Shotokan Karate Grading Syllabus: Brown Belt (1st Kyu)

Shotokan karate grading syllabus 1st kyu brown belt

This will be your last brown belt grading as part of the Shotokan grading syllabus. This can be a very exciting moment for some people because the next grading would be for a black belt.

You will be examined again on all basic techniques that you’ve learned so far. In addition, you will need to demonstrate a new and advanced kata, Kanku Dai and a number of new Jyu Ippon Kumite techniques.

In this post, we will look at detailed grading requirements for your 1st kyu grading which is also the last brown belt grading.

How long does it take to get your 1st kyu in Shotokan karate?

Some dojos require you to complete a certain number of hours of training to be graded for 1st kyu (e.g. 72 hours), but some dojos may require you to complete a certain number of training sessions (e.g. 50 training sessions).

Some dojos also require a minimum training time between the 2nd kyu grading and the 1st kyu grading in addition to the number of training hours.

Generally, you will need to have trained consistently for about 6 months before you are asked to go for your 1st kyu grading.

In total, you would have trained for around 3 years consistently. Some people may have gotten here in a little shorter period of time but, for most people, it would likely be a lot longer than 3 years.

As with all gradings, from the green belt level and above, there will be no provisional grade for 1st kyu. If there are any material shortcomings in your techniques or kata, you will have to attempt the grading again in the future.

Please check out some tips to help you prepare for this grading in the previous post of this series.

Shotokan 1st kyu brown belt grading requirements

There are four technique areas that you need to demonstrate for your 1st kyu grading: kihon, kata, kumite and ukemi waza.

1. Kihon

You need to know well the following stances and techniques for your 1st kyu grading.

  1. Stances:
    • Zenkutsu Dachi
    • Kokutsu Dachi
    • Kiba Dachi
    • Neko Ashi Dachi
    • Hachji Dachi
    • Heisoku Dachi
  2. Techniques:
    • Oi tsuki
    • Gyaku tsuki
    • Kizami tsuki
    • Nukite
    • Uraken
    • Age uke
    • Soto ude uke
    • Uchi ude uke
    • Yoko empi
    • Shuto uke
    • Kizami kekomi
    • Mae ren-geri
    • Mawashi geri
    • Yoko geri keage
    • Yoko geri kekomi
    • Ushiro geri.

In the grading, you will be required to perform these techniques as listed below. The examiner will count and the general rule is one count, one move.

Sanbon tsuki (three punches, Jodan, Chudan, Chudan)

  • Start in a ready stance (yoi dachi) and then change to a left zenkutsu dachi with a left gedan barai
  • Step forward into right front stance (migi zenkutsu dachi) and perform three punches: Jodan oi tsuki (migi), Chudan oi tsuki (hidari) and Chudan oi tsuki (migi)
  • Step forward into left front stance (hidari zenkutsu dachi) and perform three punches: Jodan oi tsuki (hidari), Chudan oi tsuki (migi) and Chudan oi tsuki (hidari)
  • Repeat the above as directed by the examiner.

Gyaku tsuki sanbon (reverse punch to the chest, lunge punch to the face, and reverse punch to the chest)

  • Start in ready stance (yoi dachi) and then change to a left zenkutsu dachi with a left gedan barai
  • Step forward into right front stance (migi zenkutsu dachi) and perform 3 punches: a reverse punch with your left hand (hidari gyaku tsuki) aiming at the chest, followed by a lunge punch to the face (migi jodan oi tsuki) and another reverse punch to the chest (hidari gyaku tsuki)
  • Step forward into left front stance (hidari zenkutsu dachi) and perform 3 punches again: migi gyaku tsuki aiming at the chest, hidari jodan oi tsuki aiming at the face, and migi gyaku tsuki aiming at the chest
  • Repeat the above as directed by the examiner.

