Between starting training in karate and gaining your first black belt there are ten formal gradings, assessed by performance in front of a panel of at least one instructor. Gradings involve aspects of kihon, kata and kumite as well as the student's general attitude and character as expressed in their karate. The grading syllabus was devised by the founding sensei of Seishin KyoKai and is available to students on becoming members of the Mirai Dojo. An adult student progressing through the kyu grades will be eligible to grade roughly every 3 months, subject to satisfactory attendance and achievement of the required standard. So in theory it is possible to reach first dan black belt within two and a half years; however in reality most students feel the need to slow down and take more time to develop the skills required at the more demanding purple and brown belt stages. Three to five years is a more realistic expectation.
For under-16's, especially the youngest students, progressing from beginner to black belt in just ten steps will often be too challenging. Children's minds and bodies are still developing and they cannot be simply treated like small adults in the dojo. A system of sen grades therefore applies to children. Sen grades are intermediate steps between the kyu grades which can be used to reward and mark progress in smaller steps than would be expected of adult students, and so provide the additional encouragement children often require. In the case of older children, and those with particular ability, the instructor and grading panel can exercise judgement and accept younger students attempting the full kyu grade, depending on the individual case. However, this is the exception rather than the rule.
Students wishing to attempt gradings need permission of the instructor to do so, be in possession of a current Seishin KyoKai licence and have paid the grading fee. The instructor's decision regarding permission to grade is final, as is the decision of the grading panel.
A copy of the full Seishin KyoKai kyu (or sen) grading syllabus is given to students on becoming members of the club.
Having been awarded the rank of 1st Dan (Shodan) black belt, you will have had to train with increasing intensity, consistency and determination for several years. It's an achievement not to be underestimated and everyone who has successfully completed the process will agree what a meaningful event it is for them.
However, it is also true that gaining shodan means that the student has attained a basic level in proficiency in at least the majority of the techniques, kata and kumite drills on the syllabus - and little else! It is what happens afterwards that really counts: the new holder of a black belt will slowly realise that there is much, much more to karate than what can be written down on paper, and that the progress towards real mastery might well continue for the rest of their lives. There is, having said this, a further syllabus and grading system to mark the progress of the dan grade student, at least up to 4th or 5th Dan. But the steps are much more widely spaced than before; a student must wait a minimum of two years after their shodan grade before being eligible for Nidan (2nd dan), and three years between that and Sandan (3rd dan), etc. Most students take longer than these minimum times between gradings and many come to regard training as an end in itself and are content not to attempt the next Dan grade for significant lengths of time. So while there are many children who gain Shodan and perhaps Nidan grades, there are none to my knowledge who are Godan (5th dan)!.