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Old 11-18-2003, 02:12 PM   #1
Christopher Latkowski
Dojo: Boulder Aikikai, and Rocky Mountain Sokyoku
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Why Test?

i have done aikido for about 2.5 years and have never tested. i think ranks are a hindrance to the long term practice no matter what your goals are.
what do you guys think??
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Old 11-18-2003, 02:25 PM   #2
fvhale
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Shorter version:

Just do what your sensei asks, and keep practicing.

Longer version:

If your sensei invites you to test, take test. Maybe you pass, but since you are not attached to testing, you don't get big ego, and just practice. Maybe you fail, but since you are not attached to testing, you don't get crushed, and just practice.

If your sensei does not invite you to test, don't test (and don't ask!). If you are not attached to testing, it doesn't matter--just practice.

Peace,

Frank
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Old 11-18-2003, 02:53 PM   #3
Chuck Clark
 
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Great answer! The only problem I see is that many people don't have a committed relationship with a teacher. Trust is a large part of that realtionship and should go both ways.

In my opinion, that relationship is part of what rank is about.

Chuck Clark
Jiyushinkai Aikibudo
www.jiyushinkai.org
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Old 11-18-2003, 04:18 PM   #4
aikidoc
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Rank is only a hindrance if you chose it to be. Testing challenges you to improve your aikido and, although subjective, it allows you to document your success. Testing give you a chance to challenge yourself and to validate your progress. If you don't test and move-you have no documentation of your progress other than what you say or do on the mat. If you chose to go to black belt you need to punch the tickets along the way. You are not likely to test for black belt without a history of successful progress. This is being addressed on another thread in this forum by the way.
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Old 11-18-2003, 07:02 PM   #5
sanosuke
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to me, rank is a milestone, not a goal nor a hindrance...
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Old 11-18-2003, 07:12 PM   #6
Jeanne Shepard
 
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Passing a test can be a major high, when you've worked really hard for it.

Jeanne
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Old 11-18-2003, 10:25 PM   #7
Clayton Kale
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Not an option

In the style that I take, not testing is not an option -- unless you only want 10 techniques for the rest of your life. In order to progess you must test.

A non-MA friend of mine asked me when I'd get my next belt. I told him I didn't know, that I go to class and practice. If I go enough, my technique will get slightly better and the belt will change color on its own.

"Pefect practice makes perfect." -Steven A. Weber Godan Nihon Goshin Aikido

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Old 11-18-2003, 10:30 PM   #8
Nafis Zahir
 
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This thread ties in with the thread I started about rank. Now I must say that testing, as it is today, is a waste! I would much rather see people called up in front of their peers (Chiba, Yamada, Sugano) and told to demonstrate such & such, as opposed to knowing what techniques will be called and then doing them with an uke from their dojo who will take a fall even they don't control the uke's center or use tai subaki, as is the case with most test I've seen. It's really bad when someone of dan ranking has no tai subaki. Testing today is as ploitical as the ranking system. Check out the thread "Does Rank Really Matter."

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Old 11-18-2003, 11:02 PM   #9
Marty
 
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In my dojo testing is not about technique as much as it is about maintaining your center. My Sensei always tells us that when we test they know how our techniques look and if we are asked to test then it is of sufficient quality to test. The test is to see if we can still keep our center and do our arts while others are watching and while we are being evaluated.

On a personal note, I thought of testing and rank as a means to an end (I wanted to teach) so I did the testing thing to that end. My friend decided not to go that direction and he did not test for 3 years. Finally he came to the decision that it was time to test, and even though he was taking the first test with arts that he could do in his sleep and probably has, he was nervous! And I think that is IMPORTANT if we never test then we are missing a valuable opportunity to challenge our Aikido. After all if you can't keep your center when you are being watched by your sensei who you know then how can you when you are being attacked IRL?

Just my thoughts

Ai

Marty
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Old 11-18-2003, 11:21 PM   #10
Duarh
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Re: Why Test?

