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Reflections of the Kendo Kyu Grading

Written by Warren HO (RKC Dojo Head Instructor) on 22 June 2024

RKC Kendo Kyu Grading

The RKC Dojo held a successful Kendo kyu grading on 22 June 2024, with all 28 candidates passing their respective grade! This was a combination of members from Mushin, Shihoko and RKC Dojo.

Impressively, 9 of the 28 candidates were under the age of 14 (the Kendo Kids) with the youngest being 9. Their grading was done just as intensively as the "older" members, but during an earlier timeslot so that they could leave the grading event earlier. 2 Kendo Kids were graded to 1st Kyu (Ikkyu), with the intention of obtaining their 1st dan (shodan) by the time they turn 13, the earliest time that they would be allowed to grade to shodan.

There were also another 3 Ikkyu candidates in the older group, making a total of 5 RKC dojo members eligible for their dan gradings at the SAKF dan grading at the end of the year, or any other International Kendo Federation (FIK) grading after 3 months as an ikkyu! A wonderful achievement both for the members and our dojo!

The Kyu gradings are the foundation blocks for a successful kendoka, whether they want to do well in a future shinsa (gradings), become a stronger shiai-sha (competitor), or just do well in gikeiko (sparring).

As a panel member at today's examination jury, here are 5 tips I would suggest for all future Kyu and Dan Grade candidates. These might even be applicable to some Dan grades who are still trying to figure out their kendo:

  1. Feel nervous during the grading. This will keep you alert and sharp . The trick is to manage this nervousness and make it a positive motivator, rather than a negative one. The kyu gradings are preliminary rounds for the Dan gradings. Start learning how to manage your nervousness now so when it comes to the big ones, you'll have some experience on how to manage it.

  2. Sutemi - Give 100% effort in your exam. Don't hold back. Show you best kendo! When in doubt, just shout more ("more ki-ai!")!

  3. Your behaviour and appearance before and after the exam is just as important. Before the exam starts, be aware of your behaviour and how you are being perceived by the people around you - are you being rowdy, loud or disruptive? Does it appear you are taking the exam seriously? After the exam, how are you handling the disappointment or joy? Are you being modest and humble in success? Are you displaying dignity and a willingness to learn more when less successful?

  4. Awareness of your partner - When doing your grading with a partner, treat them as the living, thinking and dynamic human being that they are. Don't just mechanically go through the motions. Be aware of not only of what you are doing, but also to what your partner is doing. Create a rapport and use it accordingly.

  5. Full disclosure. If there are any medical issues that you think could hamper your performance, inform the jury of this this via court staff before the grading starts!

Kyu gradings are stepping stones to the shodan grading and beyond, but the preparation work must still take place beforehand in the dojo. Here are 5 more tips that pertain to that preparation:

  1. Pay attention to the detail. Kyu grades candidates are "spoon-fed" the requirements for a particular grade. Study these requirements in detail and rehearse them to a point that it requires minimal effort to execute. Astute students will realise that "the devil is in the detail". There will be some detail that a student will be exposed to, but may not be ready to be able to fully understand it or utilise it yet. However, having this information will come in handy when you are ready.

  2. Understand the concept of "yukodatotsu" as early as possible, and start practising it. Know what constitutes a "valid strike", namely: 1) Hit the correct target, 2) with the correct part of the shinai, 3) whist maintaining the correct posture, 4) using ki-ken-tai-i-ichi, 5) and displaying sufficient zanshin thereafter (note: there are more criteria for yukodatotsu, but I'll limit it to these 5 for now).

  3. Practise. This is the ONLY way. The physical practise of kendo is mandatory, if you want to succeed in it. There are no short-cuts No secret techniques. No mind-blowing "sensei says" advise. There is only practise. Long, boring, redundant practise. This take commitment, courage and grit. This is the ONLY way.

  4. The dojo is a place for practise. Not only Kendo practise, but also where you can practise being the best version of yourself - Confident. Focused. In control. Passionate. Relaxed. Engaging. etc.... Obviously within context of the dojo setting. You must still respect the space, the people, and the traditions that the dojo represent.

  5. Gratitude. I think this one is often missed by many. The sensei and sempai give 100% of their knowledge and effort to all those who come to the dojo to train sincerely. At the same time, the sensei and sempai should also give gratitude to those who come and train with them. It is this mutual understanding and gratitude towards each other that creates this harmonious and symbiotic relationship.

Until the next grading, let's keep training hard together!


The Ryū Ken Chi (RKC) Dojo train the traditional Japanese martial arts of Kendo and Iaido (sword-based martial arts), as well as Jodo (the art of the short staff), that encourages the cultivation of the human character.

Kendo Kid is also available for children aged 6-13 years old.

RKC DOJO has 2 training venues within Johannesburg - RIVONIA and OBSERVATORY.

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