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Secret to Earning Your Third Degree Black Belt

To successfully pass a Third Degree Black Belt test in To-Shin Do, you want to be sure that you know and can perform the Third Degree training exercises.

I am not being funny or cute here. I am being painfully direct.

It seems that some teachers have their students test for Third Degree apparently without understanding the requirements that the testing board will be looking for.

Third Degree Black Belt in To-Shin Do is earned by mastering the advanced water approach. This means a heavy reliance on moving in ichi-mon-ji no kamae. This means a heavy sideways alignment with the weight repositioning on the back leg. This results in effective tactical positioning of the body off-line in relation to the attacker.

Third Degree also means moving from technique failure to a second (or even third) technique that succeeds in overcoming the attacker.

Basic foundational skills in horizontal and vertical hits and cuts with a Japanese sword and long bo are also a part of the Third Degree Black Belt test.

We feature a series of kata that teach all of this, but you are expected to get the essence of what is taught in the kata and apply it to a moving changing scenario. To successfully pass the test for Third Degree, you will want to display that strategic positioning that leaves an attacker slightly off-position and an inch or two short of optimal range.

I always caution students with, “Stay in ichi-mon-ji no kamae, keep upsetting your attacker’s plans, and crash back at just the right moment, and you’ve got your Third Degree!” Every now and then a student will follow my instructions.

(OK, here’s the catch… what keeps so many people from staying in ichi-mon-ji and winning? They get adrenalized and hyper-ventilated. They get flustered by their attacker’s throws or strikes, and lose track of what they are supposed to be doing. This causes them to unconsciously drop back to a front-facing “blanked-out” non-kamae. That means they have not practiced enough to remember to rely on ichi-mon-ji. Train a little longer. Get it down. Concentrate on water breathing (long slow in-breath and short fast out-breath) and holding to kamae. Do it until you are in command of your body and it’s responses. Once you’ve got it, it’s there forever, and you are ready to start working on Fourth Degree exercises.)

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