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Old 07-14-2004, 09:34 AM   #1
Paula Lydon
Dojo: Aikido Shugenkai
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Shodan blah...

~~Okay, so I've arrived at Ik-kyu after 7 years at my same dojo. Only started testing after 5 years as an experiment, frankly. Now the experiment's over, I have the answers I went seeking. Now what to do? Someday my sensei will suggest I test for sho-dan and I honestly feel blah about the whole thing. It seems to mean little or nothing where I train, there are soooo many yudansha, and of great experience. I feel no personal need for the rank and see no use for it. My training won't suddenly change, as far as I can tell. Probably wouldn't even teach as there are so many senior to me, so that learning avenue is pretty slim. And, honestly, although I've trained here for years I've never really felt like I fit in (have even had unpleasant experiences), so becoming yudansha in such a situation seems ignoble and dishonest.

~~I'm in a quandry. My teacher seems a fine person and extremely talented and I would not wish to be rude; I'm grateful for what I've learned. Are these reasons enough? I can't seem to find any personal reason to test. Do we do it for others, then? I'm really torn...

~~Paula~~
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Old 07-14-2004, 09:49 AM   #2
Yann Golanski
 
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Re: Shodan blah...

Personally I would grade, just so you have that shodan and not worry about it anymore. You don't have to stress about it, just turn up with a smile and enjoy the grading.

Seriously, shodan or not makes no difference to your Aikido. However, it can makes things easier if you train somewhere else, it adds something on your CV (resume) and it (should) impress your mother! *grin evilly*

The people who understand, understand prefectly.
yann@york-aikido.org York Shodokan Aikido
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Old 07-14-2004, 09:51 AM   #3
happysod
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Re: Shodan blah...

Ask yourself the following questions

1. would the training needed to get the black belt be of any use (aikido and/or fitness wise)

2. would the pressure of the black belt test stop you going to aikido altogether?

My opinion is, if you answer yes to (1), go for it, yes to (2), don't.

For me, you should only grade for yourself. If you don't need the grades, don't grade. Not grading can, as has been mentioned in other threads, detract from your aikido almost as much as chasing grades, but in the long run I think people stay with aikido when they do things for themselves, not when they're forced into doing them (however politely its done)

I'll now leave it to George et all to tell you how badly you're treating your sensei/art by not grading.
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Old 07-14-2004, 01:20 PM   #4
Chuck.Gordon
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Re: Shodan blah...

SEVEN YEARS???

Geez.

Tell Jun 'Howdy' and give him a koshi for me (And Hiroshi, too, if you're feeling froggy).

Chuck

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Old 07-15-2004, 09:12 AM   #5
jxa127
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Re: Shodan blah...

Yeah, I think some part of the test is for others, and maybe that's good enough. I generally feel pretty good about testing, but maybe that's my personality.

However, my first tests felt that they were very much just about me. Now, I'm much more aware of my responsibility to the dojo, my other students, and my instructor.

I'm going to be testing for 2nd kyu at the end of this month. That will be my sixth test and I'm looking forward to it with a mix of nervousness and eager anticipation.

Regards,

----
-Drew Ames
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Old 07-18-2004, 11:45 PM   #6
Lyle Laizure
 
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Re: Shodan blah...

What will gaining your shodan do for you? I can honestly say that the only thing I have noticed is that you will take on more responsibility, something you do everytime you test. I also know that when attending seminars that the yudansha will get to experience more advanced techniques if you will. It sounds like you are interested in teaching as well, although there doesn't seem like much opportunity where you are. My sensei has a fair amount of yudansha and I have noticed that those recently attaining their blackbelts have less opportunity to teach as there are so many folks that out rank them when it comes time to share the teaching light. I would suggest approaching your sensei and expressing your desire to teach. There may be something more there if only you inquire.

Lyle Laizure
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Deru kugi wa uta reru
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Old 07-19-2004, 01:52 AM   #7
raul rodrigo
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Re: Shodan blah...

