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Old 02-24-2006, 09:08 AM   #1
Jerb
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Test Passing Standards - What is it?

I recently tested for a new kyu rank and I was thining, what should be the standard for passing a test? Should it be objective, in that as long as one can do the technique, then the student should pass, or should it be more subjective/individualized, i.e. directed toward the capability of the individual test taker? In other words, should students be tested based on how well they can perform (and their improvement since their last test) or should it be based on an objective level/minimum standard for performance that would apply equally to all test takers?

Any thoughts?
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Old 02-24-2006, 09:40 AM   #2
happysod
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

Alternatively, all of the above...

With the best will in the world, all aikido tests are subjective as the people doing the grading are going to have their own ideas about what constitutes a pass. You can use panels of judges to minimise the impact of this, but all you need do is look at the Olympics to see how hard it is to get objectivity on something relatively nebulous and non-competitive as most aikido gradings (or are shodo-thugs put in a pit to fight it out Peter?).

Most gradings I know of are set so that grade x = this level of competency in range y of aikido. Special circumstances (e.g. permanent disabilities or illnesses) may affect the range of y, but, at least to my mind, "student improvement" would still merit a fail if a certain level of competency was not met, but may factor if the tester was right on the borderline.
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Old 02-24-2006, 11:15 PM   #3
Tambreet
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

I'm far from an expert, but the impression I get from our dojo is that the tests are more demonstrations than tests, and therefore unless something goes horribly wrong, everyone passes.

The senseis won't let people test who they aren't sure are ready and thus the real "test" is in whether or not your sensei thinks you are ready to represent the dojo at the test.
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Old 02-26-2006, 10:23 AM   #4
Amir Krause
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

My Sensei recently indicated that in his eyes, improvement is as important as a certain level of competency as well as other criteria, such as dedicating and effort (related to the person in question).

To clarify, one should pass all the above criteria in a subjective manner as deemed appropriate by Sensei, or he would not pass the test.

Amir
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Old 02-27-2006, 05:36 PM   #5
Aiki LV
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

This is a hard one considering everyone seems to have different criteria. For kyu ranks, basic knowledge of kihon waza appropriate for their level. Just my opinion off the top of my head
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Old 02-27-2006, 06:03 PM   #6
aikidoc
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

I look at several things:
1. Do they know the technique?
2. Do they perform it at a level approximating where their grade is-good kihon waza.
3. I also look at posture, distancing, relaxation (if there is such a thing on a test), martial presence, control, extension, etc.

Obviously, they are somewhat subjective but its a starting point.
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Old 03-02-2006, 04:45 AM   #7
kohaku
 
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

Quote:
Jordan McClure wrote:
I'm far from an expert, but the impression I get from our dojo is that the tests are more demonstrations than tests, and therefore unless something goes horribly wrong, everyone passes.

The senseis won't let people test who they aren't sure are ready and thus the real "test" is in whether or not your sensei thinks you are ready to represent the dojo at the test.
i agree with this point, if a student fails a test than the sensei has not done their job right, students should only be put forward or selected for the test because the sensei know that they are ready for that grade. if they fail than the sensei has also failed in not being aware of his own students capability (obviously there are exceptions to this, and do not claim that all failures are due to the sensei in question). in relation to the other point, the tests i feel are a bit more tailored to the student, and one has to look at the broader side of things to what that student has had to do to achieve where they are. not everyone is naturally talented at aikido and if testing was done on technique ability alone there would be far less aikidoka then there is now.

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Old 03-06-2006, 04:00 PM   #8
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

Drew wrote "not everyone is naturally talented at aikido and if testing was done on technique ability alone there would be far less aikidoka then there is now."

I suppose this is where I was going with my original question. It doesn't seem to me that testing can be based on technique alone: it must be an objective standard relating to actual techniques but a subjective standard as to whether the student testing is performing the technique at a level appropriate to them as an individual.

