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Old 02-24-2002, 09:24 PM   #1
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Unhappy undeserved promotion?

Hello,

Just wondering if any of you have witnessed students pass a test when you felt they didn't have enough skills to justify the promotion. Do you think some instructors can be a bit lenient promoting students at times?

Wondering....
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Old 02-24-2002, 10:18 PM   #2
guest1234
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I have a few thoughts when watching a test:
1. I recall how it was when I tested, and have a lot of empathy for mistakes and positive wishes for the one testing
2. I know I am not nearly as advanced as the one grading, and keep in mind I miss things, or do not know exactly what he is looking for
3. I assume a test grade is at least in part determined by what the sensei sees in the student earlier that day in class (or week/month/year) and not on only one moment in time

That said, yes, I've seen it happen on some yudansha and kyu tests I watched (on students not from my own dojo), but took into account rules 1 through 3, and figured I was wrong. I have not seen it happen on kyu tests in my 'home' dojo, and I think that is due to rule #3 being better utilized by me in my 'grading' of performance.

I will say, however, that I have seen more than one student at various ranks that I wonder how they got there, and I can only assume that some senseis promote at one time or another based on 'time in grade'. But it is their right to do so, and I don't waste too much time or energy on others' rank.
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Old 02-24-2002, 11:09 PM   #3
Edward
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It happens quite too often in Aikido. It is frustrating, but due to the very nature of Aikido. Tests are decided basically on minimum training hours, not on skills at most dojos.

However, as you said, I see sometimes students whose technic is inferior to their rank. But since I am not the only one to see that, and since people tend to talk about what they see, then it's fine with me. I personally prefer to be in the opposite situation where others believe that my technique is better than what is expected for my rank.

Cheers,
Edward
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Old 02-24-2002, 11:27 PM   #4
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Hey, Edward, you take a cynical pill today or what ?

I'd say most dojo's have minimum class hours for test qualification, but not that they promote once someone reaches the minimum. Even those that I think made it on 'time in grade' I think probably were way past the minimum when they got promoted. But I've not been everywhere
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Old 02-25-2002, 12:39 AM   #5
Edward
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Cynical, me? No way

Well, most of the dojos I know judge the students by their performance in the class, and of course finishing the minimum required hours. The test itself is just a formality. Some sort of a demonstration which gives the participants the rush of adrenaline needed from time to time, since there is no competition.
Unless the student does really really bad during the test, it is unlikely that he will fail.

Of course Shodan ++ tests are a different story, but still...

However, I have devised a way to deal with these undeserving students. I just train very very seriously and hardly when we are partnered together. Usually they will try to avoid me like pest in the future.

Cheers,
Edward
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Old 02-25-2002, 01:38 AM   #6
Tim Griffiths
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Who cares what other people's gradings look like?

It all evens out by 5th - 6th dan anyway.

Tim

If one makes a distinction between the dojo and the battlefield, or being in your bedroom or in public, then when the time comes there will be no opportunity to make amends. (Hagakure)
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Old 02-25-2002, 06:11 AM   #7
ian
 
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I think the reason for awarding grades at Kyu level is slightly different to that at Dan grade.

I've often seen Kyu grades been awarded where the ability wasn't sufficient. However I believe this is usually to encourage someone (especially younger people) who have been working particularly hard or a long time, but still cannot do it well.

To me these gradings are a way of putting the techniques in a formal order and helping people to think - yes, I CAN do these techniques 'cos I graded for them. This is particularly important in Aikido, where no-one ever feels they have mastered a technique. If gradings help to encourage people to advance, I think that's OK.

However, Dan gradings (and 1st kyu) are more about what that grade would mean to other students (i.e. it gives them authority) and therefore I would not think that such gradings be awarded lightly.

Ian
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Old 02-25-2002, 02:36 PM   #8
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Another consideration; the Kyu tests are more a teaching reference for some sensei than 'skill tests'. The fact is as mudansha you're less than a beginner, what do you expect. The basics MUST be in place by shodan, so yeah the tests are serious, however.. if you have trained diligently for a certain period of time, and still can't show a clue about certain particular techniques, then there's something missing .. in the instruction! So, kyu tests are a reality check for sensei, and sometimes the answer is evident and there's no need to frustrate the student with a failure on their test. It'll be corrected soon enough.
here's some anonymous advice don't sweat any other persons tests than your own
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Old 02-25-2002, 02:40 PM   #9
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undeserved ranks

I have seen people at seminars and thought "how the heck did you get to be a (brown belt, whatever)" also. But then, it kind of depends on what the instructor's or organizations' concept of rank is. USAF dojos seem to require quite a bit of time and/or knowledge for a given kyu rank compared with, say, what I've heard about Hombu. So a 2th kyu from one place may not equal a 2th kyu from some other place.

