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Area and Dan Gradings - September 2007

Karate gradings are not the be all and end all of karate. Training and practice is the most important matter to ensure continual improvement and personal development both physically and mentally. To eventually arrive at an understanding of karate-do, to be at peace with yourself and be content with what you have achieved is also a very good sense of fulfilment.

Having said that, most students are happy just to aim for the next coloured belt oblivious of other thoughts and goals. It is not until one has achieved a high rank of kyu grade, and for some this might be after achieving black belt, that one understands it is not the colour of the belt that matters. It is how many hours practice and how far down the road you have travelled that is most important.

I firmly believe the above to be true, but gradings are a necessity. One needs to feel we are progressing. As westerners we need to feel we know more and we want to be rewarded for that knowledge and for our achievements. For juniors it is in most cases the biggest motivator in turning up at the dojo, week in week out and is the reward for doing so. For parents too it is important. It is nice for them to see their child progressing and the colour of the belt is proof to all. The belt worn also aids the instructor. At a glance they can tell what level the student is at and therefore has a good clue as to what he or she knows and is capable of.

To fully comprehend karate gradings, and the thoughts behind them, one really has to have been around karate for a long time and be of a high grade. I am occasionally asked why did so-and-so pass yet that other student failed. One should never question a result. In earlier days one would never have questioned the result of a grading - one just had to accept it. To pass a grade, one has to do one's best. What may be deemed the best for a young boy or girl would not be the same for an adult. If one student has some form of inhibiting disadvantage that student may pass even though to a spectator they may not appear to be as good as one who had failed.

To grade successfully at karate is not unlike any other examination in life. One generally should not compare students like for like; we are all individuals and must be graded as such. Providing a karate-ka achieves their optimum performance throughout a grading taking all matters into consideration that person will pass. This is especially the case when taking brown and black belt examinations. Thankfully the days of blanket failure or of selective failure just to teach us a lesson are well and truly behind us.

At recent gradings held across our association area, numbers were down mainly due to students not having put sufficient time in over the summer months. However, what was obvious was that standards were very good across the board. It is very pleasing to see this from an instructor’s perspective. It is not nice having to disappoint a student by failing them, so when they turn up to grade well-rehearsed and polished it makes examining them much easier and, in fact, a pleasure.

For some, grading days can be even more pleasurable. For the student who has excelled in some way or has had exceptional attendance or for some other good reason they are awarded the club trophy for their endeavours.

Congratulations must go to the recipients at the recent gradings held during September. Well done to you all.

Ampthill: George Ephgrave, Kempston: Chris Toms and Brickhill: Amelia Sonsino

Bletchley: Charlie Madicks. Bushfield: Max Rockliffe Cedars: Cameron Sinclair Clapham: Kevin Darnell

Newport Pagnell: Jacob Spurrell Newton Longville: David Thomas

Risely: Menna Harries Wolverton: Hasnain Ahmed

Most recently, and possibly also more importantly, were held the black belt gradings. These are the culmination of many years hard work and dedicated practice.

Congratulations must go to all who graded, whatever level of black belt they graded for. For many achieving a black belt it is the realisation of a dream and for some the biggest achievement of their life so far. Attaining black belt status is not the end of the road. It is not even the beginning of the end - merely the end of the beginning.

Congratulations must go to Gobolahan and Olamide Olanrewaju, Ryan Sigward and Andrew Gillies on achieving Shodan. Also to Pam Waterhouse, Simon McMahon, Chris Toms and James Saunders for being awarded Nidan and also to Barry Nelson and Dennis Bigsby who graded for Sandan.

Once achieving black belt one enters a probationary period to prove character and to prove that you are going to continue your training at the same level. After this period you are awarded a dan grade diploma. Congratulations must go to Frances Livesey, Judy Morgan-Jones, Hayley Kidby, Glen Roberts and Jacob Spurrell, all who were awarded their diplomas at the gradings by Sensei Kidby having successfully passed their probationary period.

May I extend my thanks to all who helped at the gradings for making them run so smoothly and efficiently. Gradings are a difficult and nervous occasion for those taking part. Black belts and volunteers ease the day by making them less daunting and traumatic with their efficiency. I know they are appreciated. Whether at Riseley, Bedford or in Bletchley or at the Black belt gradings in Kempston I am confident that instructors and students alike would agree that they were a roaring success and I, for one, am pleased with the ever-increasing standards of our students.

Well done to all!


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