Describe Your Black Belt Testings

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by dvcochran, May 29, 2019.

  1. dvcochran

    dvcochran Grandmaster

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    The thread comparing 1st Dan students to 2nd Dan students got me reflecting on my Dan promotions.

    What were yours like? What is your style and what were the requirements for your Dan promotions?

    For me, my 1st and 2nd Dan testing were around the height of my competition years. In some ways, they were like a demonstration, but grueling. Before I did anything I was told stretch and hogu up. I don't remember exact numbers but I know I sparred over 20 people (of all ages) at 1st Dan. I was expected to show how an adult can effectively spar with kids and young teens to help them learn as well as go all out with seasoned fighters. We had some good fighters back then and more branch schools so I got to spar with people I seldom worked out with. The sparring at my 1st Dan was back to back so I got pretty gassed. After a short break I was used as Uke on self defense drills for about 45 minutes. Our GM is very good at pressure points and joint locks. I think I was hurting more after the SD drills. Then I was used as a rag doll to display stretching techniques. Finally in the 3rd hour we got into forms. I did not expect starting at Basic 1 but we did. I had to know 17 forms and had to repeat a few of them and explain specific sections.
    Lastly in the 4th hour, I did breaking. What exactly I did for 1st Dan I do not remember but it is required to do a break using both hands/arms and both feet.

    At my 2nd Dan Joel Heinke and Richard Smith showed up to go 3 rounds each. If you know these men you know that was a boat load of sparring. I had to lead displaying 30 techniques. Then a large set of forms. There was a pretty long Q&A session. Then breaking. Aside from the sparring it was kind of uneventful.

    3rd Dan was, rough. Our GM flipped the script and had the people testing for a BB rank do breaking first. I think there were 6 of us. We each did a single break, like round robin, with each person being told what break to do so nothing was really pre-rehearsed. A couple of hand techniques (3-4 boards each) and I had to do a blindfolded jump spinning roundhouse. Then we all had to do a running kick. I was told to do a blindfolded running jump spinning kick, 4 boards. I was pretty gassed mentally and when I tried the break the first time my kick was off to the side just enough that I glanced off the side of the stack. I landed on the top my right foot with all my weight. I knew right away something was wrong. But GM said go again without the blindfold. I could barely put weight on my foot and it had already started swelling. I lined up and did the break successfully the 2nd try. Within the next 30 minutes my foot got huge. I finished testing with similar requirements to the rest of my testing's but I did not spar very much. It was late in the day by the time testing was over. I went to my Ortho the next day and found that I had sheared a quarter sized piece of bone from my ankle and torn the tubes that the tendons run through. Took two surgeries to fix.

    Each rank has a heavier writing/knowledge load. The higher rank 4th & 5th Dan's have to prove contribution to your style/school.

    So what it your stories?
     
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  2. skribs

    skribs Grandmaster

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    My Master's curriculum is big on memorization. For each belt level, there's just more and more to memorize. Pretty much everything in the test (outside of sparring) is done by rote memory. In addition to forms, we have punch and kick combinations, one-step drills, and other things that are memorized. It generally takes about 2 hours to get through all the curriculum material. After that is board breaking, normal sparring, and 3-on-1 sparring.

    Black belts also need to have experience in 3 tournaments or 3 months in our dedicated sparring class, need to have 25 volunteer hours as an assistant instructor, and need to have 2 essays written for the day of the test.

    For 2nd degree and higher tests, there are more forms, more combos, but now weapons are required. We have testing requirements for sword, knife, nunchaku, bo staff, and eskrima. After 3rd dan, double nunchaku and double eskrima are expected. Each degree also adds a person to the sparring, so 4-on-1 for 2nd degree and 5-on-1 for 3rd degree.

    My Master uses the punch and kick combinations as the fitness portion of the test, especially after black belt. There are 30+ combinations, and you will do each of them 6-12 times in order, and then again several times out of order. He does this until you're tired. Then he has you do each of them in order 3-6 times again.

    For me, the first part of testing sucks and the rest is fun. Once I get through the stamina test, it's smooth sailing for me. I also don't have an issue for hours. For example, I had probably 700+ hours when I took my black belt test (25 hours required), 1500+ when I took my 2nd dan test (125 total hours required) and 3000+ when I took my 3rd dan test (325 total hours required).
     
  3. Buka

    Buka Sr. Grandmaster

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    I never had any.
     
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  4. Monkey Turned Wolf

    Monkey Turned Wolf MT Moderator Staff Member

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    My first one was i think 8 hours, lot of drilling, fitness stuff, and sparring. My second one was doing one form once, about 8 randomly chosen techniques (not kempo type techniques, think "hip throw" "single leg takedown" "leg kick leg kick high roundhouse"), and then a few minutes of sparring. I think my teacher just had trouble giving up the formality of testing. Currently, on a rare occasion I've been awarded a certificate at the end of class, but not sure what the black belt equivalent would be in ptk so i cant say if its different for a "black belt"
     
  5. skribs

    skribs Grandmaster

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    Was it the same teacher for both testings?
     
