Prior to each formal grading ( which is overseen by Higashi sensei and a panel of renshis and shihans ), there is a formal 'evaluation'.
Formerly known as as ' the pre-test', this mandatory event is overseen by Renshi R. Ferri and Renshi A. Bellhouse.
They, and a panel of others conduct a formal test of all applicants who wish to be graded. It is a valuable and humbling experience.
After a few hours of waiting for brown belts to run through their entire syllabus it is time for the black belts to be tested.
Nothing is omitted-stances, punches, kicks, blocks, strikes, break-falls, kihons, katas, bunkai, goshin jitsu etc.
I have just returned this spring's 'evaluation'. It was a reasonably small group and so we were out of there in a quick 5 hours.
I confess I did not perform at my best. A combination of sleep deprivation ( just finished a 24 hr shift ),stress and over training led me to make a couple of silly mistakes but it was a valuable learning process.
Mostly, all evaluators agree that i am too tense and tend to shorten my techniques and not demonstrate expansion enough.
They are absolutely right. I do not know what it is about performing in front of these dignitaries that stresses me. I have known them all for decades and they are great folks.
I am by nature and by necessity a pretty calm person. I have delivered 5 babies out of hospital. I have treated gunshot, stabbing, and accident victims for 25 yrs. I can splint bones, stop arterial bleeds, and do cpr on children. These things are second nature to me, and yet, the gradings cause me stress. Go figure.
I have a month to train myself to relax. I'll let you know how it goes.