A few weeks ago, I covered our first block of the Women's Self Defence Class. Due to the positive feedback, Emma and I ran a second block of six lessons which wrapped up on 31st May. So how did that go?
The plan remained the same - six weeks of simple moves that might be useful in a self defence situation. However, we did make some tweaks to the content based on both feedback and our own observations on how things went.
The first thing was timing. 45 minutes is not a long time to include warm up, a recap of the previous week and then the demonstration and practise of new skills. The amount of practise felt right most weeks, except for the wall defence so this time around each week would have three new skills. That seemed to work better, allowing for more practise time of each skill.
In terms of content change, in the first block the wall defence class included chokes. This time around we decided to drop the chokes from the class as, judging by the reactions of a few of our class, we felt it made a lot of the class uncomfortable. Whilst it is a very useful skill to learn and to defend, I think it would work better once people are more comfortable with contact and so we kept the focus on being pushed against a wall.
With this block extending into May, we took the wall defence lesson outside and practised against a fence in the car park of St Joe’s. As mentioned before, it’s always interesting to train outside as the surfaces are slightly different. I think this went reasonably well but let’s just say it was a bit colder and breezier than we were expecting before we started. And hopefully we didn’t do any damage to the fence!
Prior to the self-defence course, I would assist in teaching but did not put the actual lesson together so this has been a good learning experience for me. After two blocks, I’m happy that the lessons flowed from one week to the next. In the first block, we didn’t really know what to expect in terms of the class, fitness levels and how people would embrace it. With some experience behind us, I think we had a bit more confidence to deliver the course and did our best to keep it fun.
Our second block had 10 people rather than the 16 of the first one. Originally, we had 17 people sign up but there were a few no-shows and whilst that was disappointing, 10 worked out as a good number as it allowed Emma and I to give some more time to each group. This has been useful as we now know that 10 is a good number but equally that we can handle a bigger class.
It has been interesting to see the dynamic of the class. In our regular Shoto Budo practice, we change partners frequently so that we get to train with different people of varying shapes, sizes, ages and grades. In the self-defence class, we have tried this but people have generally stayed with the same partner. I wonder why this is. Perhaps it is a comfort element which I can understand as it is important to feel comfortable with your training partner. I must ask this when we do our next block of lessons.
As before, we wrapped up with a little demo of a typical Shoto Budo lesson which is fun. I did learn that trying to do some commentary to explain things whilst sparring and grappling with Emma is a bit of a challenge. Next time we need a narrator!
Feedback to the second block was very positive and there were some very nice comments about both the course and Emma and I as instructors. It is very flattering and regarding to receive feedback such as this. It is also cool that we have a couple of the class now joining us for the regular class and hopefully they will enjoy that. We will think about asking Hugh for commission!
With the school summer holidays upon us, we will run a less formal version of the self-defence course at the Allander Leisure Centre. This will be an eight-week period and each week, different black belts from the club will take the group. When we return to the schools we will run another block of the class – keep an eye on our Facebook page and the website for confirmation of dates.
With Bearsden Academy unavailable to us this past week, five of us took the opportunity to train outside at Lennox Park on a warm and sunny spring evening. Training outside is always fun. The wider space, different surfaces and obstacles all make for a different practice, requiring a different focus and increased awareness of surroundings.
We began with some pad work to warm up and loosen off. With the heat, warming up was quite easy but actually seeing some of the pads was quite difficult with the low sun. Obviously this is not a common problem in our training!
Our new 4th Dan Eric then led the practice, focussing on the kata Nijushiho and its practical application. I've practised this kata a few times but sometimes there are large gaps between the practices and eventually I forget the kata. This was one such occurrence so that first part of the training was just refamiliarising myself with the basic shapes.
From there Eric broke it down into chunks, with a few moves of the kata and the corresponding applications. Each of us then took a turn in the middle until by the end of the evening, we were getting quite comfortable with the moves.
We rounded out the evening with more kata, starting at number one, Taikyoku Shodan and finishing up at Kanku Sho (about as high through the katas as I know). By this point the sun was going down but more importantly, the midges were starting to find BMAC members a tasty supper so we called it night. It was an excellent session with some different terrains and circumstances and useful learning of Nijushiho.
