Gradings, Improvement and the Relationship with the Young Student.

​Junior Students
In British Wadokai we try and include many junior students into membership. However, by personal experience, we must consider just three types of junior, if under the age of 9 or 10, etc.

Criteria 1: Firstly, we have the dedicated [few] who enjoy their karate and are enthusiastic about progression. These students normally go through and become very proficient and achieve many goals along the way through the various ranks. They are very responsive to commands and instructions and learn and practise hard, especially at home – Like I say, the ‘few’ (as I only know of about half a dozen in all the years I have been teaching).

Criteria 2: Secondly, we have the ‘grade-grabbers’, those who are there just to get belts, although have little interest in working hard to achieve those grades. These students, although seem keen at first slowly slip into Criteria 3.

Criteria 3: Thirdly, we have the reluctant ones, who don’t really want to be there and spend the majority of the session being reprimanded for infringements in dojo etiquette and disruption with other members. These students have either been ‘forced’ to attend, to ‘accompany’ other members of the family, or simply deposited there as a means of cheap child-minding while the parents go up the pub or go shopping (or simply just to have a peaceful hour or two at home).

When I first greet a child to the Dojo, ensuring that the parent is present (of course), I ask why they are here. At first we may get the correct responses, such as they would like to pursue a martial-art, etc. However, many times I have had parents intervene, and answer on the child’s behalf, with, “He likes kicking the sofa, so I thought he may enjoy karate!”

Either way, as accommodating instructors as we are, we very often give the child the ‘benefit of the doubt’; and allow them to train. However, after a time (some longer than others) we can usually detect the ones that really want to be there and those who are there because they are ‘forced’ to attend. Noticeable symptoms include; class disruption, lack of learning, lack of enthusiasm, easily distracted, refuse to train at home to practise what they have learned (so they don’t need to be continually re-taught the same things), etc., etc.

When it gets to this point I usually suggest to the parents that they are now wasting their money and (more importantly) wasting my time; so politely asking them to take their child away to take up another activity,. Such as street-graffiti or get back on the Play-station where they would prefer to belong.

It’s the old adage, “You can lead a donkey to water, but it’s up to the donkey to bend its neck to drink it!”

The Kyu Grade


To gain grades in any martial-art you need to have commitment and the ability to focus & improve. In order to do this you need to reflect your input to output ratios (as the old saying goes, “You only get out what you’ve put in!”). For example. If you are considering the first two grades, 9th Kyu and 8th Kyu, this can be achieved by training about once a week with very little home-training commitment needed at all. However, achieving higher grades requires more commitment from the student.

Passing grades within correct time parameters 

When the student has reached 7th Kyu he must be training regularly at ’least’ once a week and be practising at home at least twice a week. To successfully pass a 6th Kyu requires about 2 sessions per week with about two to three times a week ’focused’ syllabus home training. For 5th Kyu and upwards, in order to improve and successfully pass, focused daily home-training is essential on top of regular Dojo sessions. At this stage, if students DO NOT train at home, improvement will be virtually impossible (and in many cases show signs of ‘deterioration’) if only reliant on 1-Dojo training per week; as the student needs to practise and focus on HIS own requirements for each grade as well as regular general Dojo training. Dojo training sessions aren’t there just for YOUR own syllabus training – This needs to be improved with additional regular home training practise.

Nothing frustrates a Sensei more than having to continually ’re-teach’ what the student has ‘forgotten’ or has neglected (or can’t be bothered) to practise regularly at home.

If you find you are not improving, because you do not want to train, you may need to reassess your situation and maybe try another activity that doesn’t require any real commitment on your part

By Gary Swift 9th Dan Hanshi

Gary Swift
wado ryu jujutsu