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Old 08-04-2004, 07:20 PM   #26
suren
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

As for poll I personally don't know how to vote until one can clearly describe what "technical ability" means.
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Old 08-04-2004, 08:53 PM   #27
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

I think we need to determine what Aikido's primary goal really is.

Did O'Sensei feel that mastering the physical techniques is the primary goal of Aikido and that character and/or spiritual development is of secondary importance?

Or, did O'Sensei place character and/or spiritual development as the primary goal of Aikido and choose to utilize the physical techniques as a means to this end?

If it was the former, then technical ability should be the most important factor IMHO. If it was the latter, then technical ability is only one of many factors that must be considered, and not necessarily the most important one. Some extraordinary individuals may achieve O'sensei's goal with little or no technical ability in the latter case.

O'Sensei never said that Aikido is a "martial art" as is often claimed. He said it was a budo. These two terms are not synonymous in my experience. I do not feel that Aikido could be classified as a budo at all if its primary purpose was fighting or self defense ability.

These are just my opinions. If you disagree, that's fine. I'm just trying to create some food for thought here. James.

Last edited by James Finley : 08-04-2004 at 08:59 PM.
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Old 08-04-2004, 09:07 PM   #28
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Here's another thought worth chewing on...

Who do you think O'Sensei would have considered to understand his Aikido better? A very sharp, technically skilled shodan or the Dalai Lama who may have very limited ability to perform the technical skills of Aikido due to age and/or physical constitution? The answer would probably depend on what you feel is the primary purpose of O'Sensei's Aikido (and probably at what point in his life you posed the question). Of course, I realize that the Dalai Lama has likely never trained in Aikido, so it is just a hypothetical question. It does, however, serve to illustrate a point which contrasts sharply the physical versus "other" factors. James.
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Old 08-05-2004, 02:00 AM   #29
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Quote:
I think we need to determine what Aikido's primary goal really is
No we don't, you just need to determine what your primary goal from aikido is.
Quote:
Here's another thought worth chewing on
chewed it, but didn't like the taste - sorry, but I'm not playing the hypothetical uke game.

Question for the "non-technical" grading team - do you really feel you have the necessary enlightenment to be able to judge another human beings spiritual and moral abilities?

I freely admit that I don't and I hope that if I ever get to the point that my own hubris allows me to say I can judge other's character in such a way that I can grade them on it, I sincerely hope my cats smother me while I sleep.

I can only grade on technical ability in aikido. Now the grading of your techniques of aikido will take into account your calmness and manner in which you throw uke - but these are still the first stage mechanical bits and thus part of your physical technique. I don't actually see a problem here with zanshin, mai or any of the other bits. I'm in a Ki assoc, we even test for ki! How, well it's strangely enough through the ability to pass physical tests...

Now I don't actually care why anyone else practices aikido, whether it's for personal development or self-defense of just for a bit of a laff. However, I do find the idea that you should be graded in aikido on your morals by some second-hand guru in a skirt rather repugnant and I'm very pleased I've never been with that type of sensei.
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Old 08-05-2004, 02:33 AM   #30
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Not for ethics, or "growth as a person", but for time is OK. I.e. a shodan after three years should do a darn good test, a shodan after 10 years does not really have to look very good but should have the rank anyway.

Then I also agree with Andrew: I have nothing against a ranking focussing more on attitude, attendance and commitment. Especially attendance for beginners.

I voted as is the poll was phrased like Shaun said. It makes more sense then. I can not say that rank "should" be handed out for these reasons, but I do think it is OK to do so.
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Old 08-05-2004, 02:36 AM   #31
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My posts address O'Sensei's views on Aikido (since he was, after all, the founder)...

No, I need not find my purpose in studying Aikido, we all need to find O'Sensei's purpose in creating it. If he designed it for one thing, it may or may not work terribly well for another purpose. A shovel is designed for a specific purpose. It works great for digging holes-it works less well for driving nails (although one can certainly attempt to drive nails with it if he is so inclined to do so, albeit with less efficiency than a hammer).

