Rank Exams, or Gradings, are meant to allow each student to demonstrate and mark their progress in the art. There are no surprises or trick questions and students are set up to succeed rather than fail.
White belts who are able to demonstrate reasonable knowledge of the basic blocks, strikes, kicks, stances, and perform basic movement, kata, and sparring are well positioned to become yellow belts. As rank increases, so are the demands and expectations of these elements. Yellow belts wishing to advance to orange belt should show increasing correctness in form, confidence, and understanding of dojo etiquette and behaviour. To reach green belt, student must integrate balance and control – both physical and psychological – into their practice. Blue belts should begin to generate power and add speed and agility to their movements. Brown belts should be able to blend good physical ability with technical karate knowledge and display the correct application of various techniques. Achieving the black belt requires students to be proficient in all aspects of karate and display command of the Goju Ryu Karate-do curriculum. In addition, black belt candidates must exhibit increasing awareness of the importance of politeness, courtesy, co-operation, helpfulness, and other social aspects of dojo life.
students are set up to succeed rather than fail
There is no rigid schedule for advancement in karate; progress depends on the individual student’s commitment and ability. Generally speaking, novice students (white-yellow-orange belt) can expect to be ready to examine every three to four months. Intermediate students (green-blue-brown belt) should anticipate an exam every four to eight months. It takes, on average, four to six years to achieve the rank of Shodan – first level black belt. However, students who are athletic, who have had previous instruction in the martial arts, or who demonstrate natural ability may progress faster and qualify to examine sooner.
Kyu (coloured belt) exams are held in the Dojo in April, August, and December of each year. Dan (black belt) exams are held at annual Canada Goshukan camps in the spring and in the fall. Students may also choose to examine in Japan or at other international seminars but this must be discussed and arranged ahead of time.
The road to black belt is a long and difficult one but it is worth taking. Remember, if it was easy everyone would do it and it would be worthless. My Sensei likes to say that “Karate is an individual journey but it does not mean one has to travel alone” – I agree. The job of the instructor is to help each student reach their potential and perhaps go beyond. Rank exams are a great way to mark progress in the art and help to remind oneself of just how far one has come since making that reluctant (and probably clumsy) first entry into the dojo.