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Old 10-25-2005, 04:16 PM   #1
"Pondering..."
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Freaky! Skipping grades?

Hmmm... see, there's an interesting thing.

I started Aikido at the beginning of August and I wasn't planning on grading at all to start with, at least not for the first year. After a couple of months sensei said that I should go for my first grading.

This duly happened and the examiner came from elsewhere in the country and much higher in the organisation and graded us in a non-partisan way, as it were. I was more than a little suprised to then be announced as 4th kyu... skipping a grade completely.

After only a little over two months I have to admit this made me wonder about the validity of the syllabus, the expectations, and so forth. Is it really possible that in two months I performed that well to warrant skipping a grade, with no previous MA experience?

I don't really want to volunteer any more details at the moment lest any attached parties get back to wrong parties...

I should stress, though, that the grade isn't what's bothering me (I graded at sensei's suggestion and isn't something I'm dwelling on as anything other than a thanks to sensei and an acknowledgement to my growing involvement in Aikido), what bothers me is that I might be learning to a different set of standards... if that makes any sense?

Any insights gratefully received...
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Old 10-25-2005, 04:38 PM   #2
Steven
 
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Re: Skipping grades?

>Is it really possible that in two months I performed that well to warrant skipping a grade, with no >previous MA experience?

Apparently the grading instructor thought so. So say thank you and move on with your training.
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Old 10-25-2005, 08:16 PM   #3
Joe Bowen
 
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Re: Skipping grades?

Skipping grades is not unheard of. In smaller dojos or even organizations that are trying to "step up" themselves may sometimes promote quickly in order to build up a core of higher ranking individuals. As soon as a saturation point is achieved quick promotions start to disappear.
The other possibility is that maybe you just did very well.....
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Old 10-26-2005, 02:26 AM   #4
Joshua Livingston
 
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Re: Skipping grades?

This is a very touchy subject as some say whatever Sensei says, that's the way it is. However, in the real world intelligent people realize this is not always the case and the title of Sensei is not always as good as gold.

I have personally had over 10 years of martial arts involvement in which I heavily researched various martial arts and participated in arts from Shotokan to Brazilian Capoeira. I have been training in Aikido for 3 years and have done very heavy research into Aikido through books and web-sites such as Aikido Journal. So my point is that I have seen a lot of the good in the martial arts world as well as a lot of the very worst.

Unfortunately the worst part of your average martial arts experience (outside of blatant illegal conduct within Dojo) will be the politics involved. Very few Dojo are able to get away from the politics and no organizations are able to, as that is the nature of the beast.

As such, it is near impossible to say for sure what the reasons behind the skipped rank were. There are a multitude of wrong reasons that could have applied to your situation, but just the same there are an equal number of good reasons that could explain it.

First of all, I would suggest having a talk to your Sensei about it. This should always be the first step when you have problems in the Dojo for any reason. If you trust your Sensei enough to train you, you should trust him enough to be frank with you about such occurrences. Simply explain to him that you have little experience in martial arts and as such you wonder exactly why you were awarded an extra rank. If you are happy with his explanation, then all is well.

However, if he is "old school" and it is a case of "Sensei knows best," then you should start doing your own research into the matter. Start off with your organization. Find out how it is viewed by other organizations. If you are directly associated with an organization founded by an Uchi Deshi (or close student) of O-Sensei, you more than likely won't find much wrong there, as they are all fairly legit. If not, find out who it was that broke away from the organization and why they did so.

If the organization comes out clean, study up on the Sensei in question next. Find out if anyone has anything bad to say about them. If they aren't up to stuff, more than likely someone has a grudge with them and someone might have posted why somewhere on the net. Of course don't take the info you find as gospel, as there are always two sides to the story, but it may shed some insight into why your situation happened.

I know it seems like a lot of work, but this is the process I go through anytime I start at a new school, as I have past experiences where the information would have saved me a lot of grief. Plus even if you don't have your questions answered, you will still learn a lot about your organization and the people in it.

If everything comes out clean then don't worry about it, you probably earned it.

If you wish, you may send me a private message containing your organization name and or the Sensei in question, and I'll have a look around for anything I can find or have found in the past and get back with you.