Small thread but interesting comments.
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Old 03-07-2006, 03:26 PM   #9
tarik
 
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

Quote:
Jeffrey Erb wrote:
Any thoughts?
The standard depends entirely on the person(s) judging the exams. Once you've decided to accept rank from someone, you have to trust that they're making the right decision, otherwise, why accept the rank?

Tarik Ghbeish
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Old 03-07-2006, 03:55 PM   #10
bratzo_barrena
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

I really don't agree with this testing. I don't consider that a one-day test can be used to evaluate your skills/improvement in Aikido. I think every class is a test and you just learn.
I specially don't agree with the testing system with the fact that ALMOST no one ever fails the test, so you can see shodan, nidan, sandan, or higher degrees don't don't know what they do, and have less knowledge than a kyu grade (not all, but too many). But they passed the test...
I even find ridiculous that a teacher that watches his students all the time, all the classes, and--if he/she is a good teacher-- trains as uke and tori with them, needs one special day to see their students improvement.
Or this situation is worst, the sensei who comes once in a while, and who only watches the test and judges from watching. It doesn't matter how big a sensei one is, you can't judge just by looking.
Would be different if this sensei who comes once in a while trains with a person and then judges him or her. Then he/she can properly evaluate the student, but not from sitting in one corner and just looking at an exam.

So belts, degrees means nothing. What you do is what counts.
Now that I teach, I see three 'levels' (to call it some way):
1 you're just a student. (wearing white belt, because you have to wear something)
2 you're a student who teaches (at least one class), under the supervision of the "main" teacher of the dojo. (wearing black belt and hakama)
3 You're ready to open your own dojo with no supervision. (keep the black belt and hakama if you like. it's your dojo now. You make the rules)

I see my students every class, train with them every class (as uke and tori) and evaluate them every class. I won't need a special TEST/EXAM to see how are they doing. I'll see how they progress in every class.
When I consider he/she has achieved some advanced level, I'll ask him/her to teach at least one class in my dojo under my supervision. At that moment I'll also ask him/her to wear a black belt and a hakama. Once I consider he/she doesn't need my supervision to teach anymore, I'll let him/her know that under my judgment he/she is ready to open her own dojo.

Now in all these 3 'levels' you're always learning, even when you have your own dojo, you can learn from your students, from other instructors, from other students, from other arts. You never stop learning.

Just to clarify,
I didn't say that everyone ALWAYS passes the test. So I have also seen a few people fail their tests, but the problem is that MOST people that pass the test are not ready, and don't have the technical skill to pass. At least from my point of view, which could be wrong for other people, but is my opinion.
This situation is even more troublesome from shodan up, where you see so may people not ready (technically, understanding of principles, madurity, etc..) to be a shodan or higher, but they pass the test anyway; thus so many high ranks with poor technique.
Also, I didn't say students should not be evaluated. I said evaluation is a process that begins on the first day of training. Every class, every technique should be an evaluation. Instructors should train with their students, as uke and tori, and evaluate his/her progress in every moment.
So if after, for example, 4 years of constant evaluation, in which the instructor have seen in every class the progress of a student, Why would it be necessary a 20-minutes, 30-minutes, or 1-hour test? You've evaluated him/her for 4 years, why would you need a test? I think you should already know what level/degree/rank (whatever you wanna call it) he/she is in.
Now the idea that a test puts 'pressure' on the student, and he/she needs to work under that 'pressure'. Which is true, but I think is a 'meaningless kind of pressure', just to show that you can comply with some 'requierements', but is not the kind of 'pressure' that is going to make you a better martial artist.
I think training, not with the goal of achieving a belt, or passing a test, or having a rank, just training to be better, wiithout expecting other kind of reward but the fact of improving your technique, and the fact taht some day you'll be ready to share what you have learned with others, that makes you a better martial artist.
It's just my opinion

Bratzo Barrena
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Old 02-23-2008, 08:36 AM   #11
Matt G
 
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

(I'll make this short)
I think that a Sensei should and does know when a student is at a certain level, regardless of a test. However, even if their Sensei knows, the student in question may not, and has to prove it to themselves, also I think that part of the test not just knowing HOW to do a technique, but being able to know its Japanese name.

