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How long should it take for Sho-dan?

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  • How long should it take for Sho-dan?

    I am sure that many people in this forum have at least sho-dan. It seems that there tends to two trains of thought on Sho-dan. I will use my experience as an example. I took the sho-dan test in Japan after practicing for around four months. I know that is very soon, but I had played Kendo as a child and took a few test at age 9... At any rate, I passed and at that time I was very happy that I was making progress.

    Well when I got back to the states I over heard several people complaining that "over in Japan anyone can get sho-dan, but here you have to work for it." Well I felt like all my hard work in Japan was just denigrated. BTW I did not tell them where I got my shodan. Never the less I ask my sensei about this and he said that in Japan most adults are given Sho-dan regardless of their skill level. While in the states it takes at least 3 year to reach sho-dan, because so many people start kendo as an adult. I was wondering if this is typical of most countries outside of Japan?

    I would like to hear about others who have similar or very different experiences.

  • #2
    In Brazil, 'talented' people can get it in one to two years of practice beginning in adult age. Most shodans down here are pretty tough fighters because most are direct japanese descedants that start kendo very early but have to wait to test due to age restrictions. But there are not only below-average shodan here but also nidan as well.

    I don't think you should worry too much about it, shodan is a beginner grade anyway. Things seem to start to get interesting in the yondan test.

    One thing that I do not agree with is the 6 to 2 kyuu tests that exist in some places that does not exist in Japan as far as I know. The first test one should do in kendo is the ikkyu, and it's already easy enough. That looks like easy money to me.


    • #3
      I agree 100% that the kyu levels/tests are kind of silly. One thing it leads to is people staying in the Kyu levels for years so they can do well in Shiai. I personaly didn't think much of it, as many of the sho-dan who were compalaining we not very good. Now its like water under the brigde, I have taken a few test since that time.

      as an aside and maybe an interesting thred later, it seems there are egos and politics in kendo in the states. Is this typical everywhere?


      • #4
        How long you have been training doesn't necessarily equal ability. Some people can only train once a week, while others can train 5-6 times a week. If both train for a year, who will have progressed more?

        I feel that it's true that it's easier to pick up shodan in Japan, but as you said, it's the beginner's level for adults. If you put in the hard work, then you deserve it. Just focus on your training and the next step on the long road of kendo. Maybe they're jealous that you jumped the queue.

        In Australia, people have to progress through the kyu grades. Gradings are spaced out at 6 month intervals, so if you continuously train, then shodan can be had in 3-4 years.


        • #5
          In Korean kumdo sho-dan is extremely coveted and equally difficult to attain. When I first joined my dojang, I held an AUSKF sho-dan. My sabomnim busted me down to 3-khup (kyu) and I was told that at my present skill level, I could make sho-dan in 4 years if I continued to practice hard.

          Must of the dan-ranked players in my dojang are in their 30's-40's (and have been playing most of their lives). A few are in their 20's, but they are exceptional (one of them was a kumdo major in college in Korea).


          • #6
            We're the amatuer kendoka!

            Durrell got his Shodan in 4 months. I suppose that's daily practice over there? Maybe even Asa-keiko and Goodnight-keiko? Yes. Things are different if you've been exposed to Kendo/Martial Arts in an early age. At least you'll have the physical ablilty and psychological mind set. (I mean you won't go like, "hehehe, what's this bamboo stick hitting people in funny dress called?") Aaaand especially your own dad is telling you to do 100 suburi every day at the age of 4...

            The "direct Japanese descedants" theory is very very odd to me. Say, for example, in Brazil (sorry Alex :P)... there's 50,000 practising Kendo (may be more, I don't know). Why shouldn't there be a single direct Brazillian descedant good enough to represent their own country, and fight in WKC? It's getting like, "Hey, I'm not good enough in Japan, but here in Brazil I'm on Top!".

            Same odd-ness apply to the Japan Football League. What's that Alex (another Brazillian with the same name ) doing?? Isn't there a single Japanese better than him??

            " One thing it leads to is people staying in the Kyu levels for years so they can do well in Shiai."
            What is that? I thought you can only do Shiai well if they've more Shiai for people to practice with!! Dodgy Kendo Association over there is probably making a little bit more money for those who wouldn't stay long.

            Over here in my club, I know many who stayed in ikkyu for 10 years, some in shodan for 10 years, some nidan for 10 years, some sandan for 10 years, etc. etc. It would be laughable for Japanese. But they all say, "Who cares?" Strange philosophy.


            • #7
              Mingshi -- but that's precisely my way of thinking: "who cares?"

              Does a menjo really validate one's skill? Skill level is pretty apparent the moment you see somebody strike men.

