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JR 137
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Joined: 10 May 2015
Posts: 2442
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 01, 2015 8:12 pm    Post subject: Re: Belt test Reply with quote

Zaine wrote:
Montana wrote:
126barnes wrote:
Wondering how this compares to to other brown belt test.


The last student I promoted to brown went this way. I watched him for the past 2 years of training, saw where he was at at the belt prior to brown belt (we have 3 brown belts), and decided he deserved his first brown belt.

I called him out at the end of class, opened my briefcase and handed him a certificate and belt for 3rd kyu.

Simple, huh? No pushups (they do those every class anyway), no massive kata drills (these do kata every class anyway), and no sparring (they do that most classes anyway).

Esentially, that student had been testing weekly (every class) for the past 2 YEARS!

Personally, I don't see a point in a "formal" testing process like you described.


I've actually been thinking about this a lot lately. Why do we subject students to testing? Is it simply because of tradition? We know they're ready. We often hear, and say, that a sensei would not be testing a student if they did not believe in their readiness. If we only test those we feel are deserving, ready, and (most importantly) capable of passing, then why do we test? It's an interesting topic and one that I think deserves deeper consideration.

That being said, those requirements are fairly standard and seems to be the same ones (more or less) that I was held to when I tested for that rank. Good luck!


Several reasons why tests are given, all in my opinion...

Tradition: Although how old is it really, seeing as how belts didn't enter the picture until the 1910s or so in judo. I've heard of certificates or scrolls denoting abilities, lineage, seniority, etc., so perhaps those were tested as well.

Rite of passage/ritual: Seems like the right thing to do. Why give a promotion without the person proving one last time that they're worthy of advancing before a board of some sort?

Part of the training: The test itself can be a teaching tool. Teaches people how to respond to pressure. Teaches how to succeed and/or fail gracefully.

The person administering the test isn't the students' CI: My CI promotes up to 1st kyu. Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura administers dan tests. Quality control, if you will. My CI is a 7th dan, and I'm pretty sure he can promote students up to a certain dan rank. Not sure which. Being relatively close to honbu (2.5 hours drive), he has his students test for all dan ranks at honbu. Other dojos that are further away test up to a lower dan rank in-house. Nakamura prides himself on knowing as many students in the organization as possible. He's quite good at remembering names of students outside his dojo. There's an international Seido seminar/clinic every year, and dan testing is a part of it. Not sure what the policy is for people who genuinely can't afford to travel to honbu to test. I'm sure there's something in place. I've seen some international dojos fundraise to send students. Nakamura and his son also travel to international dojos regularly.
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Lupin1
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Joined: 15 Dec 2009
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Location: Texas USA
Styles: Isshinryu

PostPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2015 3:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I could go both ways.

My dojo doesn't do formal tests except for Shodan. Every other rank is "when the instructors feel you're ready, you move up". I like that in a small program. The instructors know you well enough to know you know the material and you're ready to move on. They see you do it every class, so testing is unnecessary.

But, despite testing being unnecessary, I can see the benefits to it and, some day far down the road if I open my own program, I would do belt testing. There's something to be said for knowing the requirements, working to perfect them, and demonstrating them under pressure. It gives you more of a hard and fast goal to work towards and lets you take your training in smaller chunks.

Preparing for my Shodan test (the first official test I've ever had at this school), I'm working on my karate much more systematically than I ever had before. It's forcing me to really step back and look at what I know, what I don't know, and what I just kinda know. I can make lists of what needs more work to get up to standards and I can't just keep putting off the stuff I don't really like and working on the stuff I do when I know there's a test date looming in front of me.

I also think there's much more of an "I deserve this" feeling when you're tested. I underwent a formal testing procedure to get my yellow belt in Judo and watching the testing instructor score each move and tally up points and seeing the sheet with my final marks and how they add up to passing really left no doubt in my mind that I "deserved" to be a yellow belt, whereas almost every promotion I've gotten in karate I've wondered if I really deserved the new belt and if I was ready for it. I trust my instructor, of course, but the logical, calculating part of my brain felt a nice jolt of accomplishment upon seeing an actual score card in front of me.


