Students get some water before the start of a grading. Licenses and examiner cards are stacked on the table ready.
Getting to London on Sunday for the examiners’ meeting was always going to be a bit of an adventure. There was a large cycling event with road closures all around London. The finish line was within walking distance of the meeting at the Westminster dojo. Closed roads made walking around the streets there very easy and actually quite peasant, but to attempt the journey by car was far more problematic.
The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the grading criteria and what to look for at each level. This is vital as it ensures we are all looking for the same thing. This is creates a uniform standard among the examiners which, in turn will ensure standard grades across the country. A green belt from a club in the south is the same level as a green belt from one in the north. [see gradings for more on the belt system]
We considered the specifics for each grade. As an example, for 7th Kyu, we are to be “a bit more strict [than previous gradings] on hip rotation”, and keeping the hips level. For 5th kyu, we expect you to have improved on that, but we will also be looking for coordination, with correct tension in the block and counter – not just wafting through from one move to the next.
When kekomi (side thrust kick) is first introduced, we are looking for at least an understanding of the difference between the thrust kick and a snap kick. The next grading, we are looking to see a development of that understanding to make the kekomi more effective.
Sensei Ohta gave the examiners the new syllabus that comes into effect in January 2018. Yes that got your attention didn’t it?! Don’t worry. The changes are, for the most part, subtle.
The syllabus builds from one grade to the next, each developing on the foundations of the previous grade. It is important therefore to KEEP PRACTICING the skills already learned and not to let them slip. This is one reason stepping punch is the first basic performed from first grading, right up to black belt. A mistake that is sometimes made is to ‘abandon’ the Heian kata after the grading, never to do again. A brown belt should perform Heian Shodan to a brown belt standard that reflects their greater study and understanding acquired over time, not “hang on, its been a while …” .
Due to the problematic start, we probably didn’t manage to cover all that we wanted to in the three hours. But the Examiners will now be keen to pass on this knowledge in classes and gradings. So when you go to a grading - LISTEN to what the examiner says in their lesson beforehand.
There will be another examiners’ meeting in a few months time, but not before we check that the chosen date doesn’t clash with something like the London Marathon. Lets have less of an adventure next time.
See Gradings for more information on the belt system, and about JKAE for more on Sensei Ohta