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Grading & Testing

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As an introduction to the relevance of karate grades and grading tests, we repeat the following slightly edited extracts from our introductory information brochure.

The Grading System

Grading tests are a means of evaluating a karate-ka's progress.

Receiving an invitation to grade is a privilege earned by a karate-ka through diligence and effort. A grading test is an opportunity for a karate-ka to demonstrate competence in the various techniques and training sequences that he or she has been practicing in order to advance to the next karate grade. During a grading test, the karate-ka may also be asked questions to test his or her understanding of karate-do.

The ranks of Karate-do Goju-Ryu are divided into 10 Kyu and 10 Dan grades. The belt he or she wears indicates the rank of a karate-ka. Belt colors vary through a numbers of colors from white to black.

According to tradition, karate-ka should never ask their Sensei about when they will grade. The Sensei will invite karate-ka to participate in a grading when they have completed their required training time and demonstrate in their training that they are ready for promotion.

The Karate-ka must concentrate only on training, and grading will look after itself. Training times between grades vary from about 4 months for a yellow belt, to about six months for brown belts. However, many factors influence the required training times for each individual.

The Kaizen Gojukan attempts to ensures that grading standards for our Association are maintained, and that grades and certificates are only awarded to karate-ka who are current affiliated members of the Association.

A. THE GRADING SYSTEM IN DETAIL

1. Grading Tests

Grading tests are a means of checking a karate-ka's progress in a formal way outside the usual dojo-training environment. Grading is not a right of all those who attend training, but is a privilege earned by a karate-ka through diligence and effort. In a grading, a karate-ka is required to perform various sequences of techniques to a standard worthy of the grading level being attempted. This is done according to a national syllabus and an international standard. A panel of registered examiners is required to assess the karate­ka being tested. The panel may also ask the karate-ka questions to test his or her understanding of the techniques being performed, and indeed of karate-do in general.

The ranks of karate-do are divided into kyu and dan grades. The color of the belt or obi worn indicates the karate-ka's rank as follows can be seen here, I-Levels (5-10 Years old) & Kyu Grades (Junior 11-15 Years & Senior 16 +). Dan Grades (Black Belt)

Karate-ka over 16 years of age may be exempted from the Mukyu test and could proceed directly to be tested for the 10th kyu grade.

2. Grading Standards

The Dojo has the responsibility to ensure that grading standards in our Association are maintained, and that grades and certificates are awarded only to karate-ka who are current affiliated members of the Association. Therefore a database of all registered karate-ka is used as the check of the validity of all karate-ka's memberships and grades.

3. Types of Grading

Three levels of grading can be held in Northern America. A Dojo grading can be held for karate-ka attempting a grade up to 4th kyu. A Regional grading can grade karate-ka up to 1st kyu, and a National grading is needed to grade karate-ka to Shodan or above.

4. Grading Fee

A grading fee determined each year at the A.G.M. of the local association, is payable when a karate-ka attempts a grading. This fee covers various costs including fees for registering the new grade at the International and/or local Dojo, the cost of the certificate, venue rentals, and other incidentals. Remember that your certificate and rank are underwritten by our international Hombu Dojo in Japan and will be recognized internationally.

The administrative portion of the grading fee is refundable if a karate-ka is not awarded a new grade.

B. FULFILLING THE GRADING REQUIREMENTS

A number of factors are taken into account before inviting any karate-ka to attend a grading test. At every grading time, instructors are bombarded with accusations, questions and even threats because individuals are not invited to grade. A better understanding of the process may help alleviate this problem. The following information is offered in an attempt to help with this understanding.

The Importance of Grades

Firstly, let it never be the purpose of any karate-ka to train simply to achieve the next grade.

The purpose of karate-do goes far beyond this and there is absolutely no value in being able to do techniques sufficiently well to move through the grades when one is incapable of using these techniques effectively in combat. Such karate-ka have then not learned the associated mental lessons that go hand in hand with the physical training.