Finally, while I certainly don't consider O'Sensei a god, I have also never thought of him as a "second-hand guru in a skirt" either. Maybe a little less sarcasm is in order.

For the record, I am not at all convinced that O'Sensei created Aikido with the primary goal of developing fighting or self-defense ability in its exponents. I'm sure there are plenty who disagree and that's fine. We can disagree and still remain civil. James.

Last edited by James Finley : 08-05-2004 at 02:51 AM.
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Old 08-05-2004, 03:41 AM   #32
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Other thoughts...

Some more thoughts...

Regarding character:
Good parents judge character all the time, as do schoolteachers, school boards, managers, policemen, military personnel, judges, juries, parole boards, and countless others. Many of these people make decisions or write evaluations/recommendations that have life-altering consequences for the individual concerned. In fact, we all make these judgments when we choose our friends and spouse.

Regarding technical skills:
When I look at a man who is 74 years old and takes up Aikido, I don't expect that his technical abilities are likely to be equal to those of an athletic, young person's (though I am always optimistic). This is especially true if he has physical limitations. I do think he can and should be graded on abilities other than just technical ability. If he markedly improves his balance and coordination, improves his fitness level, develops better awareness and faster reflexes, and thereby improves his overall quality of life, I think he should be recognized for it. This is the case even if his ability to execute throws and pins is not equal to what I would expect of a younger, more athletic person. This is especially true if this individual shows real effort and commitment, and in doing so, is seen as an inspiration by the younger folks. Interestingly, I have found that the younger folks are often the ones who feel most strongly that this older gentleman deserves to be promoted.

Regarding benefits of Aikido other than technical ability:
These include (but are not limited to): Improved fitness, balance, agility, coordination, explosiveness, faster reflexes, improved awareness, better control over one's temper, respect for others (regardless of their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation), respect for authority, improved ability to cooperate with others, improved ability to relax, improved ability to react under pressure, improved ability to pay attention to detail, improved self-discipline, and improved self-respect, improved self-confidence, etc..

I am sure there are many others. James.

Last edited by James Finley : 08-05-2004 at 03:55 AM.
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Old 08-05-2004, 04:13 AM   #33
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Quote:
a shodan after 10 years does not really have to look very good but should have the rank anyway
Hanna, I can't quite grasp your logic here - someone who has practiced for less should be held to a higher standard than someone who has just turned up for a long time? Try extending this to any other profession/activity please and postulate what the long-term effects of this program would be.

James, well, where to start other than say "wow". I really wish I could be as righteous in my knowledge of what a man whom I've never met intended when starting a martial art (I think you'll find this is actually a commonly accepted blanket term which includes aikido) and feel confident enough to bring others into the light of my determination. (now that was sarcasm - see the difference?)

Now let us look at your last missive

"Regarding character" - this type of post is why aikido is often considered a cult. Of course you make decisions on others characters, no matter how brief the association. However, to extend the analogy of choosing your spouse to include your fellow training partners in a martial art just leaves me rather concerned.

"regarding technical skills" - try the search function on training and grading, you will find nearly everyone has accepted that gradings may have to be modified for physical problems.

"regarding other benefits" - could you cite me some references for these other benefits other than anecdotal evidence? The reason I ask is that (again if you use the search function) you will find that many are dubious about some of the more inflated claims and I was hoping you could give me some third-party corroboration for your viewpoint.

Yours in the spirit of scientific inquiry
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Old 08-05-2004, 04:51 AM   #34
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Third party scientific evidence...

No, I really can't provide any. They are just things I have experienced or seen others develop over time. I certainly wouldn't argue that everyone develops all of these to an equal extent in all cases.

I don't see it as "cult-like" when you make the same character evaluation when considering someone for promotion in Aikido as you would when writing an evaluation or Fitness Report for a junior in the military or when deciding whether to write a recommendation for someone to medical school. Maybe it is just the limitations of the Internet that is preventing me from making my point more clear. Oh well.

