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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 Dans.

Wearing a black belt is a great privilege, and carries a deal of responsibility. Fewer than 1 in 10000 people ever try their hand at a martial art. For every 1000 people who do begin Karate, fewer than 50 will achieve a Dan grade. Most will drop out before they achieve 3rd Kyu. 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 apprehensive, they should take comfort in the knowledge that their instructors are feeling just the same!

Gradings are held once every 4 months. Dan Gradings are held twice yearly, One in Germany, usually in May, and once in England, usually in August. Gradings take place in one of the clubs with a large indoor area. Gradings are a great opportunity to meet students from different clubs.

Am I Ready To Grade?

All students, 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 & one white stripe ( 2nd Kyu), is 4 months. A further minimum of 6 months must go by before reaching Brown & two white stripes (1st Kyu). Another 6 months 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 16 lessons of Dojo training in each 4 month period. That works out to roughly 1 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 2 or more hours a week becomes normal to make sufficient progress. As for Dan Grades.....

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 are not 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. Next, all students gather for a quick warm-up, don't worry about it - the warm-up will follow the familiar routine that you observe in your Dojo. After the warm-up, a training session begins usually lasting about 1 to 2 hour's tuition. Finally there's a short recess, and then the grading itself begins.

You are asked to demonstrate skills, in front of the Chief Instructor, 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 examiner.

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 drills to perform.

Kata (form). Here you demonstrate the Kata you've been practicing. For your very first grading this is Kihon Kata

And that's all there is to it! Afterwards you are presented with a certificate of achievement usually from the senior or chief examiner, 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.

Don't Be Nervous!

The main ingredient to a successful grading is always going to be SPIRIT. The student who finds it desperately difficult to perform a turn in Kihon Kata for instance, but who tries hard all the time, and does their best, will have a good grading - even if they get it wrong on the day. Effort is the most important aspect!

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WUKF World Champions 2016

A Hearty congratulations to Brian Hall and Hayley Just on becoming WUKF World Champions 2016

Clearly a force to be reckoned with.

Best wishes from all at Gakushuin