GRADING IN THE MARTIAL ARTS
The martial arts use a system of ranking to grade students and instructors according to their mastery of skills and techniques and their contributions to the art.
Although some styles – Kyudo, for example – do not require practitioners to wear an indication of grade, most styles use the Dankyu system. In this system of coloured belts (or sashes), non-black belts are promoted through a series of coloured belts called Kyu. Beginners wear a white belt. Blue, yellow, orange, green and purple belts indicate intermediate levels, and a red or brown belt indicates an advanced rank, often the rank just before the black belt grade, which is called Dan. In some styles, the belt may be navy or black with red markings. There may be up to 12 Dan grades, indicated by different coloured belts at each level.
Judo is one of the soft Japanese martial arts, where practitioners attempt to use the force of an opponent to their own advantage. They use throwing, grappling and pressure point techniques to overpower their opponent. Because Judo involves heavy falls, practitioners practise falling techniques.
Kung Fu is one of the Chinese ‘hard’ martial arts. It is a very physical exercise system; practitioners use the muscle power of their arms and legs in punching, kicking, grappling, blocking and locking techniques. Many Kung Fu exercises are based on the movements of animals-the monkey style, for example, is based on leaping, bounding, swinging and crouching techniques.
Karate is one of the ‘hard’ martial arts. A typical Karate class includes the repetition of sequences of controlled defensive and offensive movements. Physical and mental focus, breath control, the spirit shout (a vocalization of Qi made at the moment of attack), and total concentration on the present moment are all important aspects of Karate practice.
Protective clothing is essential when practising armed martial arts such as Kendo. In some martial arts, extra protection is worn only when sparring, but in Kendo, it is worn throughout practice. In addition to the uniform, which is based on Samurai warrior dress, armour, cushioning and gloves protect exposed areas of the body. These are the areas of the body to which blows and thrusts with the sword are permitted.
This woodblock print by Utagawa Kunisada (1788-1864) depicts a Samurai warrior. The Japanese martial arts are founded on Bushido -the code of ethics handed down from the Samurai.