Yes, I realize that "martial art" is a blanket term used in the west, but I feel that it carries a lot of preconceptions (and misconceptions) that make it a less than ideal translation of the word "budo."

Please refrain from the hyperbole, Ian. I haven't claimed to be "righteous in my knowledge of what a man whom I've never met..." I merely stated in my first post that we need to determine what he intended. I further stated that "I am not at all convinced..." That is my opinion. Neither of these are definitive statements asserting what O'Sensei meant or didn't mean.

I think you and I have taken this about as far as is productive between us. In any case, I will be out of town for a few days and may be unable to reply right away if anyone else replies to my posts. James.

Last edited by James Finley : 08-05-2004 at 04:57 AM.
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Old 08-05-2004, 08:55 AM   #35
Laz
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Nope

Criteria other than that wich can be directly measuered and quantified is subject to the individual biases of the panelists. It wouldn't be that fair.

I would have to say, stick to measuarble criteria, i.e. Technique and Theory (writen test?) except for the most extream cases when a student shows a lack of proper attitude.
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Old 08-05-2004, 10:29 AM   #36
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Ian, why should a budo grading system be compared with anything that has to do with professions? That is beyond me.

What is the purpose of having a grading system? I say it is there because the Japanese likes knowing on a scale who is higher in status than the other. The way their society and culture works, it makes things easier for them. If you ask me, we could skip the grading systems all together - but that can not really be done, in an aikido world where everyone else is using them.

As I have understood it, it is we here in the West who finds this discussion of grades and what quality is required so important. I heard of a middleaged woman who was given shodan in judo, because younger people got high grades and she could not be left behind; it would have been not giving respect to elders. If that is the system, and everyone knows that's how it is - fine with me.

If you are grading your own students, not as a member of a committee judging people you do not know, it is quite OK if you want to take different people's different limitations into account - this is pretty much what James said. Ten years of training to shodan, in a line where people grade quickly (or more in a line where people take their grade fast) means the person is not the most talanted one. For him, he learned a lot during these years. Another person taking shodan after three years - let's say they train equally much - is talanted. He has no major limitations to take into account.

Character: for the major part I am not a major fan of judging students's "characters" but if your system is that the highest rank teaches class when the main teacher is away, then maybe there are people who you do not want to give the highest rank - because of attitude, and similar problems. Letting a student with bad attitude grade fast is also setting a bad example for the whole dojo. I have no problem with people not wanting to do that. Another possibility is of course that the teacher chooses who will teach in his abscence, regardless of rank. That is fine with me also.
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Old 08-05-2004, 10:31 AM   #37
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

I am reminded of the grading system in Okamoto sensei's Roppokai organisation, where rank up to third or fourth dan is given on how much you train only. Hey, why not.
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Old 08-05-2004, 11:13 AM   #38
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Quote:
Ian, why should a budo grading system be compared with anything that has to do with professions? That is beyond me.
Perhaps you're correct. I've obviously been in a totally different martial art that has cruelly misinformed me that it is aikido. In fact it's possibly a UK conspiracy as in all the associations I've trained with, the higher the rank, the better they technically were (caveat: as long as the comparison was within a single organisation). Hanna, I used that example for one simple reason, the higher grades would become the teachers of the next generation of little ukes. If they can't execute the technique, what benefit is it to the newbie to learn from them?

But going off the replies so far, I'm mistaken. Aikido doesn't need to maintain a certain degree technical competence as instead of technique, we're to be judged on more nebulous concepts of personal integrity and honour. Well bugger it, I'm off to train in whatever the hell I'm doing, hope you have as much fun as I'm planning to...
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Old 08-05-2004, 12:35 PM   #39
suren
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

[quote=Ian Hurst]Question for the "non-technical" grading team - do you really feel you have the necessary enlightenment to be able to judge another human beings spiritual and moral abilities?[quote]
I'm not sure if I belong to "non-technical" grading team, but my answer is NO. Does my teacher feels that... I don't know. I think the whole ranking process in my dojo is not treated as a very important and so do I.

