Grading in various martial arts

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Banzai Joe
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Grading in various martial arts

Postby Banzai Joe » Wed Jul 19, 2006 9:10 am

Just wondered what your experiences are of gradings. Good or bad. And the etiquette and principles surrounding them.

Last weekend i received my shodan (1st dan) in kendo.
But for the love of god there were some complete yupers going for nidan (2nd dan). Thankfully only half of them passed.

Personally, i would have liked to have made a better account of my own performance on the day, but i obviously did enough to pass.

But, my opinion, seeing as i'm quite old fashioned is:
DO NOT take a grading unless your sensei recommends you to take one.

So many times have i seen folks challenging for a certain grade when they definitely should NOT be.

We have a guy in our dojo, who had been training for 18 months before i joined 2 years ago. He has failed shodan twice now due to bad footwork. Why the hell he didnt correct his footwork before his 2nd attempt i'll never know.
Now the pillock has to be humbled as he will sit to the right of me and the others who won shodan in the dojo....when he usually bellow outs orders to the juniors to sweep the floor etc. Well, he better not be 'coaching' me any more.

Conversely, when i was graded to shodan in aikido, our Kancho visited our dojo and watched me all night, using me as uke for most of the evening. At the end he awarded me my shodan, after 10 years of training. Weirdly that was the only time in that 10 years that i felt worthy and ready of wearing that black belt. I was the last of about 6 of us that have trained together all that time to receive shodan. They all said it was about 4 years too late, but it only felt right for me at the time i got it. I believe that any time before then i would have been embarassed to receive it, cos i just didn't feel good enough.

16 years ago, when i did my kick boxing gradings, they were absolutely ball-bagging, and you knew if you passed, you'd bloody well earned it.

Last year i got my aiki jujitsu 4th kyu, but omg, it was 2 hours of throwing and being tossed around like a rag doll. Again that one felt well earned too.

So....what's your experiences? Are your grading, scheduled tests like the kendo and kickboxing, or are you regarded over a period of time like the aikido one?

I'm really interested in your thoughts. Cheers :D
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Postby Hatamoto » Wed Jul 19, 2006 2:14 pm

I've only ever been graded in aikijutsu, it's the only martial art I've ever stuck with for more than a couple of months.. Shame, I quit on my second grading.

I don't even remember my first grading, it was just so easy to get, yknow, do ikkyo, get the stances, learn the first bokken and bo kata, and learn the terminology for the stances and a couple of punches. No big deal at all.

The second one, I remember the night well because it was the first night we had without mats, and it was the night I almost broke my leg landing bad from a throw over someone's shoulder (which freaked me out so bad I quit that night and not been back in two years, a decision I still regret).

I passed that grading, for 5th Kyu. Class ended, and as I walked past to get my shoes back on, I was handed a certificate and my stamped grading book (which was left with sensei because the grading was due.)

And that was that......

I appreciated how informal it was, it was just a case of reviewing the techniques, really, and it wasn't on a set date, it was just around the three or nine month mark (1st and 2nd grading), could have been on the night or slightly after, they'd just call you up or give you a certificate when they thought you had earned it.

A little bit cack, but it takes the pressure off getting it right on the one night.
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Re: Grading in various martial arts

Postby Lexxorcist » Wed Jul 19, 2006 4:37 pm

Banzai Joe wrote:But, my opinion, seeing as i'm quite old fashioned is:
DO NOT take a grading unless your sensei recommends you to take one.


Sound advice. This is a quote from my sensei on dan gradings:

Training for the grade is not just going over the syllabus. You need to highlight the poor areas and re-train your muscle memory. You need good core strength in your body. Your core helps you lift you knees, twist, move and develop speed. You need to be fit, and you need to be focused. If you are told something, dont forget it, write it in a book, then keep reading it. NEVER do anything that you have been told will fail you, IT WILL.

You need to be focused.

As for the Grading panel. We have done so many session that we have a set standard. Make a mistake that people have failed for in the past, and you will fail. As a panel we have to be consistant. Don't forgat you only have one chance on the day to get it right and impress.

Yes, Kishin Academy does have more passes than most. Why. Kishin puts more students in, but more importantly, if I did not feel one of my students had a 90% chance of passing I would not let them take the grade. The other 10% is down to them.