The following night, with the sun still (mostly) shining, Emma and I decided to have our women's self defence class outside. I think this went quite well, with us using a fence in the St Joseph's Primary School car park to practise what is usually "wall defence". The car park surface is quite uneven which helps focus a little bit on balance. It's certainly different from a flat gym floor.
Perhaps the only downside was the sun went away a lot more quickly than the previous night so it wasn't exactly the warmest practice. Hopefully nobody got too cold! We'll be back indoors for the next self defence class this week.
During the school holidays we have one regular class per week at the Allander Leisure Centre but after this week, I hope we can have a few more outdoor sessions over what hopefully will be a long hot summer.
What? Not those Waltons? Sorry...
Hideously dated cultural references aside, I just wanted to say a big congratulations to Eric, Ross and Kate Walton on their grading successes at this past weekend's Adult National course in Larbert. After an intense weekend of training, Eric is now a 4th Dan black belt, Ross is a 3rd Dan and Kate moves up from brown belt to 1st Dan.
I've enjoyed training with all of them over the years, with Eric and Ross being part of the club since I joined back in 2007 and it's been great to see them advance through the grades. Eric has been a great teacher and has given me plenty of encouragement and tips over the years. Mind you, he is a sneaky so-and-so and you always have to be on your guard when training with him.
Ross would have been 14ish when I started training so to see him now as a third Dan is really cool. He's also a lot bigger and stronger than he was back then and has developed into an excellent training partner and coach.
Kate started with the club as part of her Duke of Edinburgh award and enjoyed it so much, she stayed with us and now is a black belt. As was the case with me back in November, she was delighted to get this.
Now you may be thinking, this is one crazy family. And you'd be right, but despite eight Dan grades between them and the photographic evidence, they genuinely are really good people. Well done all of you!
As mentioned a few weeks ago, the club launched a Women's Self Defence Course on 22nd February. Run by Emma and I, this was intended to teach some simple self defence moves, without the potentially intimidating atmosphere of a martial arts club.
We tried a variety of routes to publicise this, handing out flyers to parents at our junior classes, on the Bearsden Community Facebook page and an article in the local newspaper. This generated a good level of interest, with the most hits over a week that this website has ever received. Nevertheless, we were unsure how many people would actually turn up. What if nobody came? For a first attempt, we thought we might get six people and we would have been delighted.
Instead, we had 16 people join us for the six weeks. Wow! We'd better get to work.
Emma and I had worked on a schedule of beginning with pads and then teaching a couple of skills each week. The following week would feature a recap of the previous session before moving onto the new skill.
The first week took a little longer to get started, getting everyone registered and explaining the aims of the course. We started with some pads and then some basic contact and movement. Everyone was a little tentative, which is to be expected. We hit pads and have contact every week but when it's new, it can feel a bit weird. One thing that became apparent - 45 minutes was going to pass very quickly.
Week 2 focused on reacting to a wrist grab, making use of some of John's patented quick and effective moves.
The third seek featured being grabbed from behind and a variety of ways to escape. Also notable is by this time we were remembering everyone's names!
In week 4, a real life policeman joined us to give a talk on things to look out for and how some of these moves may be perceived, for example on CCTV. We also practiced moving through a crowd when you do not know where a threat may come from. This borrowed from an excellent practice that Pauline Walmsley has taught at courses.
Into week 5 and we covered being pushed against a wall and being choked. The latter element can feel quite uncomfortable and we advised anyone who did not like that to focus on being grabbed instead. This was the one session we felt had too much in it given the time constraints so we'll look to rework this a bit.
Lastly in week 6 we put it all together and invited Fraser and John to join us, to give everyone someone different to practise the moves on. We closed out with Emma and I doing a short demo of a typical club practice, with some pads, sparring and takedowns. Hopefully nobody was too intimated by this and might even come and join the club.
So that was our six weeks. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the session and we received some lovely feedback forms from the class. Emma and I had an absolute blast putting it together and running the course, so much so that we are going to run a second block of six lessons, starting on 19th April. We're looking forward to it and hope to see some of our originals return and some new people joining. See you on the 19th!
Take a look at the Skills tab and you will see the different areas of a typical Shoto Budo practice, with pads, parrying, takedowns and wrestling all featuring. However, I've often wondered how to move from one skill to the next. Recently our practices have started to fill in those gaps.