Age uke (rising block), Gedan barai (lower block), Mae geri (front kick) and Gyaku tsuki (reverse punch)

  • Start in a ready stance (yoi dachi) and then change to a left zenkutsu dachi with a left gedan barai
  • Step backward into a right front stance with the body making a 45 degree angle (migi hanmi zenkutsu dachi) and perform a rising block with your right hand (migi jodan age uke), immediately followed by a lower block (gedan barai) with the same hand. Counter-attack with a front kick (hidari mae geri) and a reserve punch (hidari gyaku tsuki)
  • Step backward into left front stance (hidari hanmi zenkutsu dachi) and perform a rising block with your left hand (hidari jodan age uke), immediately followed by a lower block (gedan barai) with the same hand. Counter-attack with a front kick (migi mae geri) and a reverse punch (migi gyaku tsuki)
  • Repeat the above technique as directed by the examiner.

Note that the first move is to go backward in order to create an extra layer of safety in case your block misses the attack or is not strong enough.

The same rule applies to other combinations of block and counterattack techniques listed below.

When performing the above combination of techniques, imagine someone is coming for you with a straight punch to the face, followed by a gedan punch or a kick. You move backward and block with an age uke and a gedan barai, then immediately counter-attack with a mae geri and a gyaku tsuki.

Soto ude uke (block from outside inwards), Yoko empi (sideway elbow attack), Uraken (back fist strike) and Gyaku tsuki (reverse punch)

  • Start in a ready stance (yoi dachi) and then change to a left zenkutsu dachi with a left gedan barai
  • Step backward into a right front stance (migi hanmi zenkutsu dachi), perform an outside-inward block with your right hand (migi soto ude uke) and immediately counterattack with a migi yoko empi and migi uraken in kiba dachi stance, followed by a hidari gyaku tsuki in zenkutsu dachi stance
  • Step backward into a left front stance (hidari hanmi zenkutsu dachi), perform an outside-inward block with your left hand (hidari soto ude uke) and immediately counterattack with a hidari yoko empi and hidari uraken in kiba dachi stance, followed by a migi gyaku tsuki in zenkutsu dachi stance
  • Repeat the above technique as directed by the examiner.

When performing this combination of techniques, imagine someone is coming for you with a straight punch to the chest. You move backward and block with a soto ude uke, then immediately counterattack with yoko empi and uraken using the same hand, followed by a gyaku tsuki by the other hand.

Uchi ude uke (block from inside to outside), Kizami tsuki (leading arm punch) and Gyaku tsuki (reverse punch)

  • Start in a ready stance (yoi dachi) and then change to a left zenkutsu dachi with a left gedan barai
  • Step backward into a right front stance (migi hanmi zenkutsu dachi) and perform an inside-outward block with your right hand (migi uchi ude uke) and counter-attack immediately using the same hand with a lead-arm punch (kizami tsuki), followed by a hidari gyaku tsuki
  • Step backward into a left front stance (hidari hanmi zenkutsu dachi) and perform an inside-outward block with your left hand (hidari uchi ude uke) and counter-attack immediately using the same hand with a lead-arm punch (kizami tsuki), followed by a migi gyaku tsuki
  • Repeat the above technique as directed by the examiner.

When performing this combination of techniques, visualize that someone is coming for you with a straight punch to the chest, you move backward and block with a uchi ude uke and immediately counter-attack with a kizami tsuki with the same hand and a gyaku tsuki with the other hand.

Shuto uke (knife-hand block), kizami geri (front leg kick) and Nuki-te (spear hand strike)

  • Start in a ready stance (yoi dachi)
  • Step backward with your right leg into a back stance (kokutsu dachi) and perform a knife-hand block with your left hand (hidari shuto uke), followed by a leading leg kick (hidari kizami geri) and a migi nuki-te (spear hand strike) in zenkutsu dachi
  • Step backward with your left leg into a back stance (kokutsu dachi) and perform a knife-hand block with your right hand (migi shuto uke), followed by leading leg kick (migi kizami geri) and a hidari nuki-te (spear hand strike) in zenkutsu dachi
  • Repeat the above technique as directed by the examiner.

When performing this combination of techniques, visualize someone is coming for you with a chudan attack, you move backward and block with a shuto uke and then counter-attack with a leading leg kick (usually aiming to destroy the front knee of the opponent) and a spear-hand strike.

