Having started practicing kickboxing in 1981 I could say that my approach to grading has been quite relaxed. Last Thursday, 21st Feb 2013, I finally passed my fourth Dan grading, a rank that many people achieve in their late twenties or early thirties and within 15 or so years of experience in one martial art. To some extent I was never too rushed into the next rank: it surely is a good recognition of personal achievements but it doesn’t bring to the bearer any better martial skills. In my opinion a rank is just a title and a way of comparing your experience and achievements with others. At the beginning of my experience I initially managed to skip a couple of ranks and qualified 3 Kyu (3 ranks from first Dan) within two years but it was not until 6 years later when I got my black belt I 1989. In my experience of late while the first and second Dan grading are still very much based around one’s personal performance there is a substantial shift in expectations from the third Dan and above.
The examiner, represented by Neville Wray (pictured on the right) current vice president of Wako GB and one of the top ranked kickboxers in UK, wants to see you running a class, the quality of your teaching and consequently the quality of student’s style, knowledge of technique and individual preparation. To some extent it is quite natural to expect that a person ranked third rank or above would be running a club or at least a class so the quality of their technique, as well as their teaching abilities can be measured by how well their team performs. In my case I was very pleased of having a nice and varied class of 36 people ranging between beginners with just a few weeks experience all the way to 4 black belt and 5 instructors. I did run our usual warm up, then split the class in two groups; I run the advanced group while one of my instructors took care of the lowers grades and beginners. During the first 40 minutes of techniques we displayed some combinations that are typical of the CARISMA curriculum, like fast double kicks with one leg, various applications of the axe kick and various situations of attack and defence. I then switched group and demonstrated how I teach some of the most basic techniques and postures to beginners. The whole class behaved, very much like in most classes but with a bit of extra discipline, like a single organism with people pausing and listening when I was explaining new techniques and then immediately performing the various combinations on my command. Naville first congratulated with me privately mentioning how good the class he saw was. He then announced to the class the successful result pointing out the quality of teaching and techniques he saw, how well everybody behaved and the fact that on a scale of 1 to 10 he would rank the technical skills at 11
I am very pleased of having finally reached my fourth Dan; it was particularly interesting to see my pictures tagged on Facebook receiving many congratulation comments and a large number of Likes from friends located all over the world. I do not feel I am a much better martial artist then I was on Thurs morning… but it surely feels good Now it’s time to start thinking fifth Dan.