Vocational Black Belt Gradings

Proven, Expertly-Assessed and Recognised Gradings For Martial Arts

BMABA Pedigree, Modern Approach.

We know that all-too often politics, egos and money stand in the way of genuinely deserved technical dan grade progressions. Our vocational gradings resolve this by allowing clubs from across the UK access to a recognised, verified, style-specific grading panel and the opportunity to submit their technical proficiency for assessment via video.

Initially started by the association on a case by case basis in 2015, we’ve mastered the delivery of grades that are absolutely and unquestionably based on the merit of the martial artist but without the often-associated costs and ego massaging. Our technology first approach coupled with our renowned name for industry standards makes BMABA Vocational Black Belt gradings a perfect fit for independent clubs and instructors who need to progress their grade without just paying for ‘dinner and a Dan’.

When it comes to Dan Gradings, we can’t stand the thought of a cheap and meritless issued certificate. We refuse to issue progressions based on anything other than fully assessed submissions, graded by a known, named panel of senior graded instructors.

Our Case For Vocational Gradings As A Last Resort For Clubs

We recently posted on Facebook about the unveiling of our Vocational Grading Scheme, something we’ve been working on for the past half a decade on a case by case basis. In 2022, we decided it was time to make it more readily available to those in need. Our first attempt at sharing this news with
Read More

Unrivalled Quality & Integrity

BMABA has established itself in the martial arts world as an organisation serious about professional standards. Our industry awards and accolades speak to the many influential and well known Government and Private Sector organisations that have relied on our name to deliver programmes, such as our work with the Home Office #ditchtheblade Campaign.

Our Dan Gradings are only issued on a merit demonstrated basis, meaning the pre-agreed criteria and skill level must be shown. We won’t issue grades in return for payment, membership, time-served or anything else.

21st Century Pressures Shouldn’t Prohibit Traditional Progression

As a modern and forward-thinking association we know that clubs have never been under financial pressure as much as they are today. We also known time commitments for most make commuting vast distances at weekends difficult, even if the travel costs, hotel bills and grading fees aren’t an issue.

With our vocational gradings all you need is a decent quality smartphone or camera and the necessary equipment required to grade. Think what you’d ask a student to demonstrate, and apply that to yourself. Some disciplines will require partners and mats, others may require punchbags or focus pads. What you won’t need to worry about is geographical location, time constraints or vast grading fees.

How Does It Work?

  • Open To Member's Only
    Vocational gradings are only open to registered BMABA members. This ensures we have already been able to vet and confirm grades (as we do for all members) so we're confident the progression is based on a credible grade. Members can register an interest within our member's area or App.
    STEP 1
  • Suitability Assessment
    We have a growing list of accredited instructors across dozens of disciplines who will be utilised to oversee a grading. The first step in a vocational grading is for us to agree upon a grading syllabus and to ensure the discipline you practice has sufficient senior-graded instructors with BMABA for us to deliver a sound verdict.
    STEP 2
  • Confirmation Of Syllabus
    Once we can confirm sufficient senior graded instructors to oversee your submission, we'll welcome you to either submit your own grading syllabus or, where available, we will supply a grading syllabus based on the 'de facto' accepted NGB based syllabus. We'll discuss any terminology queries and would welcome you to submit your own syllabus for this step. If so, we'll assess the syllabus provided for suitability and ensure everyone is comfortable and confident of what's required.
    STEP 3
  • Submit Your Grading
    Once we have a panel in place and a syllabus agreed upon, we'll invoice for the service and you're then welcome to submit your video grading submission. There are strict guidelines around the integrity of the video submission but we'll assist with technical queries. We'll need to see a video submitted in-full against the grading criteria. Once received, the panel will take over.
    STEP 4
  • Panel Assessment
    Once received, our panel of between 3 and 7 senior graded instructors, specific to the style in question, will assess your submission. They will not be told who you are or what your background is and will instead have to rely upon the merits of your submission and any relevant written supporting evidence, such as essays. Each panel member issues a 'blind vote' in favour of or against issuing the grade. A majority vote is required for a grade to be issued.
    STEP 5

We Believe Our Gradings Allow Us To Test The Technical Aptitude Of A Black Belt Better Than An In-Person Dan Grading. How, you ask?

That’s a big claim, we know. First things first – we’ll never use this type of grading to award the 1st Dan Black Belt or equivalency. We do believe this should be conducted in person, as much for the experience and resilience as anything else however when it comes to Dan Grade progressions, especially among those who are actively teaching, it becomes much more about the nuances of technical competency.

Our vocational gradings are video based. This offers our examiners the opportunity to watch, rewind, watch again, rewind, watch in half speed and so on. Not only that, we can be as close to you as the camera allows and not half way across a busy room. We can pull in examiners from opposite ends of the country without having to tie in their travel arrangements and diaries. This means the very best people to assess the techniques are available and furthermore, they’re able to apply a level of scrutiny simply not possible in-person.

