Karate-do is about more than just physical training. The decision on whether or not you are ready to test will be made by Sensei Baran, and that decision involves how often you train, how much you have improved, and your attitude in training, among other factors. To be eligible for testing, it is important that you are continuously and consistently training to maintain and improve your skill level. Remember that you cannot "cram" for a karate exam - it takes consistent and constant training to continue to improve.
There are generally around 16 weeks between kyu rank testing opportunities (once each semester). The time frame for dan exams is longer. To be eligible for testing, the minimum number of trainings that students of Nittany Shotokan Karate-Do are expected to attend are based on rank, as listed below. The commitment to training increases as you advance in rank. Beginners (white, yellow, and orange belts) should try to attend at least 2 trainings each week. Intermediate students (green and purple belts) should increase their commitment beyond 2 per week. Brown belts should be aiming to attend at least 3 trainings per week. Black belts should be aiming for 4 per week. The more you train the better prepared you will be.
Keep in mind that these minimum numbers of trainings assume that you are consistently attending class. If you are training intermittently, then when you return to training, you have lost ground from where you were at previously. Things like flexibility and muscle memory suffer from being inactive, and you will not be able to immediately pick up where you left off, especially for an extended period away from training. A good rule of thumb is for each week away from training, add an extra day of training to what is required to catch up to your previous level.
Usually, training once per week will only maintain your current skill level. Anything less than that, and you are losing ground. Training twice per week or more will increase your skill level. The more you are training, the more you will see your progress improve. You can’t get better at karate without coming to the dojo, putting on your gi, and putting in the time and effort. It really is that simple.
Do not be discouraged if you do not test every semester. As long as you are training and making progress, you are moving in the right direction. It takes some students longer than others to acquire the skills required to move to the next level. But it is important to have that understanding and the skills necessary to move to the next rank level. Without these standards for grading requirements, rank becomes meaningless. Rest assured that rank achieved in our club has great meaning. Even testing and receiving a half kyu means that you are making progress. Sensei keeps the requirements to a high standard, so we can all be confident that our rank has substance. You should be proud of the rank that you have already attained and work hard to prepare yourself for the next level.
There are general skills that examiners expect to see for students to be invited to test. Training at the pace described above and with the right attitude will usually get students where they need to be. Sensei’s decision regarding testing readiness is not based on raw talent such as athleticism and speed. Rather, there are fundamental principles and skills that students need to demonstrate to be ready to test. For example, posture, hip rotation, weight distribution, and connection to the floor can be adapted to any level of physical fitness. Training regularly will allow you to adapt these general principles to your body type and physical ability.
The rank that you hold should be a symbol of your understanding and ability in the art of karate-do. Rank is a subjective rating and the standards to achieve rank vary between clubs, organizations, and styles. We do hold our students to very high standards in this club. The kyu ranks introduce students to the martial arts and communicate the basic principles of Shotokan Karate-do. At the shodan exam, a student should have a basic understanding of technical and mental principles and have all the tools to begin a long term karate journey. Thus, the kyu ranks are used to not only instill the student with basic technique, but also with the training commitment of a dan rank. Students can start with less commitment of time, but as they grow in technical ability, their training commitment must grow as well.
If you have legitimate scheduling conflicts (work, class, extended travel, etc.) that prevent you from making enough training, then talk to Sensei at the beginning of the semester. It may be possible to make arrangements so that you are still able to get enough training to be prepared to test, but it is absolutely necessary to discuss this with Sensei at the beginning of the semester rather than at test time.
Karate wa yu no gotoku taezu netsu o ataezareba moto no mizu ni kaeru
Karate is just like hot water, if you do not give it continuous heat it will become cold!
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