18 January 2023
Judo grading systems aim to reward and acknowledge achievement and the attainment of knowledge in specific areas of training. Many of these areas relate to movement, ability to fall safely etc but some relate to social skills and how students demonstrate respect for themselves, their instructors and opponents.
Grading for Judo is split into different systems based on age groups with those from 5 to 7 years of age being eligible for the Sho awards and those from 8 to 17 being eligible for the Mon grade scheme. From 16 until 18, students can choose to remain on the Mon grade scheme but once they reach 18 they must transfer to the Kyu grade system, which contains all of the adult belts up to the rank of black belt.
The grading system for young Judo students from 5 to 7 years of age, Sho aims to teach the basic skills that are required later in more advanced Judo. The fundamentals that will underpin their later advancement are taught in a fun way and there are 9 awards in total to achieve at this level. As the Sho awards are only for a relatively short amount of time, advancement through them tends to be quite fast.
Once children reach the age of 8, they step up to the Mon Grade System and this consists of 18 different grades split across 6 different colours of belt. Mons 1-3 are a red belt, Mons 4-6 are yellow, Mons 7-9 are orange, Mons 10-12 are green, Mons 12-15 are blue and Mons 16-18 are brown. Each Mon in a colour set has one more belt tag than the last, to denote advancement, for example Mon 1 is a red belt with 1 tag, Mon 2 is a red belt with 2 tags and Mon 3 is a red belt with 3 tags. Each new belt starts with 1 tag and increases until it reaches 3.
In order to advance, students within the Mon system may attempt to achieve promotion at regular intervals and these opportunities are normally provided for all young students by the club. The events are called gradings and are overseen by an external British Judo licensed coach in order that no undue preference is given to a student who didn’t earn the advancement.
The gradings consist of being asked to explain the meanings of the Japanese terms used in English, to demonstrate a level of physical competence in different techniques and to explain afterward why they chose to deploy one particular technique over another.
Judo tries to teach young students to think as well as act, so being able to justify their choices will also help them to think more clearly about what they are doing and why. It means that they will be more mindful of what they are doing and not just react without thinking all of the time.