing is just a way to see how much u had learned. But how can one test a person's capabilites and/or skills in various things and knows one is doing the thing correctly without any kind of indication/guide to help with?
i.e: 2 mechanics in compare, to fix a car and predict when it need a maintainence.
Or, 2 bakers, to see whose cake are the best...
Both can say they are predict/baking the precise/best of the world. And, there are no 1 grand master in their field can ultimately decide who are right. Also, any judge decision's undecisive as it may have different perspective yet 1minute/1hour/10days later.

So, now, do testing really a big deal? (Given its esclusive of your capabilty to live/survive in society)

I may not speak my mind out clearly as its just vague concept and quick thought. (Also, me no language/philosophy master or plainly "uneducated in expressing in english"? :P)

Please correct my words if you get what I try to express.
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Old 04-29-2006, 01:51 PM   #19
ruthmc
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

Testing up to Shodan means that you have learned how to do X number of techniques up to Y level of proficiency. After Shodan, you begin to study the Aikido behind those techniques.

This is why it is said that Shodan is the "first step".

So go learn the techniques, test through the kyu ranks, then start learning Aikido

Nobody ever said this would be quick or easy

Ruth
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Old 04-29-2006, 02:26 PM   #20
Koren Ko
 
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

Quote:
Ruth McWilliam wrote:
Testing up to Shodan means that you have learned how to do X number of techniques up to Y level of proficiency. After Shodan, you begin to study the Aikido behind those techniques.

This is why it is said that Shodan is the "first step".

So go learn the techniques, test through the kyu ranks, then start learning Aikido

Nobody ever said this would be quick or easy

Ruth
Well, will there be a efficient learning system that exist to help you end the kyu and basic techinique and start aikido sooner?

Life is indeed a waving sea for non-office worker.
Gonna learn fast enough before time quota runs out for this or force to stop to carry on other issues.
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Old 04-29-2006, 02:35 PM   #21
Qatana
 
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

There IS an efficient learning system. It consists of working at your own level and cultivating Patience.

Q
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Old 04-29-2006, 04:49 PM   #22
Chris Li
 
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

Quote:
My Sensei actually solidified my belief in a recent class. He commented to the effect that in Japan, new students spend the first year as an uke. Only after that time are they allowed to actually learn the techniques. He further commented that this style wouldn't work in America, where we all want instant gratification.

Again, thanks for your comments.
Never saw that in any dojo that I ever trained at in Japan - training there was more or less exactly as it is in the United States (except that everybody spoke better Japanese ).

Best,

Chris

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Old 04-29-2006, 04:50 PM   #23
Chris Li
 
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

Quote:
Lucy Smith wrote:
I have never seen anybody that doesn't want to achieve a new rank... I mean, why do you want to wear your white belt even if you are a yellow, or whatever?
I have, plenty of times, and not just in the kyu ranks - I've trained with people who trained for over thirty years before someone made them take a promotion.

Best,

Chris

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Old 04-29-2006, 09:18 PM   #24
RebeccaM
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

My boyfriend has been a fifth kyu for something like 18 years. This is longer than I have been doing aikido. This is longer than a lot of people have been doing aikido. He never got around to testing for a variety of reasons that range from deeply philosophical to outright silly. In our dojo everyone fourth kyu and up wears a hakama, and so he routinely sandbags people who're new. He had me completely confused at first - I knew he wasn't a beginner as soon as he attacked me, but it took me a while to get my head around the fact that no, he was not a visitor, he'd actually been living and training in Boulder for three or four years before we met! He knows a lot of techniques. He does good aikido. However, there's been one drawback in his apporach, and that is his knowledge is spotty. Testing forces you to work on things you might otherwise not work on, either due to lack of interest or they techniques just don't come up in classes very often. Therefore, when preparing for a test, you're forced out of your bubble and must learn the things you lack the discipline and/or oppurtunity to learn otherwise. Testing is also a chance to see how you cope with pressure. Granted, it's not the kind of pressure you'd find yourself under in a street situation, but the pressure to perform is something you're more liely to encounter anyways. So you sort of cheat yourself by not testing. This is true for everything, not just aikido.

I say all this and yet I too am wondering what the point of testing is. :/
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Old 04-29-2006, 10:06 PM   #25
"New Student"
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Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???

Thanks again to new posters and repeat viewers/commenters. I do appreciate the feedback.

The general consensus is that I should "buck up", and follow the wishes of my Sensei/dojo. In the spirit of harmony, I guess that is what I should do.

It does (and will continue) to pain me that Aikido, or at least my brief experience with it, is so much like life in general...everyone seems to need/want some measure of where they stand in life. I deal with people who have more letters after their names (MBA, PhD, J.D., VP, Sr. Mgr) than I have in my whole name, and act like these letters somehow make them better than all the rest of us. I had hoped that Aikido, and my study of it, would be the one release/escape from this materialistic need for self-worth.

Hopefully, somewhere along the path, I'll find what I need to help accept it all.

Please accept my humble best wishes for all your future endeavors.
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