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Montana
Red Belt
Red Belt

Joined: 18 Apr 2007
Posts: 827
Location: Formerly Kalispell, Montana, now Spokane, WA
Styles: Shorin Ryu Matsumura Kenpo & Kobudo

PostPosted: Wed Nov 04, 2015 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd like to mention that years ago I had a 8th Dan friend of mine from another system ask if I'd like to sit on his black belt testing panel and give my opinions as to what I thought of his students during their test. There were about 10 people ranging in age from 10 to 50 or so.

As each person was tested I was asked to comment in turn with the other judges as to what I thought was good about their performance, and what I thought might need improvement. I was totally APPAULED at what I saw in these students! They were HORRIBLE!

But what was I to do? My vote as to whether they passed or not did not apply, and I was just sitting on the panel as a courtesy only.

I tried to be as nice as possible, but it was VERY difficult to bite my tongue and not say what I was really thinking.

In my opinion, not one of these people testing deserved higher than a mid-level COLORED belt...but they all passed and were promoted to 1st, 2nd and even 3rd degree black.

I will NEVER do that again because as I get older and more disgusted with some of the stuff I see in the arts, I can't keep my mouth under control..which has been an issue now and then on this forum also! lol
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chiliphil1
Orange Belt
Orange Belt

Joined: 29 Oct 2011
Posts: 225


PostPosted: Wed Nov 04, 2015 8:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Montana wrote:
I'd like to mention that years ago I had a 8th Dan friend of mine from another system ask if I'd like to sit on his black belt testing panel and give my opinions as to what I thought of his students during their test. There were about 10 people ranging in age from 10 to 50 or so.

As each person was tested I was asked to comment in turn with the other judges as to what I thought was good about their performance, and what I thought might need improvement. I was totally APPAULED at what I saw in these students! They were HORRIBLE!

But what was I to do? My vote as to whether they passed or not did not apply, and I was just sitting on the panel as a courtesy only.

I tried to be as nice as possible, but it was VERY difficult to bite my tongue and not say what I was really thinking.

In my opinion, not one of these people testing deserved higher than a mid-level COLORED belt...but they all passed and were promoted to 1st, 2nd and even 3rd degree black.

I will NEVER do that again because as I get older and more disgusted with some of the stuff I see in the arts, I can't keep my mouth under control..which has been an issue now and then on this forum also! lol


I can agree with you here. I sat on a board not too long ago and I found that 80% of the students would not have passed if I had been making the call. As I recall the worst of the bunch was the highest ranking! He was going for 2nd dan and in my opinion was not a brown belt equivalent. What really got me was going behind the scenes when the time came to vote on who passed and failed and I was the ONLY one to say he should not pass! The senior members commented to each other that if a student wasn't up to par it was their fault as instructors and no fault of the student! With that they passed everyone who tested and said that "some of them will need to train harder from now on" but they got their black belts? What in the world? I decided then that I would no longer fit in that school and I decided to not sit on a board anymore!
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Tang Soo Do

8th Kyu
Matsubayashi ryu shorin ryu karate
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sensei8
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 15712
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Thu Nov 05, 2015 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

chiliphil1 wrote:
Montana wrote:
I'd like to mention that years ago I had a 8th Dan friend of mine from another system ask if I'd like to sit on his black belt testing panel and give my opinions as to what I thought of his students during their test. There were about 10 people ranging in age from 10 to 50 or so.

As each person was tested I was asked to comment in turn with the other judges as to what I thought was good about their performance, and what I thought might need improvement. I was totally APPAULED at what I saw in these students! They were HORRIBLE!

But what was I to do? My vote as to whether they passed or not did not apply, and I was just sitting on the panel as a courtesy only.

I tried to be as nice as possible, but it was VERY difficult to bite my tongue and not say what I was really thinking.

In my opinion, not one of these people testing deserved higher than a mid-level COLORED belt...but they all passed and were promoted to 1st, 2nd and even 3rd degree black.

I will NEVER do that again because as I get older and more disgusted with some of the stuff I see in the arts, I can't keep my mouth under control..which has been an issue now and then on this forum also! lol


I can agree with you here. I sat on a board not too long ago and I found that 80% of the students would not have passed if I had been making the call. As I recall the worst of the bunch was the highest ranking! He was going for 2nd dan and in my opinion was not a brown belt equivalent. What really got me was going behind the scenes when the time came to vote on who passed and failed and I was the ONLY one to say he should not pass! The senior members commented to each other that if a student wasn't up to par it was their fault as instructors and no fault of the student! With that they passed everyone who tested and said that "some of them will need to train harder from now on" but they got their black belts? What in the world? I decided then that I would no longer fit in that school and I decided to not sit on a board anymore!

