Monday, 20 March 2017

JKA Syllabus Update (Part II - Commentary)

 The JKA (Japan Karate Association) has just officially updated its grading requirements. This syllabus will be implemented from April 1st of next month (2017). You can click here to access my translation: Before I begin, I’d like to say that I really like the changes: especially in regards to kihon, and hence this 'commentary' post. OK, So lets have a brief look into the update…


Kihon will now be tested up to and including the Nanadan/7th Dan examination. For the Rokudan and Nanadan tests, like several years back, the kihon will be randomly requested on the day by the head examiner.

From Nidan to Godan the techniques required will be pretty much the same; that being said,  the omission of kizami-zuki followed by sanbon renzuki stands out. Instead, the more classical sanbon ren-zuki is demonstrated. One exception to this—is the sandan exam—which has the examinee demonstrate ‘kizami-zuki kara jodan jun-zuki soshite chudan gyaku-zuki’. Great to see a punching attack which is practical and reflecting of sanbon ren-zuki.

Nidan to Godan all have the following three pre-existing renzokuwaza, which I believe really stresses their value for technical development and in the context of assessment: (1) Jodan age-uke kara chudan soto-uke soshite chudan gyaku-zuki (blocking twice with the same wrist); (2) Chudan uchi-uke kara kizami-zuki soshite chudan gyaku-zuki (switching from kokutsu-dachi to zenkutsu-dachi); and (3) Shuto chudan-uke kara kizami mae-geri soshite nukite.

The historically long featured combination of ‘ippo sagatte jodan age-uke kara mawashi-geri, yoko uraken soshite chudan jun-zuki’ will now be tested at both Nidan and Sandan level. This has replaced the previous Nidan combination, which utilized ippo-sagatte gedan-barai followed by two chudan jun-zuki attacks.

Another technique no longer being tested is gyaku-zuki (idomokuhyo); however, the classic JKA 'kicking mae-geri keage to the front, yoko-geri kekomi to the side and ushiro-geri kekomi to the rear—balancing on one leg' remains for the Yondan and Godan examinations.

Lastly, an interesting point is that the ‘Mae-geri keage kara jun-zuki’ combination previously tested at Nidan shinsa is now featured at Yondan; furthermore, gyaku-zuki is added to this renwaza for Godan examinees.

In sum, there are indeed less techniques; however, there are more exams featuring kihon: this is great!!  It seems to me that this is elucidating "...what techniques are deemed the most important and beneficial to lift everyone's technical levels"; furthermore, there seems to be an emphasis on stronger, more robust, combinations. In many ways, this is “...drawing a line in the sand between budo karate, and karate that lacks true ‘kime’”.


There are some pretty interesting changes insofar as kata is concerned. I will outline the main two. The first is the fact that those taking the ikkyu/1st kyu examination can once again select from any of the four sentei-gata: Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Enpi or Jion. The last syllabus (implemented in 2014) required either Bassai Dai or Kanku Dai (disallowing the selection of Enpi and Jion).

The next and even more positive standout is that from now "...Tekki Nidan and Tekki Sandan are required for those taking the Yondan and Godan examinations". For Yondan, the grading panel will randomly call a kata from Heian Shodan to Tekki Nidan; and for Godan, Tekki Sandan will be added to this list. This change is again reflective of a focus on budo karate and, again, is reminiscent of Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei’s era.


The most obvious change is the removal of Kihon Ippon Kumite (Kiri kaeshi) and a return to standard Kihon Ippon Kumite and Jiyu Ippon Kumite for the Sankyu/3rd Kyu and Nikyu/2nd Kyu examinations. In the case of mawashi-geri, in jiyu ippon kumite, it is now optional to kick either jodan or chudan (the last syllabus made chudan compulsory). It is also worth mentioning that for those—over 60—jiyu kumite can be exchanged with Jiyu Ippon kumite. While this is not new, the updated syllabus document strongly points this out as its conclusive remarks.

Taken as a whole, the updated JKA grading syllabus is an excellent overhaul. While the syllabus was already excellent, the latest changes have lifted the bar further by further simplification and even greater emphasis on kihon at the higher echelons. Osu, André

 © André Bertel. Oita-City, Japan (2017).

No comments: