Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My First Aikido Test

I started training in Aikido here in Kurobe, Japan on January 13th, and have just completed my first test: nanakyu. Officially, the results of the test will be revealed on the next class after further consideration, but the older belts seemed confident I passed and did well; however, I could have misinterpreted everything as is often the case in Japanese ha! The curriculum for the test was fairly simple; four wazas from wrist grabs that were kokyu nage, shiho nage, irimi nage, and ikkyo. I have been focusing on these ever since I started in January, so I think my level of ability is certainly appropriate for the nanakyu test. However, the most important basics are found in these seemingly simple moves, and if you can master them, the rest could be fairly simple. This honing of basics for mastery is something I'm realizing more and more all the time, but of course I still yearn for super-advanced-ultimate-secret-technique sometimes.

The test was fairly short. I consisted of some preliminary traditional etiquette of bowing at all the right times and people, and then displaying the techniques before sensei on the classes high ranking blackbelts. When I started, I semi-intentially hadn't put a lot of importance on rising through the ranks with tests and belts, and was rather content to just absorb as much as I can each class ... but that hakama all the black belts wear looks more and more inticing every single class, especially when I look in the mirror and see my white belt. I wonder what other martial artists think, but after earning a black belt, seeing that white is just so ... WHITE!

Well, onward and upward.


  1. Some people don't like exams in martial arts because they feel... "like at school" (that's what they usually say). On the contrary, I find it important to prove you're good at something, to do your best.
    And, belts are cool. Catch'em all!
    In my school we have cool sashes (red for kung fu, blue in tajiquan) with colourful fringes and stripes, and wearing the uniform is an art itself!

  2. Every once in a while I find myself wearing a white belt again. No it does not look as cool. However I have found this is my zen part of my training. What ego do I associate around the color of a stupid belt? Does having a black one reduce my ability to listen?

    Last year I started training with a 9th dan in Judo. I showed up to his class wearing a white belt. He told me to wear my regular black belt. I told him I didn't care, I had no ego with the belt. He told me, "I know you don't have ego,that is why you have come to me to train."

  3. It's easy to get caught up in the belts and the color. Of course, we shouldn't, and wanting to do away with it altogether is tempting (our own school has simplified it down to white, green brown over the years, and some only do white and brown).

    Over time, I've come to realize that for the most part, the color helps the teachers know where you're at in your training in the early stage, mostly due to safety. What's the expression? "The rules are there for your protection". A white belt generally can't take the sort of ukemi a brown or black belt can, for example, so I have to take that into consideration when working with them. I'll also adjust the level of proficiency I expect from a student. It can also help teachers break down a mountain of information into digestible chunks (focus on this for this rank, then focus on the next piece, etc).

    Theoretically, we could do all that without a belt color, but once a school reaches a certain size like ours, and you get a constant flux of students and teachers, it really helps.

    So for me, to a beginner, belts seem like a status symbol. As a black belt, it helps me coordinate teaching and allows me to keep folks safe.

    I'm curious about the hakama situation there, though. I'm not sure I understand the practice of waiting until a student is a black belt for them to wear one. That seems a little elitist to me. But then, I'm looking in from the outside, so...

  4. I knew it...
    Now you will stay in Japan past your teaching contract and work to get your Black Belt in Aikido!
    You will then have a Black Belt in Kenpo, Aikido, and the Beer-stained uniform of The Dojo Rat Cult!
    Besides, you will look particulearly alluring in one of those long black dresses.


  5. What a great range of comments!
    To Sean, yes only the black belts wear hakama. I've never questioned it really, and in accordance with what you said about expected level of skill and ability to take falls, I think you're expected to know the material, be able to take heavy falls, and possibly have your own take or opinion about the techniques. I think it could be seen as a bit elitist, but it makes me want one even more, and my class is relaxed and comfortable enough, that there is absolutley no one strutting with a big ego in their hakama, so I dont see it as an issue.

  6. Oh BTW this reminds me the issue about belts and hierarchy (point 3 and 5) in my old "Kwoon ethics" post, actually. If you trust your teacher, you also trust the black belts in his class. Just the other day I was training Kung fu with a girl in my auld tiny kwoon; I asked her for advice, and she replied she wasn't the right person to ask to, since she's younger than me, and a girl and all that - but I insisted that she was two colours ahead of me, and therefore she could teach me...

  7. Congratulations on the first step.

  8. Hi,my name is bill.Today im going to my first aikido lesson,im 42years old and feel im in poor phyisical shape and also mental shape.