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Ueshiba Aikido e-Reflections
ISSN 1712-2341
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May 13, 2011


Variation of formula used in learning and evaluating

Very often I am asked by my students what is expected of them in their next grading test. In this reflection, I thought I would share one way to self-monitor to reassure yourself of your own progress. It is a good way, also, to build self-confidence through self-knowledge. It is the little formula presented above, the acronym of which also spells out "TASK=Outcome/Result".

While it is easy to just focus on preparing oneself for each level test and just meet each level requirement, Grading Tests only cover a portion of what is necessary. Being aware of the components that go behind the practice (philosophy/attitude) and practise (physical drills/techniques) makes each session more directed and focused affairs.

Self-discovery and experiential learning is, I think, one of the best ways to help to retain what is learnt. It is also a useful formula for identifying and inculcating values and behaviour in toddlers during the crucial formative years from one to five. Forming a firm foundation in those early years will help when the next crucial years of development come around, during puberty and the teenage years. Connections and values not made or formed in earlier years will be a challenge to influence and connect during the teen years if a bond had not first been formed in those toddler years.

The formula is useful when applying an outcome in one's life too; daily, or how you would like to be remembered at the end of your life. Determining the latter actually formulates the kind of life lived and the decisions made along the way. For conscious directed learning, it is useful to begin with the end; with the desired outcome. It is a useful tool for students as shortfalls are identified quite easily. If a career path is desired, identify each of the elements needed to be fulfilled and achieved to take you to your goal, then get down to fulfilling them all. No one else can make you do it, and no one else is responsible for your life and your achievements.

With Aikido, "Attitude" is addressed through Dojo etiquette and the expected behaviour of a student. The Grading Kyu Card addresses some of the Skills and Knowledge to be attained at each Grade Level, and the "Tasks" alerts the student to the exercises and drills needed to be engaged in to achieve the Outcomes necessary to meet each Grade Level. For example: we are either right or left side dominant. If you find difficulty rolling off your left arm or find a technique is weak on the left side, then focus the drills and exercises on that weaker side. Be patient with yourself; don't be discouraged. That is part of training too.

Having been through the process, Senseis are the guides who help students along the path. The word "Sensei" is made up of two words: in Chinese "Xian" and "Sheng" and in Japanese, "Sen" and "Sei", literally translating into "one who was born first," or "one who came first." So the tradition in Martial Arts is an experiential one, through apprenticeship, and is very much self-directed through the mentorship of a Sensei, or Sifu. Studying a martial art through just books will not suffice. Aikido is a practical martial way that has to be experienced and performed in the Dojo, and then in daily life.

As I shared with our young students at the Saturday kids' classes recently: the date stamps on the Grading Kyu Cards only record the classes that have either been wasted or put to full use, depending on how the student behaves, practices, participates and focuses during class. It is not a guarantee or record with an assurance that you will be invited to grade at the next test date even if the minimum required hours have been reached. If a student is still not ready to grade, practice will carry on until they are ready. What is necessary here, again, is not to be discouraged. Be patient with yourself.

When the time is right, and if the student is truly sincere with their Aikido journey, they will know when they are ready to Test, and will be duly invited. I do not encourage "belt-chasing" myself.

See you in the Dojo.

In peace and harmony,
Rafael Oei Sensei.

(© Copyright May 2011: Rafael Oei)

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