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Grading Day Success @ Kenbu Dojo

Last month we saw Kenbu Dojo students stand out on the floor for the first time in 18 months to take part in their first grading of 2021. This was an emotional return to the mats, as most of the students had not seen each other in a very long time, due to our smaller class groups and each have worked so incredibly hard to get to this point despite the craziness going on around them in each of their worlds.

The grading kicked off with a brief warm up to get everyone moving, then jumped straight into testing. Regardless of belt rank, all students demonstrated all syllabus from white belt up to the belt they were testing for. It was noted that Shidoshi Sinead shed a tear or seven as the grading began with a room filled with hard working and eager students, all of which have stood by her and worked their butts off to test on this day.

This grading was in no way going to be easy and with an expert panel consisting of Dai Shihan Marc Moor, Ms Jaki McVicar 8th Degree, Ms Sinead Byrne 6th Dan, Ben Pells 2nd Dan and Sam Crowther 1st Dan. With over 147 years of martial arts experience between them. What an honour to test in front of this fantastic group of instructors.

The white belts were the first to take to the front row to demonstrate their stances, techniques and blocking set 1. They each showed a new fire and blood running through Kenbu Dojo at long last, fresh faces all ready to take their first big step in the ranks. They did not disappoint, each demonstrated with ease after months of practice leading up to their test. Special mention has to go to Izzy and Sophia who also stepped up to show their skills at rolling and break falls, despite this not being a requirement for their red belts, they had the whole room impressed to say the least.

Once the white belts stepped off the floor, it was time for the red and yellow belts to step forwards. Already you could see the step up in experience and understanding of techniques and forms. These guys had much more to demonstrate, but made it look easy peasy. Showing their very best techniques, sets and forms. While everyone was amazing, one student in this group that really stood out was Oliver, who throughout the whole test never stopped once and did his techniques better than ever before, alongside his helper James who had assisted in preparing him for his test.

It was then time for sparring and once those gloves went on, the room lit up with excitement and the atmosphere was one to remember. Each lower rank fought against our orange belts to brown belts and showed great control and understanding of their sparring.

Like the flick of a switch, 2 hours had passed and it was the end of the first half of the grading. All our lower rank students knelt down with an air of nervousness as they awaited the results of their test. The panel of black belts was incredibly impressed by what they had saw and passing this group did not take long. They truly did amazing.

Then as the first group left, our students testing for Orange belts up to Brown belts continued on for another two hours. This was where things got very interesting indeed!

We saw a small group testing from Yellow Belt to Orange, demonstrating their techniques was very interesting to watch, as you could really see them beginning to understand the nature of making a technique work and ensuring the uke (attacker) was moved accordingly. Joyel standing out from the crowd and really impressing the black belts in his performance of orange stripe techniques. As he made the techniques look easy as he threw his uke on the floor. And of course Eddie and Josh showed that size does not matter as they threw students twice their size around on the mats. Followed by Grace and Noah stepping up the pace as they moved towards their purple stripes. Both of whom have become excellent training partners, of course they worked very hard with their biggest hurdle yet but both demonstrated Long form 1 incredibly well on the day.

We then saw our first ever adult students take to the floor for grading on our new adult syllabus. (Because all the kids seem to insist on growing up! Shidoshi Sinead does not approve lol) This saw Leo testing for senior Orange Belt, Jasmine, James and Alyssa testing for senior Purple. The dept of knowledge and understanding was a huge step up and the requirements for these grades was no easy feat. But all 4 made it look easy after spending the last few months really working hard and drilling their skills. Shidoshi Sinead commented "I am proud to have a new level in our club, seeing students progress into adult ranks is a huge step for Kenbu Dojo as a whole and I am proud of each student, particularly Leo who truly shone for many reasons indeed".

As we neared the bottom end of our syllabus, long term students Fin, Gabriel and Jay stood forwards, showing once again another step up in ability and skill levels. They were able to explain principles when asked and showed some great and not so great techniques. But most importantly, when things got a bit muddled and brains began to forget things. They took deep breathes and never quit. Jay demonstrated an excellent Short Form 3 on the day, showing he is still a force to be reckoned with when it comes to forms. Fin's Bo form was also well noted by the black belts at the table as his young self demonstrated such a long and complicated form. Gabriel while testing for a tip, showed his true determination throughout the test and you could see the hunger for his next belt shining throughout.

Last but not least Eden took to the floor, hoping to earn her final junior brown belt. She did not disappoint as she demonstrated her many Kenpo techniques and forms. More importantly she showed a new understanding into her Bujinkan training as she demonstrated and explained the first half of the Kihon Happo and beginning levels of Sword drawing and cutting skills. This was clear as she threw poor Sam around on the mats as she demonstrated it all.

Watching Eden grade is always a big thing for those watching on, most are dreaming of getting to her high rank and years of experience. This grading potentially being her last grading with an open door to watch on, meant this one was special for all those who got to observe her in action. She did a fantastic job and we cannot wait to see her move towards her Junior Black Belt in 2022.

With all that out of the way, the black belts needed a break from their chairs and so we started the sparring. Which is always a club favourite at the end of the grading. With the lower ranks sparring with one partner of various levels at a time, right down to Eden who did multiple attackers with five attackers at once. Everyone was pushed to their limits and showed great skill and control throughout. The faces below show how well this aspect went!

Then it was finally time to take off the sparring kit, kneel down on the mats and as the black belts left the room to decide the faith of each student, there was an air of silence in the hall along with worn out bodies and minds as they sat perfectly still for the first time all day.

There was much discussion in the hallway between the testing panel out of earshot of the students. Many incredible positives, plenty of thoughts for improvement going forwards but overall an appreciation for what each child had just done on the mats that day. Each person on that floor had overcome all the odds and succeeded at a time when most others walked away. The spirit and love inside each of these students is phenomenal.

Incredibly well earned belts from the higher ranks at Kenbu Dojo. Those above whether testing for belts or tips on the day, are paving the way for every new student and lower rank that walks through the dojo doors each week. It is their love and determination to be their very best that makes them the best role models you could ever ask for. We are by far the best ninja family in the world!

We ask that all students and parents take a moment to thank and be incredibly grateful for the Kenbu Dojo Instructor Shidoshi Sinead, as behind the scenes nobody has any idea of the love, care, sweat and genuine tears she puts into teaching each and every student in the club and in the days between lessons. To ensure they can be their very best and feel part of a group that will support them no matter what. She is only one woman, doing the job most clubs have several people doing. We thank her from the bottom of our hearts and want her to know how much we appreciate her.

Thank you also to our black belt panel who travelled from Torquay, Exeter and Gloucester to be part of the big day! We couldn't have done it without your beady eyes staring into our souls and cheering us on each step of the way.


Classes for Adults and Children from age 4+

Teaching the arts of Kenpo Karate and Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu

Head Instructor Shidoshi Sinead Byrne

Established in 2012

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