“Blueprint for Standardization of Aikido Testing,” by Stanley Pranin

“Historically, most of the “bones of contention” ultimately resulting in the splintering off of dojos from parent organizations have in one way or another arisen from attempts at creating new governing structures or the expansion of existing political institutions. While it is clear that various segments of the Aikido population favor organizing, it seems that there will always be a significant number of practitioners who will resist efforts both from within and without to complexify existing organizations.”

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  1. Heaven forbid the repetition of any further failure patterns of the past. Has nothing been learnt from history?
    Standardization spells the death knell.
    The “growth” of Aikido has nothing to do with collecting numbers of “followers.” Rather QUALITY OF PRACTICE. Which means turning up to train. Nothing else.
    “Decisions” about what?
    Aikido is nothing to do with it being sidelined with organizational politics; rather, GETTING ON THE MATS and PRACTICING.
    You cannot standardize something which is alive. Only the dead. Clone stamping is mortally definitive. How many trees do you know which are identical? How many galaxies? How many works of art? How many individuals? Imagine everyone having plastic surgery to all look alike? A scary and gruesome thought. Aikido in a box.
    The lowest common denominator should NOT be held up as any standard at all.
    Quality and striving higher is a THE standard. Not the blandness found in numbers which merely mimic ineffectually, only to end up in the byways of sidetracking.
    If there was to be a valid “standard” it would be that of the Founder himself. O’Sensei’s standard was INFINITE VARIETY AND NEVER ENDING EXPLORATION based on sold principles.
    At least HE was alive!
    Since all aiki that is effective, erupts from the inside outwards, it cannot be plastered onto, without smothering the creative essence
    If I recall anything at all, his admonition was not one of having arrived.
    He did not say, “Now let it die in “uniformity”.”
    He stated most definitively, “Take the legacy I have left behind and discover it further!”
    Aikido lives.
    Fakery mimics the real only in its death throes.
    “Fragmentation?” Any “deterioration” that happens is BECAUSE OF CUMBERSOME ORGANISATIONS, not small groups who know their primary goal is TRAINING and not ulterior motives.
    Name one “organization” that has not suffered from rifts, disputes and other toxic and destabilizing sidelines.
    Name one “organization” O’Sensei wanted to marry.
    As for the basic kihon, they are self-descriptive and anyone with any sense can grasp them in 3 to 6 months, a year at the most.
    The rest is WORK.
    As for clinging to dead rote forms, that is a useless pursuit.
    As foundational keys to unlock infinite possibilities, the basic kihon are preeminent live and can be refined and explored without end.
    Standardization is akin to gilding a fishing rod instead of teaching people how to use it to catch fish.
    Would it not be more salient to provide the rod, teach them how to use it and then leave them alone to catch fish using their own innate skill in their own way?
    We all know what the basics are. We do not need more disputes over opinions as to how different egos like to imagine they should be conducted.
    All it takes is two or more individuals of sincere intent and some mats. Social clubs are separate from actual TRAINING!
    My vote is for life, not standardization.

  2. When I was active in the Northern California Aikido Yudanshakai there were regional tests for shodan and nidan given two or three times per year. Jack Wada’s place in San Jose was a frequent venue, because it was big. It had to be with something like two hundred people in attendance. Everybody in the region had agreed on the techniques they thought important. Folks from different schools came and gave their versions. The panel of judges included all the senior instructors. The results were not cookie-cutter. All the candidates came and demonstrated. Obviously their interpretations depended on where they studied. If they were proficient in their style, they passed. I hope that healthy process has continued. It allowed freedom of expression but maintained a technical core that could be called and recognized as aikido.

  3. Great revisit of a 27 year old perspective Stan.
    What are your reshaped and revised thoughts on this subject today? I believe that your updated opinions would spark a much more timely response from the Aikido Journal faithful at large.

    I plan to comment at that time.

    Great job as always, in keeping us on our toes!

  4. Autrelle Holland says:

    What Francis said.

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