On Wednesday 2nd of October 10 SKR students gathered at the Stansted Mountfitchet Dojo for a Dan Grade examination with 5 students to be tested for their 1st Dan, 4 students to be tested for 2nd Dan and 1 student being tested for the milestone grade of 4th Dan.
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. Sensei Donna Ring (3rd Dan), as a recently qualified EKO Dan Grade Examiner, supported the panel in considering the performance of the 1st Dan candidates.
The tension in the dojo (training hall) was palpable, years of training and hundreds of hours of preparation had brought the Dan candidates to the Stansted Mountfitchet Dojo to be assessed for their Dan grades.
Two of the candidates John Neil Park and Andrew Digby had travelled from Bedfordshire to attend the grading. John, who began training with SKR in 2003, travels from Milton Keynes twice a week to attend lessons with Sensei Michael. Hugh Mallinson, who trains at Sensei’s London based club, travelled up from London, while Steven Cowen, who has trained a the Stansted SKR club since a Junior, travelled from Warick University having only arrived for his first year of his degree a week earlier.
The grading commenced with a test of Kihon, Karate basic techniques, involving a series of combinations of 5 moves or more called out by Sensei Sharkey in Japanese, including blocks (Uke), Kicks (Keri), Punches (Tsuki) and Strikes (Uchi). Students perform the combinations 5 times moving across the dojo at full speed and power, before turning and receiving the next combination of techniques. With a 4th Dan candidate in the group the combinations came thick and fast, but after 20 minutes of relentless effort performing blocks, strikes, kicks and punches the candidates .
The next section focussed on Kata (formal exercises) with each candidate performing their chosen grading Kata plus 3 or more kata from their syllabus. This meant that 1st Dan candidates had 3 or more kata from a list of 12, 2nd Dan candidates had 3 or more kata from a list of 17 and the 4th Dan candidate had 3 or more kata from a list of 27.
All 10 students navigated this section of the grading without mishap, but the pressure mounted in the penultimate test, which was of Kumite Drills where candidates were asked to defend against full speed attacks punching, kicking and striking techniques to Head and Body, including Leg Sweeps. 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. Keith Brewer, who was attempting 4th Dan, then faced 4 opponents (the 2nd Dan candidates) who attacked him continuously from 4 different directions.
The final test was Shiai Kumite, free fighting, where the candidates must demonstrated their fighting ability and show the effective power and control of their techniques fighting 3 or more consecutive opponents. An avalanche of explosive techniques and combinations followed as each candidate was called forward to compete in a 1 on 1 match with a fellow Dan grade candidate. Sensei Sharkey called Yamae (Finish) after a series of blistering confrontations where years of hard training and precision control alone prevented injury to the combatants.
The candidate were then sent out of the Dojo while the examiners consulted their notes and discussed the performance of each candidate in turn to assess whether they had displayed sufficient knowledge and skill to meet the required standard for the grade they were attempting.
The candidates were called back into the Dojo and Sensei Sharkey read out the results: Debashish Dutta (51), Simon Jones (41), Hugh Mallinson (42), Dhiraj Dutta (12) and Alex Smink (12) passed 1st Dan and received their black belts from Sensei Ring. Steven Cowen (18), Andrew Digby (48), John Neil Park (59) and Stuart Trow (51) passed 2nd Dan. Keith Brewer (55) passed 4th Dan to become the first student Sensei Michael has trained to the milestone grade.
Sensei Sharkey commented: “I am yet again pleased with the high standards of Karate from Sensei Michael’s students. The SKR clubs are going from strength to strength. I was also impressed by both the fighting spirit and humility of Sensei Keith Brewer. He is a highly respected member of the SKR dojo and a worthy ambassador for the SKR clubs. The emotional reaction his examination result received form his fellow students was a clear demonstration of his popularity.”