Testing Process

Students are encouraged to enter the ranking process, as part of their training experience. Prakash Sensei is authorized to conduct the ranking process for all kyu (white belt) ranks and for shodan (1st degree black belt), with a committee, for nidan and sandan (second and third degree black belts). Higher dan ranks are awarded based on his recommendation to the Kagami Baraki Committee of ASU. Dan tests can take place at our own weekend seminars or camps, or elsewhere. Should you choose to undergo the ranking process as a member of Aikido Schools of Ueshiba, it is up to you to (i) be current on both your dojo and ASU dues; and (ii) express your readiness to prepare for your next test, having met the minimum time and responsibility requirements, by filling out and submitting the Application for Kyu Rank, along with the testing fee. 

Note: Submission of the application for kyu rank implies a contract between the student and teacher and with the entire Dojo, a contract that needs to be respected by all. Please note that, while your primary and overriding responsibility is to train, as often and as sincerely as you can, receiving rank also implies not only a recognition of your increased skill and maturity, but also an increased responsibility for you in the dojo.

"There are no contests in the Art of Peace. A true warrior contests with nothing, and so is invincible. Defeat means to defeat the mind of contention that we harbor within." O Sensei

List of Techniques required for Promotion Tests

These may be found at the Testing Requirements page, with further information in Notes on Weapons and Striking Arts: these will help you in practicing the techniques, either at home or with a training uke.

Dates for Testing 

Notice will be given at least two weeks prior if there is any testing to be done and what the exact date will be. At the end of testing there will be a formal issuance of certificates, if any, from previous tests. 

All Dojo members are requested to be present to support the candidates with their presence and, if able to do so, by offering ukemi. The candidate and testing partners need to be present in-line on the mat along with all required weapons. Please warm up before the start of the test period and be prepared to take ukemi for another person's test.

Testing Prerequisites 

Please be aware that, while fulfilling the time and responsibility requirements for the relevant rank, as well as being an ASU member in good standing, are necessary conditions for being tested, they do not automatically imply that you are ready for the next rank. Thus when you wish to prepare for testing, having completed these requirements, even as you may ask the Head Instructor to test you, the date of the test will be determined by him. 

Remember that a "test" is an opportunity to share your expression of Aikido with your fellow students; it is as much invitation as an evaluation. Here are the steps you should take in order to be tested:

  • Determine that you have completed the days/months and responsibility requirements for the rank you are testing to.
  • Request a sempai, not more than three grades senior, to be your test-preparation uke in preparation for the test.
  • Inform the Head Instructor of your desire to test and have your test-preparation uke confirm to him his/her willingness to help you.
  • Submit the Application for Kyu Rank, signed by both you and your uke, along with the $45 testing fee to the Office.

Generally at least two weeks notice will be given for testing. If it is so determined at the test itself, be prepared to retest, at the Head Instructor's discretion, a few weeks after the initial test. 

Please respect your test-preparation uke, who has the experience and the responsibility to help you. This responsibility includes that of being honest with you about both your strengths and weaknesses (including telling you if you are or are not quite ready yet), and in checking matters of confusion with the Head Instructor or other sempai. It is both the candidate's and the test-preparation uke's responsibility to exchange phone numbers/e-mail, and to arrange extra preparation sessions. 

For test-preparation ukes: it is important that you understand you are not teachers: your chief function is in helping the candidate drill for the test by providing intelligent and useful ukemi.

FAQ: I don't feel ready to test, but Sensei and my test-preparation uke think I am. Should I?

Please note that nearly everyone feels some degree of uncertainty about their own skill level just before a test. This is normal! A person who is absolutely devoid of any nervousness in a rank-test is either: 1) Being tested much later than they should have been; 2) Too cocky, and this will be revealed during testing or 3) 4th Dan or above (that's a joke - we don't test at higher ranks....). This is one reason why a mentor can be helpful: to encourage the student to take the test in spite of their not feeling quite ready. Testing is the closest most people get to the kind of mental condition one has in a combat situation: keep a good spirit and let yourself experience how you do when on the spot. It is normal to flub an occasional technique, but you will often be pleasantly surprised with your own creativity and skill! Either way, the experience will help you grow as a person and as a martial artist.

