It goes without saying that gradings are an important step in a students martial arts path, many schools organise theirs in different manners and the gradings as we all know vary in difficulty from school to school and also on the grade being attempted. I have witnessed many gradings from all different arts but I was particularly looking forward to this grading I had been invited to, due to the discipline and respect in which this dojo displays.
Sensei Adrian and Rik Ward from the Shosha Dojo, Pontefract were to conduct a Shodan grading for Daniel Howard and Meghan Hodgson of the Shosha, Isle of Man dojo that is run by Sensei George Gawne at the Cronk-Y-Berry School in Douglas.
I travelled with both Adrian and Rik and arrived in Douglas by ferry to be met by George, we were then taken to our hotel for the night where we prepared for the grading the following morning.
Once arriving at the venue it was clear to see the clubs passion as all the members of the dojo had come to support and participate in the grading of the two candidates.
The room was then prepared (mats laid, tables and chairs prepared etc.) and the grading began with an introduction from all three sensei’s before a full ceremonial bow, warm up and then getting straight into fitness and stretching work.
This was followed by all the basic techniques from previous grades showing correct focus, balance and co-ordination, as basics should be performed with heart and finesse. This was then preformed onto pads to show the power of the techniques.
The grading moved onto pre-arranged sparring to show how the blocks and strikes could be used together in combat, the students have to arrange these themselves to show their knowledge of how these techniques work. Then we moved onto free sparring to show the fighting aspect of the art and their fitness, stamina and ability to adapt to differing sizes of opponent.
Two parts of the grading I personally found very interesting was a ‘special’ section in which the candidates were allowed to demonstrate something from which there art is special to them. Whether it be fighting, kata/forms, terminology, weaponry, history ect. This section is designed to let a person’s best attributes shine. Daniel started this section with free flowing pad work concentrating on kicking, as this was his favourite part of the art. Meghan choose some self defence techniques as she is planning on furthering her studies and has used her knowledge to adapt to ‘look after’ herself.
We then moved onto the gruelling ‘lineout’ section of the grading. These are continuous 30-second rounds of fighting designed to bring out the ‘inner self’ of a person. Every 30 seconds your opponent is changed for a fresh person. This not also tests personal fitness but your ability to control adrenaline rushes within the body and try to keep a calm mind. 1 vs. 1 and 2 vs. 1 scenario’s are used in the punishing tests. Both fighters did exceptionally well lasting over 15 rounds each (7min 30sec!) That does not sound a lot but when the students in the line up are fresh and really wanting to spar then it is quite physical especially when every so often there is a 2-man attack for 30 seconds!!
The last section of the grade was destruction, This is a part of gradings and martial arts that has gone into decline due to certain reasons but sensei Adrian Ward assures me this is still the true method of showing that power and technique are delivered properly. This section is always the last for obvious reasons
After the grading the panel went sent away to discuss how the candidates preformed and were both awarded with full passes to Shodan status. Adrian from the Shosha dojo added:
“As usual it was an honour to be involved in the Shodan grading of Sensei Gawne’s students, Meghan and Daniel. I never tire of visiting the Shosha dojo on the island; Sensei Gawne is an excellent ambassador for the art on the island and his students do him proud. This trip was special as master Dave Macintyre was in attendance and it was interesting to see his views from a different field off the arts. Sensei Macintyre commented on the destruction tests which I feel are not only a test of power and technique but in my mind an exercise in mental attitude, something which I feel is being lost in certain areas of the arts in the grading syllabus. The session on the Sunday with sensei Macintyre was as usual second to none it was a pleasure to stand in line with the rest and learn from the best.”
George also commented:
" Both Meghan and Daniel have trained hard over many years to reach the level they have now at and I am extremely proud of them both.
“On the morning of the grading I was equally as nervous as the students, as there was nothing more I could do to help them with what lay ahead during the grading.
“When Master Ward announced the students’ promotion to Black Belt, I felt an enormous sense of satisfaction and relief! Meghan and Daniels basic training was completed and now the true journey begins."
The evening was then concluded with all members of the club meeting for a social gathering and a meal, giving chance for all family members to meet and discuss with other members. It was great to see everyone’s camaraderie, working and sharing together as a close budo family.
Our ferry was due back to England on Sunday evening so it would have been a waste not to use the Sunday to train! I had organised a Kobudo session to give all members some training in a different art. We planned on teaching some Okinawan Jo and Filipino Eskrima but some members also wished to learn some Iai-do and nunchaku. We started the session with kion (basics) with the Jo before moving onto Ippon-Kumite (one-step sparring) and kata (forms).
The session was split into junior and senior members learning different kata. After a small break we continued with some Eskrima focussing on 4/6/8/10 point Sinawali partner work.
A few bruised and blooded knuckles later it was time to wrap up what has been a tiring but very enjoyable weekend’s training.
We plan to return again in August to do another weekends training on
Kobudo and Kenjutsu.
Anyone wanting details please feel free to contact any of the dojos direct or through myself.
Again thanks to everyone for making this, another special weekend with the arts.
You can find out more about David's kobudo instruction by visiting: http://www.bukido.yolasite.com
E-mail David at: firstname.lastname@example.org