A test or ranking is not just for the person taking the rank test. It
is as much for the rest of the Dojo, the Sensei, and newbies who don't
know the people in the Dojo.
There are several reasons for testing. One of these reasons is to show
newer people what they need to learn, to provide a standard for
them. Another is to show the Sensei how you perform under
stress. Another is to give a belt rank that allows newbies to know
what rank you are so that they can go to you for help. These are just
a few of the reasons.
Why should someone NOT stop taking tests? Well, it becomes very
embarrassing for the people who have taken rank tests to have someone
who is lower ranked be technically and conceptually better than
them. However, if a person hasn't taken rank when then should have,
then the person does not deserve it yet since the person does not yet
understand the importance of ranking for the benefit of the whole
Dojo. Interesting, if a person will not take rank tests, then they
don't deserve the rank yet. I have recently had to deal with this
problem here in Hong Kong. The person thought they were being very
humble but after looking deeply into his motivations, he realized that
rather than being humble, he was being very arrogant. All those of
you who are not taking rank test to remain humble, please review your
motivations carefully, they may not be as pure as you think. I know
since I once looked at things in the same way myself.
In Hong Kong, we give tests in front of a Board. As a member of the
Board, I am not concerned only with how the individual performs in the
exam, but their long-term performance in day-to-day practice. I think
all of us have had instances when we are at seminars and a Sensei is
standing next to us watching our technique and there is no way that
you can do the technique correctly even though it is normally your
favourite and best technique. In fact, you were probably doing it
quite well while the Sensei was not looking but you foul up as soon as
you feel his or her eyes upon you. This is why our tests are usually
at the end of a period of practice during which I have a chance to
watch the testees practicing their technique.
Second, the spirit of the Aikidoist is important. Does the person help
others? Does the person understand the principles behind the
techniques? Does the person have good Dojo Reigi? Will I be
embarrassed if this person visits another Dojo? Does the person have
good ukemi? Does the person practice vigorously with commitment? Do
they have good zanshin? What is their mindset as they test? Will the
person keep going even when the chips are down?
Third, what is the person capable of? Are they working to their limits
(part of the spirit question maybe)? How is their progress?
Fourth, will conferring the higher rank improve their Aikido through
improvement of their confidence? Maybe the person needs some help to
stop worrying about the test so they can get on with their practicing
Fifth, what is their commitment to Aikido? How often do they come to
practice? How often do they ask questions? Are they thinking about
Aikido all the time.
Sixth, what is their potential? Am I wasting my time on this person?
Are they only looking for rank or are they truly interesting in
getting a chance to learn more advanced techniques? Why are they
Seventh, how is this person's Aikido relative to the others in the
Dojo with whom they practice? This is the equity question relative to
others in the Dojo or association or federation. This question should
not be answered only in terms of technique but also time spent in
Aikido, the amount of work the person does for Aikido (including
administrative work), and the visibility of the person in the Dojo.
Eighth, how is the power of this person's techniques? After all, this
is a MARTIAL ART! What is the martial competence of the person?
Ninth, will conferring the higher rank do anything for Aikido as a
whole or for the Dojo or association/federation? Will the person be a
good ambassador for Aikido to outsiders? Will be person help to make
There are probably a few other issues I have forgotten at present. The
list is not in any specific order, especially since depending upon the
specific case-by-case circumstances, which issue is most important
will differ. All of these issues, though, must be balanced off. No one
issue ever disappears off the list. Things just change in weighting
and there is no weighting of zero.
Please note that these are my own personal criteria and are not
necessarily that of any others.
By the way, these criteria hold whether the ranking is for Mudansha or
(Rocky Izumi is the head of the Barbados Aikido Federation in Barbados,