This week I tested two new students to the rank of 6th Kyu, and they did quite well: Ilan, and Nazar. They have both learned the 1st kata quite well in a short time, and show the spirit of the kata properly.
I also rolled up some dry goza and let them strike at the targets with their bokutos. Most students who start cutting have never experienced the impact force of taking a good swing and hitting a target. This comes as a surprise sometimes. It is different then when you actually cut through the target, but I think the vibration or shock from the impact also helps to build up the wrists, and correct arm technique.
We have the last day of class coming up next week where we should have two more students tested: Charlie and Reed. Charlie has been with the class on and off for more than a year but for some reason we have missed testing him previously.
Reed should be testing for his Ikkyu, including all the basic 7 katas and the cutting test. He has been doing this for a good five years now, starting at age 12 I believe. It takes much longer when you start this young because the body needs to grow as well to be able to perform the techniques properly. He is the last of a big batch of students who started 6 years or more ago. He hasn't cut as much as other brown belts but shouldn't have trouble showing kesa and kiriage on a full goza.