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Old 10-03-2001, 08:50 PM   #1
Suru
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Question Belt tests

The current poll asks if we think belt testing is good for aikido. I voted no, but I'd rather have voted "maybe".

Belt tests have been an integral part of aikido all over the world since the days of O'Sensei and his uchi-deshi. The formal belt-testing ceremonies have been apparently effective for years. I dislike a hierarchial system in anything, but I think students need to know the difference between a sensei and a white-belt.

The problem of sempai/kohai occurs when a person might have missed a test or two, but has been doing aikido longer than one of a higher rank. I believe aikido has a certain horizontal aspect to it (at least within the kyu ranks.) I think formal belt testing for kyu ranks is ok, but I think there is a better way:

A sensei sees his students each class and gets a very good feel for what rank his/her students should be. I am a 5th kyu, and I believe that's where I should be, not because I missed tests but because I missed many classes and did not advance.

What if the sensei just said after class, "Congratulations, Person X, I feel you have progressed much in aikido and you are ready to be an Xth Kyu. The only downside I can see is that this might make other students jealous. Jealousy, however, is a worthless emotion and no true aikidoka should possess it (or be possessed by it.) Just some thoughts from a lowly Gokyu, take it or leave it.

--Drew
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Old 10-03-2001, 09:03 PM   #2
Suru
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haikujutsu

Just wanted to post my new signiture
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Old 10-03-2001, 09:22 PM   #3
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I've said it before, but I think tests are important. They:
1. Are a way to say 'thank you' to the sempai and sensei who've helped you learn
2. Are a learning experience for and a demonstration to the kohai on what is ahead
3. Help you focus on what you are doing well, and where you can improve
4. I'm a show-off and I like testing

If someone is at a level past what their belt implies, then it is up to them to change it: test. If they are that good, they may get jumped a level, or tested in an accelerated rate. There is no need to just hand them a rank.

On a similar vein, I am disappointed in dojos that pass students on tests because 'they've been around along time, and well, once they are passed a certain amount of time...'
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Old 10-03-2001, 09:24 PM   #4
Mares
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I have a differing opinion and I know i'll get shouted down but i'll make it anyway.

I believe belt testing is important. The more afraid you are testing the better is for you to do it. I believe everyone has a fear of testing, some more than others. As a result, testing would force you to face your fear, to challange it and eventually with persistance overcome it. Facing your fears is one way to remind you that you are still alive. It gets you out of that "comfort zone" and challanges you. If you never get out of the "comfort zone" have you really lived.

If successful the euphoria experienced is overwhelming and is a part of what enjoying life is about, isn't it? However I admit if unsuccessful the depression can be just as overwhelming, but to overcome that depression can only make you stronger in character. Then hopefully next time you will experience the euphoria.

As for the sempai/kohai problem, if you "leap frog" someone becasue they missed a test and they're jealous or annoyed at you, then that is their problem. They have to learn to deal with it, not you.

those are my thoughts.
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Old 10-03-2001, 09:37 PM   #5
guest1234
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As for the sempai-kohai issue over time in Aikido, I guess it doesn't matter to me, not sure how it would be an issue. I've been in so many dojos, and been up and down the rank scale so many times, but it has never been an issue to me. I don't like 'mat instructors', if that is the problem you have with a 'junior' sempai...I just ignore 'mat instructors' no matter what the rank (usually it is pretty low, funny how that is ) Personally, I prefer to learn by watching/feeling/doing, and dislike a lot of spoken instruction.

But if it's just a matter of who goes first, who cares...I'm currently at a dojo with a philosophy that disturbs me enough, that I don't test for rank here. I've seen quite a few pass me in rank the past year, and it's fine with me (although I do envy the chance to test...sigh). I happily let them go first, and they know that if they didn't get it I will show them once and then let them take their four turns...but maybe rank means something different in your dojo, or to you.
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Old 10-04-2001, 12:32 PM   #6
giriasis
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I said, "yes" because I really find that testing is there to encourage people to aspire to something and to work to improve their skill. We are given a certain level of expectations and certain set of skills that need to acheived.

As far as time requirements, to me they are just a guide as to how quickly a student should be progressing. But they should not be given that once you get "x" hours you should pass. In my school after we have the "time-in" whether we test is still up to our sensei. If he doesn't feel that your skill meets the level, you won't test. However if you appear to progress more quickly you will test sooner. (the later is not done a lot though).

