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Old 07-10-2002, 03:08 PM   #1
DaveO
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5th Kyu test: Too easy?

Hi, friends, me again.

I've mentioned here and there that I'll be taking my 5th kyu test in September. Having just seen a 5th kyu test, I'm not worried about passing it at all; I can't wait!

That bothers me a bit.

Actually, 'bothers' is too strong a word, by far. Maybe 'confuses' is better. Aikido testing practices have been in place a long time; they obviously work very well.

Still, when I watched the students performing the 4 required techniques, I couldn't help thinking to myself 'these people PASSED doing it that way?' Their technique were extremely stiff, slow, hesitant. Even to a neophyte like me, there was no evidence of Ki being used. To be frank, they looked like mannequins up there.

Now; I'm not saying anything bad about the students; they've done something I haven't. But when I asked my instructor about it later, she told me that yes, their technique was pretty poor, but that's to be expected for a 5th kyu test.
It may be my own contrary nature, but that answer bothered me a bit. It was like saying '5th kyu is the lowest test, so its not important to actually be able to DO the technique, just to know of it.'
My question is, therefore, what's the point of a test if you know you're going to pass it?

See, when I stand up for mine, I want to have to demonstrate that I know the techniques. I want to be able to glide gracefully into Katate-kosa-tori Koyu-nage Irimi Tobikome like the grownups do. When I perform the Katate-tori ikkyos irimi and tenkan, I want uke to go DOWN - not to lower himself obligingly to the mat. I want to know that I can do those techniques like an aikido practicioner should.

In short, I want a hard test. Hard, that is, for my level. I want to sweat with nerves and anticipation the night before, knowing that everything I've done the past few months has led up to this point. When I pass, I want the feeling to be "YES!!!", not "OK, what's next?"

It'd be great if, after performing the required techniques, one of my examiners said "OK, Dave - Show us your 2 favourite techniques that we haven't covered, please." (THAT would make for a good test, I bet. )

I like to think that I'm spoiled at our dojo - we beginners have 3 fantastic instructors, but so of course do most dojos. So why is the testing so easy? In my experience as an instructor in various fields outside Aikido, making a test too easy is a sign that you want a student to pass regardless of his or her ability. Without the very real possibility of failure, "Good enough" becomes good enough, if you follow me. The strive for excellence becomes unneccessary. To be totally honest, while I love Aikido and struggle day by day to get better at it, (it's the struggle that's fun - you may have already guessed that I like it hard. LOL) I don't really want to wait for my shodan test for it to become difficult. A beginner is a beginner, true, but this beginner wants to know how to do Aikido - not just to pass the test.
Thanks for reading this, friends, hope you can give some good insight.

Dave

Last edited by DaveO : 07-10-2002 at 05:35 PM.
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Old 07-10-2002, 03:12 PM   #2
Andy
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Why are you comparing yourself to others so much? Just train.
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Old 07-10-2002, 03:50 PM   #3
Bruce Baker
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Out of focus are you ...

I hate to agree with the previous post, as most of them are pretty jerky, but obsessing upon how good or bad you are either for a test or class is an out of focus view of where you should be going.

Tests are the least important reason to practice Aikido. So too is comparing yourself to your peers or other advanced students.

The shallow pursuit may have brought you to start Aikido, but to sustain your spirit there will have to be a deeper, more substantial reason to continue.

If you are amazed at the early criteria for testing, it encompasses a variety of simple principles not all of them being a pretty or slick technique. Depending upon who observes your testing as it progresses, you might think you have physically perfected a technique, but the panel will fail you because don't show full spirit and exhibit flexibility with transitional flow. It won't happen in the early kyu test, but time will temper your practice, knowledge, and eventually transitional flow.

In fact, you shouldn't be worrying about a test, just practice as much as you can .

Believe it or not, a year from now everything will look different, then a year later it will look different again, and so on.

Refocus, and enjoy this early period of discovery. There is so much to learn, then relearn, and relearn again.
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Old 07-10-2002, 03:55 PM   #4
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My 5th kyu test was the most energetic amongst 5th and 4th kyu tests.

It may not have been as refined, but there was energy, contact, and speed.
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Old 07-10-2002, 04:35 PM   #5
opherdonchin
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Wink Assessing your own aikido

So, I agree that it's best not to focus on tests and probably when you are 5th kyu it is wiser to try to be open minded and willing to learn about what a test is about, rather than being closed minded and sure what it should be about.

