As I always tell anyone who brings up the subject of my Aikido exam videos, these are not to be taken as examples of the the correct way to do anything. They just represent the best I could do on these particular days. I share them because I think it’s important to be wherever you are on the path, without apology or embarrassment. So often we hold back on sharing ourselves until we think we are “good enough” to put ourselves out there, whether in martial arts, music, dance, or whatever. That not only keeps our own personal expression shut down, it also means that others only see the “good examples,” and often feel bad about themselves for not living up to skewed standards. It’s like those amazing “fitspiration” photos that just make us feel hopeless. We need to see normal people getting out there and trying, too.
Here’s a typical comment, from my 6th kyu video: “Pretty cool . Looking into aikido for me and my wife. This gives me some insight into the actual movements of the art. Most of the videos I’ve seen are all masters throwing ppl around for demonstrations. Thanks for the video!!”
Most people have been kind, even in their critiques, any many have asked good questions. But YouTube can be a brutal place, and I do I take a lot of crap in the comments from people who say I’d be on the losing end in a street fight. Those folks are missing the point (or at least my point) of training. If they are civil, I’ll engage in discussion with them, and some of those have turned out to be very nice encounters. If people are mean or rude they just get blocked. My barn, my rules, as horse people are fond of saying.
The critical comments are outweighed, however, if not in quantity then in warm feelings and good karma, by the ones from people who tell me they’d always wanted to try a martial art, but were afraid they were too old, or not athletic enough. I regularly get comments and emails from people who just participated in their first class, or went to check out a dojo, thanking me for giving them the courage to give it a try.
The kind of comments I love to read: “I am a new student. haven’t test for anything yet so I guess I have no rank. :o( I can’t hardly wait to learn some of the stuff you are showing. they look great and watching your skills opens up a hunger for me to continue to learn and earn my belt in aikido. thank you for taking the time to inspire others.”
That’s worth taking a lot of crap.
Linda Eskin – Aikido 6th Kyu Exam – Aikido of San Diego
19 September, 2009 – 7 minutes
This video has nearly 100,000 views (as of April 2020). Based on my own experience in preparing for my 6th kyu exam (the first exam we take at our dojo), I suspect that number might reflect 10,000 people each watching it about 10 times. People preparing for their first Aikido exam are looking to see how a test goes, and to learn what’s going to be expected of them. I’ve gotten many comments thanking me for this video. It’s apparently helped a lot of nervous folks calm down and prepare for their tests. A typical comment: “I’m literally about to take my 6th kyu test in about an hour. I’m very nervous, but watching your videos has giving me some insight as to what I should expect. Thanks :)” Glad to be of service. :-)
At our dojo, we start as unranked. The first test is for 6th kyu. Many thanks to my endlessly patient mentor and uke, Scott Bjerke, to Dave Goldberg Sensei, and all the teachers and students at Aikido of San Diego. Note that this was at our old location.
For my non-Aikidoka friends, this test is a little like graduating from kindergarten. I showed that I basically know my colors and can tie my own shoes. Simple stuff, but hard for a beginner to master.
Linda Eskin – Aikido 5th Kyu Exam – Aikido of San Diego
6 February, 2010 – 11 minutes
At this point I had been training less than a year. 5th kyu is the second test we do (still a white belt). You can read my comments about this test in my blog post, 5th Kyu Test & Beyond.
I am very grateful to my very perceptive, kind, and dedicated mentor and uke, Daniel Vallieres, to Dave Goldberg Sensei, and all the teachers and students at Aikido of San Diego. This was also at the old dojo location.
Linda Eskin – Aikido 4th Kyu Exam – Aikido of San Diego
13 November, 2010 – 15 minutes
My 4th Kyu test at Aikido of San Diego on 13 November 2010, Dave Goldberg Sensei.. My uke is Dodge Willliams.
About test preparations, and what comes after: To 4th Kyu & Beyond!
Reflections on how my 4th kyu exam went: “Were You Nervous?”
Linda Eskin – Aikido 3rd Kyu Exam – Aikido of San Diego
9 July, 2011 – 15 minutes
My 3rd kyu Aikido exam, on 9 July, 2011. Many thanks to my mentor and uke, Leonara Simonovis, who generously trained with me for weeks, to Dave Goldberg Sensei, and all the teachers and students at Aikido of San Diego.
As usual, I saw plenty of room for improvement. (I guess that’s what the 2nd kyu test is for!) But on the whole I was pretty happy with how I did.
At our dojo, unranked, 6th, and 5th kyu wear white belts. 4th and 3rd wear blue belts. 2nd and 1st wear brown belts. All yudansha ranks wear black belts and hakama (long black flowing pants, kind of like chaps). So as a 3rd kyu I am still a blue belt.
Thank you to my sweetie pie, Michael Eskin, for endless support, and for getting great video!
Linda Eskin – Aikido 2nd Kyu Exam – Aikido of San Diego
21 January, 2012 – 14 minutes
My 2nd kyu Aikido exam, on 21 January, 2012. Many thanks to my mentor and uke, Cyril Poissonnet, 3rd Dan, whose teaching, coaching, and encouragement have been an important and happy part of my Aikido training from the beginning, and to Dave Goldberg Sensei, and all the teachers and students at Aikido of San Diego.
Linda Eskin – Aikido 1st Kyu Exam – Aikido of San Diego
9 March 2013 – 41 minutes
My 1st kyu Aikido exam, on 9 March 2013. Primary mentor and uke, Karen Kustedjo, Nidan. As usual, there were parts of my test I was happy with, and parts that, ahem, helped show me what I need to work on. Many thanks to my mentors, ukes, and fellow test candidates, whose teaching, coaching, and encouragement have been an important and happy part of my Aikido training from the beginning, and to my teacher, Dave Goldberg Sensei, and all the instructors and students at Aikido of San Diego.
Linda Eskin – Aikido Sho-Dan Exam – Aikido of San Diego
13 December, 2014 – 37 minutes
My sho-dan exam, on 13 December, 2014. Sho-dan is the lowest of the blackbelt, or yudansha, ranks. Sho-dan (or shodan) means “beginning rank. ” This test is just a milestone on a lifelong journey. Many thanks to my kind mentors, ukes, and our training partners during exam prep: Karen, David (also testing), Scott, Cyril, Megan, Jay, Ran, Eric, Marco, Jake, all my dojo mates at Aikido of San Diego, and of course my teacher, Dave Goldberg Sensei.
Linda Eskin – Aikido Nidan Exam – Aikido of San Diego
18 February, 2018 – 29 minutes
My nidan exam, on 18 February, 2018. Nidan is the second blackbelt, or yudansha, rank. Ni is two, and dan is level, so nidan is literally “level two.” All Aikido exams are opportunities for growth, and preparation for this test, and the test itself, were both very challenging. I had (and needed) a lot of help and encouragement. We write an essay to be handed in to Sensei the day of the test. You are invited to read my nidan essay, “There’s No Waiting,”
Many thanks to my focused and determined mentor and primary uke, Karen, plus all my training partners during preparation and the test itself – almost everyone in the dojo: Karen, Scott, Cyril, Megan, Jay, Ran, Eric S, Marco, Jake, Michael, Sean, Stefany, Ben, Mark, Chloe, Will, Rosalind, Amy, Eric L, and all my dojo mates at Aikido of San Diego, and of course my teacher, Dave Goldberg Sensei, and special thanks to Patrick Cassidy Sensei.
And now, back to training.
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