Spear-hand strike is only effective if you’ve conditioned your hands to some extent. If not, a simple gyaku tsuki is a better choice.

Mae geri (front kick), Mawashi geri (roundhouse kick) [nidan geri] and Gyaku tsuki (reverse punch)

  • Start in a ready stance and then change to a left zenkutsu dachi, hands in kamae position
  • Perform a front kick and a roundhouse kick with the right leg (nidan geri), landing in a right zenkutsu dachi (kamae position) then do a reverse punch with the left hand (hidari gyaku tsuki)
  • Perform a front kick and a roundhouse kick with the left leg, landing in a left zenkutsu dachi (kamae position) then do a reverse punch with the right hand (migi gyaku tsuki)
  • Repeat the above as directed by the examiner.

Yoko nidan geri (side snap kick and side thrust kick, same leg)

  • Start in a ready stance
  • Step to the right hand side into a horse riding stance (kiba dachi) and perform a side snap kick (migi yoko geki keage) and side thrust kick (migi yoko geri kekomi) with your right leg
  • Repeat the above as directed by the examiner (you are likely required to do five kicks to the right and then turn around and do another five kicks to the left).

Kizami kekomi (thrust kick with the lead leg), Ushiro geri (back kick)

  • Start in a ready stance and then change to a left zenkutsu dachi, hands in kamae position
  • Perform a kizami kekomi with the left leg then turn around and perform a back kick (ushiro geri) with the right leg, landing forward in a right zenkutsu dachi
  • Perform a kizami kekomi with the right leg then turn around and perform a back kick with the left leg, landing forward in a left zenkutsu dachi
  • Repeat the above as directed by the examiner.

Mae geri (front kick), Yoko geri kekomi (side thrust kick), Gyaku tsuki (reverse punch) then back to Gedan barai

  • Start in a ready stance and then change to a left zenkutsu dachi, left gedan barai
  • Perform a front kick with the right leg (migi mae geri), a side thrust kick with the left leg (hidari yoko geri kekomi), and a reverse punch with the right hand (migi gyaku tsuki), then return to left gedan barai
  • Repeat the above as directed by the examiner (you will be asked to repeat the techniques with the other side).

In addition, at some dojos, you may be asked to perform the following from a stationary position facing the examiners so that they can check these basic techniques closely again:

  • Mae geri
  • Mawashi geri
  • Yogo geri kekomi
  • Ushiro geri.

2. Kata

You will perform Kanku Dai kata for this grading and usually will be asked to perform a Heian kata as well.

Kanku Dai is said to be Gichin Funakoshi’s favorite kata.

Kanku means “looking to the sky” or “viewing the sky” and Dai means “major” to differentiate it from a small version of the kata called Kanku Sho.

The first move of the kata where the karateka has both hands in front and above the forehead reflects the kata’s name.

Kanku Dai is one of the longest katas in the Shotokan style and incorporates all of the basic fundamental movements of Shotokan karate and contains many movements from Heian katas and some techniques from Tekki kata.

This is a demonstration of Kanku Dai by Mimura Yuki sensei who is a multiple-time world kata champion. It also includes an analysis of important moves of the kata.
This is another great demonstration of Kanku Dai by Kazuaki Kurihara sensei who won medals at All Japan Karate Championship on 13 occasions for both kata and kumite.
This is a demonstration of Kanku Dai by Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei.

3. Kumite

For your 1st kyu grading, you are required to demonstrate the following Jyu Ippon Kumite techniques:

  • 2 Jodan
  • 2 Chudan
  • 2 Mae geri
  • 1 Yoko geri
  • 1 Mawashi geri
  • 1 Kizami tsuki
  • 1 Gyaku tsuki
  • 2 Ushiro geri.

Some dojos may require you to demonstrate specific techniques (e.g. Jodan number 1 & 3, Chudan number 1 & 2), but some dojos may allow you to choose among the techniques you have learned.

Below is an example.