Please note that I have never tested, but have watched one.

"Master the divine techniques of , and no enemy will dare to challenge you."
O' Sensei
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Old 02-23-2008, 10:50 AM   #12
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

Quote:
Ian Hurst wrote: View Post
(or are shodo-thugs put in a pit to fight it out Peter?).
Hi Ian,

How did you know about that? Usually our gradings are very secret, hidden, underground things where we have to fight to the death and then eat the heart of our defeated Uke to appease the Aiki Warrior Gods.

Seriously though, for Dan tests there is a part where we engage in all the levels of tanto randori from low to high resistance. We usually do a max of 4 bouts at 2 minutes each being both Tori (Toshu) and Uke (Tanto).

In our case all tests have a set syllabus and primarily takes the form of a demonstration of techniques as well as other Aikido movement principles. Shodan is where the randori starts in addition to a demonstration element as an official requirement.

In our dojo I have added some personal randori requirements to the Kyuy syllabus since most of my students want to be able to defend themselves at some level from early on, so Kyu tests include increasing levels of resistance randori and execution of waza without foreknowledge of the attack (the range of attacks increases as rank goes up). In this part of the test the idea is successful application of waza and the use of reaction and adaptation to foster instinctive technique. This however is not part of the official required syllabus which must be met at a minimum to pass.

In our dojo tests are done to create an official environment of pressure where the student must perform accordingly. Although evaluation is done throughout, the test marks the watershed event as to whether one can really do what is required without constant prompting and correction by the Instructor. It also builds self esteem and confidence by placing one in a situation where one is doing an often public demonstration of what one knows in front of others who will know when one makes a mistake.

Just my 2 cents.

Last edited by L. Camejo : 02-23-2008 at 10:54 AM.

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Old 02-24-2008, 05:38 PM   #13
giriasis
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

First Caveat: It all depends on your style, organization, dojo and sensei.

For us, Sensei expects to not only see a mere demonstration of the technique at each level but some manner of competency and that level of competency is raised at each rank.

I don't think testing is meaniless, it gives an instructor a tool to gage his or her students abilities. I believe going through the test itself is just as importance and the time you put in over time. My shodan test was only, max, 10 minutes, but the mental and physical preparation that took me to get there, to be ready and to be to "show my stuff" in 10 mintues, occurred over a period of months.

At the kyu levels my instructor looks for:
5th kyu - demonstrate basic competency, e.g. that you know how to do the technique that is called for. Sensei should not have to remind you what the techinque is. Various errors are allowed, but not knowing the technique is not. I have seen people failed that this level. Mainly, they just blanked and Sensei gave them a re-test a couple of months later.
4th kyu - the above plus you start demonstrating more confidence in your movement.
3rd kyu - the above plus you start demonstrating more dynamic movement and stronger technique
2nd kyu - the above plus your technique begins to demonstrate power and intensity
1st kyu - you demonstrate all of the above plus knowledge of all the basics. This will be your longest test and sensei puts you through the paces to make sure you know your techniques from all your attacks. This is the time in which your must prove that you know all your basics - all techniques from all attacks.
Shodan - It's the same as first kyu but you only have short period of time to demonstrate what you know and you don't know what is being called so you have to be prepared for everything. Shodan is time to "celebrate" what you have learned rather than prove what you have learned. That latter is for 1st kyu.

Given all that, disabilites and ailments will be taken into account. If you have bad knees you will not have to do suwari waza, etc.