Also agree with Anne in that I am not the best judge, and might be focusing on what I think is expertise (say its precise technique) and missing or neglecting some other aspect (flow, responsive flexibility, good ukemi, whatever).

And I've heard of Dan promotions (esp above nidan) being primarily political, more to do with what you have done for aikido or your sensei, than one's technical ability.

I suppose there might be some corruption and favoritism out there, but I haven't seen it, not with rank promotion, at least.
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Old 02-25-2002, 03:36 PM   #10
guest1234
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It's Colleen, actually, don't think Anne would appreciate the mistake in identity ...

I wouldn't take the comparison in ranks across dojo/affiliation lines, it just gets too complicated: one dojo I was in required suwariwaza, weapons and breakfalls by 6th kyu, others much later...too hard to judge. No, my 'should-sensei-be-drug-tested?' comparisons are from students within the same dojo, at the same rank, but no where near the same ability (sometimes more time in grade in the less capable individual) based on months (over a year) of observation. But, again, I'm sure he had a reason... and it doesn't affect me, anyway, so it's just a little bit of wonder for slow afternoons
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Old 03-03-2002, 09:14 PM   #11
Reuben
 
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Most definitely.

There are tons of 2nd dans here who don't somehow meet the standard. My Sensei is a very lenient one and if you ask for a test, he will give it to you though he'll give hints on whether he thinks u're ready. But if u insist, he'll upgrade you and i have not seen someone being failed.

I know of a 2nd dan who could not differentiate between san shu and sankyo although the teacher explained what it meant in English. My sensei was just sitting there hoping he would realise his mistake but he went on for 5 mins performing sankyo before he decided enough was enough. And I don't think it's right to consider ikkyo, nikyo and sankyo as three techniques. But ok this may be due to nerves or misunderstanding, but when it came to the jiyu waza, it was totally horrible. They are supposed to deal with 2 attackers and he constantly was being open to attack from the other one and you could see the ukes politely waiting for him to respond. one time i even caught the guy looking around for his other uke! My sensei also got fedup and told the ukes to attack harder, the guy being tested got flustered and ended up being 'hit' several times if not the ukes pretending to miss through his 'deft' techniques.

I don't mean to degrade the guy but I think you should only take the test when u reach the standard. in my case, it would be when my sensei says, 'hey Reuben, are u taking the upcoming test?'

However due to certain local politics here that i dare not mention, many ppl are given political dan grades even though they may not have reached the level of mastery required. So that's my 2 cents.
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Old 03-04-2002, 03:56 AM   #12
erikmenzel
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Simply ask why does it matter anyway??[list=1][*]Is it important for you to know what rank other people claim?[*]Is it important to you to compare your own rank to that of others?[/list=1]

Erik Jurrien Menzel
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Personal:www.kuipers-menzel.com
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Old 03-04-2002, 05:54 AM   #13
Ghost Fox
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Quote:
Originally posted by erikknoops
Simply ask why does it matter anyway??
It matters because, like other Aikidoka, I have dedicated thousands of hours to my art. Literally, my blood, sweet and tears have been offered to the mat, in exchange for a glimpse into what is Aikido. I go to sleep with wazas on the brain, and I visualize perfect Randoris during meditation practice.

Because people like that cheapen the art. Because as an Aikidoka that person becomes representative of Aikido and of our school.

Because I love Aikido, and I want to make sure it retains it standing as budo, and not become a black belt factory like Tiger Shuman's Karate.

For the simple love of the game.

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Old 03-04-2002, 09:14 AM   #14
Richard Harnack
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The mistake in the assumptions about testing

There is an underlying invalid assumption about kyu testing - that there is an "objective standard" to which everyone's kyu test can be compared.

The least standard is to set minimum number of hours of training. However, it is up to the student to practice and train while on the mat during these hours.

As an instructor, I know what constitutes a "fair" exam in comparision to an "excellent" exam, and I generally encourage, cajole, hint at, brow beat, my students to challenge their abilities in their training. However, a "fair" exam still passes, though they may sit in rank a while longer before their next exam. An "excellent" exam passes and sometimes is "jumped" a rank because of their skillfulness.

In terms of dan exams, anyone who seriously thinks nidan is a high rank has never taken a sandan exam. As to "politics" being involved in the higher ranks, this is somewhat true. However, if the person does not do anything in their organization to further promote their organization, they cannot really complain about not being elevated past their current rank. I am aware of some highly regarded sensei who are happy at their present rank and seek only to perfect their techniques. To such, peer recognition sometimes comes, sometimes not, they really don't care. Neither should their students.