Still, I think that there is more interest in this post than this initial, knee-jerk, aiki gives it credit for. I guess I find myself wanting to tell Dave that his situation (where he sees people around him that may or may not seem to have earned their rank) is one which is part of life in AiKiDo. It is a real, and honest, frustration that one deals with year after year even, in my experience, in the best dojos. Similarly, the feeling that I would like my AiKiDo to be perfect now is a common feeling not only among beginners but for aikidoka at all levels.

It's true what other people said: these feelings are not so important and training is the only important thing. On the other hand, I would also add that part of training is facing these feelings, wondering about them, examining how they help you and how they get in your way. They are important because they are there, part of the training.

Yours in Aiki
Opher
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Old 07-10-2002, 07:49 PM   #6
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I was very nervous about my 5th kyu test mostly because I was afraid of failing. I didn't fail and later I realized that my Senseis wouldn't even have let me test if they thought I couldn't do it. As for people who don't look like they should be allowed to pass their 5th kyu test, I was almost one of them. I did alright but great. I was able to get my sister to video tape it and I'm now able to look and actually see all of my mistakes (it made a big difference to see my flaws myself compared to the people telling me over and over again I realize, "oh my! I really AM bending over too far, etc...). Now that I see the weaknesses, I know what I need to work harder on. I think that's just 1 purpose for 5th kyu.

Robyn
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Old 07-10-2002, 08:20 PM   #7
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Please remember that in most dojos the first kyu exam is really not about perfection - it is a rite of passage. Pass that sucker and you become a member of the dojo. Consider it a welcome.

A lot of people are very nervous of the unknown but once past it they grow into the grade. If you are really worried about standards then watch the second or third kyu grade - the first is really only about getting up in front of people.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 07-10-2002, 08:33 PM   #8
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I do agree with most of the statements that were written before, Aikido is not about the test or the grading. If it still is, then it is kind of a childish attitude, I hope I'm not offending anyone here...

It used to be like that for me... for the first two gradings, 5th and 4th. The board of instrutors that graded us do give us a hard time that time, 4 years ago. There was no standardized test, so basically, he was playing around with us. But, there was a purpose in this... well not "hazing", just tough love, we realize that power and strength is not everything.

We were punished by our sensei after our 4th kyu grading, because we didn't do poorly by the standards set by the organization, but we were doing poorly by his standards. We were not allowed to grade for about 1.5 years. We learn a lot during these suspension years. And grading were not that important for us anymore. The important thing was on how to make ourself better (not just in techniques - techniques don't interest me much nowadays), the grading and the rank was just a bonus for our learning.

Our test was standardized just last year. Basically during 3rd, 2nd, and 1st, there was no pressure at all, because our training were harder and better than the grading. Grading was just like an embukai for us (since we do a lot of those also during the years).

We are trying to educate our juniors that grading is not everything. Oh... and by the way, the standardized test is unbelievably easy compared what we had to go through during those 3.5 years. And yes, 5th-kyu still gets the benefit of the doubt, basically what the chairman of the board of instructors said for the 5th and 4th-kyu-ers that they test them eyes 1/2 closed. But htere is no excuse when one goes to 3rd kyu and beyond.

I'm now interested in uniting the mind and body, and the flow of ki, although I am with aikikai, my sensei and I also study with ki-no-kenkyukai (not shin-shin-toitsu aikido). I'm starting to discuss and teach this with my fellow aikido-gakusha and my juniors in order to bring the ki back in aikido in the dojo where I train.
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Old 07-11-2002, 02:27 AM   #9
DaveO
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Thanks for the replies, all; they're a big help. At the dojo today, I sat down and discussed it with my instructor for a bit, we came to the following conclusions:

Most of the testing I've done in my life have been centered around life-threatening situations - skills that if done incorrectly, can kill. The same goes, naturally, for my role as an instructor, in the Army and in flying. Testing in both those areas is tough and in some cases, harsh, due to the simple fact of necessity. A soldier can't afford to screw up in a potentially hostile situation; thats when men die. A sailplane pilot MUST make a good landing every single time - without an engine, he can't go around. My experience, therefore, while helpful doesn't give me the whole picture; I've never really run across an art like Aikido; the concepts involved are new.

