We have listed below some 'Frequently Asked Questions' regarding taking your 1st Dan Black Belt for Adult and Junior Syllabus.
We hope you find these useful, but if you do have another question that you cannot find on here, please contact the chief instructor via the 'contact us' page!
- What requirements are needed in order to go for my Black Belt?
For Junior – You will have needed to have had at least 3 grading gaps and at least 70 lessons in order to qualify.
For Adult – You will need to have had at least 3 grading gaps and at least 100 lessons.
You will also need to have a valid Licence & Membership
- When I write my letter to the chief instructor, how can I make sure it is what they are looking for?
Your letter must be personal and handwritten. Please do not type this up on the computer.
In your letter, be sure to add full details of yourself – Name, DOB, Address, Grade, Licence Number and which syllabus you are asking permission to go for.
You must include why you think you should be accepted, what you have learnt since starting karate, how you feel about what you have achieved so far. The Chief Instructor will make at least 50% of the decision based on the letter alone. The letter should be confident and show that you are ready and that you want it and are willing to be committed and work hard for it.
- What does the written and oral exams include, and how can I study for this?
You have 2 written exams and 2 oral exams.
The written exams are:
’20 precepts’ – we feel this is better for you instead of saying them as you will forget what you have listed and what you haven’t, This way you do not have to remember them in order. These are on our website.
‘1/2 hour or 1 hour written exam’ – Obviously, like any exam, we will not tell you what is in this but we will certainly tell you in your response letter what references you will need to study.
The oral exams are:
‘Dojo Kun’ – Found on the website, written down in Japanese & English as well as audio files.
‘10 or 50 Japanese Questions’ – This will be terminology based mostly e.g show me, tell me, translate etc
- Can I choose any challenge I like, or can certain challenges be declined?
The challenge that you choose is based on yourself. What may be a challenge to you, may be really simple to other people and visa versa, however, the your instructors will know you well, so if you suggest a 5 mile walk when we know you are young, fit and healthy then yes, it will be declined.
Your challenge must be physical and mental, we want you to pick this for yourself to test yourself and push yourself, Overcoming fears or facing something you don’t like shows courage. A great challenge should be a very good experience and one that you can learn some good life lessons from.
- Will one of the instructors be at the challenge?
Of course, this is why the challenge that you choose will need to involve one of the instructors, so that we can arrange to be there. If requested, one of the instructors can even join you on your challenge and do it with you. Or they can watch you complete the challenge. This will be discussed once a meeting has been set up after your letter has been accepted.
- Does the cost of the grading cover the challenge I wish to do?
No, the challenge is solely down to you, as is the responsibility, and the health and safety aspect of it too. Whatever you choose, you are choosing it for yourself and you are taking full responsibility for your choice.
- Will I be given a copy of my full syllabus before I grade?
Nice try! … NO. Unfortunately, the chief instructor at our club is not that nice. She likes to make things … a surprise! Although you will see most things so you can practice but not everything.
- What will my kihon (basics) include?
Your Sensei will go through what is required of you. All the kihon you are required to do is something already familiar to you, however the combinations are a lot harder and the score is a lot harsher. Ensure immense practice to perfect technique.
- For the Adult exam, I have to choose an additional black belt kata to perform. Can I choose any or is there a list to choose from?
Yes. The Kata you can choose from are:
Empi, Nijushiho, Jitte, Ji’in, Tekki Nidan
- Is it solely my choice to choose from the list of kata or can my Sensei advise me of what they think would be best for me?
Your instructor can help you to choose. Certain kata may not suit you as good as another kata, so I am sure your instructor can recommend one of these for you personally.
- Will the Shodan exam include anything I may not know?
No, not unless you have not studied properly or listened. Everything you are to do physically, will be taught to you or you will already know. Any knowledge based exams will be in the books we tell you to get in order to help you.
- Do I have to make up my own kata?
Yes, So far we are the only club to do this. The reason why we incorporate this into our Shodan is because we believe just being taught a kata and learning some set bunkai to it does not mean you necessarily fully understand what you have been taught. Therefore, by putting great thought into your own one means you will start to learn about floor movement, body shifting, turning, application and where strikes and blocks best fit. We believe this will be a massive learning curve for you, plus something you should be proud of by the time you have finished. This is one of the harder parts of your exam as we cannot help you to build your kata or change it in anyway. You are alone in this quest, except for asking questions, of course.
- What things should I include in my 'made up' kata to ensure I get good points?
You must incorporate good stances and show you understand the stances you are in, show you can change from one to the other, have good tai-sabaki, show you have great spirit, power and technique.