I wouldn't be too concerned about skipping the very first belt, as it is fairly common for Dojo to award the first belt to students who simply show up every class and prove their dedication. Once you have some experience and you observe a few first belt grading sessions, you realize how crappy they usually look, as long as you know the basic movements of the technique a Sensei will probably pass you.

In most cases, at 4th Kyu you should be showing some basic signs of advancement, such as fairly good posture, flow, and a forward mentality. It is possible that if you are young and flexible (or old and confident) that you may have simply performed the basic 5th Kyu techniques at a 4th Kyu level and the Sensei decided to reflect this. If you do not know the 4th Kyu techniques however, I would get it in gear and start learning them fast, that way you can start familarizing yourself with the 3rd Kyu techniques and be prepared for the next testing time, otherwise you may find that you are double promoted only to have to skip the next testing and double the time that you are 4th Kyu.

There is also the chance that the Sensei mistakenly announced you as 4th Kyu when he should have announced you as 5th Kyu. In the cases of "Sensei is always right" the Sensei may prefer to make a mistake stick rather than admit there was a mistake in the first place. Remember Sensei are people too and we all make mistakes.

Like I said before, I wouldn't worry too much about a first belt skip. However, if you see it happening in the upper belts such as 2nd and 1st Kyu, that "might" be a sign that something isn't quite right. Especially if someone gets a Shodan grade after taking a 1st Kyu test, or someone gets a Nidan grade after taking a Shodan test, or etc, as these ranks should always have a minimum time limit before they are achieved, unless there is some very significant reason that it be waived.

In my style it generally takes 5+ years to achieve Shodan and that's assuming you are training at least 3 times a week and hardly ever miss class.

Other styles have lower or higher grading times, but I personally would be very hesitant to join any school that claimed to award a Shodan in under three years (no matter what art or style), unless it was a living at the Dojo, training every day type of situation, or similar.

When it comes to Dan grades the quickest standard I would personally be comfortable with would be at least 2 extra years for Nidan, 3 years for Sandan (15 all up), 4 years for Yondan, 5 years for Godan, and etc. At that rate if you became a Shodan at 20, you could theoretically achieve Judan at 74 years old, which sounds about right to me, personally. I know the USAF does it by training hours, but I've come to learn that everyone always well exceeds the minimum training hours required before they actually achieve their next rank.

Anyway, have a talk to your Sensei and see what he thinks about it.

Hope this helps.

Last edited by Joshua Livingston : 10-26-2005 at 02:31 AM.

Joshua Livingston
Aikido of Ashland (USAF)
Gold Coast Jujutsu
Capoeira Zambia Congo Group
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Old 10-26-2005, 03:12 AM   #5
"Pondering..."
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Re: Skipping grades?

Wow, brilliant post, Joshua, and very helpful! Thanks very much!

Quote:
There is also the chance that the Sensei mistakenly announced you as 4th Kyu when he should have announced you as 5th Kyu.
Funny you should say that... I was initially announced as 3rd Kyu(!) but this was quickly corrected after the ceremonies and all that were over.

I'd appreciate your input on the organisation so I'll PM you under my registered name, but actually I'm very happy with my sensei and the dojo I attend. And since the grading he has ratified the examiner's decision himself so he evidently thinks I earned it... he specifically cited sheer number of techniques performed beyond 5th kyu knowledge.

I think I'm being jumpy for little reason due to my inexperience, TBH, because it was my first grading and it just seemed so darn easy! Hopefully it will get harder from here on in. I haven't seen any unearned 2nd Kyu to 1st Kyu to Shodan to Nidan awards, and the 1st Kyu tested on the same day are now talking about two years approx. to their Shodan grading.
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Old 10-26-2005, 07:58 AM   #6
Pauliina Lievonen
 
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Re: Skipping grades?

IMO the first two gradings in many organizations aren't all that hard, if you happen to have a bit of talent for moving well and memorizing techniques, it would be easy to do them fairly quickly. It'll get more difficult later on. Don't get too frustrated when that happens.

kvaak
Pauliina
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Old 10-26-2005, 08:17 AM   #7
SeiserL
 
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Re: Skipping grades?

Quote:
what bothers me is that I might be learning to a different set of standards... if that makes any sense?
Yep, different organizations, schools, and teachers have different standards based on who they are and what they are looking for.