Jodan

  • Jodan Number 3: Attack with Jodan oi tsuki. Defend with Age uke or Tate uke (from the outside) and counter-attack with Mawashi geri and Gyaku tsuki
  • Jodan Number 4: Attack with Jodan oi tsuki. Defend with Hirate barai and counter-attack with Teisho uchi

Chudan

  • Chudan Number 3: Attack with Chudan oi tsuki. Evade (Tai sabaki) to the outside of the opponent at the same time as the attack and counter-attack with Chudan gyaku tsuki
  • Chudan Number 4: Attack with Chudan oi tsuki. Defend with Chudan mae geri (to the opponent’s dantian when sensing the attack is coming) and Gedan barai and counter-attack with Kizami tsuki or Tate tsuki

Chudan mae geri

  • Mae geri Number 3: Attack with Chudan mae geri. Defend with Gedan juji uke and counter-attack with Jodan shuto uchi
  • Mae geri Number 4: Attack with Chudan mae geri. Defend with Gedan barai and counter-attack with Gyaku tsuki

Yoko geri kekomi

  • Yoko geri Number 2: Attack with Yoko geri kekomi. Defend with Awase seiryuto uke and counter-attack with Migi jodan tate tsuki

Mawashi geri

  • Mawashi geri Number 2. Attack with Jodan mawashi geri. Defend by stepping forward and counter-attack with Kizami gyaku tsuki, Tate shuto uke

Kizami tsuki

  • Kizami tsuki Number 2: Attack with Jodan kizami tsuki. Defend with Ashi barai, Harai uke and counter-attack with Ura tsuki

Gyaku tsuki

  • Gyaku tsuki Number 2: Attack with Chudan gyaku tsuki. Defend with Gyaku gedan barai, Mawashi geri and counter-attack with Heiko ushiro shuto uchi

Ushiro geri

  • Ushiro geri Number 1: Attack with Ushiro geri. Defend with Gyaku sukui uke and counter-attack with Kizami tate tsuki 
  • Ushiro geri Number 2: Attack with Ushiro geri. Defend with Gyaku ude uke and counter-attack with Ashi barai throw and Gyaku tsuki.

4. Sun dome test

The sun-dome test is a test of your ability to stop a strike at a spot just an inch from the target.

The examiner will hold a pencil loosely and move it around randomly.

The pencil will be your moving target and you need to attack it with Kizami tsuki and Gyaku tsuki.

Your techniques should be delivered with full power and speed but you should be able to control your techniques so that you always stop your fist at about an inch from the pencil.

The sun-dome test is introduced from the 2nd kyu grading.

From this level onward, you are considered an advanced enough student that your punches and kicks can cause a lot of damage. Therefore, it’s necessary for you to learn how to control your techniques and keep a safe distance to protect your training partners as well as avoid getting yourself into trouble.

4. Ukemi waza

Ukemi Waza are break-fall techniques.

You are required to perform Ukemi Waza Level 3 or higher. Level 3 includes the following techniques:

  • Shoulder roll from standing position
  • Shoulder roll to side breakfall
  • Side breakfall from simple throw.

You need to demonstrate both the left and right sides.

5. Other techniques

Please prepare for situations where you are asked to perform other techniques by the examiner, for example, a combination of previously learned techniques or techniques you’ve performed in previous gradings.

Basically, you can be asked to demonstrate any of the techniques in the curriculum from the white belt level up to the brown belt level.

6. Fitness test

As mentioned in the previous post, in some dojos, fitness tests are part of grading.

Gradings usually happen after a normal training session that lasts from an hour to 90 minutes. By then you will already be exhausted even before your grading begins. Therefore, you will really need to push yourself hard to stay focused and demonstrate your techniques, kata and kumite the best you can.

After all the technique and kata examination, you may be asked to do other fitness tests like 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squat kicks, 100 star jumps and pad works, etc.

The best way to prepare for your fitness test is to build up your fitness gradually over time in the lead-up to the grading.

References


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Sophia

I haven't trained in karate for long but it has given me so much and definitely has made me a better person. The more I train, the more I realize that karate is more about mastering your mind than mastering your physical form. If learning karate is like learning a language, I am still at the alphabet stage and I am sharing with you on this blog bits and pieces that I pick up a long the way. I hope you find them useful and wish you all the best with your karate journey!

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