I just posted the list of requirements on Dojo News, but the list doesn't tell you how you must do what is listed. Here are some tips to remember in order to help you pass your next kyu grading.
How you wear your hakama and kendogi, and at higher levels, your bogu, tells the grading panel a lot about your kendo. Make sure you ask a fellow teammate or another kendoka (preferably someone who is more experienced) before your grading to check whether your appearance is correct. Sometimes because of nerves or lack of experience you might tie something incorrectly. You should also be comfortable, without feeling like your uniform is too tight or too loose.
- Wear t-shirts or anything else visible under your kendogi (including necklaces)
- Wear a kendogi that shows your leg through the side vent of your hakama
- Wear your hakama so that it drags along the ground, or sags down at the back
- Wear jewellery (including wrist bands of all kinds) or a watch
- Wear a hakama and kendogi that is worn out or torn
- get a senior person to check how you look before your grading
- wear a clean uniform, with a hakama that has been pressed carefully (or at least kept folded between trainings)
- make sure the back of the kendogi is stretched flat across your back
- make sure the hakama himo have been tied properly and are flat
The single biggest impression you can make on the grading panel is the way you perform rei, sonkyo and kamae. Take time to practice the movements at home by yourself. Handle the shinai likes it is a sword and always picture your opponent clearly.
Especially practice sonkyo, at home if you have trouble doing it properly. You must be able to lower yourself down into sonkyo and stand up into kamae with a straight back all the way.
Practice sonkyo as part of your warm-up when you get to the Kenshikan, so that you can do it without wobbling in your grading.
Remember, even though you feel nervous, that the grading panel is not there to try and trick you into failing. They, and everyone else, want you to have the opportunity to show your best kendo. If you are not sure about what you are being asked to do, then you might make a mistake that affects your performance. So if you are not sure, put up your hand and ask the Dojo Steward who is giving the commands to repeat his or her instructions and also demonstrate what is required. You cannot fail your grading for asking for an explanation to be repeated.
I'll say that again...
- If you're not sure what you are supposed to do, ask! You cannot be failed for asking for instructions to be repeated.
After your grading has finished you'll probably be a little relieved and exhausted. You might want to have a bit of a rest. But make sure when the gradings for the level above yours are due to begin, that you spend some time watching them. That way you will know what to expect for next time. Also observe those whose kendo seems to be a cut above the rest and try to work out what it is that makes it better. This is called mitori-geiko, learning by careful observation.