Sunday, August 03, 2008

Grueling rank tests

I enjoyed this video of Sheila Eglen's rank test very much.  Congratulations Ms. Eglen.   
Though I really enjoyed this vid, especially the music and the choking laugh at the end, I don't really get into abusive rank tests. Any instructor worth a hoot can look at a student of their art for fewer than five minutes and tell their approximate skill level, so this isn't really a rank test. This sort of thing really only serves to demonstrate to the student that undergoes it that she is tougher than perhaps she thinks she is (which isn't a bad thing to be taught).
This reminds me of the horror stories about some of the surprises during one of my old karate instructor's sandan test.  Allegedly, during her execution of various kata and techniques, an observing black belt fired a shotgun into the air to panic her.  At another time during the test, an observer crept up behind her and garroted her with a rope.
That was one tough lady.


  1. Wow, That was absolutely wonderful, very powerful yet touching. Congratulations to her for all her efforts and accomplishment!
    -John At dojo Rat

  2. Great video!

    But I have to say something about the shotgun and garroting -- what the hell were they thinking? There is one appropriate response to a shotgun in a Dojo: run. Fighting for your life is a remote second. Expecting her to stand there and do kata only reinforces the worst possible response.

    And the garrote. Really? Kata is the only time a karateka (judoka, and so on) can use full force -- it is the only training method where we can fully think and believe "KILL." Why would you sneak attack someone in that state? Why would you expect them to do anything short of breaking your neck? Why would you reward them for doing anything less?

  3. Reid, I agree completely. Those were extreme examples of extreme people in a rank test situation that bordered on (probably stepped over the line of) hazing.

    This alleged rank test with the rope and shotgun occurred outside in the country - not in a dojo, and if i understand their thinking rightly, they were trying to provoke adrenalization with the shotgun and they were promoting awareness (i.e. remaining aware enough to not let someone sneak up on you)

    That is one example of why I don't particularly like rank testing - it too often slips into hazing and it too seldom measures anything objectively.

    ...and another interesting thing - Rory Miller in his new book, Meditations on Violence, said that sometimes in a seminar that he taught to police, he would have someone rack a shotgun in the next room to see if the officers recognized the sound and acted appropriately (i.e. run like hell).

  4. Actually, I was thinking of exactly that example from Meditations. It exposes macho posturing for what it really is.

    I can't conceive of a better Martial Arts book!

  5. Very tough test, and many congratulations to her for passing that grueling challenge!

    The one part I don't quite understand is when they stand in front of each other and pound each other's faces with boxing gloves. Shouldn't she be trying to use some of her techniques, or the concepts of distance and evasion?

    I suppose it could be considered a test of will to stand in the face of abuse, but those strikes hardly represent a real punch in the face by hard knuckles. I'd much rather practice ad nauseum the concepts of angling, covering, and avoidance.

    Going into that panic state of arm swinging is not the goal of isshin ryu or jujutsu as I understand them.

    Maybe I am missing the point? Other thoughts much appreciated.

  6. youre right, ikigai, there's not much point in standing toe to toe in a sparring match. It might be useful as a one-time exercise in which the student is told that they are absolutely not to step back.

    in a situation where your smarts are not working and you are not allowed to retreat, at least for a few moments, it can be good to know you can take a little abuse and survive until your smarts start working again or you can run.

    again, just a guess. we don't practice or test like this.

  7. The shime testing at the end, where the instructor was "testing" her Sanchin kata was a horror show. . .this my visceral reaction. . .that it is one tough person. Is this dojo going to war? I applaud the people testing for their courage. . .I can't understand testing like this. . .never will. . .although I am not sure that there is a level of understanding to be gained.


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