How to prepare for Grading in Karate

Part of Karate is the process of grading.

What is Grading?

Gradings are a test of your skills and how they are integrated.  As you reach higher levels in your ability and understanding of martial arts, students must also be able to do more skillful and precise moves.

During black belt grades- the highest levels – students are tested physically and mentally, and then in their knowledge of theory as well.

Coloured Belts

Achievement of a grade is represented by a coloured belt.

“In the West, the emphasis is too one sided on belts. A belt holds one’s pants up. Yet it is also a visual illustration of the length of time a student has trained in Karate” explains Sensei Leo Ming.

“Usually there are what we call ‘kyu’ or rankings. There are about 8 to 10 kyus depending on the style, before one gets black belt.”

Essentially the first belt is white, representing purity and being a novice, as in ‘being empty’.  Then after passing through many other coloured belts, we reach the black belt.  Again, the black represents the ‘start of’ another phase, or the start of the journey.

Black belts are called ‘dan’ of which there are 10. There are also more specific names given at 5th dan, then again at 8th and again at 10th.

“When the black belt eventually fades back into white, one has gone full circle – back to novice” enlightens Sensei.

Preparation for Karate Grading

Preparation of gradings takes time and patience.   The time students spent committed to come to classes will show.

Their ability to overcome challenges from their previous grading, like if the student has improved on not only his/her strengths, but also weaknesses, is also looked at during a grading session.


Failure is difficult to deal with.   There can be so many areas that resulted in the ‘failure’, like nerves, physical technical errors, a poor mental attitude on the day, anxiety levels.

Even the fear of failure itself can cause the frozen rabbit syndrome – where a well-prepared student can just go blank and lose focus, displaying a poor level of skill.

If a student failed and didn’t get the next belt, it may cause that student to put more time and energy into their training, or it may cause them much inner disruption and mental and emotional issues for them.

“I think this is all part of the ‘belt’ and grading learning.  It’s what you do with the result.”  Leo encourages.  “But eventually the persistence pays off into a new level of confidence and further humility.”

Participate in Gradings

There are benefits to students to work towards their next grade, and want to progress through all the gradings.  Sensei Leo adds:

“I think the main aim is to set a goal for oneself to overcome. There are a few students who I’ve taught who don’t want to grade and just want to train for the sake of training.”

All approaches are welcome, and each student sets for themselves their goals to work towards.

We hope you will join us on your journey through the colours of the ‘kyu’, or rankings in Kobujutso Karate.


For more about Kobujutso Karate classes in Johannesburg, contact your Sensei, Leo Low Ming, on 0833780468.