Hombu Dojo 1968

Hombu Dojo 1968

Monday, November 30, 2015

審査と信用 Grading in Aikido - can you trust?

Shinsa 審査 means grading examination.

What is the purpose of shinsa?
For the student and for the sake of aikido itself, shinsa is actually not just one exam, but a process which consists of nine examinations from 5th kyu to 4th dan. This process usually takes 15 to 20 years. During this long period of time, you return again and again to aikido's most important basics. Therefore, it helps improving and transmitting aikido's physical and spiritual principles to the next generation. From 5th dan to 8th dan, there is no shinsa. Only Shihan's recommendation.

What does Sensei learn from your shinsa?
Shinsa helps sensei seeing clearly the subjects that are more emphasized and less emphasized. There are also perhaps aspects that are almost missing at the dojo. After every shinsa, I find myself teaching and practicing the things that were missing in it. And not only technical aspects.

Look at yourself, look for help
Preparations for shinsa take you back to the basics. Getting ready for shinsa, teaches you to ask for your friend's help. You find yourself practicing more and more before or after class and in your free time, and you learn to look at yourself, and to find out what is missing and what is correct (more or less).

The taboo of shinsa

At our dojo and in many traditional dojo, the sensei may talk to the student about the next shinsa, but the student should never initiate a conversation or a question about his/her next shinsa. When sensei says you are ready, try to get yourself prepared for the upcoming shinsa. If for some reason you can't attend, you should inform sensei and apologize. If you think that you are not ready, and that your teacher is wrong about you, you should overcome such feelings, and try to respect and trust your teacher's request and just do your best. It is the same with students who feel ready, but the sensei does not allow them yet to participate in a shinsa. Failing is actually not a shame and not a disaster. Many people fail in their aikido shinsa and later on they learn so much from it.

Of course, if you are sick or injured or just have to be absent, it is absolutely acceptable to apologize and to explain the situation to your teacher who will surely suggest another date.

Can you trust?
Please don't occupy yourself too much with thoughts about grading and belts color. Please just practice as well as you can and trust your sensei. If you can't trust your sensei, perhaps it is time to move on - move on in your heart away from negative thoughts, or move on by means of finding a place which is more suitable for you. Trust between sensei and deshi is crucial. Also crucial is the ability not to be too judgemental. There are things that we don't understand yet and we mistakenly translate them as wrong actions by our sensei. It happened to me with my teacher several times, and after a few years I understood his approach and his attitude.

Hand in hand along the path
Balance between trust and doubt is essential. Trust but don't be blind. Go hand in hand with your teacher, like a child with a parent.
If you can. Can you?

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