Testing for the ranks before shodan (first level black belt) is done at TCAC under the direction of our Chief Instructor. Testing takes place in conjunction with one of the periodic seminars, usually three times a year.
Testing in Aikido is entirely noncompetitive. In the test, you will be asked to demonstrate the skills you have acquired. The ranking system is based on both a sound knowledge of specific techniques and time spent on the mat for the purpose of learning the techniques. A student’s performance as uke, the attacker, is as important as the performance as nage, the one who is attacked. We encourage students to test, because it provides focus for learning, and speeds progress.
The specific techniques and minimum practice days are shown on the Test Requirements page. These requirements stem from the Unites States Aikido Federation (USAF), our parent organization. The listed requirements (both techniques and days) are considered minimal–you are likely to be asked to demonstrate other techniques to show your depth of understanding and your ability to adjust to changing circumstances. The content of the test is entirely up to the person officiating the test, almost always the Chief Instructor.
The progression of ranks goes from 6th kyu through 1st kyu, and then on to the dan ranks (black belt). At TCAC, you are allowed to wear a brown belt once you have achieved the rank of 2nd kyu. Students who want to progress through the ranks must maintain a membership in the USAF in order to count days of practice. Currently, the annual fee is $35. Additionally, there is a fee for testing. You must record your attendance on the sheet on the front desk, which is the official record of your days of practice. Your days of practice are reset to zero after each test that you pass.
The 6th kyu test is run a bit differently than the other tests. It was introduced in 2010 to ensure beginning students have the proper foundation for training in Aikido, and to allow a new student to do their first test after only a short time of practicing. 6th kyu tests will be done, as needed, for students who have accumulated the 20 days of practice and have demonstrated they know the test requirements.
Dan testing, for black belt ranks, is under the direction of a USAF Shihan (highest level instructor) with the approval of our Chief Instructor. Our Chief Instructor must be present for your test. Currently, testing is often done at the Yudansha Seminar at the end of April at the Midwest Aikido Center in Chicago. Occasionally, dan testing can be done with the approval of our Chief Instructor, at other USAF seminars where a Shihan on the USAF technical committee is conducting tests. Any student who expects to test must attend the entire seminar. Here again, the techniques listed for the dan tests are a minimum requirement. There are no specific techniques listed for the 3rd dan and higher tests. The Shihan determines which techniques to call at the time of the test.
At TCAC, our Chief Instructor determines when a student is ready to test for Shodan In addition to knowledge of the techniques, he will take into consideration your attitude on the mat toward the instructors and fellow students, and your contribution to the community of the dojo. Although you are encouraged to move through the ranks at as fast as you are able, for many students the minimum practice day requirement will not be sufficient to acquire the skills needed to do the next test. In the event that you do not pass a test, don’t be discouraged. You will have the opportunity to test again.