Rank is a way to honor those who have studied with dedication and earnest endeavor to apply what Aikido has to offer into their daily lives.
Aikido Rank Structure
At Two Rivers Aikido, rank is an acknowledgement for the progress one makes in the art. There are technical, social, personal, and spiritual levels that are associated specifically with a particular rank. However, rank and the criteria required to achieve it only serve to outline a measuring stick for meeting thresholds during the integration of established pedagogy and knowledge with personal experience. Rank gives students a sense of what is expected of them at each progressive theshhold. It also provides for the general membership to know who may be of most assistance when further studying the art. Rank at Two Rivers Aikido is not a symbol of who is better than who. It is a way to honor those who have studied with dedication and earnest endeavor to apply what Aikido has to offer into their daily lives.
Demonstrating is an opportunity to advance one’s training by focusing on a series of techniques and principles appropriate to one’s level. It is a mirror that provides a clear reflection of proficiency within the dojo without the need for competition. The demonstration process invites students to challenge themselves, improve their technical ability, and deepen their understanding of aikido practice.
Two Rivers does not require students to advance through ranks. Adult ranks begin at 6th Kyu and progress to 1st Kyu and then to 1st Degree Black Belt (Shodan). Dan ranks (black belt) ascend in number. In order to make a Kyu demonstration, there are a required number of classes, time in rank, and training seminars. As a guide: The minimum established time frame and required classes might be utilized as an indicator of when to be prepared to begin specific training toward a particular rank. When a student is approached about preparing for a demonstration it is a good reminder to increase the focus and committeemen to training as each Kyu rank outlines specific techniques, character and moral development, and spiritual awareness which students are asked to examine in depth. Techniques from a previous demonstration may also be required on the next demonstration. It is not in keeping with traditional etiquette that a student request to be promoted. Students are not asked to demonstrate unless they are already training at a level well within the range of the rank for which they may requested to petition.
The character of each student at the time of their demonstration should reflect a maturity equal to the rank for which they are demonstrating and/or representing. This is not to say that many students already reflect a level of maturity far greater than the indicative rank.
Initial ranks (6th and 4th Kyu) may receive feedback that challenges their conditioned tendencies: i.e. The way in which one would normally move through the world and relationships without consideration, a kind of automatic pilot; not knowing the rules of etiquette for the dojo and Bushido (the martial way / warrior culture) and the code to which they bind themselves.
The higher Kyu rank petitioners (3rd thru 1st) should expect to have more in depth challenges and take on obligations to role model the manner in which serious students of the art train . . . honorably with commitment, humility, and enthusiasm. Additionally, a language that reflects the understanding of how the art informs one’s life path should be utilized with increasing facility.
Each Rank from 5th Kyu forward has reading and writing assignments designed to help each student more thoroughly embody the depth Aikido has to offer.
Proficiency of technique should also be demonstrated at a level appropriate to the petitioned rank. Increased technical knowledge supported by progressively deeper understandings of the principles underlying the technique are measured in accordance with the petitioned rank.
Ukemi (genuine attack, and the art of yielding and falling) and Ki no Nagare (flow of movement) should develop as one progresses through the ranks.
As one trains for the last two Kyu ranks (2nd and 1st) there should be an understanding of each technique, a quality of character and virtue, and a facility of language that can be offered the to lower ranks as guidance and instruction should one be called upon for such responsibility.
Dan Demonstration Procedures
At 1st Kyu, one continues to work with a senior student, but an important change occurs. One does not apply to become Shodan. As a 1st Kyu student arrives at 100 classes (minimum of ten months after their 1st Kyu demonstration) they have the option of making a request to commit to: SEISHIN TANREN . . . spiritual forging. We call this an application for Sho Dan Ho. Sho Dan Ho means: Sho Dan Candidate. What is a Sho Dan Candidate? It is a commitment to train at a level more rigorous than that of the general classes and under the direct supervision of the senior instructors. It is an opportunity to bring the long years of training to an integration of Body, Mind, and Spirit. It deepens the path of the true study of the art in a way that reflects the model for what serious study represents not only in technique but more importantly in the way in which one walks through the world in Aiki relationship with all beings, circumstances, and situations. This is a process that ideally, we then utilize throughout the rest of their lives.