Sandan in 3 years!

posted 26 Mar 2012, 18:48 by Dan James
sandan in three years
According to Stan Pranin's research[1] Maruyama Sensei received his Sandan after only three years - a pretty amazing achievement, can we do the same? I suspect not, this was a product of intense training, the formative years of aikido and a prodigious talent!

Stans research also reveals much about the 'hell dojo' that training with O'Sensei was at the time. It was was still a very new form of Bud0, rapidly evolving and being throughly tested.  There were regular challenges by expert practitioners from all over Japan, from many arts,  knocking on the door to ask for a lesson! [2]. Usually the would be *ahem* challenger had to work his way to the top. So while O'Sensei said there was to be no competition in Aikido,  he was probably referring to what was happening to Judo at the time (where competition was actually changing and limiting the scope of the art) rather than advocating a co-operative practice without internal testing of skills.

Practice in the dojos in these years was intense and much more than just a hobby a few nights a week after work. The training schedule was morning and night and during the day for many and those that have heard Maruyama sensei share a little of these times gain quite an insight into what it must have been like.

Today its common to receive a shodan relatively quickly in Japan, contrast that with the West where some schools make students wait 10 yrs whilst others hand them out in a year. Shodan is not a certificate of mastery of the art, but an understanding of the core syllabus such than you are ready to take the 'first step' in learning the art. 

Finally the proof is in the pudding, dial forward 50 years to a man who has dedicated himself to the art and Maruyama sensei has developed a fine teaching pedagogies (see Reflections on the Aikido Yuishinkai Syllabus Pt I) that truly encompasses the art of aikido, we have the static practice and precision of the older schools of aikido such as the Yoshinkan, Takemusu togeteher with the free flowing movements of the more modern like the Ki Society (actually sensei was the president for a time). Combine this with the roots of aikido in the shinkage ryu and the daito-ryu and the medatative practices of Soutai and here is a modern sogobujitsu with its feet firmly in the ancient koryu arts and practices of Japan. What a treasure!

[1] “Dan Inflation in the Early Years of Aikido,” by Stanley Pranin,  

[2] “A Biography of Rinjiro Shirata – Part 1,” by Kozo Kaku,