Hugh has used a pummelling drill from amateur wrestling before as a warm up, but we have been concentrating on the movement within this. It's a physically tiring drill, particularly when your opponent is bigger and / or stronger than you.
From there, we added attempts at trips and distractions which could serve multiple purposes. It might result in an opponent being on the ground, it might create some space to apply a lock or it could break contact allowing either an escape or reset of distance.
The next addition was to add some light strikes, with us wearing grappling (or MMA style) gloves. We are not practising for a competitive fight so the strikes are not intended to cause damage but they serve as a distraction and another thing to be aware of when defending. When we started doing this a few weeks ago, I was very much getting caught up in the grappling element and got tagged almost constantly. It was something new and an element that previously we did not need to be aware of.
The next building block was to try and break the grapple and move to a distance where kicks or punches would be effective , leading to a short period of parrying before moving back in to the grappling distance. Again this been something new and in some ways goes against instinct to keep at a "safe" distance from an opponent. However, once that notion was overcome, I found myself getting more comfortable coming back into close quarters. It is helping me find ways past people who may be taller than me and thus can fire out kicks to keep me at bay.
Last week we added another stage of taking this movement to the ground to allow a short period of wrestling. That is still going to need some work to flow and indeed I found myself more on the receiving end of takedowns. However one thing that I did find myself doing was quickly getting into a "technical standup", a Brazilian jiu-jitsu move. This is a way of getting back on your feed whilst still being in a defensive position and without turning your back to an opponent.
This is all still a work in progress but the gaps slowly are starting to fill. There are a lot of things to be aware of. The grappling and potential locks. The strikes when close in, which could be hands, knees or feet. There are distractions that could lead to trips. There is balance. It is a physically and mentally tiring practice but after a few weeks, I definitely am seeing the benefits of the practice and how it all comes together.
"So", said Hugh as he turned to Emma and I, "I'd like you guys to start working towards Second Dan.
After that initial reaction, I realised that I am excited by that prospect. Who knows how long it will take. After all I started the blog after getting my brown belt to document my journey to black belt, not expecting it to be more than three years until it actually happened. Whilst I hope it won't be another three years, I'm not going to make any predictions because all sorts of things can happen.
Work, injuries, life, distractions.....SQUIRREL!
Where to start? Well, a part of my First Dan grading diary was to rate my skill levels in various areas so let's look at that. We can come back to that over the next few months to see how I am progressing. Here are my self assessed scores prior to my last grading, as taken from my diary.
Firstly I ranked my ability to perform all of the katas I know
Taikyoku Shodan - 3
Taikyoku Nidan - 3
Taikyoku Sandan - 3
Heian Shodan - 3
Heian Nidan - 3
Heian Sandan - 3
Heian Yodan - 3
Heian Godan -3
Tekki Shodan - 3
Tekki Nidan - 3
Tekki Sandan - 3
Tekki Den - 3
Bassai Dai - 3
Bassai Sho - 3
Hangetsu - 3
Hangetsu Den - 3
Kwanku Dai - 3
Kwanku Sho - 1 (I had only started learning this one at the time of my diary.)
As the recent course showed, "learning" kata is a lot more than just learning a sequence of moves. I think my form generally is improving as I try to pay more attention to the movement, how everything links together and what are the moves trying to achieve. If I were ranking my kata now based on knowledge from the course, I would score myself lower. I think these scores reflect me knowing the basic shape of the katas but the next area to develop is the finer understanding of these moves and what they are intended to accomplish.
Following on from kata, I ranked my ability in a variety of areas
Kicks - 2
My kicks still need a lot of work. Left leg kicks are not great, right leg kicks are better but need more snap.
Hand strikes - 4
I think my power, accuracy and variety is improving on punches, elbows, hand strikes etc.
Defences - 3
My leg parrying is getting better and finding I use that now in parrying practise. Still a tendency to try and grab attacks.
Locks - 4
Getting better here, particularly working with John on some of his quick attacks and locks. Maybe need some more variety.
Breakfalls - 3
Comfortable with my breakfall techniques but cardio is always a challenge on the breakfall kata.
Parrying - 2
I feel this is my weakest area. Defensively I feel ok but when trying to attack, I'm not picking targets well and have a tendency to charge in and leave myself too open.
Takedowns - 4
Sacrifice throw needs work but I think my other takedowns have really improved lately.