In sum, there are no objective standards, only practice.

Last edited by Richard Harnack : 03-04-2002 at 09:17 AM.

Yours In Aiki,
Richard Harnack
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Old 03-04-2002, 09:51 AM   #15
Jim ashby
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Sandan exam

Hi, just interested to know what a Sandan exam consists of in your organisation.
Have fun,

Vir Obesus Stola Saeptus
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Old 03-04-2002, 11:30 AM   #16
Erik
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Quote:
Originally posted by Reuben
I know of a 2nd dan who could not differentiate between san shu and sankyo although the teacher explained what it meant in English.
I'm afraid I would need that one in English too. What is san shu?

Anyways, this thread furthers my belief that we should just do away with rank.
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Old 03-04-2002, 03:49 PM   #17
Axiom
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I, for one, do not think that ranks are of any real importance. In aikido, as in all things, I'm simply interested in learning and perfecting what I've learned. I've passed up opportunities to test because I simply am not interested in having a shiny new belt, and a somewhat meaningless rank. Within my dojo, the regulars were all well aware of the abilities of their peers, regardless of what belt rank they wore. The only use for the rankings could be for interdojo seminars, but as previously noted, every dojo has their own standards of ranking. It is nice to be able to tell who is probably your sempai/kohai, but beyond that it creates unnecessary hassle. I've seen a 1st kyu lead a class just as capably as a nidan, and I've had 2nd kyu's who were infinitely better at teaching the techniques than their sandan counterparts, who were only good at DOING them.

Ranks are useful as a system of motivation for people who are not truly interested in what they're doing. Thats why they show up in workplaces, schools, etc. Numerous activities don't even bother with belts and complex ranking systems that you must be tested for(ballet, boxing, wrestling, the list is quite long) in which people are self motivated and get very good at their art.

Just my thoughts,
Alexander Magidow

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An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind
-- Gandhi
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Old 03-05-2002, 05:13 AM   #18
JJF
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by Axiom
Ranks are useful as a system of motivation for people who are not truly interested in what they're doing. Thats why they show up in workplaces, schools, etc. Numerous activities don't even bother with belts and complex ranking systems that you must be tested for(ballet, boxing, wrestling, the list is quite long) in which people are self motivated and get very good at their art.
Hi Alex! I agree with you insofar as Aikido being about learning and discovering rather than obtaining a rank. However I don't believe that ranks are only motivational for those who are week in their faith. In my opinion there is NOTHING wrong with having a desire to test for a new rank. It just shouldn't be the reason why one practices the art. And don't fool yourself into believing that there are no 'milestones' in those activities you mention. In boxing and wresteling practice contains fights and I am very sure that winning is far more inspirering than loosing. There is beyond any doubt a ranking among the members of a boxing club. With ballet I am quite sure that ego's are built along with the muscletone. Getting the good parts in shows - getting accepted as a student of a specific teacher - getting good reviews - getting ones name in neon. Aspirations and desires are an integral part of every humanbeing.

I believe kyu-ranking in aikido is a good way to trace your progress, provided your sensei evaluates your effort instead of just handing out ranks. I go to a grading and I get a personal talk with the three highest ranking senseis in my dojo. They point out what I do good and what I should work on until the next grading. That is a great tool. Kind of like an employe evaluation at work. Helps to change your focus and challenge your view upon practicing.

With regards to dan-ranking then I believe they are great guides as well. One should be aware of the ever increasing level of responsebility that comes with the grade, and one should strive to obtain the qualifications for the next grade - not the grade itself.

Just a point of view from a guy wiht an upcomming grading

- Jørgen Jakob Friis

Inspiration - Aspiration - Perspiration
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Old 03-05-2002, 08:17 AM   #19
Brian H
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rank important, but spirit much more so

The only tests that really mean anything are 6th kyu and shodan. The rest are just steps. I'm not a gifted athlete by any stretch of the imagination, so when I test I don't think I'm being graded for my embodiment of O'Sensei's vision of Aikido. I have never been asked to demonstrate anything I wasn't expected to know and all the post test feedback I have been given has always centered of "this is what you need to do to move on and improve." The things I struggle with now (timing, distance, posture, flow) are things that I was struggling with my first class and will be at my last. I have never heard anyone at my dojo bad mouth someone after a kyu test, although many have had frustrating ones. I think we all understand that if it was easy it wouldn't be a test and sometimes people just get an "A" for effort and a good idea of their own strengths and weaknesses.
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Old 03-14-2002, 07:31 AM   #20
Bruce Baker
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testing for belts

I think we all have seen some type of testing that promoted someone despite many mistakes, or poor judgement on either the viewer, the judge, or the applicant ... that is a give in.

