I Passed! Kim Taylor May 26, 2017 – Re-posted 26 May 2023

I did, actually, I passed my 6dan jodo. So now what do I do? Some would say I start practicing for my 7dan. In a way that would be true, but I’ve been practicing for my 7dan test from the first day I started jodo. These are not descrete tests, of different skills, there are only 12 kata and the same skills are used in each. If we progress through the set from test to test that does not imply you are being tested on the different kata. They tend to get longer and more difficult, sure, but beyond 5dan it’s not about the techniques so much. 1-3dan is about learning the kata, by 3 you ought to know most of them, you’ve been practicing for 3 years after all and you are being tested on up to number 8. If that’s all you’ve seen you’ve been lazy, 9, 10 and 11 aren’t that long. You may be missing Ran Ai, but that’s only 1 of 12. Four and five dan are seven years of perfecting the techniques you learned in the first three ranks. By ten years of practice you have probably learned number 12.

Six and Seven dan are the workhorse years, where you are coming into the responsibility to pass along the art correctly. They also tend to be the years you get sucked into the administrative side of things, either in your dojo or in your federation. By taking those grades at all you are saying that you are willing to do the heavy lifting. The moral of that story is something like don’t take the rank if you don’t want the work.

Or “rank is punishment”.

So I challenged my grade and I took it and I deserved it.

Or I challenged my grade and the panel gave it to me and I need to work harder to justify their faith in me.

Which category are you? I will tell you a secret, I have never, ever “taken” a grade, I’ve never “earned” a grade. I’ve been a judge of martial arts grades since the late 1980s and I know the difference between these two. You win a grade or you are given it. I’ve been given, show me a tape of any of my grades and I can show you multiple places where I could have been failed. In this last one I could have failed me while I was walking on to the floor. Not that I fell on my face or some other technical thing, but my attitude was wrong.

Make no mistake, there is no discussion amongst the judges about this. This particular grading panel contained three pairs speaking three languages, it would have been hard to discuss things like this. A unilingual panel would not discuss things like this, there is no need, it is “a thing”. You show your jodo, you are either well past the line for the rank, in which case you “won” the grade, or you are close enough that the judges say “close enough” to themselves and “give” it to you.

The categories are also attitudes. Do you figure you topped it, you nailed it, or do you feel like you just barely scraped by? In either case, you ought to keep working hard but one of those attitudes may be more help doing that.

You can also be grading to get the grade or grading because that’s sort of what you ought to be doing at this number of years from your last grade. One of those attitudes will be better at keeping you working hard the day after your grading. I believe the phrase to “rest on your laurels” is applicable. I’ve always thought that meant, if you win the laural crown and then sit on it, you end up with a sore bum.

My granny used to tell me “don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back”.

Sometimes you really do take a grade to help out the federation, either by paying the grading fees (which that federation uses to run itself) or by getting the rank so you can sit panels and give out other rank and perpetuate the system. If you’re that helpful type you’re going to keep learning, keep working hard so you can pass along the art properly. If you have graded to satisfy your own ego and you feel you deserved the rank and you’ve “done your bit” by paying for it, you may or may not be working hard the next day toward that next rank. But you won’t be much more useful to the organization than a source of funds. Don’t be that guy, it’s not good for you.

There is an old Kendo saying that if you win a match you gain nothing at all. If you lose a match you gain a chance to learn and improve.

I believe gradings are not like this, you can win a rank or lose a rank but even when you “win” your grade you can take it as a chance to learn and improve. Just say to yourself:

“They gave it to me.”

Now you have to earn it.


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