034) Aikido Shinsa at Aikido Arts of Shin-Budo Kai: Week of April 26, 2009

Today is the anniversary of O’Sensei’s death.  It is fitting that some students will be taking their aikido tests this week.  We are carrying on the legacy of a truly unique and gifted martial artist.  Tests are simply sign posts along the road to our development within the world of Aikido.  Different schools and different styles of Aikido view Shinsas (tests) in different ways.  I recently read about one person who viewed testing as not only the execution of techniques, but of the development of the person to fit with the idealized image of the head of that style.  I can appreciate the aims and goals of other people’s versions as to what testing represents without having to endorse and/or share those views with what I am looking for in a test.  I think that it is fair that I share with my students what I am looking for when students test under my supervision.

First, and most important is that to me, I do not tell a student that the test is in the near future until I believe that they have already progressed to the point where I believe that they have already improved to a point where they have “passed”.  I do not have a “universal” standard.  I balance certain minimum, objective standards with each person’s development (whether it be child, teen, or adult).

Second: I look to see how students confront the challenge of an upcoming test.  It is difficult to study for a test from a strictly cognitive perspective since the training is based on using your body in a manner that focuses in on preconscious actions.  I have said it frequently that in a fight,  if you have to think about it, it is TOO LATE!  Studying for a test by focusing on a cognitive approach will NOT help you!  Of course it is difficult to associate a foreign language with certain movements.  We have to learn how to let our bodies guide this process.  Listen to the name of the technique and associate it with the proper movement.

Third:  I am more interested in observing how your participation in this dojo is impacting you as a person, rather an interest in how you are developing an ability to become a “warrior.”  As we progress through different Kyu and Dan ranks, we should hopefully allow Aikido to influence the way in which we interact with the world around us.  Developing a safe world is directly linked to creating a peaceful world around us.  Watching the mental and physical development in all of the students has been a remarkably positive experience for me.  You may not see how this is enacted during your test, but I certainly can and I am truly honored to be a part of this process.

The mind-body development that I talk about in my weekly blog is beautifully observed when you test.  Good Luck and Congratulations!

Marc Abrams Sensei

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