About Ikkyu

We recently had some successful ikkyu (1st kyu) tests. Here are a few comments about this important test.

One of the purposes of the test is to assess a student’s potential for eventually taking a shodan test. It gives us some idea of how much work the student still needs to do to accomplish this aim.

What are we looking for?

  • Strong fundamental body movement, including good hanmi and posture, correct footwork and a low centre. It is in the last ten minutes of the test that we can really see whether the student has internalized these elements, after he/she has become tired. If a student has been trying to  “remember” to do them in the first five minutes of the test, he/she usually forgets them at the end.
  • Fundamental mechanics of technique are also critical: timing, extension, unbalancing  the partner, correct breathing, zanshin and so on.
  • “Tei nei,” or attention to detail, is also critical. This is an understanding of the specific mechanics of each technique and executing them correctly.
  • People invariably make a few mistakes in their tests. However, for ikkyu, we should not be seeing the same mistakes repeated over and over again.
  • We also expect reasonable physical condition, so the student has the energy and stamina to get through the test without “running out of gas.” If a student has a physical limitation such as bad knees, though, the test can be adjusted to leave out specific techniques.
  • The techniques should be authoritative and executed in a martial way. This is not to say the test should be violent or the partner injured. However, all too often we see tests where the only reason uke falls is that he/she is cooperating with nage.
  • Ikkyu can be considered a “dress rehearsal” for shodan, and the student should study the video of his/her test closely and discuss with the senseis where improvement  is required.