However to de-emphasize rank, we use the white belt/black belt system and we don't line up according to rank. The more senior student is encouraged to go first because they are expected to understand the technique better than the less senior. But that isn't a sanction for people's ego getting out of control.

What I don't like in testing and ranking is not knowing what is expected of me. In my old school, people would be tested and get promoted, and some would not be tested and get promoted. Some promotions were based on skill and some promotions were based on sympathy (i.e. "you've be around long enough so we'll promote you although you still stink"). This obviously created a lot of resentment on my part and other students. The promotions seemed up to the sole discretion of the instructor and no one knew what their strengths and weaknesses were. The worse thing was, if you asked, it was seen as "begging" for rank and frowned upon, and you tended then not get promoted. Additionally, there was not regular testing time where people were promoted at the same time. Someone could be upped in rank one day ahead of you and they were instantly your sempai and there is no real difference in your skill.

I guess the answer to this question really depends on how ranking is dealt with in the school. I feel that on the most part it is a good thing, but if you have it, one needs to take precautions to avoid the competition of egos among students.

Anne Marie
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Old 10-04-2001, 01:41 PM   #7
Erik
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mares
As for the sempai/kohai problem, if you "leap frog" someone becasue they missed a test and they're jealous or annoyed at you, then that is their problem. They have to learn to deal with it, not you.
You are right, but as someone who did the leap over a dojo's entire student population there will be unpleasant moments and their problems are made into your problems so to speak. Not that you can do anything about it but there can be unpleasantness. It's hardly a valid argument for not testing though.

Anyways, the one valid argument, IMO, that I've heard for testing is that we lack competition and as a result testing fills the void of putting us under pressure.

Still, there are many arts that don't test and somehow they all function just fine. If O'Sensei had come from China we probably wouldn't be testing.

Last edited by Erik : 10-04-2001 at 02:39 PM.
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Old 10-04-2001, 01:42 PM   #8
Erik
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Quote:
Originally posted by ca
But if it's just a matter of who goes first, who cares...I'm currently at a dojo with a philosophy that disturbs me enough, that I don't test for rank here.
Then why do you practice there?
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Old 10-04-2001, 03:34 PM   #9
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Because I like to practice Aikido, and I've also become fond of most of my fellow students and very much enjoy training with them. Many of the schools in my area are from the same organization, so just moving dojos doesn't solve the central problem.

As I've said in other posts, I think there are a lot of approaches to Aikido, and I have no trouble accepting there are those that are not what I believe. If it is what brings others to Aikido, it is good. But that doesn't mean I can accept those beliefs as my own.

As just a student, and everyone's kohai, it is OK if I don't believe the company policy, as no one will ask me what I think about it. But before moving up the food chain in an organization, you need to be able to embrace the core values; so until (if) that happens for me, I'm not ready to test here.
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Old 10-04-2001, 07:42 PM   #10
giriasis
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Quote:
Originally posted by ca
But before moving up the food chain in an organization, you need to be able to embrace the core values; so until (if) that happens for me, I'm not ready to test here.
Do you feel this way for all ranks including the lower kyu grades? I think I understand if you are a higher rank such as 1st kyu to shodan. I guess it depends what is demanded of you at what level.

Anne Marie
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Old 10-04-2001, 09:10 PM   #11
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This is getting off the original topic, but I'm not sure why it would only matter for ikkyu or dan ranks.
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Old 10-04-2001, 10:46 PM   #12
giriasis
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It might be slightly off topic, but since when did that stop conversations on this site? My question did flow from your comments which were your basis for not testing.

Why just ikkyu or dan grades? Simply because at least in my school more responsibility comes with rank. And as there is more responsibity I'm sure more committment to the organization which we belong might be expected. However with less responsibility there is the less the need for commmiting to an organization. I'm 4th kyu. I don't have any pressure to commit to the organization my school is a part. Heck, I don't even know what the "core values" are except for training hard and learning. So if I have a differing opinion on how things are organized or based, I don't feel compelled to forward them if I test for a low kyu grade where at a higher rank I might.

So that's why I ask. It's not a personal attack. I'm just trying to better understand you.

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 10-05-2001, 05:20 AM   #13
guest1234
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I guess it is just a difference in opinion on when it is important to understand the goals and values of any group you join, and whether you share them.

