I have turned in my “Intent to Test” for 1st Kyu (the final Kyu test). Assuming I pass, my next test will be for pre-Shodan (black belt level). As I passed my pre-1st Kyu test in July, the earliest I could test for 1st Kyu is October. So the choice was whether to push for an October test, or wait until December.
Why push? Once you reach 1st Kyu, you must wait at least 6 months before testing for black belt, and Dan tests are held only in June and November. So to test for black belt in June 2013, I need to pass the 1st Kyu test no later than this December, and an October test would give me an extra chance.
The final Kyu test is more involved than any of the previous tests. In addition to doubling the number of weapon techniques and basic techniques to perform, there are more hand techniques and more renzoku (a sequence of techniques performed in rapid succession). Could I learn them all well enough to have a chance of passing in October? I wasn’t sure. So I emailed my regular instructor for advice, telling him my goal was to test for pre-Shodan next June. I thought he would be pleased, since he’d said before how much he looked forward to 2013, with up to three of his students possibly testing for black belt.
His response reminded me how much I still have to learn.
My initial reaction, he began, is that rushing through to achieve a certain rank by a certain date is not the way to approach Aikido. I learned this by rushing through to achieve a certain rank by a certain date…Always train as if you are going to test, but decide whether you’re ready when the application is due.
This was not what I (more precisely, my ego) had wanted to hear. But of course he was right. Why was the June Dan test so important to me? Because I wanted to be one of the first of my instructor’s students to test for black belt. The problem with that? It was based on personal pride and wanting my instructor to be proud of me. By rushing to test I might perform decently, but my understanding of the techniques would be shallow and limited, rather than at the deeper level that leads to permanent growth in Aikido.
“Practicing the basics over and over is so important,” Kushida-sensei once said in Kenshu class, “because it establishes the foundation upon which your subsequent training is built.”
So when I turned in the Intent to Test form, I told Sensei that I would be testing in December. I will still be taking extra classes, but my focus will be on really learning the techniques instead of rushing to meet an artificial goal. And per the advice of my instructor, I will take the test at the main dojo instead of the Rec & Ed club. Pass or fail, he told me, I will learn a lot more there about where I am and whether I’m ready to move on to the next level.
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