We want your kata to tell a story, we want you to tell us that story and explain your kata. It will be such a studied performance that you should know everything about it. Good hip movements, putting kiai’s in the right places, starting and ending on the same spot, ensuring you start and bow and finish properly and bow. This should take you at least 6 months of hard work to get right, if not more.
- How long does the shodan exam last?
Hard to say, however you will be doing parts of your exam on different days. The final part of your exam will be performed on grading day.
Class Participation will start sometime after the response letter. Then the rest of your exam will be split:
1 day for the challenge
1 day for the knowledge section
1 day for some of your Kihon, Partner work, Kata & Bunkai
1 day – pre-grading
2 more days – Aberford Open Lessons
Final day – ‘Grading day’ - where you will complete the rest of your kihon, kumite and kata sections.
- How do you score?
As harsh as it sounds – You will have to pass every section along the way before you can attend the ‘Final Examination Day’. If you fail one of these sections, then you fail.
You can however resit one of these sections again before the ‘final day’ – but you can only do this once. If you fail more than one section, unfortunately you will fail and will have to retry 4 months later.
Once you have reached the final day, you will then be scored by percentage and by all instructors. The instructors present on grading day will have a say in your score. This day will be the most important one so you have to give it your absolute 100%, anything less will result in a fail.
We are not making it impossible for you. The chief instructor demands great standards in her club and has written a syllabus tougher than any other club we know. If you are awarded with your black belt at the end of this massive journey, you can be 100% sure that you deserve it.
- How much does it cost to take my Shodan exam?
Full Adult Shodan Examination costs: £120.00
Full Junior Shodan Examination costs: £100.00
This costs covers the following: Challenge time, BFCP Exam, Oral & Written Exams, Private Lesson, Pre-Grading Day, Tuesday Aberford Exam, Thursday Aberford Exam and Final Grading Day Examination. If you Pass it also includes: A very special certificate, Black Belt, and a Black Belt Pack that Miles kindly creates so you have something to keep.
If you wish to have your name embroidered in gold on the black belt - this will cost £25.00
- What is the difference between the Junior and the Adult Syllabus?
A great deal. We will not list them all here, but some difference include:
10 or 50 Japanese questions
½ hour or 1 hour written exam
Mentoring or teaching
3 single Fights or 5 single fights and 2 double fights
6 kata or 14 kata
Plus lots more – the syllabus sheets that you will receive will show you all of this.
And what is the difference is results?
The Senior exam is graded a lot harsher than the junior. That is not to say that the Junior exam is easy because it certainly is not. In fact our Junior exam is about the equivalent of going for a 1st to 2nd dan adult grading in a lot of other clubs. Our Adult exam is the hardest we have seen, however we would rate this around a 3rd dan syllabus.
If you choose to go for junior, you will be awarded with a Junior Black Belt, and when you get to 16, you will need to be reassessed in order to switch to an adult black belt.
If you choose to go for the Senior, you will be awarded with an adult shodan and you will be able to go for your future dans within the club, despite your age.
- What equipment should I have for my Shodan?
Mitts, mouth guard, groin / chest protection, water, Bo (If Adult), and possibly fingerless gym gloves for your fitness and pad work
- How will I know if I am ready to take my Shodan?
You need to look at the syllabus and be honest with yourself. Can you do what is requested of you? Remember that you are not alone, the instructors are there to get you ready for your Shodan, however it is not all on them, you will not be able to pass an important grading like this without home study and practice. If you want your black belt, you are certainly going to have to work for it to earn it.
If you are not sure, speak to your instructor before sending your letter.
- What is a 'Response Letter'?
A response letter is what you will receive in the post once you have sent your ‘request letter’ to the chief instructor. This will include the decision, and a meeting date.
- If my 'request' letter is accepted, does this mean I am ready to grade?
No, this means we think you could be ready. If you ask permission to grade for your Adult Shodan and we think you will not have a chance of doing so, the letter will be declined. The response is based on whether we think you are ready to put the hard work in to get yourself ready.
- Can I work out a plan for any requested warm-ups or teaching with my Sensei, or do I have to do this totally by myself?
If you need help with this, be sure to ask your Sensei in advance so they can help you.
- Would you be disappointed if I chose to go for my Junior over the Senior if I was given both options?
Absolutely not. This is the reason we have incorporate 2 syllabuses for black belt instead of writing one and expecting everyone to do the same things. This way, we believe it is fairer on you. You should talk the decision through with your close friends and family if this helps you, as well as your Sensei, but remember the ultimate decision is up to you.
- Who will be on the judging panel?
Sensei Moley, Sensei Charlie and Sensei Fiona and if we are lucky maybe a few more.