So Sunday 4th was my Nidan grading and I passed. I am so very happy, I did my best and am pleased that I got through it and only a few mess ups. I was utterly exhausted and dehydrated for a couple of days.
You forget how tough a grading is when you’ve been sitting on the panel for a while. Even if you have been down and paired up with someone from cold, it is not the same as starting from the beginning. Renkai is a real energy zapper.
In our gradings we assess the whole syllabus. From basic to combination renkai and footwork, through all our wazas and katas, and then 2 sets of Kumite.
The syllabus has changed slightly over the years. When I did my Shodan the three sets of Kumite were all in, with limited Ji Yu and no Tegumi or locks waza. Oyho pairs work were moved to nidan make room for these more creative areas. For adult black belts there are also class assessments and observations.
For Nidan and above, assessments are tailored to the individual and what directions they are going in, taking into account age, health and personality. For me the focus has always been on building confidence, so since last year I have been teaching a Dan grade the Ohyos, as well as taking on larger groups of students and the kids that need some one-to-one attention. Either because they are really good and need more detail than others or because they are special needs. Sometimes a combination of the two to see how I tailor their teaching and to see how well I understand our syllabus.
One of the 3rd dan guys who is 68 and has a heart condition had to do a portfolio on his specialised kata and did more Tegumi instead of Oyhos. The other guy has been teaching weapons and that along with Ju jitsu are his specialisms.
It was touch and go whether the grading would go ahead due to Beast from the East Snow. We had a good foot of it. All the classes were cancelled the previous week. Thankfully I managed to not fall over in the ice, like I did before Christmas twice, spraining my wrist and twisting my ankle. It was all pretty much melted by Saturday on the main roads. Just had to break up the inch thick ice on the driveway.
The Saturday beforehand was crucial in getting us back in the feel of it for the Sunday Grading. Although it did mean our Ji Yu suffered and I really needed to practice that.
The Dan grade I had been teaching was to shadow me for assessing the kids and be my partner for pairs work apart from Oyhos. He actually had to do quite a bit on the day partnering one of the kids for a mock and one of the other adults while we did hand drills. I’m really proud of him and how far he has come. He is turning into an excellent teacher.
After the kids have finished their gradings, there is a usually a little demo while the black belts discuss them. Our chief instructor chose me and one of the potential 3rd dans to go out and I had to show ohyo 3. My worst pairs work from cold, no warm up and I still had my shoes and an extra t-shirt on. I managed to do it with a little hamming up help from the 3rd dan, who kind of threw himself. Then he did some ju jitsu throws on me, thankfully not the over the shoulder one that always makes me squeal.
Ohyo 3 is really difficult for a small person to do on a larger person as you have to get their balance straight away and try to keep control of their body as they go to the ground. I frequently fall over the heavier person as I struggle to keep my balance, using your own weight to counter balance only works up to a point.
It’s a funny thing getting a dan grade, you work really really hard towards it, but when you get it. It’s a bit of an anticlimax, the sense of achievement seems to be greater when you are given a grading form and when they tell you they are looking at you for it.
You go back to class afterwards and everything has changed but everything is still the same.