Having just returned from sitting as a panelist at a grading examination and having instructed at the pre-shinsa seminar, I was asked for feedback by many of the unsuccessful candidates. Although this examination was for candidates from ikkyu to 4th dan, I realised that most people who failed did so for the same reasons. So having posted before on the things you need to do pass, this post is a simple guide to the 3 mistakes that will cause you to fail.
- You did not hit anyone – it is surprising how often candidates get to the end of their 2 minutes without having managed to make a successful strike. There are various reasons for this. In more senior shinsa it can be because both players have strong kamae and it is not possible to break through, but more often than not it is because people wait rather than seizing the initiative with seme. This can result in successive ai-uchi attacks where one person attacks every time their partner initiates their own attack.
- You did not lift your left hand up – people seem to confuse quick small attacks with a static left hand, causing the right hand to do all the work. Typically this makes it impossible to hit the top of your opponent’s men with sufficient sae to make a successful yuko datotsu. Too much right hand power also spoils your posture causing you to lean forward or leave your left hip and foot behind.
- You did not have sufficient weight on your left foot – this is related to the two earlier points, but you need to have enough weight on the ball of your left foot to push the right foot forward as soon as you see or make an opportunity, thereby being able to strike instantly without having to transfer weight from one foot to the other.
Of course this is simplistic and there are other elements such as kihaku and zanshin that impact performance, but by and large if you get these basics right, you will get at least to 4th dan without too many problems. The good news is that fixing these problems is not rocket science. Good kihon practice including kirikaeshi and uchikomi geiko is the cure. Do not go back to do what you were doing before until the next grading. As someone once said “The more you do of what you do, the more you get of what you have got.”