Why can’t I grade?

by Glen Smith


Over more than two decades of instructing Shukokai Karate in Hervey Bay Queensland; perhaps the most asked question put to me over those many years would have to be:

“why can’t I grade”

Quite often students are disappointed when not selected to grade at a particular grading and indeed, in some instances, that disappointment has been so great that students have decided it’s all too hard and they end up either; training on a less regular basis, training with less enthusiasm, not looking to improve skills or take on board instruction, they treat fellow “grading” students with envy, and, in some instances; leaving karate is the preferred option to resolving that initial disappointment.

From my perspective these types of reactions are clear reinforcement that the student is not ready to progress to the next level and therefore the decision not to grade is appropriate.  I base this view on the following thought.

Each step of any traditional Karate grading syllabus is not just designed to ensure that students can perform certain techniques, if we were to adopt such an approach to advancement within traditional Karate that would, in my opinion, greatly reduce the value of the grading process.

Over the years my approach has been to assess each student throughout each class they attend looking at the student’s progress on the following fronts:

  1. Effort,
  2. Patience,
  3. Temperance,
  4. Respect, and;
  5. Creativity

Naturally the higher a student is graded, the harder it is for that student to move onto the next level with each grading level requiring an improvement on the above points, coupled with the need to ensure that the application of acquired skills is also progressing in line with the grading requirements.

Students not selected to grade must ignore what others are doing and take a moment to look closely at what THEY are doing.  The proceeding months to the next grading should be viewed as a window of opportunity for the student to reflect on past efforts and attainments and then to concentrate on ALL of the aspects of their next grading level.

In essence being invited to grade and then to attend a grading is NOT a student’s right but a return given to students who have appropriately applied themselves in accordance with instruction.

Some advice I provide to all of my students:

If given a Grading Invitation;

  • Decide if you want to grade, remember this is only an invitation; you do not have to accept the invitation if you are unable to grade.
  •  Students are NOT permitted to grade unless they; return this acceptance note with your full payment and Student Handbook (if applicable), BY THE DUE DATE,   
  •  Train regularly with the intent of wanting to improve your karate so that you will grade well, and,
  •  Turn up on time to the grading.

Special note from Soke;

The awarding of a graded belt has always solely rested with myself, not just as a mark of individual achievement for students but as my personal endowment. All students are made aware that as well as having the right to present a belt to a student, I also reserve the right to request a belt be returned to me should circumstances warrant it.

My best wishes for all of your Karateka efforts, OSU.



by Glen Smith, Bubishi Martial Arts

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