              I'm with alex in thinking that shinsa have a lot to do w/ making money/politics. It's kind of annoying, to say the least.

              I suppose for some people, it's motivating to take exams, but for me, it's enough that I know my own level.


              • #8
                I'm getting my shodan this december, it will be a little more than 2 years that i have been practicing kendo. I have been practicing 3 times a week during these 2 years, missing less than 5 practices.

                I started kendo at 19 years old.

                so for me.....let's say after 1:30 h per practice X 2 years X 50 weeks X 3 time per week. .around a bit more than 450 hours of kendo.


                • #9
                  Ming Ming ...

                  It's not exactly like that, the thing about being son of japanese parents.

                  Let's take E. Onaka from the Braziliam team. His father is a sixth dan senior japanese kendoka. They live in the countryside, in a community of descendants who toil the soil to earn their livings. His father taight kendo to him since he was very very young, in a dojo with many other elder sensei. Every day, every night, kendo renshu. So, it's not just about having a japanese surname, it's about being immersed on it since his birth.

                  There is no such thing as 'native brazilians'. These were the indians and the portuguese and spanish wiped them out very early in history. There are italians, germans, chinese, so and so.Kendo is not a part of these cultures, therefore most of the time you'll get exposed to it the late puberty at best, and you won't have to buy all that funny and expensive gear that japanese get for free down here, due to donations.

                  The whole point of this is: I, being italian, could cook lasagna and all kinds of pasta since I was a child. Ernesto Onaka, could do katsugi waza with about the same age. So, I cook some killer food but he is part of the national kendo team, mind you.

                  PS. I secretly hate Yoda because he fought me in the last Braz. Champ. and he won by oji do. The next person who tells me that being tall is an advantage in kendo...


                  • #10
                    Sometimes sensei's don't want people to get shodan too early too... B/c once you get shodan you start "experimenting" in kendo, (jodan, tsuki, etc) and that takes away from the true essence of kendo...I know that's why my sensei doesn't want me to move up the ranks too fast!


                    • #11
                      Rank is not a good measure of skill, but the shiai is broken down by rank. There is one exception in Canada they one tourny that is by age. Last time I went I meet my sensei in the semi-finals. He came over before the match and said I should do my best and forget who he was. Needless to say I lost but such is life.

                      The point is that as long as we break down shiai by rank the there is alway going to be those that know they can not compete in the dan levels and they stay in the kyu level to win.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by durrell4
                        ...there is alway going to be those that know they can not compete in the dan levels and they stay in the kyu level to win.
                        Everyone from Northern California, all i have to say is KB! KB!

                        KB=Korean Bus


                        • #13
                          Will, what does "Korean Bus" mean?


                          • #14
                            Because of the nature of the forum, and the fact that it is possible that folk in your area could read this. I would suggest we not name names. There are a few examples in the Northwest as well, I am sure that they know who they are.

                            BTW more related to the what rank do you hold thread not this one. Achilles, are you back to Sho-dan in Kumdo? You said before that you were demoted from Sho-dan to 3-kyu. How often do you get a chance to test in Kumdo? Do you have to wait a predetermined lenght of time before Sho-dan?


                            • #15

                              I'm glad you asked. No. One of my senior students said if I worked hard I could make 1-dan in 4 years. So I guess that's an indication.

                              Belt testing seems to occur fairly frequently at my dojang. I want to say 4 times a year (roughly) and the tests occur in house (rather than at large tournaments, as seems to be the case in Japanese kendo).

                              I don't know about waiting predetermined lengths of time. It seems that you can take the test at any time, but you might not be up to it.

                              All of the dan ranked members of the dojang speak of the dan belt test in hushed tones. It's supposed to be one of the most challenging experiences of a lifetime. I don't know all the details, but I do know it consists of 1:30 second - 2:00 minute sessions of ai-kakari-geiko with *SIX* dan ranked members in a ROW, the last of whom is the sabomnim (sensei) himself (and he takes you right to the hoop). This is IMMEDIATELY followed by 1,000 hayai-suburi. All of this has to be done without collapsing, vomiting or losing composure.

                              Can you even imagine? Sometimes I think I'm being hoodwinked. I can't imagine possibly rising to that bar. But then I see our dan members fight and I begin to believe.

                              You have to understand that my dojang takes kumdo to a professional level. I've only attended two taikais with these guys. At the GNEUSKF Championships in Cleveland, we swept the mudansha division, took 2nd and 3rd in shodan-nidan division, 3rd in sandan and above and won the teams trophy. At the recent Annapolis Taikai, we took 2nd and 3rd in the mudansha and swept the shodan-nidan. It makes me tremendously proud to be part of such a team. Caveat: I *know* winning at shiai isn't very important to most of you, but to me, it's a real yardstick of skill at this game.