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Malachy Devlin
Malachy Devlin's picture
grading & qualifications.

Dear all,

I hope this is an appropriate forum topic.

So I started Wado Karate some 35 years ago and have official certificates up to 4th Kyu.

Since that I have done many martial arts and in particular WJJF Jujitsu (which many of you know is a mix of many things). I got to brown belt there.

Also some Aikido & BJJ.

So also in the middle of this myself and a few other self motivated guys ran our own club for 2 years and we also did extensive wado training of our own up to the 1st DAN syllabus, maybe over 2-3 years in fact. - 

The previous jujitsu experience was invaluable in understanding the KATAs in WADO, I would nearly say that the jujitsu training was a very advanced course on KATA Bunkai, so I have spent 10 years just doing throws, locks etc and not really needing to know what they are, I just did them.. but it gives me a huge head start on Bunkai compared some other wado people in the club, especially a lot of the escaping techniques etc.

So the question (at last),

Given that I know the 1st DAN syllabus of WADO very well and that i have 10-15 years of grappling and other arts, would you consider it reasonable that I can be given the opportunity to test for a 1st DAN Karate WADO or would you say I should still do the older grades that i have no official recognition of. I stress, be "given the opportunity to take the exam" If im good enough to pass with flying colours then this seems ok to me? - if not then its a fail! views?

Marc's picture

Hi Malachy,

well first of all, you have acquired knowledge and skill through your years of training in the different arts. This is something you've got, and nobody can take it from you. And it is independent of any grading. The same is true for any technical flaws or lack of knowledge that you might still be working on. Grading of any kind will change neither your skills nor your shortcomings.

So if you're thinking about grading to first dan, skipping over 3 kyu grades, I would suggest you consider two questions:

Question 1: Why?

Why is grading in wado karate important to you?

Why would you like to grade to first dan directly instead of taking the 3 kyu exams first?

And why first dan and not first kyu or second dan? How do you know that your skills' and knowledge's best match would be first dan Wado ryu?

Question 2: With whom?

Which karate association do you belong to? Do they formally allow jumping from 4th kyu to 1st dan without taking the rest of the kyu exams first?

How long would it take to get through 3rd, 2nd and 1st kyu first, according to your association's rules? How much would it cost?

Who would be your examiners? What's their take on it? Do they think you're ready?

Sorry, if my answer consists only of more questions.

In my association for example the rules don't seem to allow skipping grades. So despite your broad skill set, you would still have to take all the remaining kyu exams before you get to the first dan exam. The shortest possible time from 4th kyu to 1st dan our rules would permit, would be 17 months, if your progress would prove to be outstanding. Of course for a normal student it would be more like four or five years.

Interesting question. Looking forward to read what others think.

Take care,


Tau's picture

Trust me on this. Do each grade properly without skipping. It may seem like a ballache now but it’ll be worth it in the long run. And should leave you with more pride.

Malachy Devlin
Malachy Devlin's picture

thanks all, yes i think it would be best.

I only thought about it as I just happen to know the syllabus and seemed pointless wasting time. 

I think its probably an ego thing we all have!


Anf's picture

With respect to all concerned, does this not highlight all that is wrong with the grading system?

Person with nearly 4 decades of martial arts practice, spanning multiple styles, has to pretend to be less skilled than and bow to students that for about 6 years have spent 2 hours per week memorising the syllabus and never deviating from it or testing it.

I personally think if someone wants to do a dan test to have their skill peer reviewed, I see no problem with that. But if it were me, I'd be careful about which association I ask to grade me. I know martial artists that have achieved dan grades from several different bodies. Some are really hard core. Some couldn't fight their way out of a wet paper bag.

Malachy Devlin
Malachy Devlin's picture

fair point, experience should count.

Its a bit like being able to get an "A" at A level maths but someone insisting you do the GCSE first. - grey area for sure.. It doesnt bother me too much if im honest but I suppose one has to ask, if someone can pass a DAN grade with flying colours then they are good enough. I believe at some stage in the past there was only a black belt (no coloured belts on the way up) , you got it when you were good enough.

if you were not up to standard = you didnt get it!

im happy to chill out and do the grades as I am more into the social aspect and enjoyment of it, but still... its a fair question to ask..

