KC Shotokan Karate
2026 Broadway
Kansas City, MO 64108

(816) 421-1110




Revised Aug 22, 2011


There is no charge for grading or for advancing in rank, but membership in Shotokan Karate of America is required.

Notes on Grading

by Mike Lyon 

Please be clean, well groomed, fingernails and toenails closely trimmed, dressed in clean gi in good condition and ready to go at least 15 minutes prior to the scheduled start time of kyu test. Usually there is a brief but intense practice prior to kyu test -- do your best! The examination itself will consist of three parts; kihon (basic techniques), kata (forms), and kumite (sparring).


INTRODUCTION (condensed from Jordan Roth's BLACK BELT KARATE)

Twice each year in SKA, students are graded according to their proficiency, perseverance, attitude, and dedication. The dates of grading are approximately November 10 (Master Funakoshi's birthday) and April 26 (in commemoration of his death). The student requests this evaluation from his senior, and the senior in turn will do his best to evaluate the student strictly and honestly.

Progress is indicated by rank and belt color. The first five ranks (8th through 4th kyu) wear white belts, the next three (3rd through 1st kyu) wear brown belts, and the highest five (1st through 5th dan) wear black belts. The third degree black belt is the highest rank awarded for technical skill alone. Fifth degree black belt is the highest rank awarded (other schools of karate may award ten levels of black belt).

There are no hard and fast rules which dictate how long a student must practice before achieving any particular rank. With perseverance, acceptable attitude, and steady improvement, a dedicated student might be ready to receive the rank of brown belt (3rd kyu) after about one year, and black belt (1st degree) after about three years.

The student must demonstrate a working knowledge of the three phases of training: basics (kihon), forms (kata), and sparring (kumite). A student's rank should never be cause for disparagement by others or self deprecation any more than it should be cause for inordinate pride. The ideal evaluation should embrace the student's total gain in technique and self-mastery.

Students who want to be graded should practice each basic technique and kata at least five times each day outside of regular class for two weeks prior to grading, except it is advisable to keep the last day prior to examination free for relaxation.


In the first part of the kyu test, the student will be required to demonstrate approximately 10 repetitions of each basic technique (five in one direction, turn, and five back). The basic techniques are:


  • Age-uke (rising block - front stance)

  • Ude-uke (middle inside block - front stance)

  • Tettsui-uke (hammer fist block - front stance)

  • Gedan-barai (down block - front stance)

  • Shuto-uke (knife hand block - back stance)


  • Oi-zuki (lunge punch - front stance)

  • Gyaku-zuki (reverse punch - front stance)


  • Mai-geri (front kick - front stance)

  • Mawashi-geri (round kick - front stance)

  • Yoko-geri kekomi (side thrust kick - horse stance)

  • Yoko-geri keagi (side snap kick - horse stance)

  • Mikazuki-geri (crescent kick - horse stance - hand extended)

  • Fumikomi (stamping kick - front stance)


  • Strong spirit & clear mind expressed through eyes -- KIAI!

  • Low hips.

  • Strong standing leg, heel stays down.

  • No power in shoulders, strong pulling hand.


During the second part of the kyu test, the student will be required to demonstrate at least two kata; one kata which the student must select (favorite kata), and one or more kata which the senior conducting the test will select (required kata). It is strongly recommended that students select one of the Heian kata as their favorite through Shodan testing.

The senior will select the kata (required kata) which he believes reflects the student's best attainable rank on the day of testing. Candidates for 8th through 4th kyu (white belt candidates) will be asked to perform one of the Heian kata. For example, a candidate for 8th kyu will be asked to perform Heian Shodan, a candidate for 7th kyu will be asked to perform Heian Nidan, etc. through Heian Godan for 4th kyu candidates. Candidates for brown belt (3rd through 1st kyu) will be asked to perform Tekki Shodan (3rd kyu), Tekki Nidan (2nd kyu), or Tekki Sandan (1st kyu).

When called to perform kata, the student should move quickly to a position in front of the senior conducting the test and should allow adequate space to the front and sides to complete each kata. With a clear mind and a big feeling, the student demonstrates courtesy (rei) and waits in a ready stance for the senior to give the name of the kata to be performed.

After receiving the name of the kata to perform, the student should:

  • Rei (bow)

  • Come to ready stance

  • Announce the name of the kata in a clear, strong voice

  • Perform the kata

  • Return to ready stance

  • Rei (bow)

The steps outlined above should be repeated when the senior requests the student to perform his favorite kata.


  • You cannot hope to pass to a higher kyu if you forget any part of the kata during kyu test.

  • Practice each kata many times. 500 repetitions of a kata is a start. 5,000 repetitions is usually sufficient to begin to understand a kata. Another order of magnitude is required to deeply understand or  internalize a kata.

  • Be mindful of the meaning of the movements of kata.

  • Mind goes first. When changing direction, eyes look, head turns, hips and body follow.

  • Strong spirit. Clear eyes. Kiai!

  • Strong standing leg. Heel stays down. Low stance.  Hips don't move up and down.

  • It is undesirable to perform kata with excessive strength, power, or tension. Don't raise shoulders, grimace, or stiffen up.

  • Speed comes through relaxation. No power in shoulders. Strong pulling hand.

The best students perform kata smoothly and precisely, without unnecessary tension in the body, in a very alert and focused frame of mind, in exact stance and posture, with attention to dynamics of speed, application of power, expansion and contraction , mindful of the meaning or practical application of the kata.


Students will be asked to demonstrate two types of pre-arranged sparring during kyu test:

basic ippon-gumite (one step sparring) both chudan and jodan (middle and upper level attacks) - step forward to ma to begin.

sambon-gumite (three step sparring) both chudan and jodan (middle and upper level attacks) - step back to ma to begin.

sambon animation, 53949 byte(s).
  • smile
  • growl
  • talk
Don't show :
  • anger
  • fear
  • pain
  • injury
  • frustration.

Try to:

  • Maintain strongest attentiveness and realistic ma at all times

  • Exert yourself with seriousness to your utmost capability

  • Make real attack, hit hard, but with exact oi-zuki form -- don't cheat !

  • Counter attack exactly to vital point to destroy opponent - complete control -  don't touch !

  • Your eyes always to opponent's eyes.

  • Kiai at exact moment technique is applied

  • Never lose your composure or become otherwise unbalanced

  • Unbalance your opponent

  • Don't show your breathing except during kiai

  • Zanshin (remaining mind) between bouts - never lose eye contact!

  • Keep fists tightly closed and chin down

  • Don't open your groin to opponent

  • Maintain a strong, low stance with strong hips going always into your opponent

  • Escape from the brink of death by a hair's breadth

If you are lucky, a senior may offer some constructive criticism based on observation during testing.  Take such criticism to heart -- NEVER argue or offer a dissenting opinion.  Assistance is offered for your benefit, not your comment!



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