Frequently Asked Questions about our grading structure for children at ZKS MA.

What are ‘Mini’ gradings?

Mini gradings are a means of testing the junior students’ progress through each part of our syllabus. Our syllabus is split into 3 chunks

  1. Basics - taught from August graded in December
  2. Throws - taught from January graded in March/April
  3. Self Defense and fitness - taught from April graded in June/July

Those three mini gradings take about an hour each and cost approximately £13 with up to 25 students attending each event. A new student’s mini grading results are then combined at our competition event, the annual MAIN grading which is in July, and will indicate if your child will be achieving yellow or orange belt at the end of the academic year. Mini gradings are held in Aylesbury and Watford over 2 weekends to ensure everyone can make them and you can opt to attend at another venue if you cannot make your local one. Students are asked to grade in groups in front of a panel and will not be expected to grade on their own. Lower belt students will be given demonstrations on what to do before they are graded. We feel it is important you know this, as many students panic that they do not remember certain drills and we want to alleviate any anxieties they are having before the event.

A mini grading taking place.ZKS MA Mini gradingOur mini grading panel.The ZKS MA Team

What is achieved at a mini grading?

At the end of their mini grading, students will be given 'tags' to iron onto their belts showing the colour of the next belt they are aiming for. The result of each grading, with comments for improvement and/or praise can be found by logging onto your child’s student page via your members account.

You can then print off the certificate for the event. If your child receives a distinction, this means they have done exceptionally well and will be given the opportunity to ‘double grade’ at the main grading in July. So instead of aiming for yellow belt, they will skip this and aim for orange.

The grading panel marking student grading cards.The Grading Panel

Does my child need to do a mini grading ?

Because our junior members (age 5 and over white belts) enrol with us all through the year, we say there is a mandatory requirement for the child to do at least ONE mini grading in the white belt stage if they want to aim for yellow belt or higher. After that, (after the main grading is attended in July) we insist on yellow belt and above attending ALL mini gradings (catch up gradings are available in June/July but with limited space).

The fact that some children (who join in September-November) will attend all mini gradings in the white belt stage is fantastic as this is what we always encourage strongly as it helps with the overall success in the main grading event in July and of course encourages a stronger martial artist! Failure to attend any mini gradings means your child will be unable qualify for the main grading. Failure to attend the main grading each year means your child will always be recognised as a white belt and may not progress through their martial arts. This could mean your child bores of their training as they will not be able to learn anything new.

Students getting ready for a mini grading in a class. White belts and beginners need to do at least one mini grading.

What if I need to reschedule a mini grading?

If you need to reschedule a mini grading then we need you to do the following. We are unable to do this for you and it is a simple process to do online.

  1. Go to our Events page and select the booking that you wish to reschdule to.
  2. Inform us by clicking on the message icon in the members area and let us know which event you wish to cancel and which event you wish to leave booked.
    If you try and book the event that you wish to attend after the booking deadline we will be unable to move you. You need to attend the orginal event that you booked and if you need to cancel please see below.

What if I need to cancel a mini grading?

If you wish to cancel your booking completely and it falls before the booking end date, we can cancel your booking and issue a refund if you have already paid. To inform us that you wish to cancel it is best to go online to our members area and use the SmallShout messaging function and inform us of the event.
If you cancel after the booking end date or simply not attend the event and do not inform us then we will not be able to issue a refund.

When are the gradings?

You should have received a document when you enrolled online called ‘Save The Date’ – this lists all future grading dates running in December, March, June and July (not catch up events, they are announced in May) but if you have not received this document please email admin@zksma.co.uk to get a copy emailed to you or check your Smallshout message bank. Or alterntively click here.

What is a main grading?

The main grading is a competition event we hold just once per year where each child will compete against their peers in order to grade up to the next belt. However, if they grade well, and win a competition medal on the day, they have the chance of double grading up to Orange belt. Our main grading events is our biggest event, run just once per year and failure to attend this event will mean white belt students will be unable to move up through the belts.

The main grading is the final part of what they have already achieved in their mini gradings through the year which is why they cannot enter for the main grading without first having attended a mini grading. It's a 3-4 hour long event attended by between 50-90 children roughly the same age, and the kids love it, as they get to compete in 2 events (sparring and grappling) for gold, silver, bronze and runner-up medals. There is an awards ceremony and fantastic demonstrations from our Leadership team to inspire them in how great they can become with hard work. The event ends with an awards ceremony where students will collect their belts, certificates, plaques and any medals won that day.

For some children, the thought of competing at a main grading can feel like too much. If this is the case, you can opt for them to attend the main grading to collect the belt and commemorative plaque without the child having to compete on the day. Doing this will secure the next belt, but the student will not qualify for any double grade. You will pay the same price for doing this, but instead of attending for the whole event, you and your child will be invited to the awards ceremony at the end of the event to collect the belt and some other goodies. We do this as it is important that your child feels a sense of occasion when they collect their belt. They may not be ready to compete, but we want them to know they have put in the hard work through the year by training each week and attending their mini gradings so they are still entitled to that belt. .

It's a really great test of charater.Learning to work under pressure is an important life skill.Learning about winning and losing.

What is the belt order and how long does it take to gain black belt status?

All students start at white belt and progress through yellow, orange, red, green, blue, purple, purple tag, brown, brown tag then black belt.

Senseis argue the longer the journey, the better the martial artist and that the focus should be on the journey and not on the enticing 'black belt' status. However, rough estimates could indicate roughly 7 years from white to black with hard work and commitment, but this is not guaranteed. A shorter journey to black belt can only be achieved with hard work and we see this consistently from our students who are attending 2 or more classes per week.

My child (white belt) has done a mini grading already - does he/she have to do more than one or can we 'skip it'?

At each mini grading event the children are graded as a pass, merit or distinction. Those who gain a distinction at a mini grading will also be offered the option of double grading at the main grading in July (for current white belts this would mean skipping yellow belt up to orange belt). So, very simply, the more they do the better chance they have to double grade and be more prepared at our annual main grading. As mentioned above, we would strongly recommend any white belt student attends all their mini gradings, but of course if someone joins in April then they will only have one chance to grade in June before they qualify for the main grading in July.

We will not chase students if they do not attend mini or main gradings as gradings are not compulsory. .