Saturday, August 6, 2011

Test Time!

Erica Here!

Several Saturdays ago I had my first ever Karate belt test! When I got to the testing site, I immediately realized that it probably would have been beneficial to have asked someone to take me to see one beforehand, or at least read about them on this blog. What was I thinking! I was feeling alright hours before the test, but just before it, I suddenly became terribly nervous. This was because as I was driving to the Satte Dojo (where the test was held) I misunderstood what Arakawa Sensei said about the testing process, and inadvertently psyched myself out. Therefore, I thought it would be nice if for the next intern, (and those of you just wondering), I could present a pretty thorough run-through of the Shiramizu Belt test.

First, the students are informed of the kyu test (pre-black belt) about a month in advance, and the test is conducted in groups. I'm not quite sure how the groups are divided, but I believe my group was for adults who were not black belts, and the junior high school students who were not black belts. As for the adults, there was one white belt (me), one yellow belt, and one brown belt adult. The middle school testers were all green and brown belts.

(Richard here - normally people are grouped together in 3 to 5 people at a time of the same belt rank level, which range from kyu 9 to kyu 1, with 1 being the highest. Black belt tests are done separately by Wadokai associations judges at a different time, normally one or twice a year for the whole prefecture.)

Because the Sensei come in and set up early, the students have an opportunity to practice beforehand and ask any last minute questions. In my case, I practiced my Kata and Kihon for about 30 minutes before the test.

The test is about 2 hours long from start to finish. However, my misunderstanding just before the test led me to think that everyone would be actively doing something for 2 hours, so I started panicking! But luckily, I was mistaken. Instead, the large group is divided into smaller sub-groups of similar ability and each group is then tested for a certain skill for about 10 minutes while everyone else watches. The lowest ranking belts are tested in each area first, which meant myself and the yellow belt started things off as we were tested together. I was nervous about that aspect of the test, because I had never demonstrated any of my Karate in front of a group before, and since I went first, I didn't know what to expect!

Some things to note, all of which I didn't do (or delayed in doing):
When the Sensei call your name, you are supposed to say "Hai".
Just before you start, you should turn to the Sensei and say "Onegaishimasu" doing a slight bow.
You are supposed to do Kiai (battle cry) with each karate move…not just the end of a set of 5, or 10, etc. (editor - this is dependent on the person running the test, sometimes one kiai or no kiai are required.)
When you finish that portion of the testing, you go back to sit down (walking behind others instead of in front), say "Onigashimasu" and do the deep, floor-level bow.

I'm not sure how important these things are for passing or not, but I'm sure proper etiquette factors in somehow.
(editor - the test is about technical ability first and foremost - how well someone bows after they go sit down in normally inconsequential.)

The first portion of the test was Kihon, and it is tested group by group. The Kihon differs depending on the ability of the students. After the Kihon, there was a slight break period (about 10 minutes) where we could practice for the next portion: Kata.

The Kata is also tested in groups. I wasn't sure exactly how it worked, but some people had to perform one Kata, some people had to perform two, and some people could choose the Kata they wanted to demonstrate. People in the same group did not always preform the same Kata. In my case, I did Pinan Nidan while the yellow belt did two other Kata which I am still unfamiliar with.
(editor - everyone pretty much knows what kata relate to which kyu ranks and a month prior it is announced which kata are expected of each level being tested, normally with 2 to 3 kata required, except for complete beginners like Erica who only know one kata).

After Kata, Kumite (sparring) is tested. As a white belt, I didn't do this part, but the more advanced students were paired off and faced each other on opposite sides of the room. Each pair then did a bit of sparring and that was that.

During the test, several Sensei observe in the front of the dojo, and take notes. After everyone has been tested, the Sensei take about 10 or 15 minutes to review their notes and talk with each other and after that, they announce the results to everyone, one by one, and offer some explanation, particularly for the people who didn't pass. It's a surprisingly quick process.

When I went into the test, I didn't know exactly what the Sensei were looking for. Richard told me that at my level, it's basically the fact that you know the basic commands and that you "do them with effort". I'm the kind of person likes a checklist of sorts and a clear line of passing and failure before a test, so that criteria left me unsure about how things would go right until the end. Unfortunately, I didn't really understand much of the explanations given, but I did understand one thing: I passed! That means I am now a blue belt! I was very surprised, but of course, I was happy.
I still don't have my own to wear yet...but soon!

Though I still know I have such a long way to go, I think the best thing about the entire process was knowing I could pass once. That thought gave me more confidence concerning the advancement of my Karate skills and more motivation for the future. I'll definitely need that, because yesterday, Arakawa Sensei told me I had to sign up for my first competition…which will be in October!


Anonymous said...


congratulations at first!
May I ask a question, I am a bit curious. You made your first exam and got a blue belt. What about the exam for yellow, orange, and green belt which should be taken before? Or were they included all in one exam? Thank's for the info in advance :)

Erica said...

Hello there,

Thank you for reading and commenting!

At the Shiramizu Dojo, the belt ranking is as follows: white, blue, yellow, green, brown, and finally, black.

At this exam, all belt colors were tested except for black. Black belts are tested separately.