As with all other exams, there are those who try to cram to pass. practicing techniques and movements at the last moment. This must not be allowed to succeed in karate-do. Being confident about one's actions in a crisis comes only from knowing that the lessons taught have been well learned and well practiced. False belief in one's ability to react correctly when necessary is dangerous.

1. Attendance

In order for a karate-ka to earn the privilege to grade, the organization demands of him or her a primary requirement of regular attendance. Without dedication to one's training, there seems little relevance in hoping for a new grade.

For this reason, it is important that students who miss lessons excuse themselves so that the instructors know the reasons for the missed lessons.

2. Arriving Late for Training

As a further point on attendance, the register is taken at the bow-in for each class. Therefore karate-ka arriving late for class will not be marked as present for that class. Obviously there are valid reasons for arriving late on occasions. However, arriving late repeatedly for training without a valid excuse demonstrates both bad manners and a lack of dedication to training, and will effect one's progress towards grading.

3. Prescribed Training Period Between Grades

Before being invited to grade, a karate-ka will be required to attend a minimum number of one-hour training sessions depending on the rank for which he or she is training. The prescribed numbers of training sessions are:

10th Kyu 0 6th Kyu 35 2nd Kyu 40
9th kyu 12 5th Kyu 40 1st Kyu 48
8th Kyu 20 4th Kyu 45 Shodan 48
7th Kyu 30 3rd Kyu 50 Nidan 2 Years

 

After Nidan: Further by invitation when deemed relevant

Adjustments to the prescribed training period

This prescribed training period may have been increased or decreased depending on how well a karate-ka performed at his or her previous grading. Also, irregular attendance or poor training effort may result in this period being extended. (See also the notes on coming late to training, and late payment of fees)

A strict register is kept to monitor attendance. This register forms the basis from which the potential candidates for a grading are identified. Even so, it is impractical to hold a grading every time each karate-ka completes his or her predetermined training period, Consequently the following procedure is adopted for situations where the number of hours of training completed is different from the number required for the next grade. This system ensures fairness for all karate-ka independent of when the grading is held relative to the completion of their various training periods.

Dealing with training hours in surplus or deficit

  • Lessons in surplus. When the karate-ka has trained for more than the number of lessons required, all or some portion of the extra lessons will be carried forward depending on the standard achieved by the karate-ka during the grading test.
  • Lessons in deficit. Because gradings are held infrequently, in special cases karate-ka who are close to completion of the required training time may also be considered for the grading test. However, if these karate-ka are invited to attend the grading and are awarded new grades, the lessons in deficit will be added to the training times determined for those karate-ka's next grades.

A Note on Grading Marks

As stated, grading marks are used to determine each karate-ka's performance at a grading and consequently influence the training time set for him or her to complete before becoming eligible for the next grading. However, it is our policy not to turn gradings into a competition and therefore marks are not disclosed to karate-ka or parents. It takes many years of training, at least a shodan grade, and a formal test to become a grading examiner. Few spectators will be qualified sufficiently to be able to evaluate accurately the relative performances of grading candidates.

4. Other Factors

However important these factors are, attendance and completing the required training period are not the only measures used to determine whether a karate-ka will be invited to a grading or not. The complete list of factors taken into account is:

Has the karate-ka been training for a sufficient number of hours since the previous grading?

How well did the karate-ka perform at his or her previous grading? A good mark would have accelerated his or her advancement to the next level.

Has the karate-ka been attending training regularly? Infrequent attendance may still result in one achieving sufficient training time towards one's next grade but almost certainly certain important lessons will have been missed.

Is the karate-ka attentive during training and does he or she train with effort and spirit? No or only partial credit will be given to a karate-ka who attends a lesson but either disrupts the lesson, or makes no effort to train.

Has the karate-ka mastered the techniques required to progress to the next grade? Obviously, however long a karate-ka has spent in training, if his or her techniques are still not up to standard, he or she will not perform adequately at a grading test and will not be awarded a higher grade.

