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A karate belt in Japanese is called an 'Obi'.

In karate your rank and experience is shown by the colour of the belt that you wear. The colours start from white belt and go all the way up to black belt. After black belt you get Dan's, which are ranks/stages of black belt. These are usually represented by gold bands on a persons black belt.

To gain & achieve the different coloured belts, you must attempt a grading (exam day). There are 4 grading days per year.... March, June, September and December.

You will get a free white belt in with your membership package when you join ZOKU.

When you grade, you will be given your new belt free of charge... IF you pass the exam.


There is a certain way that a karate belt must always be tied.


Once tied:

1) A belt must go around the body 2 times

2) Must not be crossed over at the back

3) The two ends hanging must be the same length

4) You must never wash your belt (it will shrink)

5) Must be securely tied with the knot

Belt Tying Tutorial Below
















For those of you who have not realised yet, adults and juniors have a different amount of belts to achieve. 

This colour/grading scheme was created specifically for Zoku Shotokan Karate, by the Chief Instructors, as is the grading syllabus used for our coloured gradings.

























































































The word in Japanese for the jacket and trousers worn in karate is called a 'Gi'.

You will get a karate suit with your membership package when you join ZOKU. Obviously at some point you will want to buy a new one, due to it getting old or you growing out of it.


Students in our association dress in the original white cotton/poly-cotton jacket and trousers, combination.

When a student achieves their black belt, they will swap their white trousers for black ones instead.

You can get many different weights of gi's

  • Difference in Uniforms:
    Light weight beginner gi's are great because they are not that expensive to buy and can be replaced quite quickly. They are easy to wash and iron but need to be cleaned frequently. Light weight gi's don't last very long but are perfect weight for the summer or beginner.

  • Heavy Weight gi's are recommended for all higher grades. They give your karate that extra notch in performance. They are a little more expensive to buy but they will normally last you years. They do shrink, so a cool wash is recommended and the steam iron is essential, as ironing it can be a nightmare.






  • Next Grading: Sunday 9th June 2024

If you are late for your exam, you will NOT be allowed to grade. All examiners have a schedule/timetable to follow for each grade group. All students are asked to arrive at the grading hall with plenty of time to spare. Please check your grading form as to what time your grading should start. No refunds Given.

Any negative or disrespectful behaviour will NOT be tolerated in the grading hall. Students using bad language or inappropriate behaviour will be asked to leave and will not be graded. The examiners results and comments are final and instructors will not accept verbal abuse or anger towards them by students or parents. 



What is a Grading?

Gradings refer to karate students taking exams or tests to achieve their next belt/Grade. Gradings occur every 3 months, where all ZOKU's clubs gather together for a big examination day. There is a syllabus that all students follow within their normal lessons. The students will be asked to perform these criteria at a high standard during their grading.



Do I have to grade?

Students who do not grade don't tend to have something to aim for, or the sense of achievement that the others get. We feel it is very important for children to grade, to stop any boredom and to expand their confidence. Although grading is not essential and a student can train without ever doing an exam, we do know that students who opt out, don't tend to continue for very long.

Students don't grade every time and sometimes an instructor will ask a student should wait 6 or even 9 months before their next grading exam, giving them time to get to the correct standard and ability needed.

The higher grade you are, the more chance of you having to wait a little longer between gradings.

When & where are the gradings?

Gradings are held 4 times per year (every 3 months) but you won't be attending every one. Gradings are held March, June, September and December. Gradings are held in our chosen grading venue and it will be a formal event. Parents are not allowed into the exam room. Students are graded in front of a panel of 2/3 examiners. Each grade will be allocated a time for the start of their grading. Although we try our best to get keep these gradings on schedule, we can not promise it will be dead on this time. All students are asked to arrive approx. 15 mins before the start time and to do their own warmup.


