Karate Elective Black Belt Grading Syllabus

We have a philosophy of being able to shape and focus your own martial arts journey, especially beyond black belt. In addition to the passing of the regular black belt grading and two additional kata, dan grades will have to complete elective modules in a specialist field of study.

IE attempting 1st dan – 1 module

Attempting 2nd dan – 1 module

Attempting 3rd dan – 2 modules

Grades 4th dan and above will be assessed on a case by case basis of two main criteria – continued learning and growth as a martial artist and contribution to the club and/or martial arts.

These modules will be assessed before attempting the grading at separate events. 

Choosing your electives

Students must submit their elective choices at least 6 months before they intend to grade but realistically those attempting second and third dan should submit choices much earlier. Choices need to be authorised and approved by grading assessors.

Advance ground fighting

This module adds to the ground fighting from the brown belt syllabus, teaching you to not just look to escape but to either advance to a better position for ground and pound or a submission. This will include controlled transitions, control in holding positions, learning choke defences and applying chokes, joint submissions, wrist manipulation and locks, ground and pound. As well as all these techniques you will need to develop an intuitive feeling for ground fighting, being able to decide when is it best to continue to ground fight or get back to your feet as well as implementing other key ground fighting principles like scrambling, distancing etc.

This will be taught as a 12-16 week course of once-a-week classes. This course will culminate in an assessment in order to complete the module. These courses will run periodically some students may need to do the course several times to gain proficiency and naturally, students are encouraged to practise these skills in their regular classes. 

Advanced grappling, throws, takedowns and sweeps

Advancing on the basic throws leant in the brown belt syllabus, you will learn more about closing to clinch or throw, clinching and dirty boxing, setting up an opponent, intuitively feeling your opponent’s off-balance points/angles and being able to make quick decisions to exploit them, avoidance and counter throws, as well as adding several more throws and takedowns to your arsenal. This will be taught as a 6-8 week course. This course will culminate in an assessment in order to complete the module.

10 person randori kumite

Fighting fresh non-senior instructor brown or black belts, each bout will finish when an opponent is overwhelmed, if the challenger is overwhelmed the bout will restart. This means a single opponent may overwhelm the challenger several times in one bout but the challenger only needs to overwhelm their opponents once to end a bout. If the challenger is overwhelmed more than 5 times over the course of all 10 bouts they will fail.


Deal with 6 self-defence situations. This will be a surprise assessment in any class they attend at any date. The point of this test is that there will be no announcing of what the situations will be. They will also include a roleplay set-up or scenario to give more context. This may also mean students may be presented with moral dilemmas, surprise attacks and situations that may or may not escalate depending on their actions and ability to negotiate.

The assessor will also tailor situations to include those likely to be encountered by the student based on their age and sex, for example; parents may have to protect children or a partner. Students should also expect to have to deal with different environments such as confined spaces or furnished rooms.

Students are expected to exercise control and simulate biting gouging attacks etc as you would do in randori sparring.


Tameshiwari – Breaking various boards and tiles with prescribed techniques

Any punch                                             Speed break single board

Right-hand reverse punch                      Two boards

Left-hand reverse punch                        Two boards

Shuto                                                    Three boards (two for ladies and those under 16)

Any hand/arm technique                       Four boards (three for ladies and those under 16)

Any hand technique                              12 terracotta tiles (10 for ladies and those under 16)

Round kick                                            Single board

Side kick                                              Two boards

In order to achieve all these breaks, students should condition their hands and have practiced breaking in order to be 100% confident of success and not injuring themselves.

Traditional karate study

Answer questions about 3 classic karate books – Bubishi By Patrick McCarthy, 20 guiding principles of Karate by Gichin Funakoshi, and Advanced Karate-do by Elmar T Schmeeisser. This would be an oral test as some answers will require demonstration. Some questions will be on comprehension-based others will be more open about what the student has personally learnt and taken away from them.

Non-traditional study

Answer questions about 3 martial arts books. While the traditional study books will be prescribed, for non-traditional study students can choose their own books.

We recommend a few books here from very different genres to give you a starting pointing. They include practical martial arts guides to oriental strategic and philosophical works.

  • Tao of jeet kun do, Bruce Lee
  • The art of war, Sun Tzu, translated by Thomas Cleary
  • The book of five rings, Myamoto Musashi, translated by William Scott Wilson
  • Meditations on violence, Rory Miller
  • Complete krav maga, Darren Levine, John Whitman

A student should choose the books they review very carefully. Think about what you want to learn from them. The titles of these books must be submitted to grading assessors when the student elects to study this module. We highly recommend three books on similar or supporting subjects rather than an eclectic mix. Students can repeat this module for later grades, but only if given the option to by grading assessors.

Tournament exponent

This can be earned through dedicated participation in both internal and external tournaments, or contribution to competition either through coaching or officiating. Students wishing to complete this module will need to put together a proposal of what they intend to achieve.

Kyu grade Bunkai

To be able to demonstrate and explain the bunkai and oyo (tactical principles) for every sequence in saifa, shisochin, seiunchin, san-seru and tensho. Where appropriate students should also include alternative bunkai, comment on the realismoyo and effectiveness of the bunkai, explain the principles of movement and alternative application of principles in other techniques or strategies. This will be tested by answering questions about and demonstrating random bunkai against a semi-compliant partner.

Goju based kata and bunkai and proficiency

Demonstrate 5 Goju based kata from our syllabus and demonstrate 5 practical (tactical) principles (oyo) learnt from the study of Goju. A student will need to reference sequences in katas that illustrate the principle and also demonstrate it in a practical and non-theatrical manner for kumite or self-defence. NOTE oyo is distinctively different to bunkai.

New Kata

Only open to those attempting 3rd dan. Learn a kata outside of our syllabus, perform the kata and a demonstration of its bunkai and oyo. Display an in-depth understanding of the kata.

Self-developed/chosen specialist subject

A student can choose or develop their own module material. This would be needed to be proposed to the grading assessors, for their consideration. They need to outline what they expect to learn or gain from undertaking this module and they must suggest how the assessor mark or measure their success. The assessors may stipulate changes or make suggestions to the proposal and they will most likely have advice and insights to help you on your way.

A self-developed module gives students the opportunity to take on very personal projects in their physical, mental and emotional development. Please note that the goal or measure of success must be in some way tied to their karate journey, e.g. a student cannot just set a goal of losing 10 kilos, they must also evidence the impact of this improvement from a karate perspective. So they would need to list how the weight is holding them back and then on completion demonstrate how their karate has changed and improved as a result.