Is the karate-ka's attitude towards and understanding of karate-do correct (especially with respect to Karate-do Goju-Ryu and our Dojo Kun)?

Are the karate-ka's membership and tuition fees paid to date? Remember that like any other organization, the Kaizen Gojukan and its parent organization can only give credit for training to those students who come onto the floor as valid members. If fees are not paid or are paid late, lessons attended during this period will not be deducted from that karate-ka's prescribed training time for the next grade.

Above all, a karate-ka should not be concerned about when he or she will be grading again.

According to Japanese karate tradition, karate-ka should never speak to their sensei about when they will grade. The sensei will know when karate-ka are ready and will invite them to participate in a grading. Karate-ka must concentrate on their training, and grading will look after itself. There needs to be a trust between the sensei and the karate­ka (and their parents), otherwise many of the true lessons of karate-do will be lost.

One must also remember that many factors (such as age, physical abilities and personality) will influence each karate-ka's rate of progress. Each karate-ka has to work to overcome his or her own weaknesses and must accept that his or her rate of progress may be slower than others in the class. However, this should only make the victory greater when new levels or attained.

Those karate-ka who are fortunate enough to be above average in the class, have a special responsibility towards their fellow karate-ka. They should avoid the temptation to simply progress at the average rate of the class, and should strive rather to achieve their maximum potential. Their advancement will be the dojo's advancement and all their fellow karate-ka will benefit as well.

C. The Kaizen Gojukan Approach to Grading

At the Kaizen Gojukan we follow as closely as possible the traditions of karate teaching that were developed in Okinawa and later Japan. The Dojo Kun of the I.K.G.A. outlines a Dojo Kun, our training virtues, which remain important ideals underlying every aspect of our teaching. Then in addition, we too have developed our own dojo traditions in line with our Dojo Kun. Each and every aspect of all the above are relevant to the progress of each karate-ka and the attaining of new ranks.

As a consequence, the following procedure is followed for every grading (different only under exceptional circumstances).

1. Determining Who to Invite to Gradings

The various sections above have described how the instructors decide on which karate­ka may be eligible to be invited to attend a grading test.

2. Dojo Gradings Details

Dojo gradings are usually held on the last Thursday evening of the 3 month term. Exceptional circumstances excluded, the venue will usually be the Kaizen Gojukan in Roanoke.

The date of a grading is decided upon when a sufficient number of karate-ka are approaching the completion of the training period for their next rank. The Hombu Dojo must approve the grading and a notice is posted on the dojo notice boards and the official website a number of weeks before the event to advise everyone of the pending grading. We give as much notice as possible and cannot make changes or make special provisions to suit other functions, which may occur on the same day. The karate­ka concerned must make up their own minds about which event they wish to attend.

During the last weeks before a grading, the instructors will check the readiness of karate-ka to determine who of those eligible are up to the required standard. Sufficient time exists during this checking period for serious karate-ka to correct the problems that the instructors will point out to them.

In the last week prior to the grading, invitations will be presented to those karate­ka who the instructors believe will be able to perform the syllabus at the grading to at least the required standard. It is irresponsible for instructors to invite karate ka to gradings when these karate-ka have not achieved the required standard.

At the grading, all karate-ka attending the grading must be present for the bow­in at the starting time. The scoring sheets are checked and no further changes will be allowed. Testing will be done in belt order from 10th kyu upwards. Karate ka may leave for home once they have completed their tests. There is no final bow-out and no results are given at the grading.

Usually, on the Tuesday (or first lesson) following a grading, a promotion ceremony is held where results are announced, physical testing is done, and new ranks are awarded. The physical tests done at this ceremony underline the philosophy of Karate-do Goju Kai that we pride ourselves in living the meaning of our style's name Goju, hard, soft. One aspect of this means that body conditioning is as important as mental understanding of the techniques we learn. Whereas a grading test focuses on the technical side of the work, the physical test focuses on the physical side which is the personal responsibility of each karate-ka to work on and develop for him or herself.
Monitoring of the physical test is the responsibility of the senior students who check each group and advise the sensei which karate-ka have successful fulfilled the requirements. Candidates who achieve new grades at the grading test but are unable to perform the physical test adequately will not be permitted to wear their new grades in the dojo until the achieve the physical requirements at a subsequent promotion ceremony. Meanwhile they will continue training as their new grade and may even participate in a grading test for the next level with all the same conditions.

