Shinsa - Examination in Aikido
Not long ago, when you wanted to learn something, you had to look for an expert and hope that he accepts you as a disciple. If you spent enough time as his assistant, and if you had the talent and luck, there was a chance for you to become independent.
In our time, many people decide on their own to become instructors. Some even call themselves "masters". In ancient times, when we lived in tribes, and also today when we observe tribes in remote areas, we can see how naturally children find their field of expertise by accompanying the adults in the group. Some become hunters, some fishermen, some help with construction or agriculture and so on. One generation passes knowledge to the younger in a most natural way.
We are fortunate to still have a few teachers who keep the traditional teaching and learning methods. Those teachers are dedicated to the most dedicated students and they would guide them through the learning process.Especially in Budo, it is considered extremely important to always have a teacher and to always devote yourself to improving. There is never an end to your learning process.
In most types of Budo, there are certain levels and stages. In Japanese, there are several words for level or stage. Two of them are "Kyu" and "Dan". In Aikido, we can imagine a staircase with six stairs leading to a gate. When you are six stairs from the gate, you begin learn the most basic things like Tai-Sabaki, Reigi, basic movements and basic techniques. Then, when your teacher recognizes your improvement and understanding he announces that you can proceed to the next stage. Before you do so, it is time for all those who were involved in your learning process to take a look at your Aikido. Same as a painter who takes a few steps away from his canvas to view his painting before he continues working on it. During shinsa, the teacher and all the students sit and watch you as you perform in front of them your ability so far - your movements and techniques, principles and spirit, etiquette, and so on. It is totally different than school exams. In Aikido, we all together create something.
Each of us improves himself through Aikido thanks to each and every person in the dojo - from the first day beginner to the most advanced students, teachers and masters. Regardless your level in Aikido, each person in the dojo has a part in your learning process. Therefore it is important that the whole dojo will watch your shinsa and not only the instructor. After the shinsa is over, we humbly continue our study and proceed to the next Kyu until we reach the first gate - shodan - the first Dan - the first level of black belt.
There are many things to say and write about our training after we obtain our black belt, but this article must be short so this time I will just suggest that we should wrap our black belt around our waist and not around our ego. We must be humble and caring. We must think less about ourselves and more about our Dojo, the members and the teachers. We also must have a sincere care about the future of Aikido and Aikikai.