I've never seen anyone fail a black belt test, but I have seen someone give up.
No. As instructors we can see when one of our students are ready to test knowledge wise. What we really test for is the student's ability to perform under extreme pressure. This is what separates kyu's from dan's. Almost anyone can master techniques, but in our style a candidate must be at an advanced level physically, mentally, emotionally and also have the maturity to be considered BB material.
"You can't teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself" --Galileo
I've never seen anyone fail a black belt test, but I have seen someone give up.
Master Black Belt
I've seen someone fail a brown belt test.
--Stac3yKarate Moms have Brass varies!
I think there are a few variables involved.
1. The student may not be up to testing standards at the time of the test due to several things. Maybe nervous (b.b. test is a big thing), personal life, not able to focus 100% on the goal, etc...
So in those regards I don't feel the Master Instructors are to be blamed or held responsible based on those accounts.
For us the B.B. test was to test the candidate and see if they have the necessary requirements to be considered a b.b.and someone who can represent the Dojo/Dojang on a full term basis. Via comps, teaching, demos, etc...
So I have seen some fail, but generally they were allowed to have a rest & take it again as long as they were aware of the reasons as to why they failed in the 1st place.
As far as how I felt about it: I felt the Master Instructor(s) took all necessary unbiased precautions at the time of and after the initial judgment as to if the candidate passed or not.
So generally everyone was fully aware previously if they performed poorly or met the standards.
Someone else's story reminded me of a time (I was about green belt) my instructor asked me to do a difficult jump kick that I had never learned before. I felt frustrated and discouraged and even angry, but I just did the asked for repetitions very badly. Later, still angry, I realized that the difficult situation was the test. I passed the test and no mention was made of how terrible I had done on that one kick. He just said something to the effect of, "I knew you had not been taught that kick, you know."
I appreciate what I have learned in testing situations. I remember one of the first things I learned was: in a daunting situation, just do one thing, then do the next thing, just do the thing I need to do now. I have applied that in my life a few times since then.
2nd Black Belt
Even Chuck Norris failed his first black belt test in Tang Soo Do because his mind went blank. If Chuck can fail a test, anyone can, after all when Chuck Norris does a push up the Earth moves...
There are a lot of good posts here, and if I am duplicating anyone's comments, sorry. Knowing the material and functioning in class is one thing, but the pressure of going in front of a board of instructors is very much another thing. I remember the first time I stood in front of a class of collage kids, my own age, as a shodan. I almost lost it, talk about pressure testing your art. Once the mind is distracted, all knowledge goes out the window. Generally a Sensei has a pretty good idea if you are ready or not. There is time in grade and then there is time in grade and also being mature, well rounded in the art, and able to teach.
When wisdom is called for, force is of little use.
“The difference between an amateur and expert, is the mastery of the details”.
I failed my shodan test twice. I posted the story in another section but will recap it here leaving out the parts not relevent to the current topic:
In the year leading up to my mudansha things were becoming difficult for me at my dojo. My sensei became involved with my best friend, I won't bore you with details but I will say it led to her betraying me and to the end of our friendship. She told him some things I should not have said to her (trusting fool that I am) which essentially destroyed my relationship with him. His demands became increasingly unreasonable and he interefed in my personal life to an increasingly inappropriate degree. Also, I had become aware that he and other members of our organization had been involved in some questionable activities which were in direct conflict with my values (and most people's, I would hope) but had no actual verifaction and tried to shrug them off (I would much later discover the legal proof for the one incident, and allegations of many more - the public record is a wonderful thing).
I had been at the dojo for some 5 years when this started. I'd honeslty never really cared for the man from day one, he was a little too pretentious for my taste, but he had been recommened to me when I moved to that city and after a short time there I saw that the technical aspects of the training were good (this being my second school I had some basis for comparison). Besides, I am a sucker for personal growth through gruelling punishment so I didn't think too much about what a jerk he could be to the senior students. Once it became hard to ignore, I still stuck around through for over a year and a half because I was so close to shodan.
Anyways, he failed me twice. The first time, he told me I would not pass, but gave me the choice to go anyway, knowing that I would not refuse (could not, being who I am) and calling it a "dry run" (something no one I spoke to in our organization had ever heard of being done, ever, even people who had been there for over a decade). The second time he demanded I test even though he explicitly said that he would not pass me even if the rest of the board would. This time I refused, we argued, I ended up going anyways, and he yes, failed me.