If it were up to me, I would not have tested for Shodan last June. I didn't feel ready. But I'd always adopted the principle that the timing of my tests are my sensei's responsibility. All I have to do is train and show up. It spares me of a lot of wear and tear internally. Am I ready? Not ready? It doesnt matter. I don't need a "compelling reason to test" outside of my sensei's say-so. It makes life much simpler.


best,

RAUL
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Old 07-26-2004, 09:28 AM   #8
John Boswell
 
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Re: Shodan blah...

Paula,

I read your post when it first went up and again today... and I have an "evaluation" to make, of which you are free to totally disregard, but I have to say this:

What is it about testing for Shodan that you are afraid of?

Maybe it isn't fear, but some other emotion. Whatever it is, you give the impression from your post that you are avoiding the test and rank... at all cost.

Yeah, you got "some benefits" from aikido training and yeah... your instructor is a "fine person" but you still, after all this training, don't know why you should test??? Why did you even start/continue training in Aikido in the first place?

I am of the opinion that Aikido is a wonderful and beautiful martial art. I don't ever see myself teaching, but as a black belt... that possibility would be there and should I move to a place with no dojo, I could open up one or teach at the YMCA, etc. and SHARE Aikido with my community.

To have no intent to share aikido, to have no intent on earning a dan rank and accept the responsibility of sharing aikido with the world... that just spells a misrepresentation of some kind on that aikidoka's part: whether it was a lack of interest from the very begining or loyalty to aikido or whatever... I'm not sure.

You may consider my comments rude, and I wouldn't blame you if you did, but as a person that LOVES Aikido, I feel it is MY responsibility to call you out and ask you to either cross the line and join the yudansha of the aikido world... or move on with your life and find what would truly inspire you to share with others in some other field.

I am of the opinion that you are holding yourself back. Don't know why... don't care. What I do care about is that you know you have the potential and are avoiding living up to it. Take a leap of faith! Talk to your instructors (get several opinions) and at least try for it. If you don't pass your yudansha test, at least you know you tried and gave it a shot. But... I think you would pass and in doing so gain new respect for yourself and from your commrades.

GO FOR IT !! I really believe you'll be glad you did.

Last edited by John Boswell : 07-26-2004 at 09:31 AM.

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Old 07-26-2004, 11:32 AM   #9
tedehara
 
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Shodan Sure

Many people are driven by achieving a black belt. Once they reach shodan, they've accomplished their Aikido goal and quit. A few others realize that getting a black belt means you have a general idea of how to move and where to put your hands and feet. To them, shodan means you can now really start to learn Aikido. From what you've written, it sounds like you're already part of this second group.

Everyone has pre-testing jitters. Operating under the stress of a test or public demonstration brings out the strengths and weeknesses of your training. Generally an instructor will not ask you to test unless they felt you were ready for it. If your sensei recommends you for testing, accept gracefully. Perform your test with confidence. Remember shodan is just a new beginning.

It is not practice that makes perfect, it is correct practice that makes perfect.
About Ki
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Old 07-26-2004, 11:33 AM   #10
ruthmc
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Re: Shodan blah...

Quote:
Paula Lydon wrote:
~~Okay, so I've arrived at Ik-kyu after 7 years at my same dojo. Only started testing after 5 years as an experiment, frankly. Now the experiment's over, I have the answers I went seeking.
Just curious Paula - what answers have you found?

Quote:
Paula Lydon wrote:
I can't seem to find any personal reason to test. Do we do it for others, then? I'm really torn...
I'd say you test for both yourself and for your dojo / teacher. You test because you want to keep learning, and there's a whole world of learning that happens after shodan!

If you feel you have all the answers, then no, don't bother to test. That's just my opinion - I'd suggest you talk to your teachers for a realistic perspective on your quandry.

All the best,
Ruth
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Old 07-26-2004, 05:44 PM   #11
raul rodrigo
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Re: Shodan blah...

