I won’t reveal my suggestions, just in case they want to surprise you with them at your next grading, but the exercise made me think about the essential qualities for each grade. Obviously the written questions reflect the points that the panel are looking for in the jitsugi and kata sections, but your answers confirm whether or not you understand the theory as well.
Remember that the qualities for each grade are incremental. When you take the examination for second dan, you need to maintain all the qualities you demonstrated for first dan, plus the new elements that are unique to second dan. Most country organisations have a list of the requirements for each grade on their web-site and the FIK and EKF sites have the FIK guidelines, so if you are preparing for an examination make sure you read them. The points that I have listed are those that stand out to me as essential for each grade, but this is just my personal view.
- Ikkyu – The first official grade and hopefully the one that you will build on as part of a long and successful kendo career. You have been working hard to build correct kihon, but my “must have” is good reigi, demonstrating correct ritsu-rei and sonkyo . Your chakuso, or the way you wear your equipment and hold the shinai should also be correct.
- Shodan- This is where we look more critically at your technique, so you need to have developed strong spirit and correct posture and kamae and be able to strike accurately with ki-ken-tai-itchi.
- Nidan – Fluidity of movement and footwork should now be added, so we are looking at your ability to deliver nidan waza.
- Sandan – This is where you have to show that you really understand distance, timing and opportunity. The beginning stage of seme is something you should strive to demonstrate.
- Yondan – “Seme and tame”. You need to show that you can break your opponents centre and use debana and oji waza.
- Godan – “More seme and tame” but this time going further to show that you can dominate with the strength of your kigamae and to pull your opponent in for oji waza.
- Rokudan and Nanadan – For these it is about demonstrating the understanding of riai or the rationale for each technique.
- Hachidan – I am still thinking about that one.