On the weekend of 2nd December we held our biggest grading of the year in Basingstoke. We had students from Karate, Ju Jitsu and Judo all grading. Of which Seven of them were being examined for their Black Belt.
The weekend started with the younger children from the Young Legends, aged between 6- 9 going for their first belt. Their grading consisted of a 60 minute class to give a brief reminder of the things they had to demonstrate. They progressed onto the formal grading itself which consisted demonstrating blocks, kicks, strikes, throws and groundwork along with their forms and partnerwork.
We progressed onto those pupils from Young Legends trying for their Orange to Yellow belts. The format was similar albeit with additional techniques required because of their greater experience.
Saturday finished off with a group of Urban Warriors, which our Martial Arts classes for children between 10 – 14 years old. Members were testing from belts between Orange and Green and given that they are more mature and physically developed, greater expectations were on their shoulders. In this case the examination itself lasted a full two hours with four examiners assessing the progress and capability of each person attempting their next belt. In this group there were some very polished performances, particularly from Ava and Mia who double graded.
It was a bright and breezy start on Sunday morning for our Judo-ka. Judo for children is divided into Belts called Mons and there are 18 to pass before Black Belt and for the adults, six Kyu grades to pass. There was a wide spectrum of grade being attempted from 1st Mon Red belt all the way through to 1st Kyu Brown belt. We covered a wide of fundamental techniques for the first two coloured belts that everyone practiced and then individual’s grade requirements were practiced and demonstrated to the examiners. The grading finished off this time with Randori for all the participants, congratulations to Ross who passed his 1st Kyu, next step Black Belt.
Next up on the Sunday were the intermediate grades for our Urban Warriors and Adults classes ranging from Red belt to Purple and White. Given the age group of this group, the intensity and expectations were set high from the start. We never give belts away, they are always hard earnt and something to be proud of. This grading was no exception with some incredible focus and determination shown. At this level gradings are a real test of one’s skill and determination with fundamentals across a wide range of punches, kicks, strikes, throws, locks and groundwork all having to be demonstrated to a high level followed by Forms and Kata with Sparring to finish.
The final session of the weekend was the most eagerly and nervously awaited, our annual Black Belt grading. Black Belt candidates have the year prior to the grading to prepare for their grading with a ‘little project’ to help them focus and achieve. They study and reflect upon their goals for the year, their strengths and weaknesses, their physical activity, their diet, a personal assignment to research and discuss with peers, a lesson to plan and then deliver to prove their knowledge and ability to pass on their skills and knowledge and finally a review of their progress during the year. The theory side of the grading has to be passed before the candidate is invited to take part in the physical examination. The physical grading itself is 3 hours long and is designed to stretch all the participants. Everyone grading was reminded that at this level they had to pass each section of the grading or they would be asked to leave the mats at the end of that section.
In the grading this year we had members ranging from Brown Belt through to 2nd Dan Black Belt grading. We started with ‘volunteers’ leading us through the Forms syllabus from White Belt forms all the way through to Black Belt. With six examiners marking the grading, everyone had to remain focussed and delivering skilful techniques. They proceeded from there onto demonstrating single fundamental techniques performed which then lead into increasing complicated combinations of techniques. They then demonstrated throws and hold downs, before moving onto Padwork to test the speed and power of their techniques and also their reaction times. Individuals were then called up to demonstrate individual Forms and Kata, with a range wide performed including 16 Gates, Circles, Tai Ki, Enpi, Jion, Seienchin, Bassai Dai, Kosukan Dai, Kanku Sho, Nipaipo, Suparempei, Chatan Yara No Kushanku, Yang Chen Fu and The Dao Form.
The grading concluded with the sparring section which included multiple fights with dojo fighting rules, which included fighting at all ranges including on the ground. Black Belt candidates also had to fight against multiple opponents to test their resolve, courage and ability to fight under significant pressure. Immediately on finishing this, the Black Belt candidates carried on by performing more Kata or Forms and finally finished with Pushing Hands skills at a little over the 3 hours 15 minutes mark. It’s fair to say that everyone was physically and emotionally tired but had a sense of satisfaction for completing the grading.
On the Monday evening our Combat Ju Jitsu group were graded and again their syllabus gets harder as they progress with a requirement to be able to show many different ways of performing a technique against different people to pressure test it.
It was a rare grading weekend that everyone passed their grading and received new belts. We only ever invite people to attempt their next belt if we believe that they are ready to pass, however it is up to them on the day to perform to the best of their ability and to prove that they are ready for their new belt.
Congratulations to everyone who passed their grading over the weekend, especially our newest Black Belts, who can wear their new belts with pride.