Actually, in my earlier post, I was being nice. But now that John Boswell has put the issues of fear and perhaps intellectual dishonesty on the table (thanks, John), then I think I should chime in and second the motion. I found it really strange that not once did you mention any fear or worry about passing the test — as if it were a foregone conclusion, as if it had nothing to do with your "shodan blah." I realize what I am saying may be offensive to you but disregard it if you wish. You seem to be saying that you're above it all, that you somehow see deeper into the worth of the whole thing than the rest of us. Or maybe, just maybe, there really is something there worth going through.

Taking the shodan exam is a great gift -- one of the most stressful things I've ever done, and if I had my druthers, I would not have been on that mat. But my sensei is smarter than me, and I learned a lot about myself and aikido in the three months before the exam.

You might want to reexamine your motives and if somehow you're skewing your reasoning to come up with the answer you prefer. Just my two cents.


best,


RAUL
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Old 07-29-2004, 08:34 AM   #12
John Boswell
 
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Re: Shodan blah...

Paula,

It's been a couple months since you orginally posted. I am curious if you have spoken with your Sensei about this situation or given it any further thought?

If I offended you or opened up a wound with my words above, I apologize. It wasn't my intent to hurt. Please give us an update, as I'm sure many of us are curious where you stand on this subject and what your plans are.

Thanks,
John B.

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Old 08-02-2004, 07:29 AM   #13
Paula Lydon
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Re: Shodan blah...

~~I tend to examine and consider all sides of any matter that is important to me and Aikido is a powerful misogi in my life. Still...I cannot see or know all paths. If/when I am considered a candidate for sho-dan I will gratefully accept, share what I have and follow where the path leads.

Thank you all for being my global dojo~~

~~Paula~~
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Old 08-02-2004, 09:42 AM   #14
opherdonchin
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Re: Shodan blah...

I think that testing is something you do not only for yourself but also for your Aikido community and your Sensei. Rank is not just about recognizing achievment, it is also a sort of formal structure within which responsibility is delegated and assumed. To me, the question is not whether to test (that I happily leave to my teachers to decide) but how to go about it so I learn the most from it.

Yours in Aiki
Opher
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Old 09-04-2004, 09:21 PM   #15
Christy S
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Re: Shodan blah...

There is no question, Test! If I had the opportunity to train under Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei and he suggested it was time for me to test, there's no argument. He is highly talented and has the most humble and awesome personality. It would be not such a good idea to be disrespect and refuse to test. Testing is meant to challenge you and help students get out of the plateaus that we tend to encounter. Before your test, challenge yourself and improve you aikido in ways that you've been slacking on. It gives you a set time to reach these goals and you might amaze yourself in how you have grown. If you do decide to test, I wish you the best of luck and realize the talent that surrounds you and learn what you can.
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Old 11-16-2004, 04:24 PM   #16
Robert Cheshire
 
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Re: Shodan blah...

My thoughts are when it comes time to test then you need to test. This is not only for you, but, for the good of the dojo. When you progress it pulls all those below you up and pushes all those ahead of you forward. It is not good for someone who has just started or even been there a year or three to see someone stay at the same rank for years. They may then begin to doubt themself because it takes so long or may doubt you because you haven't progressed in years.

Those of us who have been black belts for many years can tell you that a shodan is the begining of your journey not the end. It means you finally know enough of the basic material to start putting things together and really learn (and have fun).

If you are not willing to make this commitment to yourself and your dojo then I would suggest you quit and find something that truely brings joy to your life. It goes by way to quickly to put yourself in a stressful situation. I'm sure we're all here to provide you any support you may need!

Happy Training!

Robert Cheshire
Yoseikan Budo/Aikido
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Old 11-16-2004, 09:38 PM   #17
Anders Bjonback
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Re: Shodan blah...

