There is no charge for grading or for advancing in rank, but
membership in Shotokan Karate of America is
Notes on Grading
by Mike Lyon
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
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)
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
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
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
After receiving the name of the kata to perform, the student should:
The steps outlined above should be repeated when the senior requests the student
to perform his favorite kata.
IMPORTANT POINTS FOR KATA:
You cannot hope to pass to a higher kyu if you forget any part of the kata during
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
Be mindful of the meaning of the movements of kata.
Mind goes first. When changing direction, eyes look, head turns, hips and body
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.
||Don't show :
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 -
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!