Here we continue to look at the levels and aspects of practice in Takemusu Aikido as set out by Lewis Bernaldo de Quiros and how these relate to the TAE grading syllabus. Before proceeding further, please read parts 1 and 2 of ‘Levels of practice, ability and understanding in Takemusu Aikido’ in this blog.
The shodan (1st dan) test, as presented in the TAE syllabus and shown here, is based on the standard test Saito Morihiro Sensei would give in the Iwama Dojo in Japan in the 1970’s till his death in 2002. Lewis Bernaldo de Quiros drew up the essence of the present TAE examination system in the early 1990s when he was an Aikikai examiner under Saito Morihiro Sensei with the Iwama shodan test, at the heart of the TAE syllabus. The weapon sections were added from the separate weapons system of awards that Sensei [Saito Sensei] created around that time.
Kyu ranks are a progression towards shodan and the ranks beyond are an extension with shodan and nidan (2nd dan) forming a pair focused on kihon static techniques and sandan (3rd dan) and yondan (4th dan) grades completing the basic training with ki no nagare and more advanced techniques from the full curriculum.
Ranks are divided into 6 kyu ranks (white belt - mudansha) and 10 dan ranks (black belt - yudansha). The hakama is worn from 3rd kyu, 1st kyu or shodan as decided by the individual Dojo Cho within the local association. At the kyu level, the Dojo Cho should consider each student individually and award a grade either through testing, or recommendation, as appropriate in each case.
At the dan level, examinations are required up to and including yondan and are carried out by the members of the TAE examination committee with the candidate's instructor in attendance. Dan ranks are Aikikai recognised ranks.
Dan examination candidates need to be in regular disciplined training and are advised to have attended three full seminars in the 18-months prior to the exam (by any senior Aikido teacher nationally or internationally) preferably outside of their own dojo. This is to ensure that candidates during their preparation not only step outside of their comfort zone and challenge themselves beyond the confines of their regular group, but also are exposed to other teachers to give them different perspectives on their practice and challenge their understanding and ability in different ways.