Him: “What colour grade are you?”

Me: “Black belt”

Words to be said with pride; especially coming through the ranks at the Claremont dojo and receiving your grade from Shihan Chris Thompson. While the information below may be applicable to other gradings, this post is specifically aimed at those invited to attempt their senior black belt or dan grade.

The first thing to understand is that if you have been invited to the grading, then you have earned your place on the tatami. That said, the grading panel is exclusively the realm of the Yudanshakai, 6th dan and above, and there is nowhere to hide on the day. Should there be a single dissenting vote amongst the Yudanshakai about your performance, you will not receive your grade – an unwritten Dojo Kun.

There is no cheat sheet for a senior black belt grading. In preparation, you need to work hard on your basics, understand your principles (breath, weight control, vertical line, balance), be fitter and mentally stronger than at any other point in your training year, be prepared to push through any mental barriers, and have embodied your grading kata. It is a simple test of basic technique, grit, and determination.

The grading panel may ask you to perform a technique in a different way, or an unfamiliar sequence of techniques. Understand this is part of the grading – to test your adaptability and versatility. However, whatever is asked, ensure you apply your principles and always return to your Claremont roots. Do not show the panel what you think they want to see, show them your understanding of KSI karate.

If there is one overriding element to work on as you prepare for your grading, it’s your strength, conditioning, and fitness. Being fit and strong will allow you to tackle all elements of the grading with confidence. You’ve already checked all the technical boxes, now be prepared to enjoy the 6-hour ride.