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 02-28-2008, 10:14 PM   #14
dragonteeth
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

Just to take a slightly different direction...but I've sometimes seen that a failed test can teach more than ten passed tests ever will. When you fail, especially if it is a public failure, you have to truly ask yourself what your practice truly means to you. Do you run off to some corner and pout? Do you get angry and say disrespectful things either to or about your teachers? Or do you dig deep, swallow your pride, and hit the mats to train again?

Yes, passing is a wonderful thing, but failing can be in many ways even more enlightening about one's courage and dedication.
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Old 02-29-2008, 03:53 AM   #15
justin
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

Quote:
Jeffrey Erb wrote: View Post
Drew wrote "not everyone is naturally talented at aikido and if testing was done on technique ability alone there would be far less aikidoka then there is now."

I suppose this is where I was going with my original question. It doesn't seem to me that testing can be based on technique alone: it must be an objective standard relating to actual techniques but a subjective standard as to whether the student testing is performing the technique at a level appropriate to them as an individual.

Small thread but interesting comments.
I also do not beleive it is based on technique alone, if you look at a BAF (british aikido federation) grading result form the sections are
Knowledge of Technique
Contact (KI)
Posture
Flow and Flexibility
Maai & Zanshin
Ukemi
Spirit
Manner and Attitude
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Old 03-14-2009, 06:36 PM   #16
Joseph Madden
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

1.) How long has the student trained for regardless of ability.
2.) How many students does your teacher have and does he need to pass bad students in order to make rent.
3.) How well liked is the student.

Some of you may disagree, but its simple economics and that's the shame of most organizations. Eventually everyone franchises themselves, even if they don't know it.
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Old 03-16-2009, 10:11 AM   #17
heathererandolph
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

Testing for us is not graded and everyone basically passes unless for some reason they cannot complete the test. All of our testing fees go to the national organization. Testing is a great way to motivate students, as well as giving them a way to compare themselves on their past performance and to see for themselves what they might work on. It also puts them in a situation that is more close than regular practice to a dangerous situation because they are going to be nervous and are doing this in front of an audience. It can also give the student a great deal of self-satisfaction. It is a great way for me as an instructor to understand how I can help my students in the future.

I don't think that the test alone gives an honest appraisal of a students ability as some people are more nervous than others and some students are just less hard-driving. I think it's important that each student feels satisfied with their progress.

Testing also is a great time for us to celebrate our achievements. We like to go out for dinner and congratulate the people who tested. Just taking the test takes a lot of courage and dedication to the sport.
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Old 03-17-2009, 08:39 AM   #18
Ketsan
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

Quote:
Joseph Madden wrote: View Post
1.) How long has the student trained for regardless of ability.
2.) How many students does your teacher have and does he need to pass bad students in order to make rent.
3.) How well liked is the student.

Some of you may disagree, but its simple economics and that's the shame of most organizations. Eventually everyone franchises themselves, even if they don't know it.
This is not always true, sometimes there are political considerations which means that students will never pass.
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Old 03-18-2009, 07:31 AM   #19
Joseph Madden
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

Quote:
Alex Lawrence;226621[IMGL wrote:
]This is not always true, sometimes there are political considerations which means that students will never pass.
[/imgl]

Right you are Alex,
People have also been passed because of political considerations.
Neither is a valid reason to pass OR fail somebody.
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Old 03-19-2009, 02:49 PM   #20
Kevin Karr
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

So many issues encapsulated in one question...where to start?

Should there even be kyu/dan rankings in Aikikai Aikido? I am split in two directions here, myself, so maybe that is better left to another thread (which I am sure the topic has been covered).

Since there *are* kyu/dan ranks and testing:
Lately, I have been of the mind that testing in Aikido needs to have some kind of objective standard. How this is to be set, I have no idea. I have seen such a great disparity in ability between two Aikidoists of the same rank that it makes me wonder if this is good for the art. This especially happens when comparing/contrasting between different organizations, which is understandable given the history of how Aikido was taught by O-Sensei throughout the different phases of his life.

