Monday, August 02, 2010

What I look for in gradings

Over the weekend our organization had its winter gradings.   I sat on two grading panels observing and assessing students testing for jiu-jitsu and judo student grades ranging from 12th kyu to 1st kyu.

Formal testing is only part of the assessment.  Other elements include: class hours, seminar attendance, points scored in judo competition, and their sensei's recommendation.

The formal testing itself includes a physical component (demonstration of techniques and self-defence) and an oral component (knowledge and terminology).  Attitude is also assessed.

Assessment is subjective -- which is one of the reasons we typically have three black belts per panel -- but here are some of the things that I look for in grading a physical technique (easily adapted to an oral explanation):
  1. Identification: Was the requested technique demonstrated?
  2. Completeness: Were all the technical elements present?
  3. Correctness: Were there any technical defects?
  4. Control: Was the technique executed safely, or was the partner hurt or at risk of being harmed?
  5. Effectiveness: How well did it work?
  6. Efficiency: Was excessive effort or superfluous movement used?
  7. Improvisation: If the student encountered problems, how well was (s)he able to recover?
  8. Depth: Was non-basic knowledge shown: e.g. variation(s), unusual detail?
  9. Grace: Overall flow, fluidity and grace
* * *

One of the things that I have been able to do at my club has been to prepare students for their first grading with a mock grading.  This familiarises them with the format, and allows me to pick up on glaring defects just-in-time.  Also: When several students have the same issue it points to a common source: their teacher!

Now that the class is growing, I think that next grading season I'll try something that helped me in my early years of learning jiu-jitsu and judo: an in-house mock grading session with the students getting a chance to sit on the panel and assess, as well as to be tested.  It should be good.