In all martial arts there is rank and progressing through this rank can be confusing and frustrating. Here I attempt to make sense of the purpose of the 6th kyu examination and what it means to those starting (or restarting) their Aikido journey.
In Aikido we have no competition, just hard training of the body, mind, and spirit, in order to better attain the "Budo Spirit". In the old days, there were no ranks, only certificates, handed down from family to family, while most retainers had the equivalent of military rank in a feudal-type army. Thanks to Judo (my original martial art of over 20 years) and its founder, Jigoro Kano, ranks were adopted to martial arts to better track student progression and encourage growth. Our goal is the same.
The 6th Kyu test is designed to do two things: 1) Officially welcome you into the United States Aikido Federation as a full member, and 2) Introduce you to the basic concepts of martial arts and Aikido in particular.
The United States Aikido Federation has some 4,000 active members across the country with over 2.5 MILLION practitioners all over the world. It is one of the most practiced martial arts with seminars held almost every weekend, bringing hundreds (sometimes thousands) of students together to train and enjoy the spirit Aikido manifests on the mat.
The examination itself is rather concise, stripping away much of the complexity that follows to help you understand the basics of foot and hand position (Taisabaki and Ashisabaki, respectively), as well as basic movements like, Tenkan and Irimi. Sitting (seiza) and bowing (Rei) are reviewed as a way to understand the Japanese culture that Aikido comes from and recognize the roles that students, seniors, and teachers play.
There is a circular relationship between students (kohei/kohai) and seniors/teachers (sempai/sensei). Many here in the west have elevated the position of sensei to that of a mystical martial arts master who waits for the eager student to climb a thousand steps and train at his feet. Most miss the fact that in Japan, your school teacher and doctor (just two examples) are your sensei. The word sensei literally means "previous birth" (sempai/senpai means almost the same thing, "former generation). In Aikido we depend on the senior/junior relationship because it places responsibility on both student and teacher, as opposed to many culture that elevate the teacher and expect the student to be submissive.
Remember that in martial arts, it is the teacher/senior's responsibility to guide the student, which means always remaining a student yourself and empathizing with your juniors to better offer them advice that meets their level of progression. The best Aikido students are "sponges", absorbing as much as possible and seeking clarification and refinement to better hone their skills. The most frustrating experience for a student should never be the scolding teacher, but the teacher who gives no correction at all.
Full requirements for the 6th Kyu examination can be found on our website, as well as the United States Aikido Federation website.
Ganbatte (good luck!)
Test Requirement Links:
PCW Martial Arts Centers
United States Aikido Federation