[quote=Ian Hurst]Now the grading of your techniques of aikido will take into account your calmness and manner in which you throw uke - but these are still the first stage mechanical bits and thus part of your physical technique.[quote]
I'm not sure about this. I think the way you treat your uke finally reflects in your every day life and make you treat people out of dojo in a similar way. Aikido is a good way to teach and reveal those things via physical movement. That's my subjective opinion.

[quote=Ian Hurst]I don't actually see a problem here with zanshin, mai or any of the other bits. I'm in a Ki assoc, we even test for ki! How, well it's strangely enough through the ability to pass physical tests...[quote]
Ok, if all these aspects are included in the "technical" part of Aikido, then I agree on testing people on their technical abilities, because to me these physical abilities are reflection of your internal state in the outside world.

That sounds too romantic, but that's my opinion.
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Old 08-05-2004, 12:37 PM   #40
suren
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Strange... Quotes did not work i my previous post. Oh well...
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Old 08-05-2004, 01:05 PM   #41
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of

Suren, you forgot to use a forward slash in the ending quote tags: [/quote]

You can always preview your reply, too...

-- Jun

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Old 08-05-2004, 01:16 PM   #42
suren
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Oops... Sorry, my bad.
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Old 08-05-2004, 02:58 PM   #43
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Re: Nope

Quote:
Alfred Blanco wrote:
Criteria other than that wich can be directly measuered and quantified is subject to the individual biases of the panelists. It wouldn't be that fair.
I agree with this, plus everything Ian Hurst and Chris Birke has said so far in this thread.

Oh and David Brannigan's quip sums it up elegantly:

Quote:
There's more to respect in Aikido than just technical ability but without it the rest means little.
Quote:
John Riggs wrote:
I'm sure a lot of O'Sensei's deshi are not as dynamic as they once were. It does not mean they don't have the knowlege or ability to impart it. So, we have to be careful how we define technical ability.
Gozo Shioda spoke of the kokyu power, which does not age with the rest of your body.

He mentioned that he had plenty of kokyu power even at his old age, and he also, while being old, did randori which is more energetic than what you see at most dojos today (there's video footage).

Last edited by shihonage : 08-05-2004 at 03:06 PM.
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Old 08-06-2004, 07:13 AM   #44
Hanna B
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Quote:
Ian Hurst wrote:
Perhaps you're correct. I've obviously been in a totally different martial art that has cruelly misinformed me that it is aikido. In fact it's possibly a UK conspiracy as in all the associations I've trained with, the higher the rank, the better they technically were (caveat: as long as the comparison was within a single organisation).
At first, I thought you were being sarcastic. Then I realised I had been unclear: Roppokai, that has the grading system based only on amount of training, is not an aikido org but a Daito Ryu organisation.


Quote:
Ian Hurst wrote:
Hanna, I used that example for one simple reason, the higher grades would become the teachers of the next generation of little ukes. If they can't execute the technique, what benefit is it to the newbie to learn from them?
You make the assumption that the highest ranks will become the teachers, then. Well, that is one possibility of building something - but not the only one. This is not the case in most of the places I've been - in a dojo where the average level is low, yes, but not when you have plenty of yudansha around.

You also assume that I say people should be given grades if they can not execute technique, but I never said that. To get the grade, one should learn the techniques required for the grade - but the performace, the quality could vary. Sometimes, the best performers are not the best teachers.


Quote:
Ian Hurst wrote:
But going off the replies so far, I'm mistaken. Aikido doesn't need to maintain a certain degree technical competence as instead of technique, we're to be judged on more nebulous concepts of personal integrity and honour. Well bugger it, I'm off to train in whatever the hell I'm doing, hope you have as much fun as I'm planning to...
Well, most of the votes say you should not judge anything else than technical competence. I do not like the idea of teachers giving me grades judging if I'm a good person either... I am actually quite appalled by the idea.

