You Failed Your Grading; What’s Next?

So, you went for your next belt and you failed!


But, just because you failed, doesn’t mean you should lose sight of your purpose; rain, after all, is just a falling cloud. . .

And, everything that falls can rise again!


I mean, we’ve all been there. You don’t know what went wrong. . .

Maybe. . .

You were truly ready, but just choked—mentally unprepared.

Maybe. . .

You think you’re better than you actually are—a hard truth.

Maybe. . .

You worked hard, but just didn’t pay enough attention to the details—damn those details!

No matter the reason, your following actions should be the same. . .

1. Listen, REALLY Listen.


In my experience, students fail to pick up on the specifics of a lesson because they perform what they perceive to be the right thing and focus more on pleasing the Sensei rather than actually listening to what’s being asked.

The conversation usually goes like this. . .

Sensei: I’d like you make your stance wider, so that you have a better base for. . .

Student: (Cuts off Sensei, changes stance slightly). Like this Sensei!? 

Sensei: No, not quite. I’d like to see you have your… 

Student: (Cuts off Sensei, makes stance even more wrong). LIKE THIS SENSEI!?

Sensei: No, I want you to put. . . 

Student: (Cuts off Sensei, stance incomprehensively wrong). LIKE. THIS. SENSEI!?

Sensei: (Mental face palm). No. 

So, really listen to what the Sensei is trying to tell you, let it sink in, then try, try again.

2. Remember it’s about the journey, not the destination. 

A Zen Proverb says, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.” The point it’s trying to make is that one should give their full attention to the steps to achieve the goal, not on the goal itself.

I’ve had many students ask about belts, usually concentrating on what they need to know to receive one or when and where the “test” will be. Yet, if they just focused on the things they need to work on to reach their goal, they would achieve it as a natural consequence of following each step of their journey.


I know we’ve all heard this and it usually gets across. . . Until we have to be graded, that is.

It’s not only true in class, but during the grading as well. When you focus on each step and not the result, you’ll find that your nerves melt away.


3. “Train Hard, Suck Less”

This saying was coined by my Calgary-based teacher, Sensei Cody Stewart. Simple and almost crude in its phrasing, its meaning is of great value. When you train, “train hard” to the best of your ability and with your full attention.  And, “suck less”, a humble expression of success, is both an act and a result of your focus and work ethic.

Sensei Cody Stewart

Although there are many paths to success, remember that failure is a key part of the learning process.

In reality, as my first Sensei once said, “There’s no failing in karate” as long as you’re always progressing. And as long as you’re always moving forward, that is success, no matter the belt you wear.

So, just keep training!



3 thoughts on “You Failed Your Grading; What’s Next?

  1. Thank you for your words, yesterday I failed my karate grading exam to blue belt in karate i was so shocked and sad I tried to hide my feelings from everyone and think about the reasons.
    today i have a class too but I do not have interest to attend is this normal ?


    • Hello, Jain. Thank you so much for your question.

      If you don’t feel like going to class the day immediately after a grading, that is totally normal. A grading, whether pass or fail, can be incredibly intense physically and mentally, and can take a lot out of us. If you had an intense workout at the gym, would you feel like going to the gym the following day? Of course not! You just physically exerted yourself and therefore require rest to perform optimally in your next training session.

      My advice, take a few days to recuperate. In that time, assess how you have been training and things you can do to be more successful in the future and consider what training habits you need to change to attain your goals.

      At the same time, keep in mind that if achieving the skill of a blue belt is truly your goal, than quitting can never be an option.

      I hope this is helpful! 🙂 If you have any future questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!

      Jennifer Thompson
      Koryu Uchinadi Sandan
      The Martial Arts Muse


  2. Whenever I failed a test I usually just quit and joined a rival gym. Dojo’s are so desperate now in the wake of COVID 19 they’ll kiss your a55 to keep you from leaving. If I failed an exam because I really effed up is one thing but if I fail just because the sensei is having a bad day or just trying to prove a point F it I’m gone.


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