I will leave you with the final piece of advice Geoff Thompson gave. Believe that if you don't pass nobody else will. Believe that you have trained harder than anyone else, you are fitter, you are better and you want it more than anyone else.

Passing is the easy part, you then have to live up to the grade!!


That seems fair enough to me. PS: The geoff thompson mentioned is not the self-defence geoff thompson.
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Re: Grading in various martial arts

Postby Hatamoto » Wed Jul 19, 2006 6:20 pm

[/quote]

Believe that if you don't pass nobody else will. Believe that you have trained harder than anyone else, you are fitter, you are better and you want it more than anyone else.

Passing is the easy part, you then have to live up to the grade!![/quote]


I really, really like that :)
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Postby darkhobo » Wed Jul 19, 2006 6:32 pm

I don't test until I am sure I will pass and I have everything down near perfect without hesitation at all, so grading has never been a problem with me. I am testing for my purple belt next week because my sensei has told me I'm ready. I spent over a year as a yellow belt while other people passed over me, but I don't regret it at all. I learned so much more while yellow then some people seem to have learned as a purple. not just the movements, but more of an understanding.
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Postby Banzai Joe » Thu Jul 20, 2006 10:02 am

darkhobo wrote:I don't test until I am sure I will pass and I have everything down near perfect without hesitation at all, so grading has never been a problem with me. I am testing for my purple belt next week because my sensei has told me I'm ready. I spent over a year as a yellow belt while other people passed over me, but I don't regret it at all. I learned so much more while yellow then some people seem to have learned as a purple. not just the movements, but more of an understanding.


I agree with you there matey apart from the bit in bold.
You should test if you think you're near the standard. The grade is a test to 'show' you and your seniors what standard you are at.

At my recent kendo grading i was in 2 minds whether to grade, as i was disappointed with my recent erratic training attendances. BUT, i thought to myself and said "well i'll either pass or fail, at least i'll know what level i'm at".

Don't get me wrong, you shouldn't grade at all if sensei doesn't think you're ready. But i don't think you should ONLY grade if you're 100% ready. After all its a measure of your skill, and if you fail its not the end of the world. In fact you can learn many lessons from failing a grading, ie.weak points, general grading experience etc.
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Postby darkhobo » Thu Jul 20, 2006 7:34 pm

I have never thought of it that way before and you bring a good point.
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Postby Banzai Joe » Fri Jul 21, 2006 8:30 am

darkhobo wrote:I have never thought of it that way before and you bring a good point.


To be honest dh, until a week ago.......neither did i. I was always of the same mind as you. But then i thought "balls to this, i've already paid for it, and if i fail, so what. At least i'll know where i went wrong so i can correct it". Its how we learn.

I think, if we go through live with the 'only attempt something if your 100% sure you can do it' rationale, then we'd only be half of what we could be.

Took me 20 years to figure that out... :@ :dunno: 8)
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Postby Hatamoto » Fri Jul 21, 2006 1:28 pm

I can confirm that :p That's why I do so little, big fear of failure. If I'm not sure I'll make it, I don't do a thing. It's a crappy way to approach challenges. Better to lose and gain experience than to do nothing and not grow.
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Postby Banzai Joe » Sat Jul 22, 2006 9:29 pm

Hatamoto wrote:I can confirm that :p That's why I do so little, big fear of failure. If I'm not sure I'll make it, I don't do a thing. It's a crappy way to approach challenges. Better to lose and gain experience than to do nothing and not grow.


Agreed! So get ur ass to that grading sonny, ready or not 8)
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Postby Lexxorcist » Sat Jul 22, 2006 9:35 pm

Like 'mugger' says, "Every choice is a half chance" ;)
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Postby wtf? » Tue Jul 25, 2006 8:33 pm

My gradings to start with were always a very fluffy affair (im gonna use ju-jutsu as the art im talking about. Has the most variance when it comes to grading) my white, and red was just a display of the few things ive learnt…. See below. (I’ll add the syllabus so people can see how the grading content increased along with pressure, etc.)

