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On Wednesday 24th April 3 Juniors from the Thorley Bishops Storford and Stansted Shotokan Karate Ryu (SKR) clubs attended a Dan Grading to be tested for their 1st Dan, Black belt with 4 other students who will be attempting black belts later in the year. The examiners, Sensei Dave Sharkey (8th Dan), Chief Instructor of the English Karate Organisation (EKO), and Sensei Michael Ring (5th Dan) the Chief Instructor SKR, who between them have over 70 years experience in Karate. The nervous energy  in the room was palpable.

Lucas Caiger (10), Brandon Ring (10) and Joshua Wright (10) all began as 4 year olds in 2006 in SKR’s Tiger Tots programme, a revolutionary method of teaching Karate to 4-6 year olds developed in 2004 by Sensei Donna Ring (3rd Dan) a former expert witness with the Forensic Science Service. Their black belt grading, a test of their knowledge and skill in Karate-do, was the culmination of 6 years dedication and hard training.

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The grading commenced with a test of Kihon, Karate basic techniques, involving a series of combinations of up to 5 moves called out by the examiner in Japanese, including blocks (Uke), Kicks (Keri), Punches (Tsuki) and Strikes (Uchi). Students perform the combination 5 times moving across the dojo (training hall) at full speed and power, before turning and receiving the next combination of techniques. This process was repeated 20 times without rest, including combinations with head height round-house kicks (Jodan Mawashi Geri), turning kicks (Ushiro Geri), Knife hand (Shuto) and ridge hand (Haito) strikes.

The next section of the grading grading focussed on Kata (formal exercises) with each candidate performing their chosen grading Kata from the list of twelve 1st Dan (black belt) Kata followed by a test of other Kata from the 1st Dan syllabus. Each candidate performed no less than 7 Kata, more than half the syllabus for 1st Dan, in a gruelling test of their knowledge and endurance. The pressure mounted in the penultimate test was of Kumite Drills where candidates were asked to defend against full speed attacks, including Head and Body punches, Knife-hand Strikes, Front Kicks, Side-Kicks, Roundhouse Kicks, Turning Kicks, Leg Sweeps and Elbow Strikes. The candidates partnered up and then each side was instructed to attack called out by the examiner at full speed while the other side defended and counter attacked.

The final test was Shiai Kumite, free fighting, where the candidates were asked to demonstrated their fighting ability and show the effective power and control of their techniques fighting 3 consecutive opponents. An avalanche of Jodan Mawashi Geri (Head-height Round Kicks), Gyaku Zuki (Reverse Punches), Ushiro Geri (Turning Kicks), Mae Geri (Front Kicks) and Uraken Uchi (Back-Fist Strikes) followed in a series of blistering matches. Eventually, Sensei Sharkey called Yamae (Finish) and the most nerve racking part of the grading commenced as the candidates were sent into the changing room so that the examiners could discuss the results of each section and decide whether each candidate had demonstrated a high enough standard to be awarded the coveted “Shodan” Black Belt.

At the end of the grading Sensei Sharkey read out the results: Lucas Caiger (10), Brandon Ring (10) and Joshua Wright (10) all passed 1st Dan (Shodan) and were awarded their certificates and Black belts by Sensei Sharkey and Sensei Ring. Sensei Sharkey commented: “I am very pleased that the already high standard of Karate from Sensei Michael’s students continues to improve. The Keri-waza (kicking techniques) were outstanding. I was very impressed by how the three students performed under examination conditions that put them under considerable pressure, especially for students who are so young. I was treated to a display that matched the highest standard of Karate-do for this age group that I have seen.”

each candidate performing their chosen grading Kata from the list of twelve 1st Dan (black belt) Kata followed by a test of other Kata from the 1st Dan syllabus. Each candidate performed no less than 7 Kata, more than half the syllabus for 1st Dan, in a gruelling test of their knowledge and endurance. The pressure mounted in the penultimate test was of Kumite Drills where candidates were asked to defend against full speed attacks, including Head and Body punches, Knife-hand Strikes, Front Kicks, Side-Kicks, Roundhouse Kicks, Turning Kicks, Leg Sweeps and Elbow Strikes. The candidates partnered up and then each side was instructed to attack called out by the examiner at full speed while the other side defended and counter attacked. The final test was Shiai Kumite, free fighting, where the candidates were asked to demonstrated their fighting ability and show the effective power and control of their techniques fighting 3 consecutive opponents. An avalanche of Jodan Mawashi Geri (Head-height Round Kicks), Gyaku Zuki (Reverse Punches), Ushiro Geri (Turning Kicks), Mae Geri (Front Kicks) and Uraken Uchi (Back-Fist Strikes) followed in a series of blistering matches. Eventually, Sensei Sharkey called Yamae (Finish) and the most nerve racking part of the grading commenced as the candidates were sent into the changing room so that the examiners could discuss the results of each section and decide whether each candidate had demonstrated a high enough standard to be awarded the coveted “Shodan” Black Belt. At the end of the grading Sensei Sharkey read out the results: Lucas Caiger (10), Brandon Ring (10) and Joshua Wright (10) all passed 1st Dan (Shodan) and were awarded their certificates and Black belts by Sensei Sharkey and Sensei Ring. Sensei Sharkey commented: “I am very pleased that the already high standard of Karate from Sensei Michael’s students continues to improve. The Keri-waza (kicking techniques) were outstanding. I was very impressed by how the three students performed under examination conditions that put them under considerable pressure, especially for students who are so young. I was treated to a display that matched the highest standard of Karate-do for this age group that I have seen.”

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