I've been doing a bit more thinking on the subject, and wound up forcibly reminding myself that I'm a total beginner in this venture; while I readily admit to being a newbie, and am constantly reminded of the things I don't yet know, there's still the little arrogant whine going on in the back of my head that says 'But I've learned so much!' (I've been arguing with that little voice my whole life - haven't got it licked yet.)
As Mr. Rehse says, 5th kyu, I now think, isn't so much a test as an initiation - a small rite of passage into Aikido. A point that says "You now have what you need to start to learn." That's basically what Basic Training is in the Army - I'd forgotten that.

Anyway, whatever tests I'll take along the way, I'm going to approach them as if they were my shodan test - which it will be, eventually. (And the world will no longer be safe. LOL!) Train, study, practice, practice practice. Push, then push harder, then when I'm tired of pushing myself, shove. Too hard on myself? Naaah - just squeezing every last drop out of the experience and loving every minute of it.
Ah, well. Kyu or no Kyu, test or no test, I'm still gonna be showing up every chance I get, learning, watching, trying, enjoying. And, of course, getting rolled, stomped, flipped, smacked, squished, bent, twisted, whacked, poked, prodded, banged, bumped and tweaked into something resembling a practicioner of Aikido along the way.
What fun!

Dave
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Old 07-11-2002, 02:33 AM   #10
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Don't worry Dave - next time I visit grandma in Waterloo I'll drop by and see how you do.

You are of course supposed to do your best, put in your all. Just that worrying about others should not really be on your mind.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 07-11-2002, 03:35 AM   #11
DaveO
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Thanks for the kind words, Peter, but I'm not worrying about other people's performance. Or mine either. I was simply confused over the seeming ease of the 5th kyu test. If my 1st post seemed to suggest otherwise,then its my overenthusiastic keyboard rhetoric getting the better of me.

Last edited by DaveO : 07-11-2002 at 05:38 AM.
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Old 07-11-2002, 06:21 AM   #12
George S. Ledyard
 
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Kyu Tests

Quote:
Originally posted by DaveO
Thanks for the kind words, Peter, but I'm not worrying about other people's performance. Or mine either. I was simply confused over the seeming ease of the 5th kyu test. If my 1st post seemed to suggest otherwise,then its my overenthusiastic keyboard rhetoric getting the better of me.
As one who presides over testing I will put in my two cents. Do I see a range of quality on the sixth and fifth kyu tests (we start at sixth kyu)? You bet. The folks that even take the first test are a minority since the majority sign up, dink around for a few weeks and disappear long before they get to the three month point at which they might be able to test. So as Peter points out it is a rite of passage which makes the student just that much more a part of the dojo.

Occasionally I get the really talented or dedicated student who is really burning up the track in his training. I have had such people test for sixth and fifth at the same time. This is rare but I have done it. My teacher did the same with me. Other times, if their test was so good that it merited a higher rank I would have them test again the next time we had testing even though they might not have the hours usually required.

Usually I don't do any of those things but simply note who the movers and shakers are relative to the rest and make sure that they get training opportunities that push them harder. We have an "advanced" class that takes place once a week. There is no rank requirement but you have to be able to train hard and not get hurt. I have people who are only sixth kyu training in that class because they have already gotten to the point where they can train that hard without holding the others back. So I invite those folks who are really burning up the track to do more training.

If you are really serious about your training you have to set your own standard because the standard set for the average is not very high in most places. Take a look at the standard set for the senior students when they test (like 1st Kyu and Shodan). If you still think they are lax compared with your expectations you might look at training elsewhere. But if you look at the seniors and feel that they are at a standard that you aspire to then you are doing fine and shouldn't worry about comparisons with the others. Your teacher will make sure that you get maximized based on your own ability and desire.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 07-11-2002 at 06:23 AM.

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Old 07-11-2002, 11:27 AM   #13
Lyle Bogin
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Standards come from within.
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Old 07-15-2002, 05:33 AM   #14
DaveO
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Thank you, Lyle.

That was most helpful.

Answers are only easy when they're incomplete.
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Old 07-15-2002, 09:03 AM   #15
SeiserL
 
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I tend to look for referential indexes; Easy for who? Easy accordining to who? Easy in comparison to what? Easy according to what standards?

My compliments if the test looked easy for you. That may be a statement of your own assessment of your own skill. Try not to project your standards on others, because they have a right to their own too. Especially your Sensei. They have a reason they test and promote as they do, trust them.

BTW, I would not have passed me either.

Just train.

Until again,

Lynn

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 07-15-2002, 08:27 PM   #16
Jessica
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I think that a 5 kyu test is typically at a good level, I see it more as a way to get you comfortable with testing.

