This is an article I wrote in 1995. I have reproduced it here and added some information with regards my grading syllabus. Gradings are totally optional and are only offered to those that would like a goal to aim for. The new one to one sessions would be an ideal way to work towards such a goal.
Why do we need gradings or examinations? In a perfect world there would be no need for any ranking system. We would practise our art just for enjoyment and personal development. Senior and more experienced practitioners would be immediately obvious by their skill and ability.
In the martial arts gradings are a relative new and western development. Before large classes, competitions and payment for instruction there were no gradings. Now we have the grading system with Kyu grades and Dan grades. The Dan grade signifies a student that has reached a level of understanding and physical development to really begin to learn. Not an expert but a dedicated student.
When I grade a group I talk with the instructor to find out which students have trained diligently and are ready for promotion. The student must commit him or herself to training hard and practising what they have learnt, not only on training nights but also in their own time. Once a week is fine but if you want to be good at anything then the secret is hard work.
No one should fail the grading because they are not ready. As a grading examiner I am not looking for perfect form, or a clone of the instructor. I look for someone who tries hard and does his or her best. A grading puts you under pressure and we all make mistakes, it is how we handle that pressure that is important. Examiners accept that people do not perform well when put under pressure. If you were taking part in any other activity, because of the pressure, performance would suffer and that would not be a fair test of your abilities, if you practise because of the possible self defence benefits then short of looking for actual physical confrontation there is no other simple way to test the abilities of the student.
Be the best that you can possibly be, at whatever level you are. Work hard and listen to your instructor. Work on your physical fitness and flexibility and learn as much as you can about your chosen art Not everyone will reach black belt, but then no one ever won a fight with a length of black material.
Whatever grade you are, performance declines if you don’t practise. Training is like making deposits in a bank. Building up a reserve of fitness both physical and mental.
Train hard because you never know when you might need to make a withdrawal!
I have developed a syllabus that incorporates all of the arts that I have studied in a complete system. There are seperate syllabus for Senior and Junior students. The junior one has an extra step between each belt up to brown belt, this is to allow more time for comprehension of the techniques and to give encouragement to the juniors. Their journey is made of smaller steps.
I have used gradings to generate money! A grade awarded by myself will be earned through hard work and dedication. You will be able to go to any club in the country teaching Karate (Systema, Ju Jitsu or Kickboxing) and your performance on the mat will be as good as the equivalent grade in that organisation, if not better. In the same way that a person passing a driving test in Essex should be of the same standard as someone passing the test in Kent.
The grades of anyone that joins ChoSho Academy from another organisation will be recognised. They are entitled to wear that belt and will be treated with respect for the hard work they have put into their training. If they wish to grade in our system then they will take the next Kyu grade up from the one that they hold. i.e. if a 7th Kyu they can take the 6th Kyu grading when they are ready.