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MAGNIFICENT SEVEN AT RECORD BREAKING GRADING
19 July 2021 10:22 pm
Bristol Karate Academy students put in top-class performances in Somerset this weekend as seven out of seven grading candidates passed their dan grade exam – a record number for the Academy in one day.
With the COVID pandemic as a backdrop – meaning almost 500 days of interrupted karate training – this was a grading that only the truly dedicated would be ready for. Each dan grading candidate trained hard throughout the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 and they certainly showed they had the motivation.
Taking place in the beautiful new dojo of Wellington-based Somerset Ryū Karate, the event was to be the first ever dan grading under the Japan Karate Shoto Federation that Academy members took part in, having joined JKS England on New Year’s Day.
While the situation and syllabus were different to past gradings, the aim was the same as ever for our candidates – go out there and show the examiner what they’re capable of. The pass rate for black belt gradings can be around 60-65%, so candidates have to be on top form to reach their milestone achievement. And this group absolutely were.
Leading the pack was Steven Connell Sensei, who took the first opportunity he could to transfer his existing sandan (3rd Dan black belt) to a JKS sandan with a crossover grading, held under the Head of JKS England, Alan Campbell Sensei, 7th Dan JKS.
After this it was up to the rest of the Academy stable to prove their worth, which they certainly did. We were very proud to see Quaid Bennett, Eddy Bolden, Jason Hanlon, Sam Mclaren and Dayne Troskie all pass their black belt (shodan) at the first time of asking.
Last up were the remaining students going for higher dan grades, including long-standing Academy member, Ian Connell. Ian has been training consistently for over 17 years, first starting with his children and wife back in 2004. It’s been over 5 years since Ian graded to 2nd Dan and in that time he’s trained over 900 times, such is his dedication, including at all four Bristol Karate Academy dojos. He’s also trained up and down the country on courses, including with the likes of Kagawa Shihan, 9th Dan JKS.
On joining JKS England, Ian’s grading requirements changed, meaning that he had multiple new katas to learn in order to attempt his 3rd Dan exam. He approached this challenge with zeal and determination, taking every opportunity to train with JKS Japan on the near-weekly Zoom classes since joining.
Ian has a self deprecating sense of humour and so often puts other people first. But on Sunday it was him that took centre stage, with his hard work culminating in the award of 3rd Dan.
We’re delighted for each and every Academy member that passed their grading yesterday and look forward to continuing to work with you all on your karate journeys over the coming weeks, months and years.
The journey to black belt
The journey to grading day is unique for everyone and all of our candidates have their own stories to tell. Black belt is the first major milestone in most karatekas career. Here’s a look back at where our five new black belts got started.
started karate for the first time at the Academy’s Nailsea dojo on 8th October 2014. From an early age he showed potential, picking up silver at the Bill Winfield Memorial tournament in December 2015. Quaid’s progression through lockdown has been excellent, training alongside his brother at home whenever he could. By the time he returned to the dojo when lockdown restrictions began to ease, Quaid was left to put the finishing touches to his karate ahead of grading day. They proved enough to get him across the finish line and a coveted black belt around his waist.
joined Bristol Karate Academy early in the summer of 2015, starting with Friday night classes in Backwell. Having taken his 1st kyu on 15th March 2020, the COVID pandemic meant that a day later karate classes were no longer allowed to take place face-to-face. This has meant that a lot of Eddy’s preparation for black belt has taken place online. He developed his technique at home and honed it at the dojo. To grade as soon as restrictions eased has been a remarkable achievement.
took his first step into our Nailsea dojo on 19th November 2014 and it didn’t take him long to up his training, having stepped up his training with an extra session a week from January. By his own admission, Jason finds karate challenging and he put in endless hours of extra practice into making sure he was ready for grading day. With lower back pain in the week before the grading it was touch-and-go as to whether he’d be able to step up to the line on Sunday. But he made it and his reward is his brand new black belt - and a broken toe.
started with us in January 2014 and has been training relentlessly since then in the hunt for black belt. When the pandemic hit, Sam had already been building towards his black belt grading, having started to complete his Academy Black Belt Guide in 2019, so by the time grading day came, Sam was able to demonstrate that he was more than ready, giving a comprehensive performance on the day.
’s first ever class was in October 2012, having been part of the first ever Warriors class at 5 years of age. Nine years on and certainly considerably taller, Dayne has grown in confidence and skill, achieving black belt, just like his father, who also trains at the Academy. Dayne now flies the flag for the next group of Warriors at the Academy, showing them what’s possible if you put in the hard work.