IMHO, don't take the grade (or skipping) too seriously, just get back to training. Don't take the color of your belt too seriously or too personally because if you keep training it will change.

Relax, breath, and enjoy yourself.

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 10-26-2005, 03:05 PM   #8
Simbo
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Re: Skipping grades?

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote:
IMHO, don't take the grade (or skipping) too seriously, just get back to training. Don't take the color of your belt too seriously or too personally because if you keep training it will change.
As someone else once said, "The belt only covers two inches of your bum"
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Old 11-03-2005, 08:39 AM   #9
Steve Mullen
Dojo: White Rose (Sunderland)
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Re: Skipping grades?

my advice, crack open a cold beer, lie out in the sun and revel in your new found 4th kyu-li-ness.
enjoy training and look forward to learning.

i posted a similar thread a little way back asking if people thought i was grading too fast as i got 4th kyu in less than a year, the replies re-assured me that sensei isn't stupid, meaning he won't want people from other organisations looking at his students and thinking "they get graded for putting their gi on right" every sensei wants his organisation (or her organisation before the feminists have my b***s in a vice ) to be full of students who's ability exceeds their grade.

peace out y'all

"No matter your pretence, you are what you are and nothing more." - Kenshiro Abbe Shihan
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Old 11-03-2005, 01:08 PM   #10
DCP
 
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Re: Skipping grades?

I agree with Steve. It's good to crack open a beer. What was the thread about?

A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.
- Aesop
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Old 11-03-2005, 05:15 PM   #11
"Pondering..."
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Re: Skipping grades?

Mmm... beer...

... thread?
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Old 11-17-2005, 08:51 AM   #12
"Pondering2"
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Talking Re: Skipping grades?

Don't count your lucky stars. I've got a mate who was graded 3rd kyu twice. When his name was called during the 3rd kyu test, we all thought it was a mistake. One of the instuctors informed the chief instructor's wife (a 5th dan herself) and he was told to shut up.

At the certificate giving ceremony, my mate was issued another 3rd kyu certificate. Grading is not free. We told him that there are reward points for collecting 3rd kyu certificates, with another 8 more he can exchange them for a 3rd dan certificate and a carton of beer.

I should have collected 5th kyu certs and exchange them for a 5th dan
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Old 11-17-2005, 09:31 AM   #13
Steve Mullen
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Re: Skipping grades?

We were all in the pub after a big course and the chief instructor turns to one of the guys and says "so tim, when are you going to do your 1st kyu?" "errrrm i did it two months ago sensei" comes the rather hurt reply. After much consideration Tim came to the conclusion that he was just put there for some comic relief in between the serious bits that the other guy taking his 1st kyu was doing. All hail Tim the aiki-clown, onto the mat drives an impossibly small car, out steps tim in a multi-coloured gi and 5 uki (cue the circus music......and begin)

"No matter your pretence, you are what you are and nothing more." - Kenshiro Abbe Shihan
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Old 11-17-2005, 01:07 PM   #14
Trish Greene
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Re: Skipping grades?

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote:
IMHO, don't take the grade (or skipping) too seriously, just get back to training. Don't take the color of your belt too seriously or too personally because if you keep training it will change.
Lynn,
I just said the same thing last night in class. Some of the younger trainees where arguing over who gets to sit where in seiza during the begining of class. Since I am only into my 3 month I typically sit in the back (where I prefer so I can watch people). I told the kids "If you know what your ranking is, it doesn't matter where you sit"

I am not sure if they liked that answer......
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Old 11-19-2005, 07:13 PM   #15
"sfg"
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Re: Skipping grades?

For dan ranks at my dojo, you have to wait to be asked to test. Our sensei comes up to you at some dojo function and asks, ‘didn't you take your [blank]dan?' ‘No sensei, it's been [so many] years.' ‘I could have sworn you tested.' ‘Nope.' This goes back and forth for a few minutes, then he ends the conversation abruptly with, ‘oh' or ‘interesting' and walks away. This has become such a regular occurrence that it's common knowledge that when sensei asks if you've tested, that's how you know you're going to test soon.