Meanwhile, people who had been training for fractions of the time I had and others who frankly looked terrible both in class and at their tests were being passed - it became clear that my treatment was personal and not related to my ability as a karate-ka. I knew then that it was only a matter of time before I walked away, but I was determined not to throw away six years of training - there was no way this guy was getting away with not giving me my belt, which, by all accounts, I should have had after the second test if not the first. I stuck it out, and I finally *succeeded* on the third attept after a year and a half of hell, probably more because I did so well that third try that even he couldn't really stop the board from passing me this time.
At this point, it seemed our relationship had actually improved, and I would have considered staying there, but other things in my life had changed though and I was already moving to a new city. I was glad we could part ways on a positive note - even if I really couldn't stand the man, I had been with him for 5 years and am not one to hold a grudge if the other party can be reasonable (he would not be). And, the naive little girl that still hides in a small corner of my mind still wanted to believe that the hell was all part of some benevolent master plan to make me a better karate-ka. Not so much.
When I wrote to him after the grading to thank him and let him know I looked forward to visitng when I was in town to receive the belt and participate in the next seminar (as he had invited me to), I expected some nice platidudes and a good luck, and not much else. But, rather than allow our relationship to end quietly he chose to expel me from the organization permanently and publicly, in an email which he also forwarded to the ranking members of the school, many of whom were my friends. He actually mailed me the black belt - I guess slapping me in the face by refusing me a ceremony was even better than not giving me the thing at all - though I never did see a certificate. I almost mailed it back to him, but hell, I bled for that thing, so I decided to keep it.
Anyways, that was some time ago, I am now in a new city at a new dojo (new ryu, also). Assuming I am here long enough (I do move a lot), when the time is right I plan to ask my new Sensei to (re)test me for Shodan as his own student. No matter how much I know I earned the first one, every time I put on that belt it doesn't quite feel right.
Last edited by Laus; 06-10-2010 at 06:19 PM. Reason: typos
i have seen a black belt fail after using profanity and the tester gave him a real hard test and then failed him i have witnessed dozens of tests where they should have failed but were passed. i have seen a belt stripped from a 3rd degree the master was so angry i was scared and i was not the one being stripped of my rank hopefully a teacher knows how the student should do before a test and then test them but i have seen surprise BB tests and i think they are plain cruel if they go over 2 hours a person does need time to gather their focus to take a real long test just my 2 cents
Master of Arts
Wow Laus that must have been sheer hell! I'm glad you finally passed your test.
The unforgivable crime is soft hitting. Don't hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting; but never hit softly -- Theodore Roosevelt
A little nonesense now and then is relished by the wisest men--Roald Dahl
There be no shelter here
the front lines are everywhere -- Rage Against the Machine
I'm extremely sorry for what you were put through. Unfortunately this is the third story I know of this happening and they almost could each come from the same script. I only know the stories third hand, but it is one of the reasons I feel karate could be and perhaps should be banned, and I'm not picking on karate, I have similar stories from so many arts and human activities that it makes me question who is in charge.
Any instructor who abuses a student, physically, mentally or spiritually IMO deserves to be stripped of the position, regardless of rank or skill they possess, and any organization that looks the other way should likewise be disbanded.
But the truth is rank and organizations are mostly a sham, and 'professional' instructors (female and male) sitting around in their dojo all day are prone to believe they are masters and have the authority to push situations such as you describe.
The only professional code of conduct that should be followed, even if you teach tiddlywinks, is that "I will cause no harm to my students forever, and as they are my students I will not allow myself to enter their personal lives beyond the dojo."
Unfortunately this is not followed in too many cases.
I fear, one day some news organization looking for a story will collect all the stories of abuse that are documented and show the public the history of what occurs... abuse, pediphilia, cult behavior, etc. don't paint a pretty picture. It doesn't represent most of the arts, but there have been enough cases if pulled together none of us could show there is any way to stop it, and logic should ban MA existence.
In my time I'm aware of dozens of stories that show the same.
I try hard to make all of my long term students not willing to accept anyones pressure, alas even to not following me at times. The price of freeing their minds.
Back to topic, I've never put anyone up for sho-dan examination who wasn't prepared to succeed. They could of course freeze or forget and not pass, but that hasn't happened.
I think having someone test who isn't prepared is a bad excuse of instruction.
bushi no te isshinryu
derry, nh, usa
Yeah he's the kind of guy who needs to own the women who train under him. I'm not the first he's done something like this to, though I may be the most extreme case yet. Not a lot of women stick around there long enough to get to Shodan, most that do leave as soon as they have the belt around their waist. He has two female Senpais that won't blink without his permission, both in and outside the dojo - they literally run every decision by him, from where they live to how to go about a new business endeavour. I found it very disturbing especially as they consider themselves "strong women," and I looked up to them for years until I saw what was really going on. Now I just feel a combination of pity and disgust.