Quote:
Chris Latkowski (Christopher Latkowski) wrote:
. i think ranks are a hindrance to the long term practice no matter what your goals are.
Why are you asking the question?
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Old 11-19-2003, 12:47 AM   #11
BKimpel
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Quote:
John Riggs wrote:
Testing give you a chance to challenge yourself and to validate your progress.
That's the sole purpose of testing; a tool to evaluate your own progress and identify areas that require improvement - and that is valuable, no argument.
Quote:
John Riggs wrote:
If you don't test and move - you have no documentation of your progress other than what you say or do on the mat.
This just serves to demonstrate how little rank is tied to actual ability.

If you can't identify where a person's ability sits in your own organization (you are supposed to know your own syllabus, etc.) from watching them do Aikido (or feeling the techniques for yourself), knowing their rank won't help you. If you have to ask them what rank they have (or see paper proof of that rank), rank is being used as a crutch to avoid taking the time to assess their ability or progress.

This is also reflected in the way organizations handle students from other organizations. Very few organizations honor other organization's ranking and force students to start over (an utterly amazing concept in my mind) because they can't (or won't take the time to) identify what abilities an Aikidoka has.
Quote:
Marty Duke (Marty) wrote:
After all if you can't keep your center when you are being watched by your sensei who you know then how can you when you are being attacked IRL?
Come on, now you are entering the realm of the ridiculous. Does an attacker give you 3 weeks to prepare for his attack (maybe he does in grade school)? Does a bystander callout what type of attack the attacker will be using (possibly golf commentary, ‘Today our attacker will be using the 5 iron and performing his patented forehead smash!')?

The "stress" involved with performing Aikido under test conditions will never come close to the fear of being hurt IRL unless sensei gives uke a baseball bat and says, "really hit him - hard". Randori, and jiyu-waza will at least give you some of the dynamics of fluid movement, but it still can't match the fear factor of real attacks. Rank testing is on the bottom of the scale when it comes to real-world stress in my books.

Bruce Kimpel
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Old 11-19-2003, 03:18 AM   #12
happysod
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Clayton, you have my sincerest sympathies for the position you're in, not teaching certain techniques unless you pass their test is, to my mind, a form of blackmail and intimates a distinct lack of interest in students as individuals.

Testing, like any other form of assessment can be good or bad. It depends on how consistently it is applied, how objective it is and how applicable it is to what you're trying to measure.

If you're feeling is that a standard aikido grading is somehow linked to how good you are at self-defence, I agree with Bruce, you are mistaken. However, as a test of your knowledge and personal development within aikido, most I've seen do measure up pretty well. Why have them, again it's my opinion that it's attempt at standardisation across an association and many need attainable milestones to aid their training. If you don't like them, don't do them. However, if you won't test, don't then expect your dojo to make special considerations for your "ideals".
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Old 11-19-2003, 05:02 AM   #13
paw
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Quote:
The "stress" involved with performing Aikido under test conditions will never come close to the fear of being hurt IRL unless sensei gives uke a baseball bat and says, "really hit him - hard". Randori, and jiyu-waza will at least give you some of the dynamics of fluid movement, but it still can't match the fear factor of real attacks. Rank testing is on the bottom of the scale when it comes to real-world stress in my books.
Absolutely correct. Clearly and concisely put.

Regards,

Paul
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Old 11-19-2003, 07:16 AM   #14
kung fu hamster
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At another organization I saw a sandan test, they called a shodan up for uke. The guy who was testing for sandan was really psyched and he was throwing this shodan around like a bag of beans, I could tell she was hurt but she still kept going. Later she was crying and went to the hospital. When I mentioned this to another blackbelt he said "She's a shodan, if they call you up for uke you have to be able to take it." How do people feel about this? Does a rank of blackbelt automatically create the assumption that you must deal with any level of ukemi?
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Old 11-19-2003, 08:49 AM   #15
aikidoc
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Bruce: I agree rank is tied little to ability and I'm sure we have all seen cases where rank and skill were not well matched. However, documentation of your progress is necessary to move forward. I will evaluate someone on the basis of their skill if they have trained and not achieved any rank and test them appropriately since organizational requirements vary.

"She's a shodan, if they call you up for uke you have to be able to take it.