I'm certainly ready to support her if she doesn't want to test. I don't think it's good to put a sense of guilt on someone, saying that he or she owes it to their dojo or fellow practitioners to test. If the only reason someone was going to test would be guilt, just out of a sense of responsibility, or just because he or she doesn't want to go through the embarrassment or awkwardness of refusing, then he or she shouldn't, I think. Off the top of my head, I could name off a couple people at Boulder Aikikai who don't feel the need to test for Shodan, and I know of at least one person that once s/he tested for a certain dan rank, s/he explicitly said s/he would never test again. Personally, as a beginner, I find their aversion or indifference to testing inspiring, or at least it's eye-opening. And there are certainly reasons for their refusal to test (bull they run into having to do with the rank), and their refusal reminds me not to get sucked into that. If I stick with aikido, I will probably test for shodan, and if I stick with it, beyond that. But rank by itself isn't a very good reason to train. People who don't test show me that you don't need the rank to be a good practitioner.

As far as I'm concerned, leave the ranks for those who want them, who want to have a credential that may come in useful to teach others. I have a friend who studies traditional Japanese music, the Koto, Shamisen and Biwa, and also does aikido. When he does aikido, he feels no need to ever test, yet he does want the rank in music so he can have some credentials to teach others. If your motivation isn't to teach, why feel pressured into attaining rank? At least in Boulder, there are enough teachers, as far as I can see. I don't see what's wrong with remaining forever a student. We need good students as well as good teachers.

If she feels like she doesn't fit in, why enter into the nameless ranks of yudansha? If there is commitments involved to a place she doesn't feel at home in if she gets this rank, if she feels like it would be "ignoble and dishonest," why in the world should she take it?

I will certainly support her no matter what her decision is.

"For peace and happiness are presences, not objects we can grasp and hold onto."
--Lilian Smith
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Old 11-16-2004, 10:02 PM   #18
Anders Bjonback
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Re: Shodan blah...

I'm worried that in my previous post it might appear that I'm saying that other people (i.e., the previous two posters) were trying to guilt her into it by making reminders of responsibility. Now that I look over everything, I regret implying that, if I did. I don't mean to offend anybody, especially people who are being honest and saying what they are thinking.

"For peace and happiness are presences, not objects we can grasp and hold onto."
--Lilian Smith
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Old 11-16-2004, 11:13 PM   #19
Robert Cheshire
 
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Re: Shodan blah...

First of all, I think it is a huge misconception that we relate being a shodan with being a teacher. I know several in our organization that are not teachers. They remain students themself. As I said in my previous post - it means you have an understanding of the basics of the art and are ready to really start learning.

There comes a time when you have to think beyond yourself and think about what is good for the dojo as a whole. O Sensei wanted aikido to be able to reach the world. He wanted us to let it pour out from us into those around us. In the dojo this means we work to progress because it helps the dojo (for the reasons I've mentioned before).

I agree that people shouldn't chase rank just for ranks sake. It seems that Paula has put in many years of hard work. So, I wouldn't say rank is being chased. However, it is very discouraging to join a dojo and when you start to talk with the senior students find out they have been in the art for several years and have not progressed past ikkyu. They do not have to teach once they become shodan.

While I do not doubt your sincerity I find it a bit pretentious to talk about taking a shodan exam while you are not of yudansha rank. To me, that's like a high school student talking about college level courses s/he hasn't seen or taken yet. I mean this more of a you should experince it rather than "I'm one and your not" or a "look at me I'm a 'x' dan rank."

After reading your post several times - I'm convinced you mean well. I just don't agree with your thoughts or statements on this issue.

I do like the fact you are quick to defend the rights and feelings of another person on this board and hope you will continue to do so.

Last edited by Robert Cheshire : 11-16-2004 at 11:16 PM. Reason: fix typo's

Robert Cheshire
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Old 11-17-2004, 12:55 AM   #20
JJF
 
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Re: Shodan blah...

Go with the flow. That's what aikido is about (sort of). If you fight the current you die - if you flow with the current you die - but if you swim WITH the current you have a good chance.