The bottom line: Not everyone can reach Shodan or above no matter if they practice for 10 years. Perhaps not everyone can reach nikyu even if they practice hard for 20 years. I am thinking that if a person cannot meet the standards of a certain rank then they should not be allowed to pass that test, even if they can "go through the motions" and do all the techniques. There is a big difference between actually being able to make a person move and just going through the motions. The Dojo-cho should know the difference.

I read an interesting article a while ago with a Naginata teacher and she talked about modern martial arts and the concept of advancing in the art. She said that nowadays people have this idea that martial arts/budo is like an escalator and that, as long as they get on, they will reach the top. But, imo, this should not be the case. Not everyone can reach the top because not everyone has the same abilities or dedication. This doesn't mean that Aikido isn't for everyone, it is. However, one person might peak at Ikkyu while another reaches Godan.

Now, many people might say, "If I have been practicing hard for 10 years and my Sensei tells me I am still not ready to test for Shodan (or whatever rank) I'd quit!" This, of course, would be the indication of wrongful thinking and bad attitude. Because, If you think about it, no matter what rank you achieve, the training is the same (you just can't go to yudansha seminars). This is when one must ask themselves the question, "Do I love Aikido, the art, or the idea of wearing a black belt and hakama?" Also, this way everyone will have a more realistic understanding of their abilities in regards to their budo. This may be bad for business but serious budo and money never mix well.

I realize that Shodan is "just the beginning" but it is a serious rank and should be treated as such. It takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get there. It should be worth it.
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Old 09-21-2009, 09:23 PM   #21
Adam Huss
 
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

Our organization tends to test based on the person's overall ability. For example, some of the most talented technicians in our group have failed tests, and failed them for comparatively (to the average, I guess) small infractions. Generally, for the Yoshinkan side of our organization, there is a specific curriculum and subsequent grading system. Each part/technique of the test is given a letter grade and, at the end, the grades are averaged and must meet or beat the passing grade. Of course, the individual grades are subjective, to a certain extent, and tests are graded to the individual's talent level. Less leeway is given to a testing student when they are in the position to teach others (particularly sandan and above). In theory, our organization won't promote someone either to, or above, sandan (I don't remember which) if they are not planning on being teachers. I'm not sure how much that is actually practiced, but that is kind of the philosophy (or one can attain the rank but not a higher teaching certificate. I believe there may be a godan in our group with shidoin certification/title, for example). Our organization likes to emphasize 'off the mat aikido (OTMA).' By this, I don't mean street fighting, but the application of budo principles to daily life (which is seen a lot in our kenshu classes through 'homework' and projects given out). With that in mind, sometimes we like to test someone stringently so that they can really work to achieve a knowingly difficult goal, thus creating in them the attitude and belief that they can achieve something they previously deemed unattainable (ie, confidence builder). I don't know if I'm explaining this well, probably not as it often seems I am misunderstood on web forums due to my poor command of the written language. The end result for our tests, in my opinion, have reached a good balance. Students enter a test, not knowing for sure if they will pass it. The teacher certainly knows if the student is capable of passing...he wouldn't be allowed to test if he or she wasn't. When a student tests is usually determined by the dojo-cho who either directly, or indirectly through the Renshi/Shidoin of the dojo, help guide the student to a decision to test (with the occasional polite nudging for those who have the ability but not the confidence, or vice versa for those in too much of a hurry to test).
Hope this post didn't suck and confuse everyone!

I would like reemphasize Mr. Karr's translation of 'shodan.' It is our belief that shodan signifies the first rank of "dedicated/serious" student. When aikido becomes a part of the student, rather than something he or she does.