After many thosands of hours of practice, I have yet to see the entire class that recognizes the difference between getting a promotion for a color belt in the dojo, and becoming a better person for it? Silly HUH?

But that is the general opinion of those seeking the magical black belt? The higher the kyu or dan grading, the more knowledge that person has, so it stands to reason, the more proficient that person is? Maybe ... and maybe not?

Take some time to watch a large seminar sometime, from the sidelines. Many of the advanced teachers suddenly become human ... working on weak points that they have trouble ironing out, getting help from other instructors? The eternal battle of thought verses deed become manifest in action. That is the struggle even O'Sensei talks about as he writes and gives interviews in his retirement years.

The neat thing about Aikido is that we relate it to weapons, to action, to motion ... giving it form and substance that has reality. Many of the Kata found in Karate was mimic'd and taught because it was traditional, without proper explanation, giving it the hollow knowledge. A knowledge that is parallel in promoting ranks without proper display application and knowledge? Still, teachers would promote students who could properly mimic them, and show some type of improvement that encompassed usage of movement found in newer, and newer Kata's.

In many ways the physical forms of Aikido can be mimic'd. I do believe we should have the basic understanding of what we are doing, and how it works. But as far as colored belts? I still believe that is merely a money item that was originally intended to be a confidence builder? Don't sweat the small stuff in the kyu ratings, it will either work itself out or not.

Your focus should be on how it works, why it works, and the reason we move the body parts in this manner? When you see this, the opportunity to see variations, strike points, and be the master of the technique will become apparent.

Belts are very pretty in the dojo, but a piece of black cloth is still a piece of cloth, a decoration on the person who wears it. What is the make up of that person?

Sometimes, that is why sensei's nudge, and push, and sometimes overlook some minor errors in testing, at least in kyu ranks?
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Old 04-01-2002, 03:00 AM   #21
Jorx
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My faaather always says that a belt is to hold up your pants...

My sensei always says that belt doesn't make a master.

And why be mad when you see someone who does so much worse on the exam than you and still gets the grade? You should be proud of yourself!

Man it felt good when on my last kyu exam after really giving my best (and being totally exhausted), the Estonian chief instructor pointed at us and said (way to go Pärnu (it's my city and there were 2 of us))

We'll see what my 3rd kyu test brings (in 1,5 months)

Jorgen
Estonian Aikikai

P.S. True - what was said about 6th kyu and 1st dan exam... (maybe even exclude the shodan?)
Others are just some points in the continuos flow...
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Old 04-01-2002, 02:36 PM   #22
jimbaker
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Just to keep things going, what do you think of demotions? I know of one Shihan who used to demote students who displeased him.

JIM
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Old 04-02-2002, 05:37 AM   #23
Bruce Baker
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undeserved promotions/deserved demotions

Demotions? Isn't that like the little train engine that couldn't? Chugging forward while slipping down the hill? TOOOOT TOOOT!!

I have seen it happen in Karate, but not yet in Aikido ... of course those with swelled heads from wearing hakama's at third kyu get reawakened when they come to LBI seminars, they are suddenly level with all white belts without their prized possession. (Ages 20 to 35 years old on average.) Older people are just happy to be on the mat, at any age, any rank.

Yeah. Maybe if there is lack of proper spirit, ignoring of basic movements, or even the overconfidence that is leaning toward haphazard use of technique to the point of injury to others ... a little back slide might not be a bad thing.

I don't mean just for the kyu ranks either.

Of course, there are usually underlying problems that a few personal conversations with sensei will address to the correction of problems, but some little trains need to be derailed or crash at the bottom of the hill before they get what other people are trying to tell them?
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Old 04-02-2002, 07:43 AM   #24
Lyle Bogin
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Another person's rank is simply a fact.

Fact: This fellow is wearing blue pants.

Fact: This fellow has a black belt.

Your own rank has meaning, but you should not expect anyone else to care.

I (me, Lyle) have trained in the past in arts with no rank, and no certification. I sincerely hope that I have the opportunity to earn a black belt for myself. It's true meaning in relation to others: when someone else asks "do you have a black belt" I can say "yes".

And I'm wearing blue pants.
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Old 04-02-2002, 07:46 AM   #25
jimbaker
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It's happened in the USAF-West, but only to Yudansha.

Jim
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