OJA Grading Committee Awards 3 New Jiu Jitsu Shodans

By Dave Doucette

“I started at 5 and I’m now 19…so I’ve spent three-quarters of my life for this day, here at this dojo.” An excited Carter Bolton (Pro-Spar Martial Arts, Barrie) spoke breathlessly, coming off the dojo floor after two hours of intensive scrutiny. The youngest of three candidates for Shodan, he performed his demanding repertoire of physical tasks with poise and precision. As did them all. 

Nearby a panel of senior Jiu Jitsu black belts – the Grading Committee – conferred on the merits of the three Shodan candidates. They had challenged the three to convincingly demonstrate foundation skills of blocking, striking, throwing and grappling – including defences against armed assailants. Senior panel members further stress-testedthe applicants by posing ad hoc defensive situations for them to respond. These the applicants handled with professionalism, though not always with ease. All part of the process of earning the rank ofShodan (1st-degree black belt)!

After two hours of demanding physical effort, it was the character-building and mental health benefits which the three applicants seemed to value most highly. “It has given me a lot of confidence in life…and leadership skills from the many demonstrations and teaching opportunities,” said Kyle Wooley (ProSpar Martial Arts, Barrie), “It’s such a benefit to mental health.” 

The youngest, Carter, added, “It’s definitely boosted stress-management…doing grading from a young age…the more you do, the more you get comfortable with stressful situations. In a confrontation, it keeps you calm and able to maintain a clarity of thought.” For Carter, a lifetime of training certainly shaped a mature philosophy.

“For me, I’m not as quick to anger,” added Jeffrey Hines (Kokon Jiujitsu and Karate, Niagara Falls), “as a kid I was quick to fly off the handle…Now, being a parent…and working a lot with kids with disabilities, I seem to work better with them – I’ve learned how to switch things up so they stay focused and keep interested.” The oldest candidate at 57, Jeff began training at 5 years of age. An injury pushed him out of the field for twenty years. He returned with maturity and different life goals – “it’s about giving my all, keeping fit and helping other people…just to keep on going.” 

The highly-experienced OJA Grading Committee ensures newly-minted black belts possess a common core of skills and beliefs. This serves to maintain consistent standards in the art of Jiu Jitsu. At the end of the day, they found all three candidates worthy of the rank of Shodan. 

So what is next for these new generation of Shodans? For young Carter, it was about friendly family competition – aiming for a 2nddegree, “I want to be able to show my father I can get a belt higher than him – show him his son’s got more juice!” he quipped good-naturedly. Watch out, dad!

Kyle, midway in age between his two colleagues, was more philosophical, “My new goal is to support the lower belts, focus on the curriculum and on how to keep them motivated…We’re hopping more into a leadership role…A few years down the road, more training, more leadership…maybe 2nd degree!” 

Congrats to all three candidates, and welcome to the rank of Shodan. The Jiu Jitsu community is richer for your dedicated efforts and grounded philosophies.

The OJA Grading Committee (top row) poses with Shodan candidates (bottom row). Top (Doug Knispel, Terry Yanke, David Honey, Mike Pisano, Shawn Rodie, Gary Pilon); bottom(Jeffrey Hinks, Kyle Wooley, Carter Bolton, Max Barnes(uke))

(Photo 2: Shodan candidate Carter Bolton (top) responds to a knife attack with a convincing disarm and control technique. Uke, and candidate, Kyle Wooley (bottom) takes the pounding with grace.)
(Photo 3: With roles reversed, candidate Kyle Wooley (top) traps and disarms a knife-wielding Carter Bolton (bottom). Notably the positioning was different from a similar attack by Carter on Kyle, illustrating the flexibility in applicable self-defence techniques.)

Photo 4: Candidate Jeff Hinks (standing) demonstrates the poor judgment of attacking a Jiu Jitsu black belt in this weapons-based scenario. Max Barnes (ground), plays the supporting role of uke, taking the brunt of the grinding defence. Thanks, Max – we feel your pain!)

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