IMHO testing can be a dangerous and risky venture for the uke due to the addition of adrenaline and in some cases testosterone-especially in young people. I don't agree everyone should be able to "take it". Physical limitations or old injuries may make it difficult for someone to take tobu ukemi for example. Varying levels of joint flexibility, age, etc. all play a factor in someone's ability to taken anything directed at them. The responsibility for the safety of the uke is the person testing-i.e., you must have enough zanshin of what is taking place to adapt your level of technique to the ability of the uke. Is this what O'Sensei wanted-not to destroy the attacker? Injuries suffered during a test are generally a lack of control on the part of the testee-and this is a problem for me. I look for that person's ability to adapt to different body styles and abilities and to protect the uke-I would fail someone deliberately or repeatedly injuring an uke. On the other hand, part of the testing is to be able to take ukemi at the level of your rank. A sandan might be able to dish it out a little more than a shodan is able to take. To injure another says something about your skill and about you as a person more than it does about the skill of the uke. Unintentional injuries do occur. But over zealous testees should be admonished to maintain control and protect their ukes. I personally would not throw an 70 year old student into a break fall no matter what their rank is unless they let me know they can do it safely.
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Old 11-19-2003, 08:58 AM   #16
aikidoc
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Bruce: I agree rank is tied little to ability and I'm sure we have all seen cases where rank and skill were not well matched. However, documentation of your progress is necessary to move forward. I will evaluate someone on the basis of their skill if they have trained and not achieved any rank and test them appropriately since organizational requirements vary.

"She's a shodan, if they call you up for uke you have to be able to take it.

IMHO testing can be a dangerous and risky venture for the uke due to the addition of adrenaline and in some cases testosterone-especially in young people. I don't agree everyone should be able to "take it". Physical limitations or old injuries may make it difficult for someone to take tobu ukemi for example. Varying levels of joint flexibility, age, etc. all play a factor in someone's ability to taken anything directed at them. The responsibility for the safety of the uke is the person testing-i.e., you must have enough zanshin of what is taking place to adapt your level of technique to the ability of the uke. Is this what O'Sensei wanted-not to destroy the attacker? Injuries suffered during a test are generally a lack of control on the part of the testee-and this is a problem for me. I look for that person's ability to adapt to different body styles and abilities and to protect the uke-I would fail someone deliberately or repeatedly injuring an uke. On the other hand, part of the testing is to be able to take ukemi at the level of your rank. A sandan might be able to dish it out a little more than a shodan is able to take. To injure another says something about your skill and about you as a person more than it does about the skill of the uke. Unintentional injuries do occur. But over zealous testees should be admonished to maintain control and protect their ukes. I personally would not throw an 70 year old student into a break fall no matter what their rank is unless they let me know they can do it safely.
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Old 11-19-2003, 09:24 AM   #17
rachmass
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Quote:
A sandan might be able to dish it out a little more than a shodan is able to take. To injure another says something about your skill and about you as a person more than it does about the skill of the uke.
A very dear friend of mine was injured beyond repair in someone's shodan test. She had her wrist snapped clean through, and continued to take ukemi for the test because she wanted to be a good uke (?). She was one of the most talented nidans I have ever seen! She had an operation and could not repair the damage that was done to the wrist, and cannot train anymore. She tried to come back six months after the operation, but couldn't even hold a bokken on the offending hand. She used to do lovely iaido, and can't do that either. While I was not at the test and did not see it happen, I cannot fathom how the person who hurt her passed. The testing committe must have seen something! In any case, it is one of the saddest things I've ever heard of happening in a test. She should not have continued to take ukemi when she was injured; she should not have run out to take ukemi for someone she had never trained with before; she should not have been a fraction behind (which is apparently how this happened), but at the same time, she was a superb aikidoka, and weighed probably all of 95 lbs, and shouldn't have been cranked on so hard, no matter what.
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Old 11-19-2003, 09:32 AM   #18
deepsoup
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Quote:
Linda Morimoto (kung fu hamster) wrote:
At another organization I saw a sandan test, they called a shodan up for uke. The guy who was testing for sandan was really psyched and he was throwing this shodan around like a bag of beans, I could tell she was hurt but she still kept going. Later she was crying and went to the hospital. When I mentioned this to another blackbelt he said "She's a shodan, if they call you up for uke you have to be able to take it." How do people feel about this? Does a rank of blackbelt automatically create the assumption that you must deal with any level of ukemi?
I wouldn't assume that any blackbelt can handle any ukemi, but personally, I would expect any blackbelt to have the sense to stop if they're injured.

