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Should nidan grading feel less stressful than shodan grading?

Posted Apr 21 2013 12:00am

Why does training for nidan feel so different to training for shodan? I am currently training in preparation for taking my nidan grading in June. Strangely it feels a much more low-key event than my shodan grading nearly two years ago…yes, it really was nearly two years ago, how time flies!

I keep trying to put my finger on why it feels so different. By different I mean that I don’t feel the need to put together a week by week training programme for 6 months like I did for my shodan grading (remember my Countdown to Shodan blog ?); neither do I feel so stressed or compelled to train every spare minute.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m training hard and taking it very seriously – I want to pass after all, but it doesn’t seem like quite the big deal that shodan grading did. In fact, I think I made some mistakes with my shodan preparations that I don’t want to repeat this time around.

I think I had placed shodan on a very high pedestal and made it into a much bigger deal than it really was, this is what made it such a stressful time in the months leading up to the grading. I also think that I over-trained a little resulting in a thigh injury and a bit of mental exhaustion.

So, for nidan preparations I have a different approach, different because I am different compared to two years ago…

I am more relaxed than for shodan grading – nidan is not on some high pedestal, it will not be earth shatteringly terrible to fail, I’ll just try again. In fact, if I don’t feel ready to take it in June I will postpone until the next round in December. Please note that relaxed doesn’t mean laid-back it just means that I’m not so frazzled by the task!

I understand my abilities/weaknesses better and have a clearer understanding of what the grading panel will expect of me. This means that I can target my training better to improve my weaknesses.

I understand a lot more than two years ago and seem to learn new things a bit more quickly – I have a greater understanding of the underlying principles that govern all techniques and so I’m more able to apply them to new situations. I think this is the result of all the teaching practice I’ve had since my shodan grading, teaching really tightens up your own understanding of what you are doing.

I trust in my regular training more to get me through. Obviously I’m doing some training at home as well as in class since we are expected at this level to work out our own ippon kumite, goshin waza and bunkai applications – sensei will help and guide as necessary but he won’t spoon feed us at this level.

For shodan grading I worked on a general fitness programme as well as practicing the karate itself. This time I am only training in karate. Why? Because I have come to believe that extreme fitness is not required for the grading. The level of fitness that I already possess gets me through some pretty demanding karate sessions without too much trouble. I think that maintaining the fitness I already have is important but trying to up it for the grading may be counter-productive and risk injury.

Nidan grading is not an extreme sport; it is merely a demanding demonstration of martial arts skills – the stuff I do week in, week out. If my current fitness level sustains me through these lessons then it should sustain me through the grading. Extreme fitness is not sustainable in the long term so it seems slightly ridiculous to need extreme fitness to pass a grading when you don’t need it for regular classes. I don’t see why a grading should require something that normal classes don’t. This is the way I’m thinking at the moment…

So far preparations are going okay, I’m not there yet but I’m feeling fairly confident that I will be by June. I attended a black belt course this weekend and have the pre-dan course in May, then it will be decided whether I am ready for this grading or not. If I get the green light to go for it then sensei will be turning up the pressure in class to get me mentally and physically ready.

If you are a nidan did you find the thought of nidan grading less stressful than shodan grading? Do you think I’m in for a shock in June?

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