Grading Protocol 

1. Make sure you are well presented and that your dogi is clean. Make sure that your weapons (and your partner's weapons) are with you on the mat during the initial line-up and that they are easily retrieved when needed. When done with a weapons segment, your weapons partner should take both sets of weapons back to the line and return them to you after the test.
2. Sit quietly and attentively in seiza while watching others test. Participate as uke in others' tests when possible and within reason - don’t exhaust yourself if you are to be tested, or if you are going to be uke, later.
3. When your name is called, move forward swiftly and in shikko, with your initial uke, and line up in seiza, facing the shomen. If you have issues with shikko, you may walk, but be brisk!
4. Bow to the shomen (the front of the dojo). Turn and bow to the testing panel, then turn and bow to your uke.
5. Both you and your ukes should listen carefully and attentively to instructions and not require them to be repeated.
6. Each technique should be performed omote (front version) on the right and left, then ura (rear version) on the right and left and, whenever appropriate, finished with osae (a pin). Some techniques have soto and uchi as their versions; some have only one version: continue to demonstrate until a change is called. Also, if there are different variations required as in “free” practice or jiu waza,  demonstrate each variation twice, once on each side.
7. Techniques you demonstrate should be sharp and clear, and not so fast as to be sloppy. Keep a strong spirit and a calm mind!
8. Upon completion of the test and at the testing panel's instruction, bow to to the shomen, then turn and bow to the panel and finally to your uke, and return with your uke (if any) in shikko to the line.
(the above is inspired by Grading Protocol of Aikido Kenkyukai of Australia) 

Criteria for Ranking

There being no competition in Aikido, ranking is based entirely on the instructor's observation of the development of such things as physical skill (both in executing the techniques as nage and in receiving them as uke), mind-body coordination, training spirit, care for the dojo and fellow students and overall character. In addition to the guidance and list of required techniques spelled out elsewhere, you might also find the following criteria useful: 

personal: attitude - humility, courtesy, respect for others and oneself (wear a clean and presentable gi!), caring for the dojo; 

spirit: dedication to training, aliveness, vitality, willingness to push to the edge;

interaction: appropriateness in training with others, consideration towards others on and off the mat; 

proficiency as nage: demonstrating knowledge of technique; 

ukemi: skill at receiving arts and so demonstrating understanding of technique;

stamina: endurance and conditioning appropriate to age and bodily history. 

(thanks to Frank Doran Sensei, formerly Division Head of the California Aikido Association for allowing us to adapt the above from their handbook) 

For those training towards dan ranks please search for and download Guy Hagen Sensei’s “ASU Yudansha Testing Handbook.” Also, note the following excerpt from an article by our founding Shihan: 

Yudansha Ranking
by Mitsugi Saotome, Shihan
ASU Newsletter, January 1986

"Yudansha ranking is given for many reasons, not just technical ability. Just because a person receives a certain yudansha rank does not mean that he or she has attained that ability at that moment. It means that I feel the person is on the threshold and will grow into that rank with the pressures of added responsibility. Of course, receiving a promotion to any yudansha rank presupposes a certain technical proficiency. But this alone is not enough. My eyes see differently when I watch a student practice. I see that student's personality as well as his or her growth. I often know what kind of special difficulties the student has had to overcome. I have a good idea how much that person has done for his or her group, how much responsibility has been shouldered and how much he or she has done to help others. I know that person's social and spiritual growth and leadership abilities. I've been asked many times how a student should train and with what goals in mind for each yudansha level. Most of this cannot be put into words and must come from the individual student's heart as he or she grows in understanding; but I can give you a little guidance. 

To train for shodan: 
You are training to become a beginner, no longer just a guest in the dojo, but a student with very real responsibilities. One must study the basic technical form and basic physical principle until the correct movement is automatic and feels natural. 
To train for nidan: 
The power of movement must be emphasized and developed. The functional reality of technique must be explored and an understanding developed of what really works and why. 
To train for sandan: 
The student must develop an understanding of aiki principle and begin to break out of technique. 
To train for yondan: 
The student must discover the philosophy of aiki principle and how it relates to technique. The technical form must be deeply refined according to this understanding and the student must seriously begin to develop the art of training others. Personal training is not enough. The student must understand social responsibility. 
To train for godan: 
One must make aiki principle a direct part of his or her life, developing an awesome spirit, leadership qualities and the spiritual and social application of aiki principle. A complete spontaneity of technique must develop which is no longer technique but the principle which underlies technique. There must be, at this point, a complete dedication to the art and a great social and spiritual growth. A growth which produces not a narrow local concern for one dojo or one area, but an active concern for all students and all people of the world. 

Throughout all these years of training, your physical, mental, social and spiritual understanding and power must steadily progress. The spontaneous application of aiki must progress. If you stop training on any one of these levels, your aikido will no longer grow. Just putting in your time has no meaning. The quality and intensity of your training, the discoveries you make each day, these things have meaning. You must train hard and discover the answer for yourself."