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The value of martial arts grades

April 28, 2017

As my Wing Chun grade is now over and I’m pleased that I passed, so now I can put all that behind me for a while and just get on with training.

I’m reminded of comments made by Sensei Mark Danford (White Rose Aikikai) said about grades and their value –

‘The real value of grades isn’t the end result, not the pass or fail, it’s the extra effort and dedication you put in to your practice in the few weeks prior to the grade event’

That extra time and effort you put into brushing up on your technical skill and identifying then working on the weaknesses in your skill repertoire, can lead to invaluable growth in your martial arts journey.

Also the experience of putting yourself under the pressure of a grade examination, voluntarily taking you out of your comfort zone, can be a great learning tool too.

I don’t feel as though, the build up to this grade was particularly good, due to the bank holiday closure and Sifu being away the week prior to that, although I was physically ready, I don’t think I had been able to put that extra effort in during class and get psychologically ready, but I got through, so fair enough I suppose.

Many are guilty, and when I was a younger I was just as guilty, of thinking the faster you got through your grades or the amount of grades you were able to pass, was some kind of contest, and like finding the end of the rainbow, there would be a nice big pot of gold for you to find.


I suppose now (older and wiser?), I’m just glad of the opportunity to take a grade, to see if my training in Wing Chun has improved, to examine where I need to improve and what to focus on for the next few months.


Some will proudly display their certificate, in fancy frame (and there’s nothing particularly wrong with that) I will put mine into a folder under the bed, with the rest of them, it’s never about the destination, always about the journey.

I suppose one of the values of attaining grades (as in an official documented way) is it allows you with some degree of confidence to show and help others, not that holding a certificate indicates the true level of your ability or experience, but it does help you get through the bureaucratic systems of insurance and authorisation to teach later on.


Maybe a story here will highlight my point, many moons ago, when I was teaching Taekwondo (Ki Taekwodo), I received a call from the chief instructor of our association, asking me to visit a club (in my area) to see if I could help them out, it seemed their instructor had decided to quit due to other responsibilities.

So there I remember meeting a Taekwondo 3rd Dan, who was keen in taking further grades, and continuing her training, but refused to teach.

So what I wondered to myself was the real value of those grades, other than the fancy certificates and gold tags on her belt, she was disinclined to pass that knowledge and experience on to the next generation of students.

She had gladly and eagerly accepted the help from her seniors, but was unwilling to return that favour her juniors.

Last weekend was a bitter/sweet occasion for me, on one hand my grade success, but on the other, it marked the end of my martial arts professional indemnity insurance, so I’m no longer an insured as an instructor, as one door opens another one closes, such is life…..




From → weekly blog

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