...that being said, our teacher has the standing statement "after shinsa shurio is called at the conclusion of a yudanhsa test, a piece of the testing candidate's soul should be left on the mat" (that's a MAJOR paraphrase, but the idea is still there, I hope)

peace
A

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Old 09-22-2009, 11:14 AM   #22
Phil Van Treese
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

Standards??? There are 2 standards I have. 1) is that the knowledge backs up the rank and NOT the rank backing up the knowkledge. I, as I have said before, never tell a student, or students, that they're testing. Either they know it or they don't. I look for what they know and sometimes I give them a situation that they haven't had. Then I watch and see how they do. Everyone learns at a different pace so promotions will also come at a different pace. The 2nd standard is that they earn the rank. I am promoting 2 students tonight---1 to sankyu and the other to yonkyu. Took them a little longer to get there but they EARNED it. That's a standard that has no compromise---rank has to be earned and the knowledge has to be there to justify the rank.
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Old 09-22-2009, 12:57 PM   #23
Gorgeous George
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

I agree with Tarik (that the person grading's reputation is at stake when awarding grades) and Bratzo (that no one ever fails).

I have a lot of respect for my sensei, but some of the people he's graded - and i saw their gradings - are not worthy of the grade (in my opinion); he himself is an excellent aikidoka, so i know he's not incompetent - i just don't know why he awarded the gradings. Perhaps it's like has been mentioned: a sense of obligation after having them perform in front of the class...

In my opinion, footwork is key in aikido, so if footwork is lacking/non-existent, then the technique is inadequate; seeing these people grading who have inadequate footwork is galling to me - it's a poor reflection on a great aikidoka that such people are graded. If you aren't able to perform the footwork, or suwari-waza due to bad knees, or not being limber enough, or whatever, then you aren't adequate enough to progress through gradings, simple as that - that's the point of a grading (in my opinion): there are certain things in aikido which, if you can perform, you are awarded a grade to 'prove'.

Also: my first post, so hello to everyone.
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Old 09-22-2009, 01:38 PM   #24
mjhacker
 
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

We don't "test" for rank in my family. I do test students, but the test is every day. There is no "pass/fail" formal examination, but we do invite students to demonstrate to share their practice with their peers and loved ones.

I am authorized to promote as high as 2 grades below my own. Sensei trusts me with this, and it is a reflection of my judgment and understanding of the art. Like Tarik said, whom I promote, and on what grounds, it is a reflection on me, not on the student. As such, it is also a reflection on my teacher.

The earlier ranks are usually a little more cut and dry (i.e. time on the mats, time in grade, improvement in skills, etc.). As a student nears nidan, things start to get a little less clear-cut. But an understanding of what each rank means, earned by coming up through them, has proven vital and useful to educating me on how to discern where someone is.

Interestingly, I've found that someone can be at shodan level in ABC, while being at nikyu level in XYZ.

I tend to be picky--inappropriately picky--when it comes to judging mudansha students, but have been working on this. Not only is it unfair to a student to hold back recognition, it is also inappropriate from an educational standpoint. I wouldn't expect a child to master Calculus before allowing them to graduate 6th grade. Yet I see some teachers expect their students to be of nidan/sandan level before they'll promote them to shodan. This serves to confuse the educational process. I also find it abusive.

I will often promote a student JUST as they're getting close to achieving the next level. This usually gives them just the tap they need to step over the line.

Last edited by mjhacker : 09-22-2009 at 01:42 PM.

Michael Hacker
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Old 09-22-2009, 03:55 PM   #25
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Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?

Quote:
George Howard wrote: View Post
In my opinion, footwork is key in aikido, so if footwork is lacking/non-existent, then the technique is inadequate.... If you aren't able to perform the footwork, or suwari-waza due to bad knees, or not being limber enough, or whatever, then you aren't adequate enough to progress through gradings, simple as that.....
So you are telling me that if an older person joins aikido who has bad knees that they can't test and go up in rank? You can do the same techniques from standing as you can in suwariwaza. In my dojo, a person with bad knees wouldn't even be able to test and would be 6th kyu forever because suwariwaza shomenuchi ikkyo and suwariwaza ryotedori kokyuho is on the first test.

That just doesn't seem fair to me......

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