Last edited by Lupin1 on Tue Nov 03, 2015 8:27 pm; edited 3 times in total
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JR 137
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2015 6:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lupin1 wrote:
I could go both ways.

My dojo doesn't do formal tests except for Shodan. Every other rank is "when the instructors feel you're ready, you move up". I like that in a small program. The instructors know you well enough to know you know the material and you're ready to move on. They see you do it every class, so testing is unnecessary.

But, despite testing being unnecessary, I can see the benefits to it and, some day far down the road if I open my own program, I would do best testing. There's something to be said for knowing the requires, working to perfect them, and demonstrating them under pressure. It gives you more of a hard and fast goal to work towards and lets you take your training in smaller chunks.

Preparing for my Shodan test (the first official test I've ever had at this school), I'm working on my karate much more systematically than I ever had before. It's forcing me to really step back and look at what I know, what I don't know, and what I just kinda know. I can make lists of what needs more work to get up to standards and I can't just keep putting off the stuff I don't really like and working on the stuff I do when I know there's a test date looming in front of me.

I also think there's much more of an "I deserve this" feeling when you're tested. I underwent a formal testing procedure to get my yellow belt in Judo and watching the testing instructor score each move and tally up points and seeing the sheet with my final marks and how they add up to passing really left no doubt in my mind that I "deserved" to be a yellow belt, whereas almost every promotion I've gotten in karate I've wondered if I really deserved the new belt and if I was ready for it. I trust my instructor, of course, but the logical, calculating part of my brain felt a nice jolt of accomplishment upon seeing an actual score card in front of me.


I really like your post. It put things I was thinking into words.

My old school/organization and current one are a lot different when it comes to kyu tests. In my old dojo, the dojo would be closed for the night, and there would be 2-3 tests, separated by rank and age. The head of our organization or the second in line would test the students. Our sensei would be on the floor, but not saying a word. The seniors would have scoring sheets and write comments. It was kind of a production compared to what goes on in my current dojo...

Testing is held during regular class times. The juniors test during the regular juniors class on Tuesday, and the adults are tested during all rank adults class on Thursday. Adults come to help with the kids' test. Adults testing on their day are required to stay for the next class, which is black belts class, to spar them for approximately half the class.

Tests are held just like regular class, except the ones testing have the focus and attention on them. They're out in the middle of the floor leading kata (everyone else is a count behind them); they're out a step further during kihon and the like. Everyone takes a turn with them during partner stuff. It's kind of like regular class were we go through the syllabus, only everything is covered, the CI throws curveballs to keep you guessing, and the pace and intensity are ramped up a few notches. A lot of people who don't normally go to that class and aren't testing attend to be a part of it (we're very family-like), and because it's going to be a tough workout.

I much prefer my current dojo's method. It's our CI running a regular class on steroids, and most of the dojo is there. We typically have 2-3 adults testing. I was the only one testing once. We've got a very small dojo - around 25 adults, with about 17 being black belts (including the CI, his wife, and his right hand man).
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Montana
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Location: Formerly Kalispell, Montana, now Spokane, WA
Styles: Shorin Ryu Matsumura Kenpo & Kobudo

PostPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2015 6:02 pm    Post subject: Re: Belt test Reply with quote

[quote="JR 137"]
Zaine wrote:
The person administering the test isn't the students' CI: My CI promotes up to 1st kyu.


That's a good point and I would love to have someone from the same system test my students (they have tested a few when a student or two of mine and I travelled to work out with other sensei from the same system...a rare occurance however), but the distance between these other sensei is rather prohibative.

I was in northern Montana at the time, and the nearest sensei for the same system was either in Seattle (a good 12+ hour drive ) or Minneapolis (probably a 20 hour drive), or Texas..(2 day drive at least). I did have a couple of these sensei visit me a few times, but only when they were passing thru my area and I had no advance warning they were coming.

My chosen system isn't like some where's these's one on nearly every street corner in the country. We're a small system and like it that way. In general, our instructors work on quality over quanity with our students.

