Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The dreaded rank demo

When I was coming up through the ranks - particularly when I got to about the shodan-nidan range, our instructors liked to make their rank candidates go test in front of a pile of highly-ranked examiners. The rank demos would be at the end of a week-long grueling seminar, and often as not, by the middle of the rank demos there would be 2-3 of the  10-15 examiners either barely awake or just flat-out snoring!
I remember a couple of candy-striped belts joking one time that they's seen so many new shodans screw up Owaza Jupon (a kata called "The Big Ten") in so many creative ways that they'd started calling it "The bigger 11" or "the lesser 9."
I used to think those guys were real jerks for not being able to stay awake and respectful during such a big deal, but since then my role has been reversed and I've had ample opportunity to watch shodan rank demos and while, to my credit, I haven't ever fallen asleep in one, they do get monotonous after a while.
Why does that have to be?  Where is it written that there is one list of things that all up&coming shodans have to do to get their rank?  What if there were some flexibility in how the demonstrations were done?  I'm not talking about dancing velociraptors or backflips through flaming rings or anything.  You don't even have to change the rank requirements - just demonstrate something besides the same 20 techniques in the same order that the 100 people before you did. 
I've heard it said that any instructor worth anything can watch you do whatever you want to do for about 3-4 minutes and know what level you are.  So, how about we inject some creativity into the rank demo process.
I bet it'd be fun for the students, and I bet more of the geriatric candy-stripers would stay awake longer ;-)

[photo courtesy of Wikipedia]

Want to discuss this blog post? 

Patrick Parker 


  1. I make my Black Belt Testers perform all 67 Throws, I don't know where you got 20 Techniques from. If you just watch someone for 3 to 4 minutes and promote them... that we have so many High Dans out there that really don't know Judo. Do we really want to have WATER-DOWN Judo. Test them and test then hard!

  2. I don't really concur with much of that. I'm more of the line of thinking of work them hard in class for a prolonged period until you absolutely know what they are capable of, then let them demo for that level. A long, drawn-out torturous test is not really good for any diagnostic purposes - all it does is makes the student feel like they have earned the rank by jumping thru one more hoop - after jumping thru those same hoops thousands of times before over the course of years.

    as for how many techniques - we go by the Kodokan 40 - the gokyo, and my instructors and their instructors before them have all said that the first 3 kyo is shodan and the last 2 kyo is nidan and sandan material. That's 24 techniques for shodan.

    but for the 20 technique thing I was really referring to the Tomiki Aikido basic curriculum of 17 kihon and a handful of other miscellaneous techniques (so roughly 20) for shodan.

    I don't think either of those two curricula are watered down. if anything they are just not inflated.


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