Central Area Pre-Test - 24/10/2014


T-UK Central Black Belt Pre-Grading Test

  On Saturday 19th September I had the privilege to observe a Black Belt
Pre-Test at Stratford Leisure Centre, conducted by Mr John Archer 6th Degree  and Mr Martin Noddings 5th Degree. Also present were Mr Mark Scriven 4th Degree and Mrs Lynda Parnell 3rd Degree together with a selection of candidates who will be testing for their Black Belt grading on 23rd November.

 The purpose of the 2 & 1/2 hour session was twofold. Students would be tested to see how prepared they were at this stage and given invaluable feed back from Mr Archer and Mr Noddings to allow them to work on  weaknesses. In addition students would be given the chance to ask questions and discuss concerns.

 There is no assumption within T-UK that a student will automatically pass the black belt test if he or she just ‘does a hard grading’. The rules of TKD are extremely precise and the student must meet all components of the test. They may succeed with flying colours in one area but if they fail in another, they may fail the whole test. It is simple.

 Central T-UK grading tests are both physically and mentally demanding and expectations placed upon the student are overwhelmingly high. The student must perform under the most rigorous of situations. The idea of this is to test the student’s character  in as close to a ‘real life’ combat situation as possible but within a controlled manner. Anyone who has ever taken a grading test will know that this is not easy by any means!


Therefore, at the Pre-Grading Test, Mr Archer and Mr Noddings observed the students going through each component of the Black Belt grading. Typically this takes the form of the demonstration of ‘pattern’,  then moving onto technical drill work (the performance of blocks, kicks and punches),  
Ho Sin Sul (self defence techniques), followed by Fixed Sparring (designed to test the student’s application of all of the movements they have learnt up to Black belt plus reaction and counter attack), then onto ‘one to one’ Sparring and finishing with the breaking of boards with either a prescribed hand or foot technique. In addition to all of this, students must also be proficient in Korean terminology as commands during the grading are issued in Korean and not English.  

 Throughout the test levels of concentration amongst the students were extremely high. Mr Archer and Mr Noddings were looking to see that the students were achieving many aspects such as  precision of movement, timing, focus, placement of limbs to set heights and angles, breathing technique, the exertion of power, correct posture, balance, control, confidence, intention of movement and the use of ‘reaction force’.
 Also the demonstration of sine wave (the ‘up and down movement’ synonymous to TKD) had to be clear and precise at all times.

 Mr Archer and Mr Noddings brought the movements to ‘life’ by adding visualisation technique and explaining the ‘application’ of such movements, helping the students  to understand  exactly what they were doing and why.  Any student of TKD at higher level will tell you that it is an exciting martial art because it is not just about the fighting an ‘ imaginary opponent’  but incorporates so many other elements such as metronomics, physics , and also some might agree, elements of psychology particularly in sparring, whereby you learn how to play your opponent and trick him to score a point. This is what makes TKD the incredibly martial art that it is and at this level the students really begin to understand the exact depth of the art.

 Finally students was personally provided with a valuable critique of their performance giving them a clear idea of what they needed to improve upon in preparation for the real test in November.

 As an observer, a martial artist myself and also somebody who has studied at degree level, it struck me how absolutely ‘golden’ and invaluable this pre degree grading test is for these students. Anybody who cares about their studies in any topic would find such a pre exam test such as this incredibly helpful. They were placed under enough pressure to give them a ‘taste’ of things to come, but also relaxed just enough for them to absorb the teaching points and feedback given to them.

 After a good two hours of a physically demanding test the students left the session knowing exactly what they needed to work on, aware of their strengths but more importantly their weaknesses. They also took away with them invaluable visualisation and teaching points.. Having experienced that wonderful opportunity I have absolutely no doubt that these students will now spend the next few months towards making the November grading their best ever.

Henrietta Brooks 3rd Dan Tang Soo Do