The lack of integrity, imho, was lost here!! At what cost? Whatever the cost, it wasn't worth the selling of their integrity!! I believe you were right to decide to no longer sit on their board.



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JR 137
KF Sempai
KF Sempai

Joined: 10 May 2015
Posts: 2442
Location: In the dojo
Styles: Seido Juku

PostPosted: Thu Nov 05, 2015 7:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rank is a personal thing. Thinking someone isn't worthy of a certain rank when only seeing them for a few hours on one day isn't really exercising good judgement. Is rank solely based on physical ability? How much progress has the person made? Do they have any physical disabilities?

Reminds me of a lady I used to train with at my old dojo. She was a 3rd dan when I started. My first several weeks training with her made me lose a lot of respect for black belts.

She had everything physically memorized, but there wasn't any power behind anything. She was slow, and uncoordinated. Kicking above her waist seemed painful (not physically).

She was always the first one in and the last one out. She always had a smile and a look of determination on her face. She never gave up. She did everything she was told to do, without question nor hesitation. If she couldn't do it, she'd kill herself trying. Whenever anyone had a question, she'd help. She'd show anyone anything she knew, and did quite a good job teaching it. It may not have been there physically, but she easily conveyed it.

After I was around her for a few months, I felt like she earned her rank more so than anyone else there. She put more into those 3 stripes on her black belt than anyone I know.

By what you've said, if you came in on the day of her 3rd dan test and knew nothing of her other than what you saw for those few hours, you'd have failed her. Her drive would have been very apparent however.

Rank is a personal thing. If it wasn't, every 3rd dan would be able to outdo everything every 2nd dan in the system does. Every 1st dan would do the same to every 1st kyu, and on and on.

Yes there's a physical standard we expect. But it's not the only standard. Growth is most important when promoting IMO. Maybe I've got it wrong.
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chiliphil1
Orange Belt
Orange Belt

Joined: 29 Oct 2011
Posts: 225


PostPosted: Thu Nov 05, 2015 8:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JR 137 wrote:
Rank is a personal thing. Thinking someone isn't worthy of a certain rank when only seeing them for a few hours on one day isn't really exercising good judgement. Is rank solely based on physical ability? How much progress has the person made? Do they have any physical disabilities?

Reminds me of a lady I used to train with at my old dojo. She was a 3rd dan when I started. My first several weeks training with her made me lose a lot of respect for black belts.

She had everything physically memorized, but there wasn't any power behind anything. She was slow, and uncoordinated. Kicking above her waist seemed painful (not physically).

She was always the first one in and the last one out. She always had a smile and a look of determination on her face. She never gave up. She did everything she was told to do, without question nor hesitation. If she couldn't do it, she'd kill herself trying. Whenever anyone had a question, she'd help. She'd show anyone anything she knew, and did quite a good job teaching it. It may not have been there physically, but she easily conveyed it.

After I was around her for a few months, I felt like she earned her rank more so than anyone else there. She put more into those 3 stripes on her black belt than anyone I know.

By what you've said, if you came in on the day of her 3rd dan test and knew nothing of her other than what you saw for those few hours, you'd have failed her. Her drive would have been very apparent however.

Rank is a personal thing. If it wasn't, every 3rd dan would be able to outdo everything every 2nd dan in the system does. Every 1st dan would do the same to every 1st kyu, and on and on.

Yes there's a physical standard we expect. But it's not the only standard. Growth is most important when promoting IMO. Maybe I've got it wrong.


No no, I think you make a very valid point, I don't believe you have it wrong at all! I look at it like this, if someone cannot kick over their head it doesn't make them a bad practitioner but I would expect at that level for perfect knee level kicks!

The issues I had were not with speed, power, intensity, but rather with lack of skill. Even the oldest, weakest, etc practitioner should be able to complete the movement correctly (unless injury prevents it) and should at the very least punch the correct way, block in the right spot, turn their head to the attacker, etc. These were the things I did not see in addition to lack of intensity for the teenage students which I would expect to have such things. The best candidate was around 16 or so, he impressed me and I felt that he deserved the rank but he was one of the few.

I have to admit though, I am picky and I have no problem failing someone if they do not deserve the rank, if they do not get the belt they will work harder and realize that it won't just be handed to them, that's my theory anyway and that's the way I have always felt about it. There have been other occasions in the past where I was again the only one to vote for students to fail and these students were below the BB level but again I was overruled by an instructor who felt it was better to give them the belt and THEN work with them. I cannot help but think that there is some "student retention" at play here.

