What Is A Grade?
A grade is a measure of the level of attainment of a Karate student. Each grade is signified by a different coloured belt, starting with the White belt and progressing to Black. Below the black belt, grades are referred to as Kyu, Black belts are called Dan.
Wearing a black belt is a great privilege, and carries a deal of responsibility. Fewer than 1 in10000 people ever try their hand at a martial art. For every 1000 people who do begin Karate, only one will achieve a Dan grade. Most will drop out before they achieve a senior grade (senior grades are 3rd Kyu - brown belt - and above). Above this point the 'drop-out' rate is somewhat smaller, but still less than half those who achieve 3rd Kyu will eventually reach black belt.
What Is A Grading?
Gradings are where students get the opportunity to show to the Association Chief Instructor and other Dan grades how they have progressed since their previous grading. Equally, gradings are where Club Instructors are also assessed, to see how well they have taught their students! So, while it is natural for students to feel a little aprehensive, they should take comfort in the knowledge that their instructors are feeling just the same!
Gradings are held once every 3 months (up to 4th Kyu). Usually taking place in a large indoor area. Gradings are a great opportunity to meet students from different clubs.
Am I Ready To Grade?
All students, not just junior grades (below 3rd Kyu), should be guided by the advice of Sensei. Remember that Sensei has already gone through all the gradings ahead of you, so has a wealth of experience in this area!
If you are determined to attend a grading, regardless of what Sensei recommends, no-one will prevent you. But bear in mind that ignoring Sensei's advice can mean the difference between a good grading and poor one.
The minimum amount time between moving from one grade to the next, up until brown belt (3rd Kyu), is 3 months. From brown belt to Brown & one white stripe (2nd Kyu) takes a minimum of 6 months, and a further minimum of 6 months must go by before reaching Brown & two white stripes (1st Kyu). A full year must pass before a student becomes eligible to grade for the Black belt.
These minimum times should more accurately be described by the number of hours a student trains at the Dojo. As an Association we have many years of experience, and this has taught us that a student who trains once a month for 3 months is never going to achieve the standard required! So we have set a tariff of a minimum of 20 hours Dojo training in each 3 month period. That works out to roughly 2 hour a week. As students progress in their training towards being senior grades, they will see for themselves that this is far too little, and 4 hours a week becomes the expected hours for high grades (3rd Kyu and above).....
Brown Belt Qualification to grade at least 40 hours training
At least 20 should be advanced and at least 20 should be in your own Do Jo
and at least 6 months since your last grading
For 1st kyu a minimum of 40 hours training at advanced
and 40 hours in your do jo
and at least 12 months since your last grading
Black belts to 2nd dan at least 80 hours advanced
and 80 in your own dojo
and at least 2 years since your last grading
I recommend you train both Fridays and your own do jo
So, in summary, students should remember the following:
The time between gradings is a minimum - many students take longer to prepare for a grading.
No student is expected to grade every time - students will not be expected to progress faster than they feel is comfortable.
No student should expect to grade every time - follow the advice of your Sensei.
What Happens At A Grading?
Gradings begin with registration. Please make a point of registering as soon as you arrive.
Next, all students gather for a quick warm-up, usually taken by one of the senior Kyu grades. Don't worry about it - the warm-up will follow the familiar routine that you observe in your Dojo. After the warm-up,grading itself begins.
You are asked to demonstrate skills, in front of Association instructors, in three areas:
Kihon (basics) is just that. Remember all the punching and blocking you've done, up and down the Dojo floor, over and over again? That's all there is to it. You will be asked to perform different techniques (for example, downward block, stepping punch, upper-rising block) a number of times in front of the judges.
Kumite (sparring) is where you show your ability to perform formal attacks and defences against an opponent. Once again, you've done this many times in the Dojo, paired up with a partner. Note that beginners (white belts) do not have any Kumite exercises to perform.
Kata (from). Here you demonstrate the Kata you've been practicing. For your very first grading this is the just first 8 moves of Taikyoku Shodan
And that's all there is to it! Afterwards you are presented with a certificate of achievement from a Dan grade, and awarded the right to wear the next belt, and then it's time to relax and enjoy the feeling you get from having completed a grading.
What if you go wrong
If you go wrong you will be asked to do it again you could even be shown it by a higher grade
You will not fail if you simply forget something it is not a memory test
you could fail if you dont try your best or if you have not acheived the required standard
You will have your grade with held untill you are deemed ready.