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Articles Home » 剛柔流 Editors Commentary » Shinsa Ready - Attending Examinations
Shinsa Ready - Attending Examinations

Shinsa Ready

Attending Examinations


Being ready for your karate examination is no easy task. Preparations can be tedious, time consuming and rewarding. Having participated in so many examinations for multiple groups I can offer a pointers. They included:

  • Preparing students to take the Dan exam.

  • Students understanding of instructions

  • Results


Preparing students to take the Dan exam

To students and teachers, we would think everyone knows what and how to prepare for the kyu or dan exam however time and time again, participants arrive uninformed and ill prepared. Examples include however are not limited to:

  • Arriving late,

  • Leaning against the walls or taking a chair during grading,

  • Talking, critiquing or teaching others during grading,

  • Improperly submitted grading applications,

  • Having not paid exam fees,

  • Last minute changes to the grading or,

  • Unaware of which kata they are expected to perform,

  • Where to put their Gi top for Sanchin,

    • Place your Gi to your right for Gojuryu Sanchin.

  • Mokuso,

    • There is Mokuso during grading for kata.

      • Approach the center of the examination area.

      • Wait for the panel to signal you to begin.

      • Close your eyes and visualize your kata.

      • Open your eyes and say the name of your Kata

      • Begin

    • No Mokuso for competition.

  • Missing safety gear,

  • What type of Kumite to perform

    • Gojuryu Kumite also known as Jiyu Kumite not sport or point kumite


At one point or another we are or were Kyu level students and went through the tension, the jitters, nervousness and uncertainty of a grading. Repetition builds confidence and brings success in the case of Karatedo. It doesn’t matter what kata is the highest in your catalogue, for the entire month ahead of your grading you should:

  • Relentlessly drill Shiko dachi and Nekoashi dachi exercises,

  • Review and correct all of the requirements of audition day;

    • They being kihon, kata, bunkai and kumite.

  • If you have a seminar [Gasshuku] consecutively to an examination [Shinsa], the grading begins when the seminar begins.


On the day of the Shinsa, the instructors are observing both your character and your performance. Keep your spirit and energy strong and alive from the beginning of the examination through the end. In the event your [dojo] grading includes a written exam, create a pre-test version for yourself every week of that month. Most importantly, get your rest. Lack of sleep will increase your anxiety the day of the grading and simple tasks will become difficult and mistakes will happen.


Schedule time with your Sensei, and another board members if possible, to pretest the grading step by step if possible. Confirm, double check and on the day of the grading because different panelists may not have been informed of the same requirements or information and reconfirm your requirements. Ask questions before but not during your test. This is your grading and there is absolutely no question that hasn’t been asked before nor is out of the ordinary. Even if you heard the question and are unclear, ask again. I guarantee, your Sensei has done the same in the past. There is no such thing as a stupid question. There does exist an uninformed recipient.


If you are the Sensei of a student or group grading, consciously guage them and honestly ask yourself, are they ready for the exam? If you are the student grading, consciously gauge yourself and honestly ask, are you ready for the exam? Ask others who have already passed the exam if you are as well. If you are merely taking the exam because of some preset timeline or because a big Sensei is in town from Japan, perhaps it is wiser to wait until the following year when when the big Sensei returns or circumstances are better for you.


Students understanding of instructions

Student have all heard teachers give instructions which were difficult to understand, overly complicated and sometimes incoherent, impossible or nonexistent. This probably dates back as far as your kindergarten teacher to your Karate instructor today. I was once told something by my teacher Cornell Watson “There is no such thing as a student who isn’t capable of learning however there is such thing as a teacher who can’t teach.”


Examinees, attendees and participants should do their absolute best to understand grading instructions and commands by listening as closely as possible. This is not the day to wear your ego on your sleeve. At all times remember:

  • Your character is always under observation.

  • Listen for key points and make sure you demonstrate such clearly.

  • Kiai so strong the neighbors in the next building can feel it,

  • Get a great nights sleep, attend with a clear and open mind, and do your best.

  • Stay focused during the exam and have a strong spirit,

  • Ask questions if necessary.


Examiners should give clear concise instructions, not giving too much and not going beyond the necessary on test day. Always offer the students the opportunity to ask any questions. Keep in mind, they are scared and nervous. Their serenity is in your hands and it’s in your best interest that they are successful.



Now that the grading is over, at least a large part of the stress is gone. Bring on the wait and practice patience. Please do not inquire about your results. One of the grading panelists will let you know if you passed in due time. Usually grades are not posted for one to two weeks and the term in between could still qualify as part of your exam. At this point, character is most important no matter how good or bad you feel your performed. You should be proud you had the courage to go before the board and do your best.


One of my colleagues, Sanjit Mandal Sensei, said it best ”We will do our best to keep finding ways to ensure we create a high standard of the students from our local dojo. We want our dojo members to be awesome, not average!”


Johnpaul Williams


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