Gradings in this club are based around the original grading system of Shotokan Karate International (SKI) in that they start with a pale colour (white) and get darker as the student progresses towards black. Originally there were NO colours other than white and black as the student simply trained for years until the Sensei decided that the student was worthy of the black belt. In recent times however it was felt that student would like to progress through colours to get a reward as they progressed and thereby get some encouragement. So the colours ran – white, yellow, orange, green, purple, brown, black, red.  Yes, Red was at the top. Then two grades of white were introduced, two of purple and three of brown and the red belt disappeared.

In recent years there has been a plethora of intermediate grades marked by white or red stripes added between grades. This is mainly because every time you grade the more money you pay to the Instructor and this has no relation to the original grading ideals.

In the Buntingford Karate Club we follow the SKI system with the exception that the Red belt sits between Orange and Green. Thus – White Belt = beginners belt – ungraded. Yellow Belt = 9th Kyu. Orange Belt = 8th Kyu. Red Belt = 7th Kyu. Green Belt = 6th Kyu. Purple Belt = 5th Kyu. Purple Belt with 1 White Stripe = 4th Kyu. Brown Belt = 3rd Kyu. Brown Belt with 1 White stripe = 2nd Kyu. Brown Belt with 2 White stripes = 1st Kyu. And finally, Black Belt (see details on Black Belt gradings below).

The Buntingford Karate Club buys and awards the student with their belt colour, no student buys their own belt colour. The student does not have to attend a course before they grade, they must simply have made sufficient progress in the club to warrant their next grading. The charge for a grading at 1/12/2019 is only £12 per grading.There is NO CHARGE for a Black belt grading – see below.

From 9th Kyu (grade) Yellow belt to 1st Kyu Brown belt the student will take a grading to pass the belt colour. Sensei Bill Hooper takes all of the gradings and often with the assistance of one or two of the Club’s other Black Belts to form a “panel”, thus giving an unbiased examination and judgement. Brown Belt gradings indicate your level of commitment to training towards your goal of Black Belt. After you pass your 3rd Kyu there is an obligatory 6 months wait to get 2nd Kyu when you are expected to train regularly. Regular training in this club is classed as twice a week. Training once a week simply extends the 6 months waiting time. Between 2nd and 1st Kyu there is a 9 months gap where regular training is again required. The gaining of your first Brown Belt (3rd Kyu) means “I am training for Black Belt”.

Go to the grading syllabuses page to see detailed information for all of the gradings from Yellow to Brown.

Gradings by members are NOT attempted after a set number of lessons (and thus a certain amount of money!) have been taken. Sensei Bill grades members when he thinks they are ready and is not driven by how much money he can make out of a student. In this way the Buntingford Karate Club’s standard of Karate and Martial Arts training is kept very high. In fact, on more than one occasion in the past, high grade belts (including Black Belts) have come to visit the club and have made the comment that they had never been taught certain techniques at their own club, or did not know you could do that type of thing, or they had never seen so many arm locks and take-downs before – they have then joined the Buntingford Karate Club!!

Black Belt Gradings – We do not Dan Grade in this club. We have registered our club with an “umbrella” Martial Arts organisation known as Shi Kon Budo Kai (SKBK) who are based in Kent. We register under them because we have to have club insurance cover and being members of this organisation allows us to get this. If you are a member of the Buntingford Karate Club and you want to get Dan grades then you will have to take them with SKBK. If however you take a grading for Sho Dan (1st Dan) in Karate elsewhere whilst training at the Buntingford Karate Club then we regret that we cannot recognise that grade until you have graded under Sensei Bill. If you obtain Sho Dan in any other form of Martial Art (ie, Judo, Tae Kwon Do, Ju-Jitsu etc) then that will be recognised, but only as a Black Belt in that particular Martial Art, and therefore you will not be able to wear that Black Belt in our club. For example, it would be silly to wear a Black Belt in Judo in a Karate Club. If however you gained your Black Belt in a Karate form before you started training with our Club then that grade will be recognised and you can wear your Black Belt in the Buntingford Karate Club.