White Belt/Red Stripe
Backward breakfall - side breakfall - front rolling breakfall - palm heel strikes - knife hand strikes - front snap kick - front thrust kick - one combat throw/takedown - one offensive striking combination - 3 defences against a single shoulder/double lapel grab - 3 defenses against chest pushes - floor and standing finishes.
Red Belt


Front roll - backward roll - front breakfall - hammer fist strikes - hand claw strikes - basic punching on focus mitts - side thrust kick - side snap kick - roundhouse kick - 2 combat throws/takedowns - 2 offensive striking combinations - 3 defenses against front body hold (arms free) - 2 defenses against front body hold (arms pinned) - 3 defenses against front double handed strangle - 2 defenses against single handed strangle - 1 counter technique against a right hook to head.


We also threw in some extra stuff, but nothing major. With those 2, the most important thing was ‘spirit’ and ‘concentration’ as long as the techniques were ok-ish, good spirit, and concentration would carry us through. This was a confidence building exercise, and making sure that the right idea’s were implanted soon.

My yellow…
Extended forward roll - high forward rolling breakfall - floor position spinning side breakfall - advanced front breakfall - advanced back breakfall - finger spear thrusts/thumb gouges - cupped hand strikes/palm slaps - backfist strikes/back hand strikes - basic elbow strikes - shin roundhouse kick - standing stomp kicks - front shin extension kick - 3 offensive striking combinations - 2 wrist/arm locks in application - 3 combat throws/takedowns from vertical grapple - 4 basic floor pins and finishes - 3 defenses rear body hold (arms free) - 2 defenses rear body hold (arms pinned) - 3 defenses against a rear choke - 1 counter technique to a left hook to head.


Was given to me at a seminar along with another student. So no real grading was taken. The day itself though, was a killer. Outside, for 5 hours, in heat about the same as we have been experiencing. And due to god hating me… I had to train with my sensei for half the day. At this point, id only been with the class for about 2 years.

My orange started to become much more intensive.

Every technique was meant to be perfect, and every ‘number’ was doubled.

Front rolling breakfall into striking combination - no arm forward roll - forward flap breakfall, basic - head over heels roll - basic breakfalls/rolls from being pushed - forearm strikes - ridgehand - arc hand and half fist - head butts - basic knee strikes - heel hook kick - sweep kick - stomping kicks to fallen opponent - 4 combat throws/takedowns/combat clinch/basic strikes - 3 verbal/physical set ups for an offensive technique - 2 chokes/strangles - 3 counters to single wrist grabs - 2 counters to two hands grab one wrist - 2 counters to two hands grab two wrists - 2 defenses against rear stranglehold - counter defenses against roundhouse swing to head 2 - counter defenses against straight face punch 2 - counter defenses against uppercut to belly 2 - 1 finishing technique from mount - 1 escape technique from mount - 1 finish technique from guard - combat floor grappling - padwork.


This was the start of real gradings. Everything was very strict, although we were free to play with techniques, or idea’s as long as they were effective. There was no breaks, or gaps. It was 2 hours of minor abuse.

My green was the first time I ever passed out due to lack of stamina….

Front roll into backward roll - side on rolls - basic breakfall with kicks off floor - forward flap breakfall, advanced - middle knuckle strikes/gouges - spinning hand/elbow strikes - shoulder strikes - backside strikes - biting techniques - (from close quarter self defense) -knee drops/pins - advanced focus mitts/standing to floor - back kick - spinning back kick - side kick as a stomping and bridging weapon - kicks on shield - 5 combat throws/takedowns - 3 arm/wrist locks in application - strikes from ground grappling - flesh/skin tearing/ripping/pinching methods - defend against following attacks:- full nelson 2 - front hair grab 2 - rear hair grab 2 - side headlock 2 - hook punch to head 3 - jab to face 2 - double hook to head 2 - technique from mount 3 - technique from side cross body 2 - breaking/countering guard 2 - escaping scarfhold 2.


All techniques were doubled again, and in addition, there was another hour (on top of the 2.5hour grading) where we were made to fend off random attacks, and go through much more advanced training. (freestyle weapons, more advanced techniques, boxing, and grappling with our sensei, etc)

We were also made to do the first 2 gradings again, the next session we were attending.