I don't know why I stuck around for that long, everything about that place offends my sense of decency. I suppose I don't like losing, and forcing him to eventually give me the belt when I knew he didn't want to was my own victory, however small. As for the expulsion, I think it was just his way of getting the last word. I was leaving anyway, there was no need to kick me out. I guess he doesn't like losing either, and couldn't believe that I really was going to just walk away, belt in hand, after all the effort he put into trying to break me. Guess I should have told him - nobody owns me.
It's too bad that so many schools are so badly run. Karate can be a wonderful thing if the people teaching it aren't corrupt, narcissistic hypocrites. When I was researching the allegations against this particular organization I came across a lot of similar tales. One in particular I rememeber was a book called "Herding the Moo: Exploits of a Martial Arts Cult." I never did read it, but the synopsis certainly was a familiar story.
Martial arts tests are more of a formality, you're more or less passed when you go to the test. At least from the schools I've been to, it's been this way. That's why the instructor asks you to test at this particular date of for this particular level.
So no, It's not an actual test like a university/college test might be.
The test does allow for :
- Review on student's performance on pressure type situations.
- Focus with undivided attention on the student's technique.
- Make notes on weaknesses so that the student can correct it once at his/her new belt level.
- Testing physical abilities and examining where the student stands.
The test can also allow the instructor to determine where on that passing level he/she is.
Find a school, review a school.
Master of Arts
I will say, however, that if you do well on every part of the test except one or perhaps two he will sometimes have you wait a period of time while you work on those areas and then "re-test" on those specific areas. I saw one gentleman test for 1st dan many years ago and he didn't do so great on two of his patterns. He waited for a few months and performed them to demonstrate to people that he had gotten them down. He was then awarded his official rank certificate. There have also been a couple times where people weren't successful on their breaking and had to redo that at a later date. Again, rank certificates were given out when they had completed this requirement.
My instructors told me about a test they both attended a couple years ago where people didn't pass. It was a test for senior black belts and two of the people who were testing failed; one was going for 4th dan and one for 7th. Basically, they weren't prepared.
Like with my instructor's students they were retested at a later date (and passed).
No one is going to be 100% every day. If you're going to have a test where it's possible that people will fail then I think retesting on those portions they did poorly on instead of the entire test is fine. That being said, when my instructor tells me to get ready to test I get ready to test! I've had a couple tests where I've made some errors which were big enough for me to pick up onat the time but, fortunately, I've not been told I'd have to retest on them at a later date.If so, how do/did you feel about it?
That is one philosophy, and I can certainly understand it. My own instrucors have gotten pretty close to that these days, in fact. They told me a story a while ago about their own instructor. He came in to test some of their students - including some they didn't think were ready but who told them they wanted to sit for the test anyway. Well, of course, they all did. They asked him about it later and he told them basically that if they didn't think someone was ready for the next rank they shouldn't let them test.Perhaps I'm coming at this with the blinders of my style, but anyone who tests for black should pass; otherwise they weren't ready to test in the first place.
It's simply a matter of knowing what each party involved is expecting and how theyview the test.
This should be happening with all students, regardless of rank, IMNSHO.As the first kyu students get closer and closer to black, they are being constantly "tested" in class to see their progress.
You could say this about pretty much any rank test, though, not just dan level ones.The real purpose of our black belt test is to give the candidates a platform to show what they can do, and to test them in other ways (eg. testing the spirit by working them to the point of exhaustion and seeing their attitude when asked to do something more). In a very real way, it's designed to make the candidates believe they've earned it (even though 95% of what goes into earning it happens weeks, months, and years prior to the test).
Only if your school or instructor holds to that philosophy. Some schools have different views.On this basis, if we say someone's ready to test for their black belt, and they fail, then as the people setting the test, aren't we at least partly to blame for the failure?
Master Black Belt
Just reading about this gives me the willies, as I'll be testing next month. Eek.
We had someone fail last year. This person obviously didn't take to heart the information we're given (that's pounded into our heads, really) about preparing for the test. In our school, we "declare" our intentions about 8 months before the test--long enough to remediate any minor problems and get conditioned to take the test (it's long and grueling--a "trial by fire" type). So the instructors who sign off on the paperwork are basically saying that the person is at the point where s/he can succeed with reasonable work. If that person then decides to mess around and not work hard, s/he could fail; and even if the instructor tells the student that s/he isn't ready when the test nears, s/he can go on and test if s/he chooses not to listen. That could lead to failure, too.
--Stac3yKarate Moms have Brass varies!