My student and assistant instructor Chris Olson completed his Shodan exam this past Sunday. I am happy to announce that he passed. He earned his Shodan, but suffered a number of hardships during his grading in the way of injury. This made the grading more difficult, both from his point of view in having to try and perform without aggravating his injury, and for me in that I had to strike a balance between pushing him appropriately, but without creating scenarios that are sure to cause further damage.
Chris injured his foot quite badly during the 2-on-1 sparring portion in the first quarter of his grading. We’re still waiting for x-ray results, but he either got a very serious bruise or very minor fracture. We stopped the grading after he got hurt in order to ice it and assess whether or not the grading should continue. Chris wanted to keep going. He was able to walk on it, so we let him, asking that our doctor student, Jenny, keep an eye on him for the rest of the grading.
It was clear that the foot injury was affecting Chris’s performance, but we kept that under consideration in our evaluation of the test. While his ground grappling suffered greatly (Chris normally uses his legs a lot when he grapples) and his throws weren’t nearly as smooth (his injury prevented him from bending too low), he did some beautiful Jiu-jitsu circles, including a blindfolded circle. Because of the flexibility of choice in performing the circles, he was able to choose appropriate techniques that wouldn’t cause him as much pain.
While Chris’s Shodan grading wasn’t performed under the most ideal circumstances, it was a good for demonstrating both Jiu-jitsu skill/versatility and warrior spirit to fight on when the chips are down. We are all very proud.
There is a line though that you have to be careful not to cross when it comes to injuries during belt tests. If the person can’t put weight or pressure on the affected area, they shouldn’t continue the grading in my opinion. My golden rule is that if continuing with the grading is likely to worsen the injury in a serious way, the test should be ended. It can be a hard judgment call to make though. I was just glad to have a doctor on the mats to help make the call.
Does anyone out there have any experience with handling injuries during a belt test? Please share in the comments.