Traditionally December is our biggest grading of the year and the one that prompts the most nerves as it is also the time for our annual Black Belt gradings.
During the course of December we ran three Judo gradings (one at the club and two in schools that we run after school clubs at,) four Little Dragon gradings, three Young Legend Gradings, 2 Urban Warrior and 1 Adult grading plus a Brown and Black belt grading.
The gradings themselves are run slightly differently dependant upon the age groups of the taking part, but each one is designed to be challenging for it’s participants.
Our Week of Gradings started on the Monday with The Little Dragons are our 4 – 6 years old and in their gradings which are carried out in class, they are tested on their ability to listen, sit and stand still, meditate and focus along with physical skills such as breakfalling, kicking and punching with control and performing a hold down and a throw onto the crash mats.
Their gradings are time based, which means that they have to attend so many classes in order to pass their next belt.
Later on the same day we carried out a two hour Judo grading for both Children and Adults which members being paired off with someone of the same grade to allow them to demonstrate together the skills and techniques necessary to pass their respective grades.
The grading was divided between fundamentals throws and groundwork and for the more experienced multiple attacks and defences were worked on. Their were some great results, Zeus and Theos both gained their Blue Belts with two stripes.
Our Young Legends are aged between 6 – 9 years old. Their gradings are all conducted at a formal grading with pass / fail criteria. The format for them at the less experienced level is to train in a 45 minutes class to remind them of the skills that they have to demonstrate. They are then asked to come up in small groups and demonstrate their skills to the examiners.
Our first group grading were attempting either their first or second belt and some were understandably nervous. We saw some excellent work from them with special mentions going to Sean for excellent focus and good forms and Sara for great partnerwork. In this grading session Georgina who was testing for her 2nd Dan during the weekend was tested on her coaching and assessment skills.
Our second session of the the weekend for again for Young Legends going for the Red and Gold belts. The format was the same although given the greater experience of this group, the requirements were more stringent to achieve the results that they desired. Emily performed superbly in her grading and over achieved, receiving a double grade.
Our final session on the Saturday was for Young Legends grading upto Blue and Black Belt. Given the seniority and experience of many of these children, the format for their grading was designed to stretch them to their limits. After a brief warm up, they moved onto a two hour grading, where they were active for all of the time performing their fundamental skills, partnerwork, fighting at different ranges with multiple opponents and forms. All the while the three examiners were looking at the technical skills of the participants and their prowess. Sophie performed well enough to deserve a double grade in this session.
On the Sunday morning, the less experienced Urban Warriors (10 – 14 years) got their chance to shine. At this level the children and teenagers are much more physically able and cover a much wider syllabus. They are tested not only on technical skill, but also on their understanding and interpretation of what they learn and how they put it into practice. Congratulations to Lex-Jay after a gruelling grading and rather a lot of fights he gained a double grade
This was followed by both Urban Warriors and Adults being text for ranking upto 4th Kyu, Purple and White belt. Those who hadn’t graded before were nervous, those that had graded were more nervous.
The intensity is somewhat higher in these sessions and occasionally an accident happens. No lasting injuries here, but suffice to say that Helen can defend herself quite ably.
We worked through a lot of partnerwork with this group to pressure test their skills in live use and their fortitude under pressure particularly those going for 4th Kyu, the highest grade before Brown Belt including for this group multiple partnerwork. Congratulations to Ryoko who put her skills to go use and gained a double grade to Red belt.
The final session was the finale and highlight of the weekend, the Brown and Black Belt grading with 23 members attempting to pass their next belt.
The excitement and fear had built up over the weekend, those people invited to test for their Black belts had already passed the theory part of the exam and now needed to pass the physical test. During this exam its fair to say that there is a mixture of laughter, tears and sighs of relief all interspersed with a ‘can do belief’ and determination to succeed.
This session tested everyone for three hours, starting with an fundamentals to test correct base skills and then more advanced fundamentals. Followed by partnerwork including groundwork, throws, padswork and fighting and forms. The forms are tested in groups, so some people get a quick breather, not the Black Belts, they got to spend time striking the kick bags with a variety of techniques before they got their turn to demonstrate their mandatory form, The Tai Ki Form, designed to show shortcomings in their body condition. Followed by additional forms or Kata of the examiners choice. Just when the Black Belt candidates thought it was all over, they had to do more work, would they fold under the pressure or rise to the occasion, the latter of course.
Congratulations to everyone who passed their grading during December, you all received the belt that you deserved. Many thanks to Zane, Isabel, Samantha and Zara for helping with the grading.