As to the original poster: I'm not exactly sure what the issue is. The dojo and organization make money if they test you more often, they loose if they skip you a grade. It's hard for me to think of a situation where they would skip you ahead for any reason other than you did well. Making you retest, there could be some fowl play there, but hardly with skipping.
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Old 11-21-2005, 05:41 AM   #16
ruthmc
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Re: Skipping grades?

Quote:
Don't count your lucky stars. I've got a mate who was graded 3rd kyu twice. When his name was called during the 3rd kyu test, we all thought it was a mistake. One of the instuctors informed the chief instructor's wife (a 5th dan herself) and he was told to shut up.

At the certificate giving ceremony, my mate was issued another 3rd kyu certificate. Grading is not free. We told him that there are reward points for collecting 3rd kyu certificates, with another 8 more he can exchange them for a 3rd dan certificate and a carton of beer.

I should have collected 5th kyu certs and exchange them for a 5th dan
This tends to be a problem in larger organisations, where the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, and those at the top are shielded from mistakes.

It's not fair when the kyu rank students have to pay for it though.

Ruth
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Old 11-21-2005, 05:48 AM   #17
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: Skipping grades?

Quote:
Ruth McWilliam wrote:
This tends to be a problem in larger organisations, where the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, and those at the top are shielded from mistakes.

It's not fair when the kyu rank students have to pay for it though.

Ruth
Or that he was told to shut up.
Mary
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Old 11-21-2005, 04:18 PM   #18
Dirk Hanss
 
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Re: Skipping grades?

Maybe it was not fair, but maybe it was part of the test.

To earn a second kyu, you have to be able to stand up for your rights. In Aikido it might look a little bit strange, but the correct reaction, when being called for the wrong grade is: bow to jury, advance to the jury's desk, bow again. Try to say it directly, or wait until you are asked and tell them, that you actually hold a 3rd kyu and you are apllying for no 2.

Anyhow, refuse to do a 3rd kyu examination a second time. The worst they can do is not taking the test, which is even better than being told afterwards that you have failed. :S

Kind regards

Dirk
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Old 11-21-2005, 04:58 PM   #19
Mark Uttech
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Re: Skipping grades?

Skipping grades is always a bad idea. Each grade is an important part of the puzzle/journey.
Each kyu grade is actually 1st kyu, because it is the first time you are testing for that kyu.
In gassho.
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Old 11-22-2005, 08:52 PM   #20
"Dave_Humm"
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Re: Skipping grades?

I have mixed feelings about skipping grades, here's why...

As a kyu grade one has only a small number of opportunities to physically test. In my own dojo we begin testing at 6th kyu.

Whilst I'm not a supporter of willfully holding a student back from testing when they're ready, I'm also not an advocator of skipping grades. "Time Served" is in my humble opinion far more important to the development of a student than what colour belt they wear or kyu certificate they hold.

What is important to me as an instructor is the breadth of knowledge my students gain over a portrayed time, not if they've met a specific standard to pass a particular grade, IMHO one does not always accompany the other.

I also not believe in absolutes. I recognise there will always be exceptions to any opinion. Indeed just last weekend four of my students were challenging for their first grade having studied for well in excess of 100 hours each. I was very pleased to see our Shidoin recognise their standard was above 6th kyu and awarded 5th however, the students in question are accepted as "high achievers".

I have no expectations that this will be the norm with other students however, despite being fortunate to have students who quickly absorb their training, I still don't entirely agree that their progression through their grades should be demonstrably quicker than others. The bottom line is they will achieve their respective grades regardless of *when* they challenge for them, I see no benefit in awarding repeated double grades as this only reduces the opportunity for them to test themselves.

Gradings are themselves a valuable lesson and an examination all rolled in to one. In one hand you have the opportunity to test your knowledge and express your personality on the mat through the techniques you apply, on the other you gain both respect for your efforts and a sense of earning what you have achieved. Examinations are also a means of instilling humility, an ego check (for those who may need it) No matter what you *think* you know, or even portray that in the dojo, the examination process illustrates clearly what one knows, and importantly what you may not.

Regards

Dave Humm

PS. Sorry about the anonymous post but I seem to be having problems logging in for some reason
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Old 11-23-2005, 11:28 AM   #21
Nick P.
 
