Some thoughts on Grading (Part 1)



Ah. I’d forgotten about this.

A couple of Mondays back, Sensei had us lined up and dropped in, all casual like, ‘John, are you grading?’.  I guessed there was a correct answer.

Tomorrow is my first Goju grading. It’s been a very long time since I last graded. Now I remember how much I hate it. More than any other sort of examination I’ve ever done up to and including my finals at Uni, a result which theoretically is far more important for my life.

Big deal, I hear you say, first grading, you aren’t expected to be perfect. No, not by the examiners I’m not, but to the unrealistic, tyrannical internal judge that expects rather more than I’m capable of at any given moment, any performance I’m likely to give will be unworthy of the belt. Never mind that people far, far better qualified to make the award will be doing so, the pressure is almost entirely of my own making. I suspect this is true of most people. I remember getting through a grading and feeling a distressingly small sense of satisfaction given how nervous the process had made me, mostly just relief than anything else..

This contributes to my conflicted relationship to grading. I appreciate how motivating it can be, but having seen, at a couple of clubs, people rocket through the belts/sashes at a rate disproportionate to their actual skill soured me on it a bit. People seemed to be getting awarded pretty much for attendance and/or being matey with the instructors. There was also an element of inverse snobbery – I liked being better than people two or three grades above me. That and being nervous, which I hate. No matter how much you try and intellectualise it*, there’s no way round the body releasing cortisol and adrenalin. Stupid body. Of course, I’d reckon this is part of the function of gradings – not just to assess one’s knowledge of the syllabus and technical ability at a given point, but to assess how the individual deals with the stress of the ‘exam’ condition, and also give one an exposure to stress in a relatively controlled manner. What is clever is most of the pressure is internal.

How confident am I? Well, I have my kata (Gekisai-Dai-Ichi) down in the purely ‘I know what move follows what’ sense. I have a tactic for most of the technique (or more accurately ‘knowing the Japanese’) stuff – follow the big kids in front. Still a little unsure of the front-foot turn (thanks to years of turning on the back foot, which makes considerably less sense, thanks Chinese martial arts!). I’m fit enough, and my sparring and pad-work should be up to the job. With a bit of luck, I’ll get some sleep tonight.

Next Day: G-4hrs. Surprisingly unstressed. Which is nice.

G-1 Nerves setting in now. Bugger.

Will have my post grading thoughts up soon…


*What’s the worst that can happen? Actually, maybe a freak spinal injury leaving me quadriplegic or maybe a hideous compound fracture. Spectacularly unlikely but in the realms of possibility That’d be pretty bad. Brain stop helping.