This post provides a summary of the Goju Ryu grading syllabus for the 3rd kyu (brown belt) based on the grading syllabus of the International Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Federation (IOGKF), a few other Goju Ryu schools, and my personal experience.
As every Goju Ryu organization has its own grading requirements and your own dojo may follow a curriculum very different from this one, the following is just for general reference purposes only so that you know what to expect at each grading. However, I believe if you can blitz through these requirements, you will be ready for whatever they throw at you.
The post covers the following requirements at the 3rd kyu level (brown belt):
Minimum training time
Generally, you will need to train for at least 7-8 months or 70 sessions since your last grading to be invited to grade to 3rd kyu (brown belt). You will have trained for at least two and half years in total.
You should know all Japanese terms for the new techniques that you learn since the previous grading, including those in your grade kata.
You will be examined on all the techniques that you have learned from the white belt level up until now.
While the number of new techniques that you have to learn as you progress through the ranks will become fewer and fewer, it doesn’t mean that it will become easier to pass your grading as you move up the ranks. You should show significant improvements in your basic techniques since your last grading.
At the 3rd kyu level (brown belt), you will need to demonstrate the following techniques from the stationary heiko dachi stance.
- Jodan tsuki (face level punch, aiming at around the jinchu area)
- Chudan tsuki (middle-level punch, from your chin to suigetsu area)
- Gedan tsuki (lower level punch between suigetsu and groin)
- Sanbon tsuki (triple punches: jodan, chudan and gedan tsuki)
- Ura tsuki (middle-level short punch)
- Furi tsuki (roundhouse punch/swinging punch)
- Age uke (rising block)
- Yoko uke (block from inside out)
- Soto uke (block from outside in)
- Gedan barai (downward sweeping block)
- Sanbon uke (triple blocks: age uke, yoko uke, and gedan barai)
- Hiki uke (pulling hand block)
- Kake uke (hook block)
- Tora guchi (tiger mouth block, also referred to as mawashi uke)
- Ura uchi (back fist strike)
- Hiji ate (elbow strike)
- Mawashi hiji ate (roundhouse elbow
- Ushiro hiji ate (back elbow strike)
- Tetsui uchi (hammer fist)
- Shuto uchi (knife hand strike)
- Teisho uchi: palm heel strike (also called shotei uchi)
- Nukite tsuki or nukite uchi (knife hand punch/spear-hand strike at jodan and chudan levels)
- Kin geri (groin kick)
- Mae geri (front kick)
- Kin geri and mae geri (double kick, same leg)
- Mawashi geri (roundhouse kick)
- Kansetsu geri (stamping kick)
- Yoko geri (side kick)
- Ushiro geri (back kick)
- Kaiten ushiro geri (spinning back kick)
- Kin geri, mae geri, mawashi geri, and ushiro geri (four kicks, same leg)
- Mae tobi geri (jumping front kick).
You will have to perform at least 30 reps for each technique and are expected to have a very good fitness level.
From the 3rd kyu onward, you are considered advanced students and are expected to show exceptionally good forms for all basic techniques. You should show hip engagement throughout and technically correct techniques with full speed, power and good kime.
