About The Following Blog

The following blog has been written purely for those wanting a first hand knowledge of what it is like to step into the dojo for the first time as a complete beginner as a Martial Artist. Through practising a Martial Art, you will gain many things such as self-confidence, self-respect and life-long and good friends. I hope this helps you to see into an amazing world of which you have never seen before and that I have had the privilege of belonging to and knowing.
Although I have not put my name or any name to this blog, it does deserve a dedication- a dedication to those who help people to train, who teach, reassure and most important of all- those who never give up, no matter how many times they hit the ground or a mental brick wall, with themselves or others. But above all- those who are ready to begin their own journey, it begins with one step….

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Chapter 42: To grade or Not to Grade...That is the Question

Hmmm...I seem to be in an interesting pickle at the moment. I have an opportunity now that I've accumulated enough hours to try for my next belt, which is blue belt. Trouble is, the grading is at another club. Not that is a big problem with any of my instructors where or who I grade with...I think the problem lies within.
Any one who is a regular reader of this blog will know that my reluctance to grade is not an entirely new development-I always get the 'heebe-geebes' near grading time, but this time it feels different.
The really stupid thing is that had the grading date been a competition date instead, I would have been the first one to sign up. The thing is is that I have never ever liked exams at School, College or Uni (alright no one does) even though I usually got good marks (apart from my driving test-which is different story since it took me five times to pass it). So why am I an absolute complete coward when it comes to gradings? Perhaps the issue lies with the fact that I'm still having issues with Ukemi (especially the forward roll) but they are improving, albeit slowly but I should (hopefully 'touch wood') be fine by the time the grading date rolls round. Ever heard of a green belt who is terrified of falling? Well, now you have-Me!
I know that for some Aikidoccas gradings are the one thing that they strive for-some people personally feel that they are failures if they don't achieve their First Dan within a certain time frame. For me, Aiki was never about getting the coveted Black Belt-it was more about learning a little self-defence and self-confidence boost. The question I now have to ask myself is-what is it exactly that I want from my Aikido? A Black Belt eventually or not? Because if I don't conquer this fear, I will never progress. But at the same time the coloured belts system for rank in the Dojo is very much a Western idea, in Japan there are no or very few gradings- the story of the Black Belt comes from the idea that your belt is a source of Ki built up through training and that to wash or clean your belt removes all Ki and for this reason very few martial artists will wash their belts-it's considered bad luck. Thus as belts were not washed, the build up of dirt on the belt showed how long a student had been training, hence if their belt was extremely black with dirt, they were very experienced and highly skilled- 'black belts' as they became known. The truth of the matter is that after a while in Western Society, a Dan grade's belt will eventually become white again- hence they come full circle, right back to white. An interesting concept really, that someone does not necessarily have to grade to prove that they are a good Aikidocca. So, why exactly am I reluctant to do this?


PM, RN said...

I've sort of come to this conundrum by accident. At my dojo, we're required to do at least an hour of farmwork for each rank examination (the dojo is at an organic sprout farm). For weeks I had been meaning to show up early to do the farmwork with my sister (a fellow aikidoka), but we just never seemed to get ourselves together to show up.

At first I felt bad about this, because I said I was going to go like three times already and failed to show up, but the more I thought about it...what does it matter? We're in a mixed class that ranges from 6th kyu to 1st kyu, and we learn techniques all over that spectrum. We show up, we train, we learn new things, what does it matter if I take my 5th kyu examination now or five years from now?

The important thing is that we train, and keep training.

James said...

Where I train your grade isn't a big deal.

We are encouraged to grade once we have the class count, not to get the grade, but because it makes you work on things that you might normally avoid.

If you enjoy aikido, then when things get too stressful, remind yourself it's supposed to be fun! Works for me.

Marc said...

To quote this article - Budo Belts and Ranks:
"The kyu/dan system was never designed merely to indicate a level of technical achievement. It also represents budo's goal of spiritual and ethical attainment towards perfection of the self. Thus dan rankings, and even kyu levels, should reflect a level of moral and spiritual development or attainment."

Attaining your blue belt won't feel like much of an achievement if you personally don't feel ready for it. take your time, there's no rush :)