Grappling - 3
Tripping and unbalancing is getting better. Struggle a bit with a larger opponent to get enough movement to do anything useful with them.
Wrestling - 4
I think my movement on the ground has improved. Still need some work on finishing and sometimes leave arms in vulnerable positions for chokes
Parrying continues to need work but more recently I have found myself getting more confident in the practise. However, I am still very linear in my movement and need to improve that.
My wrestling also needs more work than the above score suggests, particularly avoiding being pinned down and thus having to expend a lot of energy to escape from bad positions. I have been wrestling with Ross and Eric recently, both of whom are highly skilled and in Ross's case, very strong.
Looking back, I scored myself in the context of being a brown belt but if I want to progress to second Dan, then my ability will need to improve across the board. That's not a bad thing but I believe it is important to recognise how the expectations change and where I need to develop.
To this extent, I have found myself recently asking many questions of Hugh and sharing observations with the class. Whilst I have always asked questions, the Springburn course has really awoken a desire to understand why things work and the wider picture of how everything fits together. Hopefully nobody minds the barrage of questions and brain dumps too much (sorry everyone!). Also with the Women's Self Defence Class now underway, both Emma and I need to be able to answer questions from the class. It is an interesting development and shows that the long held idea that getting a black belt means the real learning starts is a lot more than just a martial arts cliché.
So, with both skills and understanding to develop, the journey to Second Dan is well underway. Let's enjoy the ride.
The first course of 2017 saw a good number of Shoto Budo practitioners descend on Springburn Academy over the weekend of 11th and 12th February. The theme of the course was kata, how to improve and how to use it.
The class was divided into groups and, as with November's National Course, we had 30 minutes or so with different instructors whilst the senior grades circulated to clarify both what was being taught and how it was being received.
I was training with the black belt group over the weekend and, obviously enough given that I only got my First Dan in November, this was the first course where I have been part of that group. Such was the level of information and practice within the group, I can safely say that my head was as exhausted as my body.
For example, on Sunday my group was working through the Tekki katas and using application of these in open space and against a wall. Graeme Muirhead and Richard Price (both 8th Dan) fed into the session about the movement, and timing of certain moves to generate power with Graeme effectively demonstrating what he meant. It really showed that "knowing" a kata is not just some vague sequence of moves but what the moves actually are doing.
Billy Haggerty (10th Dan and Shoto Budo's Technical Director) made a point during the wrap up that he still practises Taikyoku Shodan (the first kata) and it has all the moves need for self defence. I imagine that I was not the only person who was surprised by that, the (incorrect) assumption being that the higher the grade, the higher the kata would be practised. I think the value of all the katas is something everyone should remember.
Another valuable learning point from Billy was that kata in itself is not self defence. If one goes into a situation with the intention of using a specific kata, it will likely fail. He then framed it as "stay safe" rather than "use kata" and that simple phrasing visibly changed the mindset. After a demo of this, he asked if anyone saw moves from kata.
Lots of shaking heads.
But what about these steps he asked? What about these parrying moves?
There were moves from kata but since he hadn't framed it as kata application, many of us did not recognise it as such.
So much information, so much to process and so much to take back to the club for regular training. It was exactly what a course should provide.
It also was the first grading opportunity for our kyu grades and we had one member participating. Congratulations go to Scott McCallum who achieved his orange belt. Well done Scott!
As we enter February 2017, the club is branching out and launching a Women's Self Defence course that will run over six weeks. Given that Shoto Budo as a martial art is primarily about self defence and we have female members already, why introduce this course?
Essentially we recognise that starting a martial art can be quite intimidating, for both men and women, and progression through the grades, attending courses and is quite a time commitment. It may not be what everyone is looking for. However, the elements of our practise can benefit anyone and this new course aims to give some moves that would be useful in a self defence situation.
Therefore Emma and I have put together six lessons which focus on different types of attack, with counters for these. The moves are designed to be simple and memorable so that they can be recalled when necessary. We did not want to include some of our more complex locks - even after nine years of practice it can still take me several attempts to apply these which is not quite what we're aiming for here.
Emma has been very keen to start such a class, having trained as teenager, joined Shoto Budo when she turned 30 and now as a 1st Dan black belt, is looking to pass on some of her skills. She always encourages women to join a martial arts club but understands how daunting it can be. Commenting further, Emma added "the most common reaction I hear about when women are attacked is that they "freeze" so the idea is to give you movements that we practice so that they become natural reactions should the worst ever happen.