I'd say that technical competence in aikido is quite difficult to judge. In previous similar discussions, paw always jumped up to say that aikido gradings were useless because they did not mean anything while as in judo, a blue belt meant that one could compete at blue belt level. In aikido we judge technique on how it looks, and quite often we think a technique looks horrible when it simply is done according to another ideal. There is an interview with Christian Tissier on the web, where he tells about goint to Japan to train as a young man, saw the late Doshu doing iriminage and thought "that guy is not very good".

How do we know that we are judging skill, when we think we are? If you ask me, most of the time we are not. We are judging if something looks close to the ideal that we have learned.

Last edited by Hanna B : 08-06-2004 at 07:22 AM.
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Old 08-06-2004, 07:16 AM   #45
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Re: Nope

Quote:
Alfred Blanco wrote:
Criteria other than that wich can be directly measuered and quantified is subject to the individual biases of the panelists. It wouldn't be that fair.
You are assuming there is a panel, a committee of some sorts that hand out the grades. I think this kind of "justice" thinking gets more abundant then. If the rank is seen as something between the student and the teacher who gives the rank, it will always be biassed - if you do not like your teacher's way of beign biassed, find a new teacher.
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Old 08-06-2004, 07:21 AM   #46
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

My biggest objection to this focus on gradings being accurate measurement of skill is that I think it puts too much focus on the gradings. In my mind, we have better things to focus on.
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Old 08-06-2004, 07:47 AM   #47
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Hanna, until your last set of posts, yes, I did get the impression that your were in favour of receiving rank on non-technical aspects as you indicated no problem with rank being awarded for just turning up. Now your definition seems to indicate that technical ability is inherent in length of service to the dojo, which is why you have no objections to this practice?

As regards to your objections to gradings- fine. I was using gradings as the example for gaining rank rather than gradings equal wonderful. I should have stuck to the original definition which was rank - in which case my position stands. Until x-dan, rank = technical ability. After that, rank = whatever the assoc seems to deem important.

Minor point - I said the higher grades become the teachers, not necessarily the highest. Having said that, if the highest never teaches (even if they're a poor teacher), I don't think I'd stay with that dojo.
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Old 08-06-2004, 08:26 AM   #48
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

I am fine with giving grades partly based on other aspects than technical skill, such as attitude towards other people in the group, if they take good care of their uke, dedication, how much you show up to class, if you are doing your part of the job in maintaining the dojo or just showing up for the classes, degree of improvement rather than comparison with other people. I do not suggest rank should be handed out by these criteria only - not in aikido (I have no problem with what they do in Roppokai but think it would be too different from the rest of the aikido community if an aikido dojo tried to implement that). I do not like the idea that aikido would be some kind of school for moral improvement, and do not think grades should be based on judgement of my "personal development" whatever that is.

Last edited by Hanna B : 08-06-2004 at 08:30 AM.
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Old 08-06-2004, 08:57 AM   #49
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Aha, becomes clear now - you're a carrot person, I prefer the stick and a relatively non-moving baseline for rank. I would basically not put someone in for a grading if they didn't show up regularly or injured uke maliciously rather than reward someone for regular attendance and/or taking good care of uke.
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Old 08-07-2004, 07:45 AM   #50
Berney Fulcher
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Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?

Quote:
Destroy any idea that you need a belt to determine your self worth.
To me this was one of the best things said here. I come from a TKD background which did not promote solely based on technical expertise. While I think it is admirable to try for a belt when you may have difficulties reaching it, to just give the belt through time in grade diminishes the very thing you are trying to reach for.

I really like the fact that my current Dojo is tougher in its grading requirements, and that I see a refusal to promote before the technical ability is there (for reference we are all pre-shodan, I can see that technical ability after shodan might be a bit harder to judge, at least from my perspective).
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