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Old 07-25-2001, 12:45 PM   #1
Erik
Location: Bay Area
Join Date: Jun 2000
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Testing

Following the recent thread on spot promotions I've become curious as to when testing became a common practice in the Aikido world. It seems like everyone just assumes there should/must be a formal test but I'm thinking that wasn't always the case. My understanding from afar is that O'Sensei was rather casual about the whole thing. Or, am I completely wrong about that and formalized testing goes far back into our short history?

As a side bar, I'd be curious to hear people's thoughts on testing, pro or con.

Thanks!
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Old 07-25-2001, 01:43 PM   #2
mj
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Testing/grading always seemed a curiously 'western' thing to me.
Eastern philosophies generally have no start or end, so testing is not part of the concept. In MA we certainly now judge a person more to do with their 'grade'.

As for my views on testing, my only thought is that it should be done in the most alien environment possible, uncomfortable and hostile. Thats when you see if someone has learned anything. Not a very aiki way to see things I know, but I hope you'll see my reasoning. Yeah?
But that never really happens.
Well, you never get a 'grade' from it anyway!

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Old 07-25-2001, 03:04 PM   #3
Jem8472
Dojo: Norwich School of Aikido Dynamic
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Ai symbol

From what I have read about Aikido, it was orginally a martial art without any competition or grading. When it was introduced into the west, that is when grading came about because in the west we are more "material" driven so we like to have something to show for our efforts.

At my Dojo my Sensi watches throught out all your lessons and when he feels that you are good enough he will give you then next belt up.

Something that we do to help this is at the end of some lessons we have what we call one in the middle. Which is just like it sounds one person in the middle, and everyone else attacks one at a time. Normally everyone does the same attack but when he is close to giving out belts he gives us about three different moves to do in the middle. So if we can take an attack and use different moves rather than just one it shows that we are learning and can think quickly from one attack to another.
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Old 07-25-2001, 03:55 PM   #4
Jim23
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Grading. That word can strike fear in the hearts of men and women.

Personally, I have no problem with it. Also, I don't think any sensei goes only by the results of a test.

I agree that any test will put you under pressure for a while, but so what? You're still in the dojo with your friends. I think it helps you s-t-r-e-t-c-h a bit (sort of like public speaking).

I once graded when I had a broken toe (different art) and it was very difficult, to say the least. Anyway, I (and one other student) actually skipped a belt. I really think the toe helped - it at least helped with the kiai.

Jim23

Remember, all generalizations are false
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Old 07-25-2001, 04:09 PM   #5
Erik
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jem8472
From what I have read about Aikido, it was orginally a martial art without any competition or grading. When it was introduced into the west, that is when grading came about because in the west we are more "material" driven so we like to have something to show for our efforts.
Hi Jeremy and mj.

I don't know about this. Rank has been around a long time in Japan (certificates with kyu/dan a more recent innovation) so to say that it is a Western thing seems unlikely to me. We may have embraced it, but it wasn't created specifically for us in the West.

Anyways, formalized testing in Aikido may have been a Western thing and that would make some sense because it would have been a way to maintain standards for a group that the home office only saw rarely. I dunno, but I'm curious.

Last edited by Erik : 07-25-2001 at 04:11 PM.
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Old 07-25-2001, 04:23 PM   #6
mj
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This might seem stupid, I've not told many people this.
I was once in a Judo grading.
Full of confidence.... First fight, caught my little toes in a space in the tatami just as the other guy hit (kicked) my foot. Sprained ankle, had to retire from the fight.
Waited twenty minutes... took another shot.
I'm 128 pounds, next guy is 230, turned to throw him, sprained ankle gave way, he fell on me, two cracked ribs.
Sat a while with my arm tied up, went in again. The next guy, big army boy, leaned on me and it hurt my ribs too (TOOO) much, gave in (disgrace).
Went straight back out, 5 minutes later.
The next guy caught me...perfectly.
Went home, hobbling, in tears, consoled by my (soon to be) wife.
Wouldn't take a taxi, insisted on walking. Had to walk.
Best thing that ever happened to me.
All I remembered afterwards was trying to cover my weakness, and that last guy footsweeping me perfectly, it was just beautiful. It took me a while to appreciate though.
Beautiful.
Still don't totally understand why it was the best thing ever for me... but it was.

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Old 07-25-2001, 05:43 PM   #7
Jim23
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Quote:
Originally posted by mj
This might seem stupid, I've not told many people this. ...

Still don't totally understand why it was the best thing ever for me... but it was.
Well, you just told a few people.

I think when you go through a rough experience like that, you tend to lose the fear that you once had of dealing with that type of situation. And perhaps the reward after reinforced it. .

You sound a little like those guys in the movies who keep coming back, no matter how many times they're shot. No wonder you guys were never defeated by your neighbours to the south.

