Saturday saw me taking part in my second grading for this particular Kyokushin dojo I’m currently training at. For the lower belts, you can basically advance a belt colour once a year, and so to combat boredom, a half year grading was introduced which basically means you grade for a half-belt upgrade. Seeing as I’m currently on orange belt and the next level is blue meant that I was grading for a blue stripe this time round (I graded for my orange November/December last year).

Now gradings are nothing more than an extended training session where the instructors basically throw all your techniques that you have learnt at you. It is a 2 hour long session and make no mistake, once you’ve finished the session you are dead for the rest of the day. It starts out with the standing basics where you go through a variety of punching, kicking and blocking techniques, utilising the various stationary stances such as kibu-dachi, zenku-dachi and sanchin-dachi. From there you move to the moving basics where basically you do the same as before except that you know move along a straight line while performing the techniques. After the basics have been completed it is kata time. Katas are basically fixed patterns of predetermined moves and techniques that you follow on the instructors count. Once all the different level belts have gone through the katas specific to their syllabus the final stage of the grading kicks in, namely sparring. Now while the sparring is full contact, knock-outs are not condoned and the fighting is done wearing both shinpads and gloves.

Finally, after the sparring (just to rub salt into the wounds) a quick round of physical exercise is thrown in for good measure as well.

Saturday’s grading took place at the Wynberg Girls Junior sports hall on a cold and very wet day. There were actually a very small amount of us grading, probably in the vicinity of 20 people which can sometimes be a little problematic when you realise there aren’t quite enough people to hide behind in case you forget to do something – there’s nothing quite as embarrassing as stepping out in the wrong direction during a kata sequence!

Actually the cool weather was a blessing in disguise to be honest – the November grading last year took place on a scorcher of a day, meaning you were literally slipping in the puddles of your own sweat. The only hassle about the cold however is that your joints are generally a little more unresponsive than what they should be of course! :)

The grading went very well I must report I didn’t make too many mistakes at all. The Katas turned out to be a little too easy as thanks to time constraints, the number of and levels required for the katas were dropped a little. The sparring session went pretty nicely as well, with me facing off with Anton from my club for my first round. Once the sparring was done the final torture began whereby we were all subjected to a number of push-ups, sit-ups and squats. By that stage my body really wasn’t up for it anymore and I shamefully have to admit to gypoing quite a few of the exercises! :P

To be honest, the grading is a bit of a farce in my mind because I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone be failed in a grading before, but it is a hard test of endurance and you can’t help but walk out of there grinning at having achieved what you have achieved on the day! :)

(I also promptly managed to get a little lost trying to get back to Bellville from Wynberg. You’d think retracing your steps would be easy, but NO, not for Mr Lotter it would seem…)