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Home > Spiritual > Shodan Question
by Cady Goldfield <Send E-mail to Author> - 25. October, 1996

Different schools have different criteria, from a technical standpoint -- that is, the quantity of techniques the student has learned.

Basically, a shodan in any traditional art is expected to demonstrate a working knowledge and facility of what are considered to be the fundamental principles and techniques of the system. After that, he/she is supposed to learn more complex ways to express those basic principles, and to become more spontaneous in their use.

Beyond that, however, there are certain unwritten expectations for internal development. At shodan, a student is expected to act like an "older sibling" to the mudansha, and to set a good example by living the dojo etiquette, tenets and tradition. At the same time, the shodan must continue to work on improving and expanding his own skills, and looks up to his sempai for guidance in that.

Shodan _is_ important, because we humans need tangible milestones that allow us to gauge our progress. Anyone who tells you that rank is not important, doesn't understand the fundamental emotional need of most humans to have some sort of symbol of his dedication and development/advancement of skill and knowledge. Just as most people need weddings, bar mitzvahs, funerals and graduations as tangible symbols of life's other milestones.

The only caution, is for students to understand that the belt is a symbol of the accomplishment, _not_ that the belt _confers_ accomplishment. Anyone can buy a black belt. It is vital to develop the skills that the belt will symbolize, before asking to test for the rank. Also, one should never think, "I will train hard so I can get my black belt," because that too puts the belt in a position of greater importance than the skills themselves.

In other words, the desire to learn the art should be the driving force for training, not the desire to receive the black belt -- the symbol of accomplishment in that art. But, once skill has been attained, the shodan should be proud of his accomplishment and his right to wear the rank -- and to shoulder the responsibility that comes with it.

As long as he remembers that shodan is just the beginning, and continues with his studies to improve and advance his skills to the next level. At the heart, shodan is considered to be the beginning of the serious study and pursuit of the art. Kinda like having to learn to read and write the alphabet, and to learn basic grammar and writing skills, before being accepted as a serious student of literature writing.

Cady "throwin' in a shodan's $.02 worth" Goldfield

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