Promotions are a funny thing

Getting promoted is always a strange experience, for me at least. Mostly, I just never really feel worthy of it. I suppose I should worry if I, or anyone else, ever thought with any degree of sincerity, "I deserve to promoted, darn it! What's keeping my sensei from giving me that belt or certificate?"

So, if I never really feel worthy, then I suppose it falls upon my superiors to be a more objective judge of my readiness. But then, sometimes I even questions their judgement! I shouldn't I suppose. They stand further down the road, they see a bigger picture from their vantage point than I do.

And for that matter, while we have a standard written down in terms of hours and time in grade, etc. every budoka is different; progress and achievement varies from one person to the next. So one sandan may stand at a different level of skill than another, and that's okay. The two were never meant to be compared side by side, but rather compared to how far they've come given the individuals inherent skill and physical capabilities.

On the other, I have just recently been made aware of a slight discrepancy in the number hours that a given rank required in the organization I've spent the majority of my practice time with and the rest of the world within the same arts. Basically, we got promoted a lot earlier than most folks do. In the simplest of terms, someone who held the Aikido rank of, say, godan in my former organization would be either a yondan or even a sandan on the verge of becoming a yondan in most any other Aikido organization. And the number of years it takes? Nearly double.

Well, now I really feel inadequate and undeserving.

But should I?

What's rank, really? What does it matter when I really ought to be concerned with is, Am I better today than I was yesterday? But I still feel silly when people ask what rank I hold in such and such. Ah, well.

It is what it is. No more, no less. In the end, I still keep walking along the path, regardless of the color of my shoes.


  1. First, congratulations my friend.

    In the words of Yoda, "Ready? What know you of ready?" And you are right -- trust those old timers who know when you're ready.

    I was really blown away with your lessons Tuesday night. There's been a need for a lesson like that for some time, but nobody has developed it. It bridged a gap in the program for a lot of folks. It's rare that I am blown away by a lesson. I've seen a whole lot of great stuff by great teachers in 16+ years of Judo.

    You are one of those great teachers -- someone who can deliver meaningful lessons in a form that everyone understands, lessons everyone in class benefits from.

    Thanks for the lesson, Sean.

  2. It really is interesting how the rank progression differs in various styles of aikido. I definitely think about the fact that in another style I'd probably be a 3rd or 2nd kyu (or even lower) instead of a shodan.

    I just try to accept it and not make comparisons.

  3. I know rank progression is a lot different. I have been doing Aikido since 1995 and am a nidan. I met an ex fugakukai teacher who started a 2 years before me and was a ryokudan.

    The local Aikikai teacher has been teaching since 1970 is is just a godan.

    My teacher is godan and remembers Nick as a green belt!

    Personal skill, of course, and dedication can make a difference. I think the real lesson is judge from what you feel hear and see. Your art is yours and yours alone, and we all play this game different.

    What is the purpose of the ranking system? Maybe it is time to overhaul our ideas of it.

  4. in zen training there is a term "kyogai"-- there comes a time when the person has seriously and thoroughly embodied the practice until it has become internalized and it is clear and obvious that a mature practice has taken root -- in all cases it takes a good long while, but still is longer or shorter in each case-- when kyogai manifests it is simply undeniable -- it permeates like a rich aroma-- something good has been cooked--there is no question
    -- ranking systems on the other hand are a little like a formula or recipe in a book -- put in these ingredents, cook for this long, and it is likely to turn out as planned but still it is a little abstract until you really do the cooking -- the result you are looking for of course is that wonderful meal -- kyogai


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