I love testing, but it is even more important to me to be true to what I believe in. Just my opinion.
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Old 10-09-2001, 04:27 PM   #14
Mona
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Hi all,
well, right now I'm against testing, for the simple reason that my first test is in a couple of days! yikes!
You don't think I could have improved my kotegaeshi lock by then, do you? no?
~ Mona
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Old 10-09-2001, 04:35 PM   #15
guest1234
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What, improve on perfection???
I'm sure you will be great, and if you do the best you can do, then how could you be better, anyway? Im sure your teacher wouldn't test you if you weren't ready, so good luck, have fun, and let us know how fantastic you were!
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Old 10-10-2001, 02:51 AM   #16
ian
 
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Quote:
[i]I feel that on the most part it [ranking] is a good thing, but if you have it, one needs to take precautions to avoid the competition of egos among students.

Anne Marie [/b]
Yeh, I feel the same about hakamas. Whether we like it or not I think a hakama is seen as a sign of being more advanced. In the dojos I've previously practised you had to be 1st Kyu of above to wear one. Now I'm running a dojo, but within an affiliation where you can wear hakama at any time. However I don't encourage people to wear a hakama if they are doing it 'cos it looks cool or impresses people (especially since if I had the choice I wouldn't wear one!) However I'm happy for people to wear one if they have commitment to aikido and understanding of the underlying principles (regardless of grade or ability).

Maybe the same applies for grading - those who wield their higher grade like a club have been promoted too high - such that they are even starting to impress themselves.

Ian

P.S. Colleen. Sorry to hear you don't feel comfortable with the philosophy of your club, but I suppose it gives you ample opportunity to either reinforce or question your own approach.
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Old 10-10-2001, 06:49 AM   #17
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Well, it certianly has given me plenty of time to look closely at an alternate view of what Aikido is

I do get a chance to live vicariously through encouraging others to test , and I am relieved I could overcome the temptation to ignore my beliefs for a while in order not to give up testing.

I was thinking about why I enjoy it so much (other than my natural inclination to entertain) and I think it is because of my early testing experiences, something we all might not be aware of in our own dojos: it was after my first (12th kyu) test, which was essentially questions on ettiquette, sitting in seiza, standing in hamni and rolling, One of the more senior females came up to me as everyone was congratulating me (which was nice in itself), gave me a hug and told me it was a beautiful test, that my rolls were so round they were an inspiration to her to work on her ukemi (figure the odds that that was actually true). I always make it a point to mention something good from the test when I congratulate each testee after class, especially the beginners. I'm enough of a beginner myself to know we already are reliving every mistake. So in my somewhat primitive brain I associate testing with a very positive reaction from my classmates afterward. Who wouldn'[t want to test to get more of that?
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Old 10-10-2001, 07:20 AM   #18
ranZ
 
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On hakama, isn't it strange that O-Sensei actually required everybody to wear hakama in his dojo, from zero to whatever level.

got this from aikidofaq.com

Mitsugi Saotome Sensei, "The Principles Of Aikido" :"When I was uchi deshi to O Sensei, everyone was required to wear a hakama for practice, beginning with the first time they stepped on the mat. There were no restrictions on the type of hakama you could wear then, so the dojo was a very colorful place. One saw hakama of all sorts, all colors and all qualities, from kendo hakama, to the striped hakama used in Japanese dance, to the costly silk hakama called sendai-hira. I imagine that some beginning student caught the devil for borrowing his grandfather's expensive hakama, meant to be worn only for special occasions and ceremonies, and wearing out its knees in suwariwaza practice."


The reason that it's ok for students below sho-dan to not use hakama was because of it's scarcity, back in pre-war Japan. It was intended to be a temporary policy to avoid expenses.

Some philosophy behind hakama :
"They symbolize the seven virtues of budo," O Sensei said. "These are jin (benevolence), gi (honor or justice), rei (courtesy and etiquette), chi (wisdom, intelligence), shin (sincerity), chu (loyalty), and koh (piety). We find these qualities in the distinguished samurai of the past. The hakama prompts us to reflect on the nature of true bushido. Wearing it symbolizes traditions that have been passed down to us from generation to generation. Aikido is born of the bushido spirit of Japan, and in our practice we must strive to polish the seven traditional virtues."
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Old 10-12-2001, 05:16 PM   #19
Mona
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Quote:
Originally posted by ca

I'm sure your teacher wouldn't test you if you weren't ready, so good luck, have fun, and let us know how fantastic you were!

