There are several sections in the grading where I will be required - ippon kumite, goshin waza, bunkai demonstrations, gobon kumite, pad work and to demonstrate a floor drill. I will not be required to participate in sparring as the candidates have to spar with each other for that.
It is quite common at our dan gradings, though not compulsory, for a candidate to take a non-grading partner with them and there are advantages to this. Firstly you can choose a partner that you are comfortable working with and you can trust to help you put on your best performance. Also, if your partner is not actually grading themselves then you do not have to act as a partner for their techniques and so you can concentrate fully on your own performance and not get tired out having to be on the receiving end of their throws/locks and take downs.
Agreeing to partner someone at a black belt grading brings great responsibilities. I do not want to let her down and the concept of honouring technique has assumed even greater importance. I feel that my job has been more than just 'attacking' her in the prescribed way and letting her demonstrate her techniques on me. I have also thought it important to give her feedback, suggest improvements to various defences and encourage her to be more aggressive with me. She has listened and tried to take on board things I have said. I also felt it is my job to help her prepare mentally and develop more focus - hence the motivation behind writing 'The World Guide to Passing your Black Belt Test' and 'The Official SSK advice to preparing for Black Belt grading'. I presented my partner with a hard copy of this in case she didn't read the blog!
Of course, all the credit will be hers when she puts that black belt around her waist. The grading officers won't be interested in my performance, they will only be watching her so the effort has to come from her. However, I hope on the day I will be able to encourage, advise and motivate her to keep going when she is practising in between sections. I want her to pass and to pass well. I know she has it in her to do this and I am working on her confidence so that she truly believes in herself too.
Helping someone else to prepare for black belt has been quite a journey for me. I will be in her shoes next year and so I now have greater insight into how to prepare myself and what it is that I will require from a partner when it is my turn. No doubt I will be almost as nervous as she is on the day.
Another advantage to me is that I get a preview of what my black belt grading will be like and how it will be run. This will be an invaluable experience for me too!
The only potential blot on the landscape is the weather forecast! It has been forecast to snow heavily across Britain this weekend and we have to cross the Pennines (see photo above) to get to the venue - fingers crossed we'll make it there!
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