As everyone in the UK will know, winter decided to make a sudden appearance yesterday, so it was in wind, rain and sleet that we gingerly drove over the Snake Pass to Manchester. There was snow and ice forming at the top of the pass, causing me to skid a little (I was the designated driver for the day) but once we were off the highest point it just turned back to rain.
We safely arrived at the venue at 9.20am only to be locked out for an hour. The caretaker had gone on holiday and had delegated opening up the building to his teenage son who was nowhere to be found. We decided to just sit calmly in the dry of the car and watched the organisers do the panicking as they tried to locate a key!
We finally got into the building and my son and the other grading students went to get ready and started warming up. 16 students were grading in total from a variety of clubs in the SSK.
This was the third successive dan grading session that I have attended (the first to partner someone else, the second for my own shodan grading and this one as a parent of a grading student) so I pretty well knew what to expect. I knew that I would not be allowed to sit in and watch the grading (even grading partners have to leave the room when not needed, unless they are also grading themselves) so I went prepared.
Any parent foolhardy enough to stay for the entire grading (like me) is banished to the draughty corridor outside the grading hall with only a few plastic chairs to sit on and a small kitchenette to make tea/coffee. So I took a deckchair, my computer, a couple of books, newspaper and food. The only view I could get of the grading was through a small window in the door to the main hall. As this opened onto the grading mat rather than the training mat at the other end of the hall, I had quite a good view.
The day was organised with the usual military precision - it has to be; with 16 students grading the grading panel had to observe and mark 804 separate demonstrations in 7 hours - no easy feat. Dan gradings are a pretty formal affair for us - no talking, clapping, cheering or shouting encouragement is allowed at all so the mood tends to remain sombre and serious - like an exam!
I'm always amazed at the ability of the children to maintain focus and concentration over such a long time period; it's enough to tax most of the adults so I think the children do really well, especially as they don't have their parents with them. The youngest student grading yesterday was only 10 and she was very focused and self-reliant for one so young. In fact she attained the second highest mark of all the students, a brilliant achievement. In our organisation the children and adults follow the same syllabus so you can directly compare them.
|Sam receiving his belt and certificate|
We also had two other teenagers grading for shodan, Max and Ben, both of whom managed to pull some magic out of the hat and put on some of their best performances to date. Then their was Bruce, grading for 3rd dan. Poor Bruce's syllabus seemed to be twice as long as everyone else's and much of it was given to him on the day, so he really needed to know ALL of his karate techniques as he didn't know exactly what would be thrown at him on the day - he sailed through it with exemplary grace and style and has become the first 3rd dan student in our club.
|Our successful club members: Bruce,|
Ben, Steve (instructor), Max, Dave and Sam.
By now we had heard that the weather had deteriorated and the Snake Pass had been closed to traffic because of the snow; so tired but happy I drove my cluck of dan graders home - the long way!
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