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Grading Requirements - a guide for Dojo leaders

Grading Requirements - a guide for Dojo leaders


Act correctly on the shiai jo, be tidily dressed, show correct etiquette on and off court

Expect to see the initial rei with the left arm extended (teito), after rei assume taito posture placing the thumb onto the tsuba. Judge where to rei in order to reach the sonkyo position in three steps with the shinai tips just touching. Clothing should be clean and pressed, not necessarily new. Tenugui should be worn in such a way that it doesn't slip down during the grading. Check to see that the men himo are untied properly at the end of the bout and that the men is not just slipped off, the inside of the men should be wiped before the face. Have the examinees entered the dojo with clean feet?

Show correct ashi sabaki and ki ken tai for ikkyu level

Note if the examinee steps forward as he stands from sonkyo and moves in a way conducive to making an attack and not in a crab-wise direction. Look for a flat left heel, especially moving backwards on the kendo kata or on the backward passage of the kiri kaeshi, or the left foot splayed out. Check that the left foot is not moved as the shinai is raised, this will indicate that the left foot is not the motive force. The cuts should coordinate reasonably well with the stamp of the right foot.

Hold the shinai correctly, cut with control, cut on target

See if the hands are holding the shinai from on top, of course in kata we can see the grip easily but with kote on it is essential to look at the position of the elbows as the arms are raised to give an indication of whether the correct grip is employed. Left hand on the end of the tsuka and right hand near the tsuba - especially when cutting backwards on the kirikaeshi. It's usually easy to see if the cuts are controlled but look especially for missed kote cuts that finish at knee height, also look carefully at the last backwards cut on the kirikaeshi and note the position of the right arm. The right arm and the angle of the shinai will also show if a cut is correctly pushed, "clubbed" or "bounces" up too high and also if it hit the men gane or the men buton.

Be eager to initiate attacks

Beginners will often imitate their instructors who may often be using ojiwaza or inviting attacks (sasoi). This may be understandable from the instructor's point of view but is not a good way for beginners to train as they start to rely on trickery. Hikiwaza - yes, nukiwaza - not at this stage.

Show reasonable kirikaeshi - attacking side only

The hardest thing about the kirikaeshi is if the opponent can't control the distance and they don't work as a pair (which is quite probable with the chance system that gradings are). However, here is the best chance to see the ki ken tai, the cutting action, the footwork etc unhampered by nerves and the desire to put on a good show for the panel, so please pay a lot of attention to the attacking side of the kirikaeshi. Pay careful attention to the aim of the cuts, are they to the head or to the receiver's shinai?

Show the appropriate kata level for ikkyu


as above and in addition

Be tidily dressed and wearing bogu correctly

The dress code has been covered but look for baggy keikogi at the back, do himo that aren't tied at the back, for over-long men himo and for kote himo that seem to be coming unravelled. Also pay attention to men himo that are tied trapping the ears. In kendo kata you can see if the keikogi is correctly tied with the yoko musubi. Beginners are very often using club armour and its condition is not always under their control but it's all part of being prepared for the grading. It may be that the dojo leader needs to be approached about preparing his beginners adequately.

Correct chudan kamae and issoku itto ma ai

The shinai tip should be kept in the centre and not allowed to wander around. We should encourage techniques that are planned from toi maai and executed from issoku itto maai and not planned from issoku itto maai and executed from chika maai. Obviously there is an overlap between this and the next requirement, without the correct maai a correct strike cannot be made. Please pay attention to the maai on striking.

Correct cutting

Look at the position of the left hand (in the centre) and of the height of the right arm (extended from the shoulder) on men cuts. Left hand must come above eye height when raising the shinai for a men cut. It is unlikely that do cuts can be made as a shikake waza at this level (if it.s an oji do then it.s more likely to be a panic reaction on being caught half asleep). Look for the position of the elbows on kote cuts which will indicate if the grip is correct or not.

Good kiai, posture and ki ken tai

Kiai shouldn't only be heard when making a strike or thrust but also for building energy and confidence. Posture shouldn't be confused with posing, putting on an act just looks stiff and wooden. Look for changes in direction to indicate good balance, i.e. when starting to cut backwards in kirikaeshi after the tai attari.

Show effective zanshin

Two big indications of poor zanshin are>>?

1. turning after a men attack with the arms already in chudan kamae - compounded clockwise instead of anti-clockwise and 2.passing through to the left after a kote attack - compounded by holding chudan kamae while doing so.

Make at least one good point with strong spirit in each shiai A good point in each shiai is, I believe, enough, provided that the point is clean and clear, and not a 60-40 "just about" kind of ippon.

Show the appropriate kata level for shodan


as above and in addition

Show physical agility and balance, fluid footwork

To make effective nidan waza the wrists must be powerful and not the arms, in kote-men combination watch the kensen is not pulled skywards with the right hand before the men is made, the footwork needs to be well coordinated and the body balanced. Watch the balance on the tai attari in kirikaeshi.

Kirikaeshi with proper rhythm, cutting and receiving correctly

Both sides of the kirikaeshi should be adequate for the grade, watch especially for the ability to control the maai so the attacker can cut in correct distance, men cuts that beat the receiver's parry are an embarrassment to the receiver at this level.

Execute an effective nidan waza

Again, one decent nidan attack, plus of course whatever else is going on, per shiai would be a reasonable level to expect.

Show the appropriate kata level for nidan Sandan

as above and in addition

Attacks made with intention and never random

Look for attacks that build from toi maai, effective control of the centre should be shown

Ni - sandan waza with correct footwork

Multiple attacks should be attempted

Two successful strikes in each keiko

Show seme in attacks

Look for the use of the kensen in gaining the centre line as an attack is initiated, also the use of the kensen to unsettle the opponent's composure

Effective zanshin must be shown and acted upon

Look for hikiwaza from tai attari rather than a desire to go back to issoku itto maai each time. Attacks should be attempted from different maai. Keep within cutting distance after striking.

Show the appropriate kata level for sandan


as above and in addition

Show the self confidence and mental attitude applicable to the grade

Live kensen to force opponent's centre

Look for men cuts made with no deviation from the centre line

Control the opponent's movement, control the shiai

Look for the ability to "refuse" the opponent's attack and respond with an attack in turn, attack and defence should be interchangeable

Attacks made when opportune

Look for missed or wasted chances, this is a good way to check on concentration and seme. Attacks should only be made when an opportunity occurs, or is created

Show the appropriate kata level for yondan

NB These requirements were last revised January 2009

All Content Copyright British Kendo Association, 2002-2006 | Page last modified on January 27, 2009, at 05:07 PM