Pre-Kyu and Kyu Evaluation: Reality vs. Standard

I think one of the saddest ways to live is to act against your true nature (except if you’re inherently evil then it might be for the best). For several months now, I’ve been trying to restrain myself from speaking up to avoid annoying or offending people who don’t see things from my perspective. And it’s been making me unhappy. It continues to diminish the joy I find in learning kendo.

As a learner type, I’m naturally curious. I tend to ask a lot of questions. I need information and details to better grasp whatever it is I’m trying to do. But I realized that it’s a trait that sometimes gives me a lot of grief. Fortunately, I’ve been around people in sports, work, and organizations who share a similar mindset. Lately, I try to keep that in mind when my questions are met with responses that leave me demotivated. It’s uplifting to think that somewhere out there are people who take time to see where I’m coming from.

“Reality vs. Standard”

Just recently, I asked one of the officers regarding the kyu evaluation scheduled during the weekend of the club’s 2nd anniversary. I learned that the Manila-based senseis and senpais who previously visited us won’t be able to join us this time.

This got me thinking who’d be the third 3dan instructor who will serve as panelist for the kyu evaluation. From what I understood from some of the articles I’ve read about kendo grading, at least three 3dan senseis/senpais typically conduct kyu evaluations. I thought this was the standard.

I immediately regretted asking when I read the response of one of our senpais. He summed it up to “reality vs. standard” to support what the other 1dan senpai said. The kyu grading panelists will be composed of the two 3dan instructors and one 1dan senpai. He said that the reality is that there are only four of them in Yudansha (two 3dan and two 1dan). It’s not realistic to stick to the “standard”, which I take refers to my perceived lack of flexibility on the issue. He also added that it’s the club sensei’s discretion who to promote. On this I couldn’t agree more.

Given our circumstances though, I think we don’t exactly have to follow the formal kyu evaluation process if we’re lacking one 3dan kendoka. It’s up to our two instructors who they want to recommend for promotion. I just don’t understand why we have to rush through the kyu grading process. As the MKC senseis said and did during their last visit, club instructors can recommend a kendoka for shodan grading regardless of their kyu rank. Still, I see the value of doing kyu assessments since it gives us an idea of our progress. It can also help us identify the things we need to improve on.

I felt mortified when I read their exchanges which were shared to me by the officer I asked the question to. It made me think that I shouldn’t have asked. The question was not meant to be critical. I only sought to understand why we’re not doing it like other clubs do.

I don’t know how to interpret the answer I got. Because the message I’m getting is that it’s okay to tweak “standards” to fit the reality. But aren’t standards set based on principles that serve as the foundation of whatever it is that a sport or martial art seeks to promote?

I initially had no plans of taking the upcoming kyu grading. But I decided to consider it and take the pre-kyu evaluation the officers arranged as a show of support. Because I share the same belief that Anthony Bourdain succinctly expressed. “I don’t have to agree with you to like you or respect you.”  And people don’t have to give me the same courtesy for me to do it.

Pre-Kyu Evaluation

The same officer I usually address whatever questions I have was kind enough to send me a private message on Facebook at 12:19PM yesterday. She told me that pre-kyu evaluation is scheduled at 5:00PM. I was grateful for the information because I probably would have missed it if she didn’t tell me. I thought that the pre-kyu was during our regular training time.

I almost backed out of the pre-kyu evaluation though. I suddenly felt unprepared because of the following:

  • In the kyu evaluations conducted by the 7dan, 5dan, and 3dan visiting senseis in November last year the requirements for the ikkyu grading were  only Kirikaeshi, Jigeiko, and Kata 1-3. I was told yesterday that I need to do Bokuto 1-9, Kata 1-3, Uchikomi-geiko (5 men-5kote-5kote/men-5do), Kirikaeshi, and Jigeiko. To put it in context, we don’t practice bokuto or kata during our regular training schedule. While it’s often included in the one extra weekday training, not many are able to join such practices because of work or other reasons. So it’s up to us to practice it on our own at home. I’ve been focusing more lately on kata 1-3 thinking those are the only ones I need to do if I decide to sign up for the kyu grading.
  • While practicing yesterday with the 1dan senpai conducting the pre-kyu assessment, I was told to step backward after completing my strike as Shidachi in kata #2 and to step backward (as Uchidachi) as the Shidachi starts moving backward towards the end of kata #3. I was confused because it was different from what I’ve been practicing. It’s not what I’ve been seeing on the video I use as reference. It didn’t match the step-by-step instruction for kata 1-3 I found in my research. Thinking that I may have been practicing the wrong things chipped away what little confidence I have going into the pre-kyu preparation. I didn’t want to push through because I needed time to learn what I’ve being taught at that moment. I simply can’t change my routine and expect to have a fighting chance of performing well without ample preparation.

Thankfully, the senpai in charge of the assessment told me to just do what I’ve been doing since it’s only a pre-kyu assessment. Somehow, I finished everything without feeling bad about the results. I know I gave my best given the circumstances. I still need to improve on a lot of things. But that’s the whole point of doing kendo. There’s no dearth of things to improve on.



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