I have been reviewing the results of the poll on possible future Olympic status and looking at your comments. More than anything else I was overwhelmed by the number of impassioned, well thought out, well written arguments both in favour and against. Counting comments on the blog itself, in the poll, on Facebook and other media; this has been the most commented upon post of my blogging career and I had far more pleasure in reading your thought than in writing mine.
The poll itself stands as I write, at 77% of readers against Olympic inclusion and 23% for. It has remained around this percentage from the start of voting. I will leave the poll open to give those on holiday a chance to air their views. As I expected, the comments around the poll were far more enlightening. Opinions ranged from the reactionary “let’s not only keep kendo out, but take it back to an earlier form”, (including trips and strangles); to we have to accept the inevitable, to lets embrace the Olympics and the benefits they will bring. Overall we seem to be a fairly conservative bunch that prefer the way things are at the moment.
On a completely unrelated front, I had the honour of being part of a panel this weekend for a grading examination from ikkyu to 5th dan. The examiners were two Japanese Hachidan and four British Nanadan.
I did not record the pass rates, but as usual, they decreased progressively up the grade scale. My recollection however is that jitsugi passes at the higher end were around 33% for 4th dan and 25% for 5th. I had to leave quite quickly after the event, so did not have the chance to give as much feedback as I would have hoped to people who missed the boat this time. To be frank the same reasons for failing were pretty much common to everyone, so here is some catch-all advice.
I sat out on the ikkyu, shodan exam, so can’t comment. For the nidan and sandan fails the reason was mainly that there was not sufficient pressure on the back foot to allow the smooth launch into an attack. In some cases grip was wrong, or kamae too stiff to allow free movement. A few people lifted the shinai with just the right hand, holding it vertically before striking, others made their approach with the shinai in the air rather than reaching distance and lifting and striking in the timing of one.
Fourth and fifth dan candidates knew what was expected. To a man, or woman, they stood up, took their time, let out a great big kiai and then many started to fall apart. We all know that we have limited time, so it is natural to try to demonstrate attacks in the few minutes allowed. Most however did not make sufficient seme and allowed their nerves to force them to attack when there was no opportunity. For many people, once they were in this downward spiral, the attack rate increased as the opportunities decreased.
The only two fifth dan passes performed at a significant level above their peers. Despite one or two misses in one case, both made strong pressure and seme, dominated the centre and attacked opportunities that they had created. Unfortunately there was no happy ending. Both failed the kata