Heck, in the 27+ years I taught, I only promoted 4 people to black belt level.
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Zaine
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Joined: 31 Aug 2005
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Location: Dallas, TX
Styles: Matsumura-Seito, Shobayashi-Ryu, Shudokan, Long Fist, American Street Karate, Southern Mantis, HEMA

PostPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2015 6:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

On the point of having another instructor do the test: I like it as well as long as there are uniform standards and sometimes there aren't, especially in a larger organization. This is easily solved, however, by a testing board (which is something that many schools do for higher tests anyway). When I got my Shodan, my board consisted of my instructor, and 3 other instructors from different systems. It took one instructor writing fail on their paper to fail me as the passing status had to be unanimous. While these other instructors could not have a perfect idea as to whether or not I was doing the kata correctly (in fact, I had forgotten the entire nunchaku kata and confidently made the movements I did up as I went) they were close enough in practice to judge whether or not my mindset, technical skill, and fighting prowess were up to the level of Shodan. I think this is invaluable for any Shodan test as it gives a different perspective on your own techniques.

As for the testing cycle, I certainly understand Jr 137's points. Tradition, rite of passage, etc. are all very important to the journey. After every test I felt a sense of euphoria upon the confirmation that I passed. However, when we take this away and reserve it for higher ranks, such as Lupin1's karate school, are we really taking away from an experience? I guess what I'm trying to ask is this: if we took away a testing structure, reserving it for higher ranks, are we limiting the growth or encouraging learning? As a school teacher I teach my kids to love learning and I try to make the knowledgeable about the material that they have. It's worthless to limit oneself to what is going to be on a test. If we take away this cycle, and focus more on imbuing a love of the material and being more open to what they learn and when they learn it will that be more beneficial or less beneficial to the student?

I feel as if I've convoluted what I want to say so to close: say a student is learning Pinan shodan and they have grasped it firmly enough to move on to nidan but have not progressed in other areas enough for a belt test then often they are held from learning nidan until everything else is in place. This can stagnate the students desire to come back. If we didn't worry about tests are meeting requirements, we potentially free ourselves from teaching requirements and move to teaching what they are ready for (assuming that the techniques and areas that are not up to par do not affect whether or not they can handle learning a different kata).

I hope what I'm trying to say is coming across.
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JR 137
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Joined: 10 May 2015
Posts: 2442
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Styles: Seido Juku

PostPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2015 8:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zaine wrote:
On the point of having another instructor do the test: I like it as well as long as there are uniform standards and sometimes there aren't, especially in a larger organization. This is easily solved, however, by a testing board (which is something that many schools do for higher tests anyway). When I got my Shodan, my board consisted of my instructor, and 3 other instructors from different systems. It took one instructor writing fail on their paper to fail me as the passing status had to be unanimous. While these other instructors could not have a perfect idea as to whether or not I was doing the kata correctly (in fact, I had forgotten the entire nunchaku kata and confidently made the movements I did up as I went) they were close enough in practice to judge whether or not my mindset, technical skill, and fighting prowess were up to the level of Shodan. I think this is invaluable for any Shodan test as it gives a different perspective on your own techniques.

As for the testing cycle, I certainly understand Jr 137's points. Tradition, rite of passage, etc. are all very important to the journey. After every test I felt a sense of euphoria upon the confirmation that I passed. However, when we take this away and reserve it for higher ranks, such as Lupin1's karate school, are we really taking away from an experience? I guess what I'm trying to ask is this: if we took away a testing structure, reserving it for higher ranks, are we limiting the growth or encouraging learning? As a school teacher I teach my kids to love learning and I try to make the knowledgeable about the material that they have. It's worthless to limit oneself to what is going to be on a test. If we take away this cycle, and focus more on imbuing a love of the material and being more open to what they learn and when they learn it will that be more beneficial or less beneficial to the student?

I feel as if I've convoluted what I want to say so to close: say a student is learning Pinan shodan and they have grasped it firmly enough to move on to nidan but have not progressed in other areas enough for a belt test then often they are held from learning nidan until everything else is in place. This can stagnate the students desire to come back. If we didn't worry about tests are meeting requirements, we potentially free ourselves from teaching requirements and move to teaching what they are ready for (assuming that the techniques and areas that are not up to par do not affect whether or not they can handle learning a different kata).

I hope what I'm trying to say is coming across.


Comes across perfectly clear to me; I'm a school teacher too (MS Science). I'm in a private school, so I'm not married to standardized tests.

