That word conjures feelings of . . . anxiety, apprehension, anxiety, hope, anxiety, celebration (and a little more anxiety)!

The Samurai Claremont colour belt grading was just a few days away, and I was trying to cram in as many training sessions as possible. Standing in the Wednesday morning class, Senseis Rob and Kim spoke about the grading as a celebration of what had been achieved. This struck a chord, and gave me a different perspective on the word “grading”. A celebration, yes! (but still with anxiety).

On the big day, we arrived early, eager to warm up and be prepared. We all knew generating spirit and energy would be crucial during the grading. And so it began. Nerves got the better of me, making me feel sluggish. How would I make it through? I could see the other students were also stiff and on edge, and the grading panel were watching us closely.

Sensei Bruce’s words hit home: “Don’t throw bullets… Be the gun power that shoots the bullets – it’s all about mindset.” Inspiration struck and the energy levels shifted. Suddenly we all loosened up, and the vibe was electric.

Then came the real deal: impact work to check our form and competence, followed by dynamic kata. Was it dynamic? Were we showing intent? Was it REAL? The cycle continued: impact work, kata, more speed, more intent, more realism. The spirit and energy rose, driving us forward, hungry for more. As physical energy waned, our spirit soared.

Finally, the time for our last test arrived – the 100-strike shiko-dachi. Sensei Rob’s words echoed in my ears: “If your mind is weak, you will stand up; but if your body is weak, you will fall over.” The choice was clear: stay in shiko until you fall. Or until you’re told to stand.

At last the call came, and the grading was over! We made it! The exhilaration of achievement filled us as we received our Kyu grading and signed black books – another sweaty step on the martial arts journey.

The colour belts walking this path together have formed a tight-knit group. We train together and support each other – vocally and silently. The seniors who have walked this path ahead of us, guide, encourage and welcome us all into the Samurai Dojo Claremont family.


KIRSTEN MAHOOD (far left) | 5th Kyu Blue Belt