Since I’m one of the few American Taidoka who has any contact with Taido in the rest of the world, the students in the rest of the world ask me a lot of questions about Taido in the US.
Though I have NOT been affiliated with Uchida Sensei’s US Taido Association since early 2007, I was one of the lead instructors in his organization for quite some time before moving to Japan in 2003. To be honest, the past few times I’ve visited Atlanta, I haven’t been too interested in what’s going on the the “Taido Karate” school there. As a result, I can only offer historical insight towards answering any questions about Taido in Atlanta and Ft. Lauderdale.
A couple of days ago, VP Turpeinen commented asking:
My main cause of surprise is the observation that American taidokas don’t seem to wear hakama and taido-gi but instead an outfit similar to karate-gi (according to the material I have seen around the Internet). I would like to know the reason for that. Some students also seem to wear black pants instead of the usual white. Does this indicate something?
As for the students in Ft. Lauderdale wearing black (non-hakama) pants, that’s just what Tom decided he wanted to do at his school. There is no real significance, since it’s the standard uniform at that dojo.
Another thing that keeps me in confusion is the belt system
Some of this is explained elsewhere, but I can see how it would be confusing to the majority of Taidoka who participate in the World Taido Federation and use the standard ranking system that every other country has agreed upon. To make a long story short, Uchida Sensei began adding the tape stripes as in-between ranks a very long time ago. He added more colored belts to the children’s curriculum to give them more frequent feedback and testing opportunities for encouragement.
…made me think about the time required to achieve black belt.
Regarding the amount of time it takes to achieve a certain rank, I think it’s important to look at quality over quantity, and even then to look at number of hours actually training rather than the number of years. I’ve heard of some people bragging about doing Taido for X number of years, when they only go to the dojo once a week, change clothes, and stand around. There are also widely varying lengths of standard sessions in different dojo – ranging anywhere from 45 minutes to four hours.
“Quality” is a sticky issue and hard to nail down objectively, so let’s stick with time for right now.
If you want to see people moving through the ranks very, very quickly, you need to check out the Japanese university clubs. It’s possible for a dedicated student to reach 4dan in four or five years if they take shinsa at every opportunity. Of course, Japanese uni students don’t have to study much, and are required to spend a certain amount of time on club activities. It’s not unheard of for some Taido clubs to offer up to 20ish hours/week of training opportunities, so one shouldn’t be surprised to see them advance quickly.
I can tell you that it took me almost eight years to reach shodan from the time I began training as a child in the US. And I can tell you that it takes considerably less time now.
Additionally, the requirements for achieving a higher grade interest me. What do you usually need to present when attending shinsa? Kihon, -tai/-in hokei, more complicated hokeis such as -mei hokei, kobo, perhaps even jissen?
In the past, American shinsa included kihon, hokei, and kobo/jissen. Shodan shinsa lasted several hours. Advancement to 2dan and above was always just a formality, and was fairly political. I can’t comment on the current system.
I have more questions that still require answers, but this may not be the right time and place for them as they don’t have much to do with those two issues.
Feel free to send me an email, and I’ll try to help you out – either with a reply or with a new post here.