As we don’t have colored obi (belt) to differentiate kyu rank hierarchy, either white or black belt is worn, there is no outward sign of rank until Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt) which is really just the beginning and not the ending place. We look at grading as an opportunity to consolidate the students repertoire of techniques and liken that effort to putting money into a savings account which then accrues interest. In Aikido, rank is merely a stepping stone along a path and that can be seen in the symbol of “Do” or “Way” which is the third pictogram for AI KI DO and is represented in the calligraphy above abstractly showing a person walking up a path.
The video material included below is from the most recent Kyu Grading at North Vancouver Aikikai which was held on Saturday December 15th, 2017. At each level, the candidate is demonstrating the test technique curriculum to the best of their individual ability. All candidates have trained diligently and with a sustained effort. Regardless of small improvements that could be made to individual techniques, this is the way learning Aikido happens by practicing in a focused and sustained way.
All candidates put in additional practice as well as regular classes for many months prior to the testing day and by seeing their own demonstration via streaming media it is a good way for the practitioner to be able to see where corrections need to be made. Grading is not just the report card for the candidate it is also for the Chief Instructor too! They need to see where the dojo members need more focus and where their efforts are paying off with better execution of techniques.
All test candidates should be pleased with their demonstration they were all very well done and show how much effort was put in to attain those results. Congratulations!
The calligraphy “Do” above was created by Kazuaki Tanahashi who was giving a Brushmind seminar in 2008 hosted by Mountain Rain Zen Community. North Vancouver Aikikai was the venue for a demonstration of calligraphic brush painting and talk about his experience as a teen who lived with his mother in an outbuilding on the Iwama property where O Sensei lived during the war. Kaz Sensei learned Aikido directly from O Sensei during that time and was often joined by such senior Instructors as Tohei, Saito and Osawa Shihan. He came to the USA coincidentally on the same ocean liner as Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei which sailed from Honolulu, Hawaii to San Francisco in 1964.