Jessica
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Old 07-15-2002, 09:04 PM   #17
guest1234
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Most folks know a lot of Aikido until they jump up for their 6th or 5th kyu test. Amazing how those fluid movements and wealth of techniques dry up until the command to finish is given then it all comes back in a flash as they sit down in the line...

You, I am sure, will be different. But I know that I knew a lot more about landing a plane until my IP folded his hands in his lap. I was pretty confident about my skill with a knife until I was digging shrapnel out of a leg, muttering at a medic to hold the flashlight higher and doing my best to reassure someone in a language I knew only a bit of... perhaps your flying and soldiering experiences were all perfect right from the start, and so too will follow your Aikido. But most of us struggle the first time, as much from finding our way without a safety net as anything else... I can easily recall all my struggles (in most aspects of life) and watch beginner tests with the open mind and kind eye my fellow students watched mine with. I have never not found something positive about each test I have ever watched.

Taken, perhaps not so much...

Good luck on your test this SEP, let us know how it went...
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Old 07-16-2002, 12:06 AM   #18
DaveO
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Quote:
ca wrote:
Most folks know a lot of Aikido until they jump up for their 6th or 5th kyu test. Amazing how those fluid movements and wealth of techniques dry up until the command to finish is given then it all comes back in a flash as they sit down in the line...

You, I am sure, will be different. But I know that I knew a lot more about landing a plane until my IP folded his hands in his lap. I was pretty confident about my skill with a knife until I was digging shrapnel out of a leg, muttering at a medic to hold the flashlight higher and doing my best to reassure someone in a language I knew only a bit of... perhaps your flying and soldiering experiences were all perfect right from the start, and so too will follow your Aikido.
Colleen, I don't understand your vitriol. I asked what I thought was a decent, thoughtful question. At no time have I ever thought, imagined or suggested in this forum or elsewhere that I was superior in any way - I just thought that the test seemed easy. I have since recieved good, honest answers from several different angles - exactly what I was looking for.
To further answer your hurtful response, my 1st experiences overseas were far from perfect. My flight testing was far from perfect. My 5th kyu test will be far from perfect. One thing I do know, however - when I step onto the mat for my test, I will not do so terrified and breathless, expecting failure. I will do so with confidence in my own ability and faith in my training and instructors. My test, therefore, will be a good one. If that offends you, that can't be helped. I refuse - categorically - to say "I am a beginner, so therefore I must be nervous and hesitant". I will do, as I have always done, the best I can.

Last edited by DaveO : 07-16-2002 at 12:09 AM.
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Old 07-16-2002, 12:29 AM   #19
shihonage
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Quote:
DaveO wrote:
Colleen, I don't understand your vitriol. I asked what I thought was a decent, thoughtful question. At no time have I ever thought, imagined or suggested in this forum or elsewhere that I was superior in any way - blah blah blah chomp chomp chomp gargle gargle gargle...
I see absolutely nothing offensive in Colleen's post.
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Old 07-16-2002, 12:57 AM   #20
Peter Goldsbury
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Mr Dave Organ,

As someone else who presides over grading tests on a regular basis, I agree with Mr Ledyard's post. I assume that your 5th kyu test will be the first in a series extending well beyond shodan.

In kyu tests, I look for increasing knowledge of the repertoire of techniques. I am also looking for incipient signs of bad habits which might need to be worked on later. The relative difficulty of aikido techniques, compared with those of other martial arts, is often debated in forums like this and I know from experience that there is quite a breadth of of understanding and ability, even at the lower kyu grades.

Like Mr Ledyard, I will watch students who show good promise and I have no compunction about going beyond the minimum requirements with such students. In our dojo, the numbers are small enough to enable the instructors to give a lot of individual attention and adjust the level of training appropriately.

On my last visit to the USA, I was guest instructor at a dojo and I was asked to observe a kyu grading. I did so but was also asked to examine, i.e., to request some techniques. Those who were testing had never met me before and clearly used different names for some of the techniques I asked for. But they were unfazed and coped very well: to me the sign of a good dojo and good instructors.

I also think that people practise aikido, and also take kyu and dan tests, for a variety of reasons, which reasons also change as their aikido develops. I am sure that as an instructor in the military you would also see this and also see the likelihood. I am still a conservative and see kyu and dan grades as the sign of a vertically-structured relationship between the student and the instructor. In Japan, it is the custom for the instructor to tell students when it is time to take a test and not the other way round. In some cases the 'shock' value of being confronted with a test NEXT MONTH is a good stimulus.

