15 | 07 | 2018

In an excerpt from Aikijutsu: The New Way, Eric Templet explains the belt testing ceremony used in the SAA.

"The belt ceremony begins with the senior student calling, 'matte' in a loud voice. This command calls everyone to attention and to line up in formation. Once everyone is lined up correctly, the senior student then takes his place, and all bow to the front. Then, starting with the senior student, they all kneel into the seiza position. The senior will then say, 'mokuso', a command for the students to close their eyes and clear their minds. After a few moments, the senior will say, 'yame', which means the clearing of the mind is over and it is now time to test.

"Then the tester(s) will walk onto the mat and face away from the students and kneel into seiza. The senior student then commands, 'shomenirei', which means that everyone bows to the front of the dojo. After that bow, the tester turns to face the students, at which time the senior student says, 'onegaishimasu', which means 'please teach me,' to which the tester responds, 'hai', meaning 'yes.' The students then bow to the tester and the tester returns the bow. The tester then rises and takes the position behind the testing table in the front of the dojo.

"Until this point, the belt ceremony has been very formal and all have acted as a group. Next, the head tester selects one of the students being tested (at his or her discretion) and the student bows and rises. The student then humbly makes their way to the senior student, who gives them a stick of incense. The senior lights the incense, and the student approaches the testing table. The student bows deeply while holding the incense up, and places it in a small bowl filled with rocks, sand, or ash powder, placing it in the bowl at a slight angle just off-center so the ash falls properly. Then the student takes a step back and bows deeply again and takes his or her place on one side of the mat.

"The student is doing this part of the test alone. The conscious act of placing the incense of a certain scent signifies that the student is ready to be tested. They accept that they are the only one being tested, and pass or fail, the outcome rests on their shoulders. It can be a very lonely feeling being up there in front of everyone, knowing all eyes are on you; it is a time for all to see if you are proficient. For this reason, there is an intentional pause.

"Then the tester calls for another student to rise. That student is now on the opposite side of the mat facing the student to be tested. Then the tester indicates who will be the uke (the reciever of the techniques), and who will be the tori (the doer of the techniques). Now there is another variable added to the equation. These two people must work towards the same purpose. The success of the student being tested is now intertwined with the actions of his or her partner. The simple fact is, without the other person's participation, there is no test. The test is conducted and based on the interaction with the student's partner. A grade is given that dictates success or failure. The student is the only person promoted, so in that sense it is an individual accomplishment, yet the uke was directly involved. The action is not two and not one."