The annual black belt grading for Manx Taekwondo took place recently, with 15 students looking to gain the prestigious level.

As part of the Saturday grading session, the club also invited several NHS staff members from ward 11 at Noble’s Hospital to the self-defence session which was enjoyed by all. Often people think about the black belt as the pinnacle of a marital artist’s journey, whereas in fact attaining the black belt is really the start of that journey.

Using an analogy most people can relate to, achieving the black belt is similar to passing your driving test. Anyone who passes their driving test has been tested to be proficient enough to go on the public roads without an instructor, but the real journey starts the day you get behind the wheel.

Similarly, the black belt shows that the taekwondo student is proficient in the basic skills of the martial art and is now ready to continue on their road to learning and improving their skills.

Once a person achieves their black belt, this is referred to as the first degree black belt and they are said to have a dan (called a ‘poom’ if they are under-15). Further dans are then awarded to the student if they decide to take a further black belt grading in future.

Each dan, or poom, grading is progressively more difficult and more time is needed between each dan grade before a student is eligible to proceed to attempt their next grading.

There are also restrictions on minimum age to progress once a student achieves fourth poom. Once an adult student reaches the level of 5th dan, they are entitled to be referred to as Master and, following 8th dan, Grand Master.

The black belt grading itself must be done by an independent adjudicator who is at least holding the title of 5th dan and master in Taekwondo. In this regard Manx Taekwondo invited Grand Master Lennox (Kang Han Taekwondo, Nottingham) and Master Laura (Kang Han Taekwondo, Mansfield) to the Isle of Man for the grading session.

Grand Master Lennox has more than 40 years’ experience in taekwondo and holds an 8th dan in taekwondo. He is one of the highest-ranking instructors in the UK and boasts one of the highest rankings in the world. Master Laura has trained for over 17 years with Master Lennox and is part of Team GB.

The grading itself consists of four core disciplines, poomsae, sparring, one-step self-defence and destruction. All participants must show that they have a minimum level of fitness and are proficient in all four areas to achieve a pass in the grading.

The poomsae requires the student to recreate a series of pre-determined patterns, demonstrating certain specialist moves and techniques against an invisible enemy.

One step self-defence then requires students to demonstrate they can defend themselves from attack, with those sitting more advanced dan grading requiring additional techniques such as defending against knife attacks and being able to take down their aggressor.

Finally, destruction requires the successful destruction of prefabricated plastic boards which break when certain force is applied. The adult black belt students are expected to break these as part of their demonstration of power but those sitting their poom grading do not need to participate.

All participants must show they have a good level of fitness as part of the grading and they must be able to demonstrate a good understanding of the various kicks to a good standard. There were four adults sitting the dan grading and 11 children sitting their poom, and all were successful in attaining their grading, if not very tired after the event.

Manx Taekwondo would like to thank Grand Master Lennox, Master Laura and the NHS staff from ward 11 for attending the event and making it a success, plus Master Rod Nielsen of Manx Taekwondo, plus Dom Ontoy, James Hewitt and Nino Ontoy.