I guess it depends on the atmosphere in the dojo to a degree.

But yes, the responsibility to look after one's training partner doesn't go away just because its a grading.

Occasionally, where I train, testee's are given uke's rather less experienced than themselves, and the examiner(s) are specifically looking to see them excercising the control they need to look after a less capable uke.

Sean

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Old 11-19-2003, 09:34 AM   #19
ajbarron
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To Be Kyuless, or not to be!

Whether my title makes sense or not it did sound good when it popped into my brain even though I am neither kyu-less, or I hope clueless, although some days I do feel kyu-less on the mat and other days partially kyu-ed. I have read the contributions to this forum and feel the need to reply if only to attempt to clarify in my mind what I believe. I admire some of your very coherent discourses, so you will have to bear with my ramblings if you decide to read further.

What is ranking? What does it do and what does it not do? What does it mean and does it mean the same to everyone? Who should decide on when a test takes place and how long it should be between tests? Since the last question seems to be the easiest I'll tackle it first.

You should decide first if you are ready to test by demonstrating your technique and dedication in each practice. Then your sensei should help you really decide. Now your sensei might work within an existing framework of set hours etc. but ultimately she/he if he/she is worth her/his salt should determine whether a student is ready either technically or psychologically.

The criteria for testing of techniques should definitely be standardized within a dojo or associated group of dojos for this allows the sharing of experience based upon a common understanding and level of what is necessary for successful interaction. The other readiness aspect (the heady stuff: psychological/ethical etc.) is the responsibility of the sensei. He or she should set the tone/atmosphere for the dojo. What is the sensei and dojo trying to promote? You as a student have the freedom to buy into it or not. If you don't, seek out a teacher who fits in more with where you are at this point in your development/life.

In our dojo our sensei asks us if we are going to test. If we put it off too long he will certainly let us know. We then have a pre-test and Sensei then tells the student if he or she is ready to grade. Our Sensei also might allow a person to test and then put them on probation for a period of time before awarding them with their next level. This could either be to allow more time to practice or work on an aspect of their aikido that falls outside of the purely technical(i.e. attitude, respect, being a role model, helping promote the dojo etc). I believe the whole process is established to honor the development of the person and the ideal of aikido as a process verses a destination.

To work backwards now, I believe that belts and rank certainly do mean different things to different people. Now that's not exactly rocket science is it, just read the forum? To one it is a badge of their proficiency to show others what they have accomplished, to others it is their personal progress tracker, for others it shows their dedication, and for yet others their contribution to the art, in some ways similar to University degrees, some earned, some honorary.

Every time I test it allows me to press the envelope of my abilities , it sharpens my focus for those three to four months before I think I'm ready. (right now I'm preparing five months in advance of my next kyu test and twelve months after my last) When I have completed my tests I feel relief in that I can go back and really start learning those techniques. I still remember, just after I started Aikido, my Sensei telling some 2nd kyu students who had just been promoted that now they can really start learning the techniques they had just performed. (Now I realize that we should be always be analyzing and relearning our techniques.)

Why should there be ranking? Ideally it is a method of self judgment/testing to determine if you personally have been able to master the techniques, yourself, and your personal limitations. Does ranking mean the same to everyone? No it doesn't, but then again why should it and why does it have to. Are we all the same in physiology or aptitude? If you have ever worked the finish line of a marathon and seen the elite runners finish, and then the next four to five hours (or longer) of the others, one can start to appreciate that not everyone is equally endowed yet we all can find our personal way to cross that finish line. There are as many different types of egos in the dojo as it the real world since we don't live in some utopian cult; but that was another forum wasn't it! Why do some dojos have colored belts, some not; well it works for them. Are they right and you are wrong or can you both be right?

Personally I like my white belt. I wore it in my career in Hapkido and now for the first four in aikido. It feels good. It is soft, broken in, has my name on it in Japanese courtesy of my aikido sensei. It has traveled in my bag to every practice and to every dojo I have visited on business or holidays and will do for the foreseeable future. When I get my shodan I am going to ask sensei if I can wear my white belt under my hakama and save my black belt for special occasions because it will remind me I am learning all the time. I'm not sure what he will say perhaps he will agree or perhaps he will feel that it is important that we are comfortable with ourselves and his teaching that we can wear it; I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

The other night when we were sitting in seiza, as sensei talked about learning technique, he said how much the learned from teaching even the lowest level beginner and how it made him think about, and analyze his technique. This from a 6th dan teacher who has been instructing for almost twenty-five years!