Blue, was murder. This was after about 5 years training. By this point we all had the technical knowledge to pass the basic black belt syllabus, without additions. I took this grading with 3 other people. It lasted 3.5 hours, the night before I had to do every other grading (just run through, technically, not fully grade… numbers doubled) and when I started the grading I was told

look guys… I KNOW you can do the grading, and then some… so for the next 4 hours, were just gonna have some fun


For the 3 of us, he included 7 other guys. These were crash test dummies, and as soon as 1 got tired, another stepped in… we were never allowed a break, and our training partner was always fresh. This was also done so that we were forced to grade with various body sizes, proving we weren’t limited to our favourite training partner. Most of it was free fighting, and drills. So it was pretty stamina orientated. We also quickly ran through the technical grading, but 75% of it was a hard-ass instructor, trying to make us cry. Lol

Passed out twice, and puked 3 times.

The technical grading was….
Rear arm roll - rolls/breakfalls over bodies - continuous rolls/breakfalls - rolling/spinning out of the way of thrown objects - 5 offensive striking combinations - 4 kicking combinations - pressure point atemi to head/shoulders - hand and foot combinations on pads - striking pads from mount and guard positions - 3 standing and 3 floor chokes or strangles - 6 combat throws/takedowns - 5 arm/wrist locks in application - blocking, parrying punches/kicks (semi-sparring) - one for one 50% all in sparring - methods of attacking bodies muscles 3 - methods of attacking hair/ears 4 - methods of dislocating joints 3 - strikes from a vertical grapple/clinch - 2 defenses against being strangles in mount - 2 defenses against being strangles in guard - 2 defenses against being strangles from side - 2 defenses against being strangled from above - combat floor grappling - 1 escape/counter to top four quarter - 2 finishes from all fours position - 1 escape/counter to side four quarter - 3 finishes from guard - defend against following attacks: - hook to head 4 - straight face punch 4 - flurry of blows to head/body 2 - roundhouse swing 3 - front kick 2 - side kick 2 - roundhouse kick 3 - weapon defenses - cosh - downward strike 3 - sideways strike 3 - reverse strike 2 - lapel grab and downward strike 2.


I stopped grading after this, as I couldn’t see the point. That was 6-7 years ago now. My time has been spent adding combat instead of red tabs to a black belt. Im more interested in technique over belt colour. Ive also stopped wearing a gi, now-a-days. I go in a baggy t-shirt, and tracksuit bottoms. I only wear the gi in winter, when its ungodly cold, or at special occasions. Ive also butchered it so its now short sleeved. No reason to mention it, but there we go.

For those interested, heres the rest of the syllabus, brown to black…. all numbers doubled)

Brown Belt
Continuously thrown to assess break falling - 6 offensive striking combinations - open hand strikes (full array) - elbow, knee and head combinations - pressure point atemi to leg and arms - stiff leg raise kick - stiff leg sweep kick - kick effectively off ground and defending opponent who attempts to pass your legs - kicks to fallen opponent after a takedown or strike - kicks to close a gap to grapple - 8 combat throws/takedowns - 5 counters to throws - 4 change from throw to throw - 6 arm/wrist locks - 3 head/neck locks/cranks - 3 strangle/chokes using the legs - 4 joint dislocating methods - 5 leg locks - all major ground pins with a finish from each (combat grappling) - fighting from knees 4 - 50% ground sparring 6 finishing holds - defend against following: - side headlock 3 - front headlock 2 - back hammer 2 - leg/body tackle 3 - being strangles against a wall 2 - lapel grab and punch 2 - head butt 1 - knee strike 1 - rear grab 2 hands on 2 wrist 2 - rear shoulder grab 2 - swing to head with bat 2 - swing to head with a chain 3 - thrust to face with a bottle 2 - downward blow to head with a bottle 2 - reverse swing to head with a bottle 2 - thrust to the head with a bottle 2 - explain tactics and strategies against these weapons - explain difference between a choke and a strangle - questions on anatomy/physiology - street scenario role playing.