I am sure you will do very well in your 5th kyu test, but I hope your instructor will find ways to keep you physically and mentally stretched as your aikido develops.

Best regards,

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 07-16-2002 at 01:04 AM.

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Old 07-16-2002, 01:57 AM   #21
DaveO
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Quote:
shihonage wrote:
I see absolutely nothing offensive in Colleen's post.
I don't appreciate being accused - intentionally or otherwise - of superior attitude. Whatever achievements I've recieved in my life, I've done so by hard work, practice and study, not natural aptitude real or imagined. At no time have I said or imagined that I'm better than anyone.
I do not believe at all that I am being held back in any way, or that what little Aikido I've learned is any better than anyone else's. Once it was explained to me what the purpose behind the 5th kyu test was and what it teaches, my question was answered, and in excellent fashion.

All my life, I've had to answer to people who say "Oh, you think you're so perfect" simply because I tend to learn things quickly, and advance as a result. Sorry folks, but that particular accusation hurts, deeply. I had thought, when I wrote that question, that I would recieve positive, instructive replies, and I did, until Colleen's post. I realize (after cooling off, that is) that Colleen may have been completely unaware of how her post would be recieved. She may well have wrote it in a friendly and supportive attitude, and if so, I deeply apologize for my response. That is not, however, how the post read. It read - to be blunt - like the one accusation I desperately and continually try to guard against - the accusation of arrogance.

Last edited by DaveO : 07-16-2002 at 02:12 AM.
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Old 07-16-2002, 02:10 AM   #22
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Mr Goldsbury:
Thank you for your excellent reply, sir; I appreciate it.
I am curious about one point. You said: "In Japan, it is the custom for the instructor to tell students when it is time to take a test and not the other way round." Is the reverse true in some places? That would sound kind of odd to me - the instructor is the one who knows when a person is ready.

Answers are only easy when they're incomplete.
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Old 07-16-2002, 02:24 AM   #23
DaveO
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I turned my computer off, went out and walked around for a while, then came back to this forum with fresh eyes. I want to change what I wrote to Colleen. Unfortunately, it's too late for that.
Her post was not in any way offensive; rather the opposite. The one part that could be taken that way I blew way out of proportion.
Colleen, I apologise for my rash response. That your post unintentionally touched a sore nerve is no excuse for my answering is such a fashion. I hope you will be able to pass it off as a misunderstanding. It won't happen again.

Hopefully your friend,
Dave

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Old 07-16-2002, 03:05 AM   #24
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Quote:
DaveO wrote:
I turned my computer off, went out and walked around for a while, then came back to this forum with fresh eyes. I want to change what I wrote to Colleen. Unfortunately, it's too late for that.
Her post was not in any way offensive; rather the opposite. The one part that could be taken that way I blew way out of proportion.
Colleen, I apologise for my rash response. That your post unintentionally touched a sore nerve is no excuse for my answering is such a fashion. I hope you will be able to pass it off as a misunderstanding. It won't happen again.

Hopefully your friend,
Dave
Good show!

George S. Ledyard
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Old 07-16-2002, 03:22 AM   #25
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Quote:
DaveO wrote:
I turned my computer off, went out and walked around for a while, then came back to this forum with fresh eyes. I want to change what I wrote to Colleen. Unfortunately, it's too late for that.
Her post was not in any way offensive; rather the opposite. The one part that could be taken that way I blew way out of proportion.
Colleen, I apologise for my rash response. That your post unintentionally touched a sore nerve is no excuse for my answering is such a fashion. I hope you will be able to pass it off as a misunderstanding. It won't happen again.

Hopefully your friend,
Dave
The way I see it - 5. kyu (and 6. and 4.) is primarily about showing progress and the ability to grow as an aikidoka and as a person. Later the technical level plays an increasing part of the evaluation.

Therefore the test should not be easier for you than for the others - you should just prove that you can grow in other areas since the technical part is less of a challenge for you than for some of the others.

Anyway - you last post proves to me the ability to grow in a way that I would say indicates that you are ready for 5. kyu. Good going.

Finally I will pass on to you the best advice I have ever been given regarding tests: "Have fun".

- Jørgen Jakob Friis

Inspiration - Aspiration - Perspiration
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