I think shodan is like reaching basecamp. The trip to the Himalayans was really nice and I still enjoy it, but I am looking forward to get up on those slopes. I feel just about ready to handle them and I am really curious about what the view is like up there... .(am I making sense here or am I over-analogizing again ? )

Just test when your sensei tells you to. It's as easy as that. If you were in a dojo were the sensei dosen't make these decisions THEN you would have something to worry about....

Have fun!

- Jørgen Jakob Friis

Inspiration - Aspiration - Perspiration
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Old 11-17-2004, 07:41 AM   #21
Mark Balogh
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Re: Shodan blah...

In the UK, it's good to have the grade of Shodan because of governing bodies and such requiring it for you to do coach courses etc. Basically it helps you "play the game".

I could write pages on my opinions of the negative side of grading. The best thing I can say about it is...

1) You learn the techniques well for a test.

2) Someone who went for a grading was inspired by my style in my dan grading. That was so nice to hear, to have a positive influence on someone else.

Just go for it Paula, and then figure out what you want to do from there.
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Old 11-17-2004, 09:00 AM   #22
Anders Bjonback
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Re: Shodan blah...

Quote:
Robert Cheshire wrote:
However, it is very discouraging to join a dojo and when you start to talk with the senior students find out they have been in the art for several years and have not progressed past ikkyu. They do not have to teach once they become shodan.

While I do not doubt your sincerity I find it a bit pretentious to talk about taking a shodan exam while you are not of yudansha rank. To me, that's like a high school student talking about college level courses s/he hasn't seen or taken yet. I mean this more of a you should experince it rather than "I'm one and your not" or a "look at me I'm a 'x' dan rank."

After reading your post several times - I'm convinced you mean well. I just don't agree with your thoughts or statements on this issue.

I do like the fact you are quick to defend the rights and feelings of another person on this board and hope you will continue to do so.
Yeah, I was actually pretty worried about looking pretentious. I just gave my point of view as a beginner, and that in my experience, I have not been discouraged by seeing people that are not black belts but have practiced for many years. If, from my point of view, seeing people who practiced for many years and are still white belts is not discouraging, and you don't want to or the dojo doesn't need you to teach, then why go for the outward sign of having a rank? I don't see why it's necessary, but maybe that will change as I practice more.
Thank you for responding civilly. I was worried about the responce I'd get by saying that.

"For peace and happiness are presences, not objects we can grasp and hold onto."
--Lilian Smith
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Old 11-19-2004, 11:27 PM   #23
Robert Cheshire
 
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Re: Shodan blah...

Your welcome. I like to at least think that I try to respond in a civil manner. I try even harder when the post, such as yours, has good intentions.

I really like what the Yoseikan World Federation (YWF) does with rank. In YWF Yoseikan Budo we all wear a blue & White belt. This goes from the person putting on the gi for the first time all the way up to Hiroo Mochizuki himself! We still have rank, but, the outward sign shows we are all students of Yoseikan.

Robert Cheshire
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Old 11-19-2004, 11:45 PM   #24
rachel
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Re: Shodan blah...

Well, in reply to Paula's original question, I say that you should test when you and your sensei feel you are ready. Personally, I just tested for shodan less than a year ago, after being ikkyu for about 4 years. I waited so long because I didn't feel ready to be a black belt. There's nothing wrong with waiting, but if you think you are ready, do it. Your sensei will not recommend that you take an exam unless he/she feels that you are ready, and you should trust that in combination with your own feelings. There's no reason not to progress if you are ready.
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Old 11-21-2004, 08:02 AM   #25
wendyrowe
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Re: Shodan blah...

It never occurred to me that someone might not test when Sensei thinks that person is ready. In aikido as in karate, I leave it up to that sensei: Sensei says test, I test; Sensei doesn't mention testing, I don't ask.

I've stlll got a ways to go before shodan, but I can't see myself in the future removing the test-readiness decision from Sensei's hands. It's simpler and less stressful leaving it up to Sensei, since you don't have to worry about analyzing whether you're ready or not. Well, actually, I still worry; but that worry doesn't keep me from testing.
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