Sarah, far left, and Donna, next to her, bow in with the four other candidates for First Dan.
Into the first stance of the grading, Hidari Gemai, and the nerves are jangling.
Stepping through and preparing for blocks, sotouke…
The lunging punch, junzuke no tsukkomi.
Stepping through in preparation for the open-handed block, shutouke, and the mahanmi-no-nekoashi-dachi stance, which is nearly as difficult to do as it is to say.
The snap-punch, tobikomizuki.
The candidates are slightly more relaxed, but starting to tire now. Individual and combination kicks are shown, here mawashigeri.
The one everyone hates, ushirogeri.
The basic line skills have been covered. On to Pinan kata, starting with Pinan Nidan.
Pinan Godan - the airborne section…
…and that’s the Pinan kata completed.
They don’t get a rest, though. On to their first advanced kata, which for Sarah and Donna is the 72-step Kushanku.
Their second advanced kata is the slightly more gentle Seishan. Now they do get a break, while the higher grades go through their paces.
All grades are back on the mat in pairs, for their ippon demonstrations. Fortunately for the camera, Sarah and Donna are nearest it!
Sarah evades Donna’s head punch.
Roles reversed, Donna evades Sarah’s and counters…
… with a well-executed takedown.
Donna counters another with a mawashigeri.
Sarah deals with Donna’s maigeri…
…and again, they swap roles.
Sarah steps inside Donna’s mawashigeri and counters with a taisho palm-heel.
The last action of the day is sparring, with the emphasis on control. The candidates must show that they are safe to be allowed on the mat to fight.
Sarah and Donna start off against each other.
Sarah throws some rangy kicks, and Donna counters strongly.
They change opponents. Donna is up against one of the association’s best fighters, Sophie from Yeovil, while Sarah takes on Adam, from Colchester.
Picking her opponents very poorly, Donna then squares up against Tad, from Broadwell, some 35 years her junior, and who has just put in an exemplary 2nd Dan grading. Sarah, meanwhile, spars with Nadia, from Yeovil.
Is Donna intimidated? Hell, no!! As always, she gives it everything she’s got, and so does Sarah. They’ve both given their absolute all. Now the wait to see who has passed.
The first name called out is Sarah. She’s passed! She shakes the hand of WKU Chief Instructor Alan Flook…
… and is handed the coveted black belt.
We don’t have to wait long. Donna is called up next. She’s passed too!! She shakes Alan’s hand…
…and proudly receives the black belt she’s worked so long and so hard for.
Those things lying on the floor on the left are kyu-grade belts. They’re not needed any more. Clevedon’s two newest Shodans show off their hard-won trophies. Congratulations to both of them. Very, very well deserved.