What is ranking and what it is not? Ranking does not mean you can go fearlessly into the streets at night. Ranking can not, and does not, give you divine insight as it is simply a landmark on a personal journey towards a destination that some of us will not achieve but will put up the good fight for anyway. To use the much abused quote from Robert Browning, I might be paraphrasing, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp. Or what's a heaven for?"

What are we purported to be teaching in Aikido? We teach to enter, to blend, to work with others energy to resolve a conflict in an appropriate manner. We strive to do this on the mat with varying degrees of success and with, I would forward, possibly less success in our day to day interactions with our peers, our siblings or companions. But, we keep on trying with our imperfect techniques, bodies and psyches.

So rankle smankle, if I practice in a dojo that pushes testing I will probably do lots of tests if I have decided that the sensei will help me along the path. If I practice at a dojo with colored belts I'll probably wear colored belts and if they don't I won't. So belts and testing aren't important and are important. Love the process, enjoy what you do, do what you love and suffer with humility and humour the failure and the elation of success when a technique works; and realize that in Aikido humility and elation are an every day experiences.

Deep down, whether you are white, brown, black or blue belted, if we are honest with ourselves, we know what level we are at. Some nights we are simply kyu-less and others, for an instance, even dan-full.

And that's how I feel for now.
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Old 11-19-2003, 11:33 AM   #20
Christopher Latkowski
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Thumbs down Re: Re: Why Test?

Quote:
Toms Kreicbergs (Duarh) wrote:
Why are you asking the question?
Good point tom, however I was interested in some outside perspectives. I do not have a very close affiliation to any dojo; I trained a little in a lot of different places, N.Y.C, Japan, CO, WA.

I guess another reason why testing does not seem like my thing, is because I don't have a goal.

I don't wake-up in the morning and think, "in two years (5 ranks layer) I'm gonna be in total harmony with my enemies."

In this art I don't think there is room for goals. There's too much depth to go in every direction.

!!
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Old 11-19-2003, 01:03 PM   #21
John Boswell
 
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Quote:
Dan is made up of one kanji meaning "level" or "step". The various dan of black belts therefore, reflect the various steps or levels of proficiency after attaining the black belt. When put together with the kanji "sho", to make "shodan", it takes on the meaning of "first" or "beginning". When attaining a "shodan" black belt it symbolizes that this is the first or beginning level or step within the dan ranks. One can only realize that the few years required to attain a black belt is really just the beginning of a life long commitment of training. Just how much further you progress beyond "shodan" depends entirely on your commitment and effort to your training.

http://www.shuyokan.com/members/articles/5kanji.html
If you consider this definition of Dan and the meaning behind "rank" and all the previous training for it, it becomes obvious that the attitude of "should be able to take it" is rather arrogant and is completely against the whole concept of Shodan and of ranking.

Personally, I'm not even a Shodan yet as far as my belt rank goes, but even I have more of the philosophy and theory behind Aikido, and of ranking, than some aikidoka in the world. Never would I expect any person of any rank to take all the technique that even I can dish out.

In real life, I'm a huge man. I have the responsibility to control my center and not hurt or injure my uke. On the occassions when my technique is "right on", I can send someone flying! It's amazing to see and to feel. But if that individual isn't ready for it... no matter their rank, they can still be injured.

The original question was "Why test?" You test to for the very meaning of the word: to critically examine, observe and evaluate yourself. It will be your dojo's and your Sensei's responsiblity to acknowledge if you measure up or not. It will always be your personal responsiblity to live up to the rank awarded to you.


Last edited by John Boswell : 11-19-2003 at 01:10 PM.