Brown Belt (Black Stripe)
Teach 3 breakfalls/rolls from basic to advanced - you will have taken part or all of a class by now - 8 offensive striking combinations (explaining strategies/set-ups) - 12 combat throws (6 offensive/6 defensive) - 5 changing from one throw to another - 6 chokes or strangles - methods of attacking eyes and ears - 10 joint locks when opponent is on the floor - counter all floor pinning holds - countering 'catch' position 3 - 3 'come-a-long' or control techniques - 2/3 min. rounds on focus pads/or bag (all in) - explain strategy and demonstrate techniques against multiple opponents - demonstrate freestyle moves against freestyle attacks - explain strategy and demonstrate technique against a) boxer b) grappler c) kicker - counter techniques to throws, joint locks, chokes/strangles - defend against knife hold up 2 - defend against knife slash to face 2 - pre-emptive technique to foil knifer 2 - defend against front garrote 1 - defend against rear garrote 1 - defend against side garrote 1 - demonstrate basic Yawara-Bo - demonstrate basic Baton - role play street scenarios - anatomy/physiology questions - teaching related questions - un-rehearsed.



Black Belt
Breakfalls/rolls over and off bodies/objects - breakfalls/rolls on hard surface - rolling and picking up weapons - demonstrate full array of atemi strikes/kicks - demonstrate full array of nerve pressure points - 4 different methods of attacking throat/neck - padwork 2/5 min. all in - pre-emptive power strikes - 6 sacrifice throws - 12 other throws/takedowns - 5 neck/headlocks - 8 leg locks - 8 joint locks on floor - defending yourself when you are on the floor, opponent standing - defending yourself whilst seated - assisting a victim under attack - tactics/technique to counter a dog attack - special rape tactics for ladies - escaping/countering freestyle ground grappling - name major fatal points on body, show how to attack and medical effects - questions on anatomy/physiology - questions on first aid - questions on street scenarios - questions on Dojo teaching scenarios - extensive knife defense - a) safety zones b) weapon concealment c) verbal/physical demonstration - defense against the following: - mugging hold-ups 6 - downward stab 3 - stomach thrust 5 - slash to face 4 reverse slash 2 - thrust to face 3 - spin slash 1 - inverted slash 1 - circular body stab 1 - combinations 3 - knife being drawn 2 - treating a knife wound - 3 defenses against hatchet/meat cleaver attacks - hand gun strategies/tactics for survival - defenses against gun to head 4 - defenses against gun to chest 1 - defenses against gun to belly 1 - defenses against gun to back 2 - demonstrate further use of the Yawara-Bo and Baton - defend against free style weapon attacks - box/grapple 3 mins. - MMA bout with seniors.


at a guess, its possible that around 60% of students know all the above by their blue belt grading.

its also worth noting that they arnt really important in our classes. after green-ish, people tend to loose interest, and out of the whole class, only about 20% of the belts show the actual level of knowlege the wearer has.

also... Longest post ever, methinks.
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Postby darkhobo » Wed Jul 26, 2006 1:45 am

your first colors seemed very similar to the first 3 i've gone through so far with the falls and rolls and defense against bear hugs and stuff.
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Postby wtf? » Wed Jul 26, 2006 11:49 am

darkhobo wrote:your first colors seemed very similar to the first 3 i've gone through so far with the falls and rolls and defense against bear hugs and stuff.


yeah, thats pretty basic stuff. the idea is that is covers most area's. its not so important that its all perfect, just that you have the principles... on the topic of gradings, and their uses/principles... i believe this to be the most important.

a feel for everything, and the right principles are paramount to combat arts, which is all im really qualified to comment on. sports are another thing.
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Im not sure what weapons will be used to fight WWIII, but i know that WWIV will be waged with wooden sticks.

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Postby Steve Ishikawa » Thu Jul 27, 2006 7:37 pm

At my old Wada Ryu Karate dojo there were about 4 little sproglets that pissed around every lesson and would always end up doing press ups toward the middle of the lesson.

I left the dojo to join a later class. After a while my sister wanted to enrole in Karate. She wasn't allowed in the class I was in now, so I took her to my old dojo - and the 4 sproglets (still messing around) were all blue belts! Ironically, none of them had certificates. The sensei's approved their belts but said: "we'll give you the belt - but not the certificate, so it isn't official," - I mean...wtf?!

I had a long word with my old sensei after that lesson - and I found my sister another dojo.

So I undertsnad the stupidity behind some grading schemes.

(Lets not forget the expence...and you won't want me to go into that)


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