The physical test involves;

  • Push-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • Squat Kicks from sitting position
  • Squat Kicks from standing position

The number of each exercise is determined by the rank for which the karate-ka is being tested. The required standard of these exercises is explained clearly and practiced during normal training sessions. The rate at which the exercises must be done is determined by a fixed time period. Since this is a test requiring very little thinking, no lenience is allowed. If a karate-ka is unable to perform this test to the required standard for his or her grade, he or she will have to repeat the physical test at the promotion ceremony after the next grading.

The number of repetitions of each exercise is determined as follows - the grade shown is 'the grade for which the karate-ka is being tested.

  • 9th kyu - 10
  • 8th kyu - 15
  • 7th kyu - 20
  • 6th kyu - 25
  • 5th kyu - 30
  • 4th kyu - 35

3. Regional and National Gradings

Most of the factors relating to Dojo gradings apply equally to Regional and National gradings. The exceptions are:

The regional organizer of the grading will determine venues, dates and times of gradings. We may also have little or no control over these decisions, and other dojo within the region will be invited to participate in the grading. Where possibly, the organizers will draw together karate-ka from a number of dojo.

Spectators may not be permitted to watch regional and national gradings. This depends on the decision of the panel head. The default rule is no spectators.

Often karate-ka who attend regional gradings will hear their results at the grading. Even so, they will not be permitted to wear their new belts until after they have performed their physical tests, which are conducted during the Tuesday senior class. Successful karate-ka are awarded their grades at the end of the senior class. The physical test is determined by the senior karate-ka and can include any aspect of karate-do that they consider to be relevant to the karate-ka concerned. Whether or not the standard set of exercises is used, candidates should be capable of performing the following repetitions of each of the standard exercises.

The number of repetitions of each exercise is determined as follows - the grade shown is 'the grade for which the karate-ka is being tested.

  • 3rd kyu - 40
  • 2nd kyu - 45
  • 1 st kyu - 50

4. Karate-ka not awarded new grades

Where grading candidates are not awarded new grades, they retain all lessons to their credit and simply continue training and adding to their credit until the next grading at which time all the usual grading process will apply again. No lessons are lost.

5. The Promotion Ceremony

In accordance with the ideals of our Dojo's Shoyu Kun, it is clear that a promotion ceremony should be attended by all members of the dojo, irrespective of whether they were part of the grading or not, or whether they usually attend a Tuesday class or not. Further, the promotion ceremony blends into the usual Tuesday classes so karate-ka who attend Tuesday classes should do so as usual but be prepared to also attend the promotion ceremony for its entire duration.

6. The schedule for the promotion ceremony is:

  • Bow--in for all karate-ka at 18h30. All karate-ka stay seated in seiza.
  • Announcement of the names of those identified for promotion at the Thursday grading.
  • Performance of the physical checks, one group at a time from 9th Kyu upwards.
  • Announcement of the names of karate-ka to be promoted.
  • Presentation of new grades, done one karate-ka at a time as follows. **
  • When all presentations are done, full bow out.
  • After bow out, congratulations can be made. End of ceremony.


** Breakdown for [point 5]

  • All named candidates remove their belts, fold them and place them on the floor on their left side, wait in seiza.
  • When called up by name, the candidate arrives with the old belt in left hand.
  • The sensei and candidate bow to each other, the candidate gives old belt to sensei using left hands.
  • The sensei gives old belt to the sempai using left hands.
  • The sempai returns a new belt to the sensei using right hand.
  • The sensei gives belt to karate-ka using right hands.
  • The sensei and candidate bow to each other, the candidate returns to his place in the lines and while on left knee, puts on new belt.

 

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