Black belt gradings are usually conducted at the OTGKA honbu dojo in London over the course of a weekend under the watchful eye of Sensei George Andrews, 8th Dan. It is also possible to grade at an international gasshuku. The last grading was held at the start of March 2020, a few weeks before the first lock down. On this occasion, two Cambridge Goju Ryu students, David Wilson and Nick Gibbons, passed to 1st kyu (brown belt), the final grade before black belt.
Like many clubs around the world, Cambridge Goju Ryu transitioned from the dojo to training online via Zoom. While we miss the partner work and hitting the heavy pads, the online training format has worked surprisingly well for many people. It doesn't work for everyone unfortunately as it takes a clear demand on the family home and it can be difficult, if not impossible, to find a suitable space. We were lucky that several of our students have been able to keep up with the training.
In January 2021, with no likelihood of returning to the usual black belt grading format for many month, the OTGKA held it's first online black belt grading. Two Cambridge students were invited to take their tests, Steve Morrell and David Wilson. Both students have trained directly under Sensei George many times over the years so there would be no surprises. In the build up to the grading weekend, the students attended regular classes with Sensei George in addition to the Cambridge classes and some private corrective online training. The usual format was adhered to, with mandatory training on both Saturday and Sunday, followed by the grading after the Sunday training session. It was decided that it would not be appropriate to assess the knowledge of bunkai as this loses meaning without a partner and it obviously wasn't possible to partake in pad work. Anyone that has graded under Sensei George will know however that both students were still put through their paces, black belts are not given away, online training being no exception.
It is our great pleasure to congratulate both candidates, David Wilson to Shodan (1st dan) and Steve Morrell to Sandan (3rd dan). A hopefully unique experience but no less impressive than a "normal" black belt grading.
We would like to make a special commendation to David Wilson on passing his black belt test. At age 77 he is one of older members of the IOGKF and his tenacious commitment to training is remarkable. In 2018, shortly after his 75th birthday, David suffered a heart attack and later under went major surgery. Not only did he return to training before the end of the year, he traveled to Okinawa in 2019 to train at the IOGKF 40th anniversary Gishiki. David has embraced the online training opportunities and can often be found these days at International online gasshuku or training under Bakkies Sensei in South Africa. Nana korobi yaoki.