Wastelander's picture

There is an aspect of "paying your dues" that tends to go along with the practice of traditional martial arts, and since all of us had to go up through the ranks, it's natural to feel like everyone else should, too. Personally, within a system, I believe that each rank test should be cumulative--for example, your 2nd Dan test should still include ALL PREVIOUS MATERIAL, not just new material. As long as that's the case, and a person has put in the time and effort necessary to develop the level of skill and knowlege expected for a rank, then I see no reason why they couldn't be tested for it.

Anf's picture

Malachy Devlin wrote:
I believe at some stage in the past there was only a black belt (no coloured belts on the way up) , you got it when you were good enough.

I believe it was Jigoro Kano, founder of judo that started it all. His 'new' style {jiu-jitsu but with emphasis on developing whole self rather than just pure combat) proved almost too popular. With a large number of students to manage he needed an easy way to see who had achieved a certain degree of proficiency and who was still a beginner. So beginners got white belts and 'skill holders' or dans got black. It was a visual aid for the teacher. Others adopted it. Then at some point colours were introduced. Then the myths begin. Things like, the white belt grew darker as it became more and more ingrained in dirt and sweat and blood over time as the wearer gained more experience. From this comes the old chestnut that all the knowledge is in the belt, so you should never wash it because you'll wash the knowledge out. Or other ancient wisdoms like the yellow represents the rising sun at dawn as the knowledge prepares to show itself, green is the spring shoots of wisdom, brown is the stability of wood etc. All great ways to get kids to persuade their parents to plough more money in the form of grading fees into the association I think.

Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

Hi Malachy,

In my club we assess students on their skills. If they been training somewhere else and want to grade, we go through our material and then give them grade appropriate to our requirements.If there is something lacking we work on that bits.

I don't see why you couldn't go for first dan, if your instructor is happy with your skills.

Kind regards


Quick2Kick's picture

The way you anwser this question is dependent on the way you view rank. If you view belts as time markers you may think go through each rank one by one and relish the journey. If you view belts as a measure of skill you say test and be assigned the appropriate rank. Personally I think if you move like a black belt it can be misleading to the other people in the room for you not to wear one. This could even be dangerous in sparring depending on the level of contact at your school. If your partner thinks he is fighting with a beginner when really your not.

Neil Babbage
Neil Babbage's picture

If you want to start your own school, and for that you think it is appropriate to have been graded by someone else to check your abilities, then what you are proposing kind of makes sense. You’d write your own syllabus - what you want to teach - have that syllabus assessed as being appropriate (the BCA / BCKA will do this for member clubs), then find someone who will test you against your syllabus. To me this is a logical “modern” way of thinking about “grading” - an independent assessment of your skills and your ability to teach an appropriate syllabus. On the other hand, if you just want to have a black belt in an existing Waldo club, then it’s their rules... 

Heath White
Heath White's picture

I have switched organizations in the past and got a new rank in the second org based on my abilities, after training for a while as a white belt.  (Induces humility.)  I know other places are willing, not necessarily to give you a black belt right away, but to promote you quickly.

The thing to keep in mind, though, is that a rank is a status within an organization, and the organization bestows it.  So,  bottom line, you get it when they are willing to give it to you.  In taking rank with an organization you are becoming a member of  the organization and you should expect to follow whatever rank-giving guidelines they have.

OhioMike's picture

 That happened to a close friend, he had no interest in advancing and so stayed kyu level for years. Just showed up to class to enjoy the practice and company. After that school disbanded and he tried to join other schools he would be forced to wear a white belt and then mop the floor with brown belts which made him and his new instructors very frustrated.  A more severe version of your situation but simular.

I would say have a discussion with the instructor and have your skill assessed in private by them. They may advance you to a higher rank but hold off on Dan level rank unitl you can be more formally assessed, personally that would be the way that I would do it. That would allow you to put into the ranks at near your actual skill level but still allow you to "pay your dues"

Hope that helps,