You will be required to perform the following moving basics (kihon ido):
- Jodan age uke and jodan gyaku tsuki (moving backward in sanchin dachi stance)
- Chudan yoko uke and chudan gyaku tsuki (moving backward in zenkutsu dachi stance)
- Gedan barai and chudan gyaku tsuki (moving backward at a 45-degree angle into shiko dachi stance and shifting front foot to zenkutsu dachi for the chudan gyaku tsuki)
- Chudan yoko uke and chudan ura tsuki (moving backward into sanchin dachi stance)
- Joge uke and morote tsuki (moving backward into sanchin dachi to perform double block and double punch)
- Hiji ate and gyaku tsuki (moving forward into zenkutsu dachi and performing elbow strike and reverse punch)
- Hiji ate, ura uchi, gedan uke, and gyaku tsuki (moving forward at a 45-degree angle into shiko dachi stance and performing elbow strike, back fist strike, lower level block and reverse punch)
- Chudan uchi uke and haito uchi (moving backward into sanchin dachi stance and executing middle-level block to the side and ridge-hand strike using the same hand)
- Hiki uke (moving backward at a 45-degree angle into neko ashi dachi stance and executing hiki uke)
- Hiki uke and kizami kin geri (moving backward at a 45-degree angle into neko ashi dachi stance and executing hiki uke and kin geri with the leading leg)
- Hiki uke and gyaku tsuki (moving backward into a neko ashi dachi and executing hiki uke then shifting the front foot across into zenkutsu dachi and performing gyaku tsuki)
- Gedan tetsui uchi and ura uchi (moving forward at a 45-degree angle into shiko dachi stance and performing lower hammer strike and back fist strike)
- Jodan shotei uchi and shuto uchi (moving forward into sanchin dachi stance and performing palm heel strike and knife hand strike)
- Jodan mawashi hiji ate, jodan uraken uchi, chudan ura tsuki (moving forward into sanchin dachi stance and performing round elbow strike to the head level, back fist strike (with same hand), and close-range straight punch with palm facing upwards (with the other hand))
- Age tsuki, ura uchi, gedan uke, and gyaku tsuki (moving forward at a 45-degree angle into shiko dachi stance and performing rising punch or uppercut, back fist strike, lower level block and reverse punch). This combination is taken from the Seyiunchin kata
- Mae geri and chudan kizami tsuki (kicking mae geri, landing into sanchin dachi stance, and punching with the lead hand)
- Mawashi geri and gyaku tsuki (moving forward and landing into zenkutsu dachi stance)
- Mae geri, hiji-ate, ura uchi (also known as uraken), gedan barai, and gyaku tsuki (after kicking mae geri, landing into zenkutsu dachi and executing hand techniques). This sequence is taken out of the Gekisai Dai Ichi kata).
- Kansetsu geri (also known as Sokuto geri) and gyaku tsuki (kicking kansetsu geri and landing into han-zenkutsu dachi, then punching gyaku tsuki)
- Mae geri, mawashi geri, and kaiten ushiro geri (moving forward into sanchin dachi after each kick)
- Mae geri, mawashi geri, yoko geri, kaiten ushiro geri (moving forward into sanchin dachi after each kick).
Sanchin is a blackbelt kata and is considered to be the essence of Gojju Ryu. It is short and has only a few techniques but it is the most difficult kata to master. At the 3rd kyu level, you are only expected to show good form and breathing and are not subject to shime testing yet.
Below is a demonstration of this kata by Tsuneo Kinjo sensei, Hanshi 9th Dan, Goju Ryu Jundokan.
At your 3rd kyu grading, you are required to perform:
- Sandan Gi numbers 1 to 4 drill
- Two-person Gekisai Dai Ichi drill, and
- One-on-one free sparring with partners of both lower and higher ranks.
At the 3rd kyu level (brown belt), you are required to demonstrate advanced break-fall techniques for both left and right sides, including:
- Shoulder roll from a standing position
- Shoulder roll to side break-fall from a standing position
- Side break-fall from a simple throw.
As mentioned in the previous post of this series, most Goju Ryu dojos include some form of fitness test either at the end or at the beginning of the grading and it will get tougher as you move up the ranks.
As an example, at the brown belt level, you may be required to perform 60 reps of each of the following:
- air squats
- star jumps
At the 3rd kyu level, you may be asked to assist your instructors with showing beginners (white and yellow belt levels) some basic techniques and Gekisai Dai Ichi and Gekisai Dai Ni. Teaching does take away your training time on the dojo floor but can be very beneficial. Any gaps in kata or basic techniques will become apparent during teaching and you will have the opportunity to fill in those gaps and build a solid foundation.
At this level, you should also be able to conduct opening and closing ceremonies, lead warm-up exercises and run through kihon training.
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