We've designed a 6 week course to tackle 5 different attacks and a variety of ways to defend against them". We'll hit some pads (a great stress relief!), try some moves and hopefully have some fun whilst doing it. A six week course won't make anyone a ninja but it might improve confidence, a little bit of fitness and maybe encourage people to join the club. The course is affiliated to our club so we decided to have a logo that was a variation on our triangle logo existing club logo. Many thanks to Laura Murdoch for designing this.
The first class is on 22nd February and we'll check back in here with updates on our progress. For more details, take a look at our Womens Self Defence page.
Bearsden Martial Arts Club has been running classes for children and adults in the area for over 30 years. Our chief instructor, Hugh Russell, has over 40 years of experience in various martial arts and currently is a 9th Dan Black Belt. He is assisted by instructors Eric Walton (3rd Dan Black Belt), Ross Walton (2nd Dan Black Belt) and John Marley (1st Dan Black Belt).
The club trains on Tuesday nights at Bearsden Academy and on Wednesday nights at St Joseph's Primary School in Milngavie. On both nights, child classes are from 7pm to 8pm, with adult classes following from 8pm to 9:30pm. Today we have 30 adult members, and 60 juniors. In addition to our training, the club has regular social activities.
New members will be made to feel very welcome. We actively encourage people of all grades to train together so a new member will get to train with everyone from other newcomers, up to Hugh. We have 14 black belts in the club at present which allows us to give 1-to-1 tuition with a black belt for new members to help them feel comfortable and get used to our training.
The club is part of the wider Shoto Budo organisation (www.shotobudo.org) which has clubs in Scotland, England, Ireland and Finland.
Shoto Budo as a martial art has its roots in Shotokai Karate but, reflecting the interests of the senior instructors, has evolved to incorporate elements of many martial arts, such as judo, jiu-jitsu and aikido. The over-arching principle is one of self defence and the emphasis is on self development and continual improvement so there is no competitive fighting element to what we do.
A typical practice may involve elements such as hitting pads, parrying, wrestling and takedowns. This is performed in a safe, controlled and supervised environment and is always appropriate to the grade of the practitioners. Speed and technique for experienced black belts will be different to that of the new comer and practice will reflect that.
Training with us has many benefits. There are improvements in overall fitness, balance, flexibility as well as the improved confidence and ability when it comes to self defence. A session of hitting pads is also a wonderful way to relieve stress after a particularly busy day.
Children can start training at five years old and will have two opportunities per year to grade and move to a higher belt. Depending on their progress, junior members can start training with the adult class and then at 18 can move up to the adult grades. Our instructors are PVG Disclosure checked.
Age, size and sex are no barrier to joining. You don't have to start young and you don't have to be the Incredible Hulk. We have members training in our adult class ranging in age from 14 to 61 and covering short, tall, big, small and all points in between. We welcome new members regardless of age. For example, Ross started at 6 years old, is now 23 and a 2nd Dan Black Belt whilst another member started after 50, has been training with us for about 18 months, loves the fitness element and now has an orange belt (the third colour after a beginner's white belt). We also encourage both male and female members to join and women joining will be made to feel welcome and not embarrassed in any way. Regardless of age, levels of fitness and flexibility or previous experience, training with the club will help you to improve and you will find yourself being able to do things you never thought possible.
In addition to the regular training nights, the wider organisation holds several courses throughout the year giving everyone an opportunity to learn from other instructors, train with different people and grade for new belts. At our most recent course, held in Larbert at the start of November, we saw four new 1st Dan black belts (Emma, 34, Scott, 43, David, 61 and Ashleigh, 18), two junior black belts (aged 14 and 16), a blue belt (Diana, 49) and an orange belt (Iain, "closer to 55 than 50"). Getting to a black belt is not a race nor is there a time limit. Of our new 1st Dans, Emma has been training for four years, Scott for nine years and David for 18.
Commenting on the club, Hugh finds training to be enjoyable as it helps fitness and flexibility whilst as a coach, he is rewarded by seeing club members develop and grow from beginner to black belt and onto coaching themselves.
