Tonight was my 6th experience of grading, with only 4 left to go until I reach 1st Dan (or to most people – black belt) so I want to give you some background in to what it is that I really do.
Please be aware that different schools have other criteria and the following is all based on my experiences at the Taekwondo Academy in Petersfield.
There are many different types of Taekwondo, all of which have different focusses (Eg some styles focus mainly on technique, some lean more towards sparring etc). The variation that we learn is a mixture of technique and sparring, with a pretty equal focus on both. Taekwondo is a mixed martial art, it has no particular bias towards the hands or the legs as some other martial arts do; you use what you can, but you use it correctly. (Although some would argue that it is more of a kicking sport; those people have never sparred with us).
What a grading (generally) entails
The basic thing you need to know for any grading is your form (sometimes referred to as a pattern), which is a sequence of moves performed in a specific order and can be difficult to remember. Each form has a different amount of moves and is particular to the belt for which you are grading. For instance, my form this evening, Joong-Gun, had 30 moves of varying complexity but my first form, Chon-Ji, had only 14 moves.
Other things you may need to know for your grading include;
- Escapes – for self defence purposes if you are grabbed
- One Steps (or sparring drills) – a series of moves performed with a partner to help develop muscle memory during sparring and to improve technique (this is done in a defensive manner, one person will ‘punch’ the other who would then perform the moves)
- Target drills – to practice technique and help develop muscle memory for sparring
- Sparring – during grading this helps the instructors to see areas that need to be improved upon, particularly complex moves such as jump kicks, spin kicks and jump/spin kicks
- The name of your form (in its original Korean) and the amount of moves in your form
- Pressure points and other trivia
- The 7 tenets of Taekwondo – Honour, Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, Courage, Community
As you can see, there can be a lot involved in a grading and although not every topic above may be covered, there is much more to it than you may originally think. A lot of hours need to be put in and any opportunity to practice must be taken (you only need to check the CCTV around the side of my office building to see how serious I am about this!). So imagine being an instructor and having to know all of the above topics… but for 10+ different belts.
The belts (in order)
I get asked a lot what belt I am and when I tell people they generally have no idea where that falls on the spectrum but still say ‘oh cool!’ anyway. Please find the belts we use at the Taekwondo Academy in order below.
- Senior Green
- Senior Blue
- Senior Purple
- Senior Red
- 1st Dan (Black)
- there are many more beyond this, but I will leave it here for now!
On top of this are the Instructor qualifications which range from Level 4 to Level 1 (Level 1 being the most senior you can get).
At the time of writing this, I am a Senior Blue Level 4 Junior Assistant Instructor. I will find out if I passed my grading and if I have achieved my Purple belt tomorrow evening.
So what is it like?
Grading is terrifying, whether you are prepared or not, but so very worth it. There’s just something about the formality of it, with a panel of people judging you and trying to remember so many things all at once, that really gets the adrenaline going.
Yet nothing beats the feeling when your name is called and you tie your new belt around your waist because you know that you earned it.
Stay tuned for more Taekwondo related information and news.