“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop”.
                                     Confucius (551 BCE – 479 BCE)

Kyu gradings (pre-black belt) are held every three to six months depending on the progress and attendance of each individual student.

Students are always encouraged to grade. It is common that new students grade every 3 months. In Custom Karate they are not forced to do so and are only encouraged to when their instructor feels they have reached the necessary ability to obtain the next grade.

A simple guideline for the lower grades is that with frequent training it should be possible to achieve the next grade after 20 lessons or more. Once the grade of 2nd Kyu (brown belt) is reached a guideline of 30 lessons is used.

The gradings are held at the John Hampden/ Barley Hill (as appropriate). With parents, relatives and friends welcome to come and watch.

The grading should last about one and a half hours to two hours and is split into two formal elements. The first 40-45 minutes is a standard lesson where the students will demonstrate Dojo Etiquette. Students will then have a rest. In the second part of the grading each student will called upon to demonstrate technical aspects. Students are called upon individually or in small groups of individuals to demonstrate their skills.

Results are available soon after formal conclusion and Students are welcome to wait for their result which may take a few more minutes

There are three possible results; Pass, Referral and Fail.

A Pass means that a Student has met all criteria and can safely be expected to train at a more advance level. The pass entitles the Student to wear their mark of achievement on their belt. This also gives them seniority over students below their standard.

Referral can mean that a student needs to demonstrate one or more aspect of their Karate in a standard class before receiving a pass. Or the student for whatever reason met the standard but other issues such as behaviour is not up to standard and the individual has to address their conduct before receiving their pass (usually a time limit is set for this). Usually a referral leads to a pass but at a later date.

A Fail means that a Student has not met all criteria and cannot safely be expected to train at a more advance level. A fail is NOT a failure of the student but that of the master. The Student can re grade at the masters expense (at no extra cost to the student) until the student receives a pass.

Tips for grading: Give it everything you got. Even if you make a mistake, keep going. A major rational behind the grading system is to see how you cope under stress. It is possible to pass with multiple mistakes being made, however doing nothing will lead to being marked down. So do not stress if you are unsure...just do something. An allowance is made to Students who are not familiar with the grading Dojo.

Friends and family are welcome to give support to the student but must be silent during the formal parts of the grading. Not all students have given permission to be photographed, so photography is strictly forbidden.

Dan gradings (black belt and above) are held as a student becomes eligible. Students wishing to grade can do so only after their Sensei believes they are ready to do so. Within Custom Karate it would take an adult student at least 4 years and a junior approximately 5-6 years to achieve Black Belt standard. After Black Belt it requires an additional 2 years to 2nd Dan, then a further 3 years to 3rd Dan, 4 years more to 4th Dan, 5 years to 5th etc. All these timescales are considered minimum requirements.

Dan gradings are not open to spectators but the Grading student can nominate up to two witnesses to be present.

As stated on this site Custom Karate follows the Shotokan Syllabus as originated by Gichin Funakoshi (see short history of Karate). His teaching specifically frowns upon partaking in competitions because he believes it is ultimately divisive, in that competition requires a different form of training that strays from self improvement to short sighted artificial goals and a negative fulfilment that an individual’s success depends on the failing of the participant’s colleagues and friends.

Custom Karate will not oppose individuals from entering competitions on their own; however students will not be encouraged. For students that wish to display their skills to a wider audience Custom Karate does participate in public demonstrations.

Meaning of the Colours
Originally, the white belt was simply dyed to a new colour. This repeated dying process dictated the type of belt colour and the order of the colours. Due to the dying process, it was only practical to increasingly use darker colours. All of this came about shortly after the Second World War, when Korea and Japan were very poor countries. Dying the belts to a new colour was a cheap way to have a visible, simple and effective ranking system.

White Belt: ((9th and 8th kyu)* White signifies a birth, or beginning, of a seed. A white belt student is a beginner searching for knowledge of the Art. The white belt is the beginning of life's cycle, and represents the seed as it lies beneath the snow in the winter.

Yellow Belt: (7th kyu) Yellow signifies the first beams of sunlight which shines upon the seed giving it new strength with the beginning of new life. A yellow belt student is given his or her first ray of knowledge, opening his mind, from his instructors.

Green Belt: (6th kyu) Green signifies the growth of the seed as it sprouts from the earth reaching toward the sun and begins to grow into a plant. A green belt student learns to strengthen and refine his techniques.

Purple Belt: (5th an 4th kyu) Purple represents the changing sky of dawn, as once again the student undergoes a new change and prepares for the transition to become an advanced student. A purple belt begins to understand the meaning of the black belt.

Brown Belt: (3rd, 2nd and 1st Kyu) Brown represents the ripening of the seed, a maturing and harvesting process. A brown belt is an advanced student whose techniques are beginning to mature, and the student is beginning to understand the fruits of his/her hard work as a beginner.

Black Belt: Black signifies the darkness beyond the Sun. A black belt seeks new, more profound knowledge of the Art. As he or she begins to teach others, he or she plants new seeds and helps them grow and mature. His or her students, many whom will form roots deep into the Art, blossom and grow through the ranks in a never-ending process of self-growth, knowledge, and enlightenment.

*Some grades lead to a stripe being added to an existing colour belt (a black stripe for white belt and a white stripe for purple and brown belts).