On Saturday morning of March 24th, seven extremely nervous 1st Kyus from across CFTS met up in Kempston at 9am anticipating their Shodan, black belt, grading. The grading panel on this occasion was made up of Renshi Kidby, Shihan McClagish and Senseis Waterhouse, McMahon and Saunders.
Firstly they were taken through various demanding basic sequences which had to be performed accurately and with good speed and power. Observations and comments were made by the panel throughout their basics and only too soon they were asked to demonstrate their kata prowess. Here they started off by performing their tokui (favoured) grading kata and progressively went through many kata that they had performed at previous gradings. This is a very technical aspect of the grading where techniques must be performed as if to an adversary with due power and correct focus along with zanshin (mental concentration).
Soon it was time for kumite (sparring). From the most basic sparring routines to the more advanced their spirit, strength, focus and endurance was pushed to the limit. Once they thought they had finished this aspect of their grading a couple of unexpected extra forms of kumite were demanded of them. These they coped with well, being prepared mentally as has always been explained to them throughout their training - to always expect the unexpected. Certain aspects of this section of their grading are as real as any fight scenario can be, and all candidates dug deep and drew from many hours of practice, admirably showing their capabilities.
The final part of their grading examination was a verbal assessment of the academic side to their karate. They were quizzed by the panel on terminology, Japanese names for moves, stances and parts of the anatomy and the history of karate in general and more specifically Shotokan and related matters. Finally they had to demonstrate tameshawari, the ability to break pine boards with both hands and feet.
At around midday Suzie and Billy from Clapham/Oakley, Karl from Kempston, Jude from Newton Longville and Robert, Herbie and Joe who train across the Milton Keynes clubs were happily awarded their much-hoped-for Black belt by the grading panel.
The following images show the successful candidates receiving their new license and welcome letter;
After a photo shoot to record their red-letter day seven extremely tired, bruised but happy new Shodans left for home. Well done and congratulations to you all. Now that the beginning is over relax and enjoy the rest of your karate journey. It can be as long and satisfying as you want to make it.