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My Shodan Experience - Elliott Thomas

Updated: Dec 12, 2021

Training for my black belt grading was like no other grading before; it required ten times the amount of work inside and outside of the dojo that I had previously applied to my training. I created documents at home containing all of the terminology, karate articles and grading syllabus to help me learn.

Training with my friends at karate had become more challenging as they pushed me harder and harder, my fellow kyu grades mentioned that they had noticed a significant change in how I trained and developed both for karate and outside the sport. This building intensity of training has helped me so much and I am glad it was there or I would not have been prepared for the impending grading that has ultimately changed my life.

Standing in that hall after the hardest grading I had ever done, I was very anxious. I didn't know whether I had passed or not and the main problem was the feeling of letting down my club, my senseis and myself. The panel came down to meet us in a line and the four of us stood in our own little line waiting patiently for the yes or no answer that would either get us our new belts or send us home empty handed.

When we were told that we had all graded to the new status of Shodan, I didn't know what to think. My face stayed steely flat even though I had just heard the extremely good news but after a few seconds a massive overwhelming smile spanned over my face. Relief flushed over me and the feeling of accomplishment finally hit me after 6 months of preparation. I just wanted to wear the belt straight away, I felt like a beginner who had just got their blue belt, I wanted it on and I wanted to never take it off.

Coming out of the changing room the lesson after I had graded felt strange. It felt surreal, and I felt like I had gone back to white belt. I didn't feel like I deserved to be wearing that belt. Training was different, it felt relaxed compared to what had just happened but I knew I had some improvements to make. Thinking of the new Kata, Kumite and Kihon that I now had the time to learn, is daunting and exciting at the same time. I hope that in future lessons to come I may pass on what I know to lower grades and eventually bring them through the journey I have experienced.

I will never forget the grading that has now ultimately made me a black belt, and never forget the words of Renshi Kidby: “This is only the ending of the beginning.”

I have a long way to go…


Elliott Thomas - April 2014

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