I try not to sound like I am complaining or elitist, I have certainly failed gradings in the past and I should have. I worked harder and was better the next time, if I got the rank it wouldn't have given me much reason to work harder.
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Black belt AFAF # 178
Tang Soo Do

8th Kyu
Matsubayashi ryu shorin ryu karate
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JR 137
KF Sempai
KF Sempai

Joined: 10 May 2015
Posts: 2442
Location: In the dojo
Styles: Seido Juku

PostPosted: Fri Nov 06, 2015 4:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've never failed a promotion test, and I've never seen anyone else either. Both schools I've been affiliated with had the policy that the student is invited to test when they're ready. The student has already earned the promotion, and the test is a formality. In this instance, if the student doesn't promote, it's really a failure of the teacher and not the student IMO.

I've heard of very few students failing a promotion test. They failed due to doing stupid things - disrespectful acts, giving up, and completely freezing and not being able to get back to the task at hand. Those are on the student, not the teacher.

I've never failed a test, and have been invited to test every time according to schedule. There were many during my tenure who weren't allowed to test for various reasons. Most often, they just weren't ready.

I don't think a student has any business testing if they haven't already earned the promotion. If they're on the bubble, that's not good enough.

Kids are a different animal altogether. The true point of them in the MA is teaching a foundation, giving them all the things you see on the McDojo ads, and getting them to love the MA. If passing them along keeps them interested and motivated, then I'm ok with that for the most part. As they get older, things should change. I say around middle school age. Holding kids to adult standards is absurd. I'm all about holding them to a high standard when it comes to discipline and the like, but techniques will come with maturity. Hook them while they're young, just like the tobacco companies want to do. They'll grow into great martial artists if you let them.
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Hawkmoon
Pre-Black Belt
Pre-Black Belt

Joined: 17 Jun 2013
Posts: 891
Location: MK in the UK
Styles: Kyokushin

PostPosted: Mon Nov 16, 2015 9:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

hmm...
my first '1st Kyu' grading was done nearly 20 years ago!At that time I was required to demonstrate all kihon from 10th kyu to the grade I was attempting.
It tool about 5 hrs, I was the only student taking 1st kyu on that day!

When I came back to karate I re-took my 1st kyu grading, out of respect for teh other guys in the dojo. Like before was required to demonstrate all kihon to the grade I was attempting.
This time there were four of us involved, but it took about 6 hrs this time.


As an aside ...
I've failed a grading absolutely ages ago, 6th kyu!
I was far from ready and deserved to fail! When I retook it I was tested for about 2 hrs'ish! Same rules applied to this as all my grading's.
Past that grading with authority to over come the shame and dishonor I felt.

Now I've also sat in on my sons dojo for all his grading's and so far, the longest one was maybe 30 mins. (They test the student for that rank only on the day!)

All the BBs in that club call each other Black belts, none refer to the other as sho or San dan. The few that are aware of me and what I do have asked how they compare to what I do I struggle as they grade so differently from how I grade.
So I asked one time what my son will go through when he grades for Black belt. When he undertakes his 'black belt' I'm told he'll be tested for about 3hrs, the guys all looked at me in horror when they asked after my grading and were told it was a three day test!

So let me close off with a cautionary word, each club, system ryu will train, test and rank students in accordance to what they and only they require.
What others do does not necessarily map to what you are doing so be careful o not place to much interest in them they are after all working to a different framework and desire.
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Sosai Masutatsu Oyama (1923 - 1994) Founder of Kyokushin Karate.
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Spartacus Maximus
Black Belt
Black Belt

Joined: 01 Jun 2014
Posts: 1876

Styles: Shorin ryu

PostPosted: Mon Nov 16, 2015 8:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The idea of testing for a level is flawed in many ways. Skill level as well as technical understanding is apparent in the way one trains and practises. This is obvious to the trained eye of a skilled instructor. Evaluation is a constant process of observation and one either has a skill level or does not.

How and when an instructor chooses to formally recognize this is a matter of personal choice. Formal gradings and so-called testing are meant for an entirely different purpose than deciding whether or not students have a certain level. The instructor knows the students are ready, the importance of the test is in its symbolic meaning which is to give students a tangible representation of their progress and reward them for it. In one word "ego".
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126barnes
Yellow Belt
Yellow Belt

Joined: 29 Oct 2015
Posts: 46
Location: Canada
Styles: Kenpo Karate

PostPosted: Fri Dec 18, 2015 8:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Managed to pass my brown belt test last night. So happy to have that finished prior to Christmas. Big thanks to all the guys that helped me prepare.

My 12 yr old son all ready to teach me the new katas as he did at blue belt level.


23 months to make BB and achieve my goal of BB at 40.
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bushido_man96
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 29283
Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE

PostPosted: Sat Dec 19, 2015 6:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Congrats, man! What a Christmas present, eh?
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