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Old 11-19-2003, 01:15 PM   #22
Clayton Kale
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Ian Hurst, I appreciate your sympathies, but I like the way my school is set up. I don't feel like withholding techniques is blakmail, at least not the way we do it. Students of certain levels are taught only certain techniques to allow them to focus on those techniques (and the techniques taught in the earlier "set(s)") and the body movements required. Some require blending in, some require blending back, some require entering. But because we're not overloaded as beginners and mid-level students, we're given a chance to work on the "big techniques," such as keeping one point, tai sabaki, irimi and tenkan. Later, as we progress and learn new techniques and applications, we apply the body movements from earlier techniques to what we just learned. I believe it's like building a house: The foundation must be laid first.

As for lack of interest on the part of the instructor: One of my favorite traits of my instructor is his interest in us students. He makes great effort to get to every student during regular class and is always available after class (or by e-mail) for questions or concerns.

I don't believe that the color of my belt determines my level of self-defense profeciency. I'm still in the early stages (I'll be testing for Yon Kyu next month), but it shows me that I've improved since the day I walked in the door.

Thanks for your reply!

Respectfully,

Clayton.

"Pefect practice makes perfect." -Steven A. Weber Godan Nihon Goshin Aikido

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Old 11-19-2003, 01:28 PM   #23
John Boswell
 
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PS: One other point I wanted to bring up with regard to something Chris Latkawski said -
Quote:
"I guess another reason why testing does not seem like my thing, is because I don't have a goal.

I don't wake-up in the morning and think, "in two years (5 ranks layer) I'm gonna be in total harmony with my enemies."

In this art I don't think there is room for goals. There's too much depth to go in every direction."
Though it is true that Aikido can go very in depth in various "directions" and styles and whatever... don't you have SOME expectations on yourself and your ability a year or two from now?

When I first started Aikido, I was so out of shape that I could barely do decent rolls for ukemi. My goal was to be able to roll well and take some freakin' ukemi! Took a couple months, but I got there... and that was completely aside from any "ranking" issue.

Goals are good. They bring structure and direction to ones growth in any venture. Just wanted to share that. Take it or not... but wanted to say it just the same.

Domo!

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Old 11-19-2003, 01:46 PM   #24
jxa127
Dojo: Itten Dojo -- Mechanicsburg, PA
Location: Harrisburg, PA
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 420
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There's a fair amount of arrogance in the idea of refusing to test. If testing is required, then test. If you don't want to jump through hoops, or you have some sort of philosophical (and, in my opinion, selfish) problem with testing and rank, then find a teacher who doesn't test or award rank.

Meta-discussions like this are fine, and sometimes fun, but in the end I'll still have to test and continue testing as long as I stay in a dojo affiliated with the AAA -- regardless of what's said on this board. We have one student, who because of time and work constraints, hasn't tested in the four years that I've been practicing (our instructor can only test up to 1st kyu). As I understand it, however, our sensei is working with the eastern region director to make accommodations for this student so he can test for shodan.

In our dojo, rank and testing matter. They're not the only things that matter, or what matters most, but they do matter. There are two aspects to rank and testing. The first is what's discussed here the most: how an individual performs, in the instructor's judgment, relative to a set of standards laid out by the organization. The second is an outgrowth of the first, but those of higher rank are expected to set an example for those of lower rank, take more responsibility for the running of the dojo, willingly help lower ranked students when they request it (usually this is an after class request for help on certain techniques), etc.

In other words, rank is important to the dojo as a whole (again, it's not the only important thing, or the things that most important). With rank comes responsibility and refusing to test can be seen as a refusal to take on additional responsibility.

One could argue that the situation needn't be that way. That one's skill could speak for itself and that rank would be superfluous. Sure. That's true. But that's not the way things are at my dojo, and frankly, we like it the way it is now.

Regards,

-Drew

----
-Drew Ames
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Old 11-19-2003, 01:56 PM   #25
Victor Ditoro
Dojo: Retsushinkan Dojo
Location: Alabama
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 20
Offline
Let's not forget there may be a more practical, and less philosophical answer to this...

In my dojo, and I'm sure in many others, the belt ranks serve to organize the curriculum. This allows you learn technique in small "sets" that later build on one another. The tai sabaki for a white belt technique may be different from a similar technique at gold, and different still from blue. Using "rank" as an aide for organizing instruction is just the same as organizing college degrees in terms of courses and pre-requisites.

If colleges conferred engineering degrees by piling freshman through seniors in one room and lecturing on a broad variety of topics for four years, I'm pretty sure it would be pandemonium.
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