Do I Need To Edit & Produce The Video?

You don’t need to be able to do anything complicated to produce a video that is sufficient for our panels. We don’t want refined, ‘filmed’ content that cuts out the rawness of the grading or masks inadequate technique. If your grading in a traditional style then we would ask that you conduct the grading in line with these expectations. If you’re grading in a discipline that requires equipment, you can film as you would expect to participate if grading ‘on the day’.

We categorically do not, and have never, issued Dan Grade progressions in return for financial reward.
We reimburse all of our community examiners for their time and the process for BMABA is non-profit making. We don’t undertake ‘dinners and a dan grade’ type setups in which attending an event entitles forward progression, nor do we accept payments in return for ‘time served grades’. All of our vocational submissions are fully merited and means-tested for compliance.
We will not put our name to anything less than an industry-leading solution to remote gradings for those already in possession of a 1st Dan or equivalent. 
Copies of every submitted piece of evidence, syllabus, committee replies and examiner notes are retained indefinitely to ensure we can maintain a compliance-led approach to professional grade progression on a national level. 

Frequent Questions & Answers (FAQs)

Not in the slightest. This was initially our greatest concern but we soon realised that our ambition to assemble the most knowledgeable and senior graded instructors to assist clubs was incredibly costly, time-consuming and ultimately excluded those at geographical extremes. In one instance, we found ourselves with two willing 6th and 7th Dans for a specific style grading however the club was based in Cornwall and the senior instructors based in Scotland. Instead, a 3rd and 4th Dan had to be sourced from closer to home.

Vocational gradings eliminate these restraints and ensure we can pair up your submission to the absolute best senior martial artists without worrying about money, distance or timings.

What’s more, we’ve found that through video gradings our examiners have much greater ability to stop, pause, rewind and slow down your techniques. They can often spot issues that would be missed ‘on the day’ by eye, sat twenty feet away. On every occasion in which we’ve assessed video submissions candidates have felt the quality of feedback and the depth of review has been vastly superior to any ‘on the day’ grades.

You might not and we’re not saying you have to accept a remote-assessed grading. We’re also not against physical gradings. There is something magical and crucial about an in-person assessment for a 1st Dan award. Doing it in-person ensures the realities and pressures of performing ‘on the day’ are brought to bear.

For dan grade progressions however, especially when it’s among actively coaching instructors, the process is more of a CPD or technical requirement. Many clubs need to progress their Dan Grades to enable onward growth and we want to support this with as little red-tape as possible, without lowering standards. Our vocational gradings do exactly that. It removes the time, cost and logistical elements of a physical grading without undermining the quality and rigor of an awarded Dan Grade.

For many instructors, we find the combination offers them access to a professional assessed grade without the politics of an association or NGB.

We do NOT issue dan grades arbitrarily and there’s a real chance you won’t be successful if your technical submission is not up to scratch. In any instance that a grading panel votes against a grade progression, you’ll be entitled to re-submit your grading no sooner than 90 days after the initial rejection for free. The same committee will review the submission to ensure the feedback they provided has been properly actioned. If after the second submission you are unsuccessful that is unfortunately the end of that grading submission. You will be able to restart the process a further 90 days down the line but it will be chargeable.

Absolutely. Upon award of any dan grade we provide association-issued certification. Whilst not framed (this is for illustrative purposes) each certificate is uniquely serialised, comes with the BMABA hologram, embossing, gold foils, stamps and other genuine-issue elements. It’s also issued on our real-time dan grading index for public confirmation. You may choose from either a landscape or portrait dan grade certificate.

Provided you have a prerequisite grade (1st Dan and above, or equivalent) in a particular style we aim to offer a grading against all 180 approved disciplines and styles, shown here. If you practice a less commonly participated style, such as Ninjitsu or Zen Shin (for example) then it is strongly recommended you contact us before joining so we can confirm whether or not a grading panel is available. Our expansive 6,500+ instructor base covers most disciplines with sufficient scope and depth but we would strongly recommend touching base first if you intend to use this service.

Yes, it is exclusively available to BMABA registered instructors and clubs. You can explore membership options and join online from here.

The ‘end-to-end’ cost of the service is typically £119 per grading. This is only payable when you are ready to submit your grading for assessment. The cost covers the time of each examiner for which they are reimbursed by the association to ensure you receive the attention and care deserved for your grading. It also covers the cost of any retakes and the issuance of any Dan Grades, including your printed copy. VAT is inclusive in this charge.

There’s nothing else to pay whatsoever. There’s no rising cost based on Dan Grade.

The only instance in which a higher cost may be charged would be very specific requirements – such as incredibly specific disciplines or setups in which we require an exhaustive response inclusive of additional external examiners. This is unlikely to affect more than 2% of those who wish to grade and in this situation we’ll discuss fees directly at the time of discussion. 98% of clubs will be inclusive in the £119 charge.

This service is exclusively reserved for our instructors.

If you're not already registered, explore our membership options and see why we're award-winning.