YAY! I DID IT! not exactly with flying colors, but I passed my gokyu! ;-))
My kokuyhos were great, but all of my ikkyo ura moves weren't that good. Naturally, I got a 100% of correct answers on the theory test.
Still, it was sooooooo exhausting! And the 'guests' watching every move didn't make things any easier (that, and the rest of the class who were peeking on us...)...hehehe.
Thanks for the encouragement hon!

Blessings,
Mona
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Old 10-12-2001, 05:34 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mona



YAY! I DID IT! not exactly with flying colors, but I passed my gokyu! ;-))
My kokuyhos were great, but all of my ikkyo ura moves weren't that good. Naturally, I got a 100% of correct answers on the theory test.
Still, it was sooooooo exhausting! And the 'guests' watching every move didn't make things any easier (that, and the rest of the class who were peeking on us...)...hehehe.
Thanks for the encouragement hon!

Blessings,
Mona
Congratulations !
I, too, passed my 5th kyu test recently, and I know what you mean about ikkyo ura.

A common 5th kyu issue ?
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Old 10-12-2001, 06:32 PM   #21
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Mona---that is GREAT! And naturally all the theory questions right...that is fantastic...

Congratulations also to you, Aleksey. Personally, I think ikkyo period (omote or ura, any attack or variation) has as its sole purpose to remind us this is an open ended study subject
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Old 10-13-2001, 08:13 AM   #22
ranZ
 
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Congrats to Mona & Shihonage!
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Old 10-13-2001, 12:16 PM   #23
Jetcar
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belt testing

Just wondering...my sensei has a pretty basic statement about rank and testing. No matter what it is , "wear your rank". On that note, heading into my first belt test, I don't feel worthy of the club's aikido, like I'm doing it justice. I'm very new to aikido, having done Judo and Jujitsu, and feel this is the best path for me. We stress "ki" in our technique, and I'm a big strong bull, , so I'm still battling my ego with strength vs. harmony, when practicing the techniques. I like what is going on with me, (spiritually) and I'm feeling like a belt test now would only do the club dishonour. I believe that some of my feelings touch on statements on previous posts. The aikido has been changing me for the better in more ways than one, and the belt testing is not important to me at this point. So why am I so nervous, and worried?? I have graded in more intense and demanding situations but this upcoming test (6th kyu) is keeping me up nights for the reasons mentioned above. Is this normal to feel this anxiety? My sensei is clear about failing students, and he will do it. That doesn't worry me either. I want to learn. If I don't know what is going on, then I don't deserve the rank, right? Anyways , thanks for reading and if it made any sense then any replies or input would be welcome.
Thanks,
Jetcar
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Old 10-13-2001, 12:52 PM   #24
Mona
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Quote:
Originally posted by ca
Mona---that is GREAT!
Personally, I think ikkyo period (omote or ura, any attack or variation) has as its sole purpose to remind us this is an open ended study subject
Thanks Col'!
You're very wise, you know?

Still, it was kind of embarrassing when ikkyo ura just wouldn't work, and everyone was watching, as I was sweating and all red.
But you're right.
As in the words of my sensei himself: "There are black belt students who still don't know what Aikido is."

*Hugs*
Mona
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Old 10-14-2001, 12:38 AM   #25
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Carl,

It would be unnatural if you weren't nervous, but hopefully some of this will help: one of our sandans was using his class to help kyu students due to test to brush up/clear up questions on techniques on their tests. You could tell as he progressed throught the class that seeing some of the higher kyu techniques the 5th and 6th kyu testees were getting stressed. At the end, the instuctor made some general comments about testing, and that the lower kyus shouldn't worry that they were not at the level of the higher kyus; "we look for different things out of each level," he said, "for 6th kyu, if we (the grading committee) can be reasonably sure what technique you are doing, that's about what we expect..."

You are probably being hard on yourself based on the levels you held in other MA, expecting too much too soon. Your sensei must think you are at least at (probably more than, hence the 'wear your rank' comment)the level he wants you to test at, and that you are a positive addition to the dojo, so he wants you to progress so you can share more with your fellow students...good luck!
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