My opinion is if you're going to formally test for dan ranks, you should also test for kyu ranks. Why should the most important (so to speak) tests be your first ones? Would it make sense if the SAT or ACT was the first test a high school student ever took? Kyu tests help prepare students for dan tests and being black belts after a test IMO. I view the test as part of the education process, not its own separate entity.

I'm not an MA teacher, so maybe I'm off here. The highest I've attained was shodan (was invited to test for nidan and was preparing for it when I left for grad school). Getting back into karate and starting over from white belt in a very close system (my former teachers were former students of Nakamura), I love testing. The new belt doesn't mean much to me; I love the test itself. It keeps my honest to myself regarding my progress.

But I really like what you said about when a student shows they're ready to move on to the next kata, but not other aspects of their rank and therefore not moving forward. I guess no matter what you do, there's always a bump in the road, or a odd situation that doesn't follow the true intent of why what's being done. Solve that one, and a different unforeseen glitch surfaces.
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chiliphil1
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2015 8:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I finally got to see a promotion at my new dojo. A girl was testing for 1st kyu. It went like this. She got the approval of 2 senior students who then made a recommendation to the CI that she was ready, he then watched her and decided if she had passed. This all happened previously, tonight she did her demonstration. It consisted of the 1 required kata for the rank, she also did a lower kata and then did it again as a bunkai. She read an essay she had written and demonstrated some basic self defense movements. It took about 20 minutes to complete.

I really like this system, she did this as a demo but had already passed because the CI had previously watched her. I think it gives you some pressure but at the same time she did the real "test" one on one with the CI. I should be doing it soon myself, everyone is telling me I am ready to move up to 8th Kyu but I'm in no hurry at this point.
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126barnes
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2015 5:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the input. Testing is by invite only, taboo to ask for testing as an adult and the kids are being groomed for the same. Seems as if 99% of the adults just want to be improving and belt color isn't important. I have never heard of anyone failing a test, so its pretty much decided that if your being tested you are ready. Usually given 4-6 weeks notice, which I also think is part of the test to see if you will ramp up your train.
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chiliphil1
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2015 11:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

126barnes wrote:
Thanks for the input. Testing is by invite only, taboo to ask for testing as an adult and the kids are being groomed for the same. Seems as if 99% of the adults just want to be improving and belt color isn't important. I have never heard of anyone failing a test, so its pretty much decided that if your being tested you are ready. Usually given 4-6 weeks notice, which I also think is part of the test to see if you will ramp up your train.


That seems about right. My previous school had testing every 3 months, if you met the time in rank requirements and passed the pre test you were in. In most cases if you passed the pre test and made it to the actual test you were guaranteed to pass. The new one is different, you have to tell them that you are ready to be promoted, once you have done that you have 2 senior students watch you, if they feel you are good they will sign off and tell the CI, he will watch and if you're good, you're promoted. Once you have been promoted you complete a very structured demonstration in front of the class and are then awarded your rank. It's very interesting and very different than where I came from.

I think in your case if you are invited to test then there should never be a question of someone being graded ahead of their abilities which I have seen A LOT of over the years.

You are also spot on with the want for rank. Kids are taught to chase the next belt, they are driven by accomplishing something tangible, like a new belt. Adults realize all of the benefits that they are receiving and are not as worried about their rank. We all want to get to BB of course but we are not driven by it.

One other thing my new dojo does which is a good idea is to award a stripe for every 6 classes you attend, this keeps the kids interested and gives them a reason to want to be there. They do not require a certain number of stripes to grade, it just denotes attendance. In the junior ranks there are 12 belts and in the adult 8. The CI did this so that the kids have something more to work for. I think it was a very good idea. He also does not award BB under age 16, so it gives the kids lots of belts to earn until they are old enough to get the BB.
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JR 137
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2015 1:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

126barnes wrote:
Thanks for the input. Testing is by invite only, taboo to ask for testing as an adult and the kids are being groomed for the same. Seems as if 99% of the adults just want to be improving and belt color isn't important. I have never heard of anyone failing a test, so its pretty much decided that if your being tested you are ready. Usually given 4-6 weeks notice, which I also think is part of the test to see if you will ramp up your train.


The way it should be IMO.
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