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Re: Skipping grades?

Quote:
Mark Uttech wrote:
Skipping grades is always a bad idea. Each grade is an important part of the puzzle/journey.
Each kyu grade is actually 1st kyu, because it is the first time you are testing for that kyu.
In gassho.
Respectfully, I disagree.

Each test might be important, in that it is a unique event and a milestone for both you and your fellow students. But the grade itself is not.

We all might have some sentimental attachment to our grades, but the fact is, if you are training for training's sake, grades mean nothing.

However, if they were important, I guess I should insist my Sensei tests me for yonkyu.

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Old 11-23-2005, 03:39 PM   #22
Mark Uttech
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Re: Skipping grades?

If you are training for training's sake, the path of training includes each kyu grade. If a certain grade means nothing to you, you insult everyone who holds that certain grade. Training should be about encouragement; every grade you reach encourages those behind you. There are no gifted people; no one reaches ten years old quicker than any other.
In gassho.
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Old 12-10-2005, 04:59 PM   #23
Sam Williams
 
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Re: Skipping grades?

Our dojo is independent, meaning we are given our grade when Sensei feels we are ready, i have been training nearly two months and have not been awarded any grade, but to be honest, training is fun so i couldn't care less about my personal grading. I recognize that other people have higher grades and i should respect them, but i don't respect them for their number, i respect them for their ability.

A guy in our dojo had no grade and was skipped to 4 kyu, and all 3 three of the senseis agreed he was good enough, and 2 of them had only met him that day.

I've heard someone on this Forum say "A belt is only good for keeping your trousers up" and i have to say i agree. The grade is nothing, your ability, attitude and determination is what counts. Here is a good story which i really think applies here

A young boy traveled across Japan to the school of a famous martial artist. When he arrived at the dojo he was given an audience by the Sensei
"What do you wish from me?" the master asked.
"I wish to be your student and become the finest kareteka in the land," the boy replied. "How long must I study?"
"Ten years at least," the master answered.
"Ten years is a long time," said the boy. "What if I studied twice as hard as all your other students?"
"Twenty years," replied the master.
"Twenty years! What if I practice day and night with all my effort?"
"Thirty years," was the master's reply.
"How is it that each time I say I will work harder, you tell me that it will take longer?" the boy asked.
"The answer is clear. When one eye is fixed upon your destination, there is only one eye left with which to find the Way."

Thats my feelings

The pen is mightier than the sword.
But a sword
Dipped in ink,
Now,
That's a good compromise.
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Old 12-26-2005, 10:12 AM   #24
Ed Shockley
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Re: Skipping grades?

I have seen a nidan and a 1st kyu failed at a test at different dojos. If it is possible to be judged unworthy of a rank (which they were on that day) then it is possible to be exemplary. Of course, we all will be sure to show our certificates next time we are approached by an angry drunk in a pub.
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Old 12-26-2005, 04:52 PM   #25
MaryKaye
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Re: Skipping grades?

Quote:
Mark Uttech wrote:
If you are training for training's sake, the path of training includes each kyu grade. If a certain grade means nothing to you, you insult everyone who holds that certain grade.
I would really discourage you from defining other peoples' personal relationship to their own art and dojo as an insult to yours. This is a path that leads to continually feeling insulted.

I have dojomates who do not care about rank, whereas I care a lot, perhaps too much. We can coexist without either party feeling wronged by the other.

A situation arose for us a while back where a rank-skip would perhaps have been appropriate (though it wasn't done). Due to a combination of circumstances outside his control, a student missed a lot of grading opportunities, though he was training regularly. He might reasonably have taken fourth and fifth together. What would he have missed? He had done all the things the fifth-kyu students did, and was treated by everyone as part of that group; he just didn't have the formal title of fifth kyu. I don't see how it would have shown disrespect to anyone to double promote him, given that his skills and time on the mat were entirely appropriate for fourth.

Our current strategy for kyu tests is that each test recapitulates all of the ones below it. Thus, there is no chance that a student is "escaping" from a technique or principle by skipping a test; it will be on the test just the same, perhaps with more exacting standards. I rather like this, though I'm apprehensive about my physical condition for my next test--the cumulative number of techniques is getting pretty high.

Mary Kaye
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