What happens at a grading?
On the grading day the first grade group will be given a warmup session. All other groups are asked to arrive early to do their own warm-up. After this warm-up, students will be taken in small groups to their examination area, where normally 2 or 3 examiners are waiting. Depending on your grade, you will be tested on kata, basics, set work & Other tests. As a higher grade you will be tested on your fighting, self defence, history oral, terminology written terminology test, bones and muscles tests. All the things you are tested on are taught to you in your classes at your club prior to the grading day, so there should be no worries. The first few gradings are always the easiest but as you get higher, the gradings are harder and longer. 


Am I going to Grade?

Students should not assume they are going to grade every time. People learn at different paces and usually get there in their own time. It's up to the chief instructors whether you are ready to grade or not, and if you are, you will receive a grading form. The grading form can be recalled by the instructors, at any point, if the students karate/behaviour declines leading up to the grading. A grading form will need to be filled out, paid for and accompanied with your licence by a certain date. Once everything is handed in, we do have the right to return any grading form/money back to the student, if their karate declines and doesn't meet the standard, leading up to the grading (this however doesn't happen very often). Grading is not a race and you shouldn't want to grade just to keep up with your friends. Many people miss the occasional grading due to other commitments, holidays, exams etc, so don't worry!!! YOU WILL NOT GRADE EVERY TIME!!


Will I pass my grading?
The instructors will only put a student in for the grading if the student has shown that they are capable and are at the correct standard to be able to pass the exam. All students are looked at and assessed during their weekly lessons, over a 3 to 6 month period. The association is not  a 'money making' scheme and will not just hand everyone a grading form and not care about if students are ready or not. We do not like to see students fail and we certainly don't give the belts away like sweets. The standard and quality of karate is very important to us, so giving everyone a black belt and not caring about whether they are good enough, is certainly not what we do!.
We try our best to make sure students are ready and only put in students for the exams when they have shown they are capable. However, it is down to the student on the exam day to perform well. If they do not perform well, make many mistakes and do not show what they are capable of, then there is a high chance that they will fail. Like any exam, the examiners have to judge a student on what the student performs and shows on the exam day.
There may be the odd lower grade (in the first few grades) that end up not performing very well on the day, due to nerves, brought on by a new situation. We may agree to give them their new belt, but give them restrictions that they will not be eligible to grade again until their performance improves. We DO NOT do this for higher grades and certainly not for brown or above. Brown belt and above are very important awards to give/achieve, so performance is expected to be at a very high standard. We do not like failing people, but as examiners, this has to be done if the student is not good enough to receive the grade.


Will I get my KYU grading form?


Do not presume you are going to grade every time, as the chief instructors have to consider many things. Please do not ask for your grading form. Instructors will invite you to grade, if they feel you are ready by presenting you with a form. Things that are considered...


1) If students are concentrating, behaving and giving 100% effort in their karate classes


2) If students have attended enough lessons for their grade (Higher grades training regularly twice per week)


3) That lessons have been spread out evenly and not rushed and crammed in at the last minute. Students need proper time and consistency to learn properly, not cramming.


4) Correct attitude to instructors, higher grades and other students before/during/after lessons.


5) Most importantly, to be at the correct STANDARD/ABILITY TO PASS the grading.


6) If you receive a grading form, the standard for this grade, must not decline.




Minimum Number of Lessons required.

Beginners and lower grade students are only expected to train once per week. Mid grade karateka will need to attend an extra lesson approx. every fortnight. Brown belts and above are expected to train twice per week. As you get to mid grades and above, the amount of karate and knowledge you are expected to know, retain and perform at a high level is quite large. The only way you will be successful in remembering it all and performing to an expected standard, is to train more. The amount of training lessons  needed for grading for coloured belts (below) reflect this.


Current Grade        Juniors      Adults
White                         10                 10
Blue                            10                 10
Red / Orange             12                 12
Yellows / Greens       14                 14
All Purples                 14                 16
Brown belts            Twice           Twice 





Try not to aim for your minimum amount of lessons required, aim further and try to train as much as you can. This will make your gradings easier for yourself.



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