Jim23

Remember, all generalizations are false
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Old 07-25-2001, 05:51 PM   #8
mj
Location: livingston, scotland
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FREEDOOOOMMMM
Thanks Jim
I don't know if you're right or wrong, it's not something that's 'available' to me, I'm only 37, maybe when I'm 57.
I'm still a child, in fact... in universal terms... less than nothing.
It's part of the reason I want to do aikido.
It's easy to speak to people you haven't met.
See you

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Old 07-25-2001, 06:00 PM   #9
Nick
Dojo: Aikido of Greater Atlanta
Location: Atlanta, GA
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Quote:
Originally posted by Erik


Hi Jeremy and mj.

I don't know about this. Rank has been around a long time in Japan (certificates with kyu/dan a more recent innovation) so to say that it is a Western thing seems unlikely to me. We may have embraced it, but it wasn't created specifically for us in the West.
Though someone more certified can probably prove me wrong, I believe the game of Go (which, with its military strategy and frame of mind required, could loosely be called a "martial art") has been using kyu/dan ranking for a while...

Nick

---
Nick Porter
"Do not fall into the trap of the artisan who boasts twenty years of experience, when in fact he has had only one year of experience-- twenty times."
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Old 07-25-2001, 06:32 PM   #10
Erik
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Quote:
Originally posted by mj
This might seem stupid, I've not told many...snipped
There was this time when I stubbed my toe on the mat. It really hurt. And one day this mean guy pulled out some of my chest hair. It really hurt and it made me really mad. Then...

Never mind. Great story.
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Old 07-25-2001, 06:38 PM   #11
guest1234
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I've heard a few variations: that COLORED belts are an American innovation, and that KYU testing was not traditionally done. I would agree with Erik, that the main thing about promoting without testing is the size of the organization. O Sensei probably could do it (don't know if he did, I do know I've heard he promoted higher dans without tests, but I think that's pretty standard even in competition-prone America)---and probably did. Same for small, independant dojos. But larger organizations require more standardization to maintain the group's ideals (and prevent grumbling).
I like testing, but I think of a test in terms of a) getting to practice with great ukes prior to the test b) not really being high on my anxiety scale compared to say, starting someone's heart again c) a chance to show my seniors and my sensei I've learned and appreciate what they've tried to pound into my thick head d) a chance to show my juniors a bit of what we are all working towards e) a chance to show myself what it is I am getting, and where I need to focus my attention next.
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Old 07-25-2001, 09:46 PM   #12
guest1234
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So Erik, besides the obvious character building found in stubbed little toes and pulled chest hair , what do you see as testing pros/cons?
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Old 07-25-2001, 09:56 PM   #13
Jim23
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Quote:
Originally posted by ca

I like testing, but I think of a test in terms of ... not really being high on my anxiety scale compared to say, starting someone's heart again
Colleen,

Sorry about interupting, but this is the most sensible thing that I've ever read on Aikiweb.

Jim23

Remember, all generalizations are false
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Old 07-26-2001, 12:26 AM   #14
Erik
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Quote:
Originally posted by ca
starting someone's heart again
I had the distinct pleasure of nearly having to attempt this in the none too distant past. I was biking and came across a man who'd just collapsed (I found out later) with a heart attack. My CPR was 15 years rusty. I start fumbling around trying to figure out if he was breathing (he coughed) or if he had a pulse. And where did I push on the chest again and how many times was it? Right about then 2 women come walking around a corner. Turns out they were nurses which saved my butt. They did the CPR, I went and got help although I did hold their really big dogs for them when I got back. Yea, it gets the pulse moving.

Quote:
So Erik, besides the obvious character building found in stubbed little toes and pulled chest hair , what do you see as testing pros/cons?
Actually, none of that happened, at least on a test. I did know a mean guy who pulled chest hair but we sent him off to the Iwama folks. He seemed to really like them.

My honest most dramatic test moment was just before my shodan test. I was warming up and my uke did a toe nail swipe on my foot and off to bandage it I went. Meanwhile, my instructor, who was clearly way more nervous than I was, went ahead and started my test with me in the back room. Made for an interesting entrance.

I'm really pretty neutral on the whole thing as I see the benefits as mentioned and also would be fine if tests went away, assuming someone remembered to stress the technical form. I've had teachers where almost the only way to get them to teach technique was by saying, "gee, uh sensei, my whatever isn't really very good, and well the test is this Saturday and...." I guess the fear of a wayward deshi doing improv Aikido in front of one's peers will do that. So I think they do drive standards from both ends of the spectrum. I also think they give the dojo a nice rallying point, including those who are not testing. They seem to bring the group together.

On the other hand, the dojo where I hang out these days doesn't test dan ranks. We do demos, at least the last couple of times. The theory being that you've already shown the sensei you can do what he wants or you wouldn't be testing. I really like that process as it limits the sameness so endemic to most of the tests I've seen and allows some creativity and uniqueness to come out. On the other hand, we do run a very real risk of losing touch with building a good base, so I can see issues here as well.

Really I'm just curious how the process got started as I doubt O'Sensei ran formal testing, at least in the early years.

Last edited by Erik : 07-26-2001 at 12:34 AM.
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