By the time you have been awarded your Black Belt by the Buntingford Karate Club you will have gone through quite a lot of rigorous training with us. You will have learned to be a responsible, honest and trustworthy person and have a good attitude towards other people. You will have learned how to protect yourself, your family and your friends in the case of attack or provocation. You will have learned to appreciate that Karate-Do, “the Way of Karate”, is a long hard road on a long hard journey, but one which is full of fascinating experiences. Your knowledge of Karate, and hopefully of yourself, will have grown. If you have not learned this then you are not yet ready to be made a Black Belt.

With this in mind, Sensei Bill decided that the awarding of a Black Belt would not be based in the Buntingford Karate Club club on simply learning a syllabus (as is normally the case) and having yourself tested during one grading session. Such an examination is really more of a test of your stamina and endurance than anything else. Therefore the grading to Black Belt in the Buntingford Karate Club is based on what effort and commitment you have demonstrated over at least a year from the time that you passed 1st Kyu (your last grade as a Brown Belt). Also, the student who only trains once a week cannot expect to grade at the same rate as the student who trains twice a week. You will be awarded your Black Belt in front of the class after you have given that commitment and effort – there is NO CHARGE in this club for gaining the Black Belt. The Black Belt is awarded because you, the student, deserve it and not because we want to make money out of you.

The award of Black Belt is based on at least one year’s regular training. And within that time you will have taken the exercises at the beginning warm-up period at the start of a lesson a number of times. You will have volunteered to sweep the dojo floor, opened windows, helped to get the kick bags out and set up and then put away. You would be expected to volunteer for leaflet/advertising drops and to take part in demonstrations of our skills away from the dojo. You will be expected to be able to teach a kata to another student and to have taken two whole lessons under Sensei Bill’s watchful eye. Being sarcastic, answering back, being rude, being crude, flashy or “clever” will not get you your Black Belt – in fact it won’t get you ANY kind of belt.

Your personal presentation will be watched. If you constantly slouch in the dojo, do not bow on entering and leaving the dojo and do not give respect to other students, particularly to higher graded belts; if you have to be reminded to keep your hands, feet, nails, hair and gi clean; if you frequently chat to other students during a lesson or whilst the sensei is talking to the class then you will not grade to Black Belt. But if you take a pride in yourself and appearance and encourage it in others then this will go in your favour.

You should know all of the terminology expected of you. You must know the English for a Japanese term and vice versa. You must be able to demonstrate accurately a technique – if you cannot, then how are you going to take a lesson?

When your Black Belt is finally awarded you will know that you have earned it by the effort that you have put in with yourself, your Sensei and your fellow students. You will have earned it NOT just because you learned the content of a written syllabus, paid your money and showed up for a grading. This is why we do not Dan grade. Sensei Bill has seen a number of syllabus “pay your money” Dan grades and has witnessed the abilities of some of those who have passed. Sensei Bill has even seen a 5th Dan awarded in a pub!

There is an expression in Karate – “Once you get your Black Belt you can start to learn Karate”. When you get yours you will suddenly realise that other students are looking at YOU as an example to follow. They will look to YOU as an example of correct technique, attitude, leadership, honour, zanshin, appearance, etiquette, power, control, style, speed and ability – it is quite a big commitment! You must try and live up to that belt colour that has been awarded to you and you should find that you never stop learning in your karate. To think you know it all because you are wearing a Black Belt is just plain arrogance. So how then can someone possibly measure all of this against the taking of a 2nd Dan grade? Who is to say where the 2nd Dan, or 3rd Dan (etc) line should be drawn?

After you have received your Black Belt you may however feel the need to take a 2nd dan grading. This can be arranged by me through Shi Kon Budo Kai. But be prepared for a big fee for the grading and a charge for “grading courses” leading up to the eventual Dan grading.