Eric runs the Tuesday night junior club and "finds it very enjoyable that a wide variety of kids, from quiet and shy, to full of beans, can change over a relatively short time into competent and confident youngsters. It’s hard work keeping everyone on track for their progression to their next grade, but we try to make it a fun way of learning not only a Martial art, but the self-confidence, self-discipline, compassion, self-control and respect that come with this, which is great for the instructors and parents but more importantly for the kids themselves."
The cost for children is £14 per month and £17 per month for adults. This covers membership of Shoto Budo, insurance and training two nights per week. A newcomer can wear comfortable clothes such as shorts and t-shirt before buying any equipment, such as karate suits, pads and gloves which can be purchased through the club at a discounted rate.
If you a have New Year resolution to get fit and want to try something new, come along and join us. Your first night is free and there is no obligation to join. There is a contact form on our website and we can answer any questions you may have before you come.
More information is available at our website, www.bearsdenmartialarts.org, on Facebook at facebook.com/BearsdenMartialArts/ and on Twitter @BearsdenMAC.
2016 is almost in the books. It's been an eventful year in world events but closer to home, what have been the hightlights for Bearsden Martial Arts Club? I asked my club mates for their personal favourite moments.
Perhjaps unsurprisingly, gradings were highlights for many. Scott M had his first grading over the summer during a course in Greenock, saying he will never forget his first one. Just wait until the next one, Scott!
Diana loved this year with her highlight being getting to the end of it and feeling that she is making "steady progress even though I am even more acutely aware of the known unknowns and this has really boosted my confidence". It's always nice to feel progress is being made and I'd like to congratulate Diana on not one but two successful gradings in 2016 and she begins the new year as a blue belt.
For David, his highlight was seeing the progress that everybody has made over the year and the grading in November. He's far too modest to mention it but many of us were delighted to see David finally get his black belt. It's been a long time coming and it was thoroughly deserved for such a good guy.
Training and grading for first Dan was Emma's top moment and she specifically included the training part as first Dan is more than just a weekend course. It's a process with ups and downs along the way. Similar to Diana's growth in confidence, Emma pointed out that the praise from Hugh, other instructors and fellow martial artist has given her a huge spring in her step and also the feeling that she is capable and worthy of the grade, even when there were times she doubted her own ability. I could not put it any better myself, as that pretty much word for word my own highlight.
From a period of injury and low confidence in 2015, this year's training has been so good for me with many challenging but enjoyable sessions over the year, culminating in the grading in November. As mentioned in the last article, my enthusiasm for training has been renewed and my fitness level has been better than it has been in a very long time.
Previous articles have covered the joy so many members get from seeing others develop their skills and this was reflected in many comments. From our new black belts, junior black belts, kyu grades and kids coming through from beginners, it really is satisfying to see everybody improve. We have a club Facebook group and the supportive and congratulatory messages to each other before and after grading is genuinely heartwarming.
Hugh continued this theme, with one of several highlights. From a club point of view, so many people graded over the year and in particular the National Course in November that Hugh takes great pride in seeing the club develop their skills. It has also been a good year for the club in terms of membership numbers, across both our junior and adult classes. On that last note, we cannot rest on our laurels and will be looking to grow membership further in 2017.
It might not be training related, but Hugh also mentioned the club's Christmas night out! We might spend time hitting and choking each other, but we are actually quite a sociable bunch.
The final highlight was from Jamie and is perhaps the most inspiring, motivational story of the year.
Alan Dunn, who trains in our Greenock clubs, was awarded a special 2nd Dan at the spring Adult National. A keen and passionate martial artist, his progression was put on hold by a massive motorcycle accident. As soon as he could move in a wheelchair, he turned up at Billy Haggerty's door asking what can I do? And he kept coming back, getting on two canes, then one, then a stick, until finally walking freely which was nothing short of a miracle.
He still struggles but that does not stop him from training and coming to courses. Shoto Budo literally saved his life, and Alan being awarded for his sheer determination was one of Jamie's most heart warming and emotional moments of my year. I agree and that is a story that we can all be inspired by. Just amazing.
So that was 2016. We enter 2017 with a healthy club, lots of freshly graded members and our journey continues. Who knows what the new year will bring but let's hold on and enjoy the ride!
Scott has been training in Shoto Budo since 2007 and is a 1st Dan Black Belt. He is working towards his 2nd Dan grading.