  6. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I'll include some notes on ikkyu (brown belt) in this, because that's integral to understanding the progression. In the NGAA, a brown belt has seen all of the curriculum required for shodan (1st black), and tested on most of it for ikkyu. The time between those two rank (minimum a year) is focused on increasing competence and learning to teach - that year minimum is the minimum time to do student teaching before you're eligible to test.

    So, now on to the shodan testing. It happens over several months, and is all individual (no group testing, at all, in my experience). Here are the components I can remember off the top of my head:
    • Strikes testings (10 kicks, straight punch, chop, elbows). This usually takes a total of a couple of hours.
    • 4 essays. I've forgotten what the topics are.
    • A complete record of the classes taught, with class plans from each class.
    • Techniques (5 sets of 10 grappling/locking techniques, tested on both sides in the formal "classical" form). This usually takes about an hour.
    • Applications to the techniques (same 50 techniques, but applications from different attacks, 1 side per technique). This usually takes about an hour.
    • Vocabulary. This is part test, and part endurance learning event. There are 400 terms on the test, some of which aren't normally used. The first pass through this is usually about 3 hours of answering the ones you can, and writing ALL of them down (this is how the list is passed on to instructors). This usually takes something like 10-20 sittings over 2-3 months, totaling several hours. This was also the first part I determined to change after leaving the NGAA.
    • Ki techniques - these are body and structure control techniques for deeper study. 11 total (5 were tested for ikkyu, all are required for shodan).
    • Defense test - 120 attacks, assigned by the instructor, from senior students (nikkyu and up, usually). This single test usually lasts about 90 minutes. This is the physically exhausting part.
    Going to nidan (2nd black), there's a small amount of additional curriculum (club/stick techniques, really basic nunchuku work), a minimum of 3 years as an instructor (actually teaching classes that are your classes, your students), a "blending" test, re-test on all 50 techniques and applications, and re-testing of any other requirement the tester deems necessary.

    No technical requirements beyond nidan (top rank is rokkudan - 6th, reserved for head of the system).

    My requirements are different, but immaterial until someone gets to that level under me: sparring at each level, less vocabulary, no ki techniques, and some other bits and pieces.
     
  7. Monkey Turned Wolf

    Monkey Turned Wolf MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Nope. Different schools/styles
     
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  8. Monkey Turned Wolf

    Monkey Turned Wolf MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Can you post a video of a ki technique? I have a guess of what that might be, but hope I'm wrong
     
  9. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I'll see if I can find one. They're pretty unimportant to the art as I learned it, so I'm not sure whether any of the ones we worked with are on video anywhere.
     
  10. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I found one. No explanations included, just a quick demo of one half of a ki technique, and maybe the easiest one.
     
  11. dvcochran

    dvcochran Grandmaster

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    I don't think I mentioned it but we have a similar teaching requirement. I still ran our Dickson school so it was moot I suppose. I like how you have to show records for classes taught and especially the teaching plan. We track attendance by check in but not individual teaching hours.
     
  12. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    The notebook is usually just spot-checked to see that the class plans make some sense (they are used more early in the student teaching process), but if there's any doubt the candidate has put in enough classes, it also serves as a log for that purpose.
     
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  13. thanson02

    thanson02 Blue Belt

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    My Cho Dan test basically lasted a week. We were expected to participate in every division at our World Tournament (2 day event), which included long forms, weapons forms, open-hand sparring, grappling, weapons sparring (long sword, staff, and mixed sword and stick), and team competitions. Then you were involved in 5 days of Conferences which included them reviewing your current and previous belt material, and then a final review from the testing committee regarding everything they saw that week. That doesn't even include papers, exams, and other things involving the test.

    I was on cloud nine after my test, no lie, but I was also ready to go home.
     
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  14. Kong Soo Do

    Kong Soo Do IKSDA Director

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    • Combat pyramid consisting of Hindu Squat, Hindu Push-up and 'combat' crunch from 1-20-1.
    • All forms for the system including applications.
    • History of the system.
    • Combat vs. one and multiple attackers both unarmed and armed.
    • Qualification firearm course of fire.
    • Demonstration of proficiency with weapons used in the system.
     
  15. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Black Belt

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    Brought back some old memories. Shodan test took 2 days, about 3 hrs each. A lot of ippon kumite using about every technique there was for defense and counter. Seemed to go on forever. No freestyle kumite - that was for green and brown. There were multiple defenses against basic knife and club attacks, including one take down for each attack. Defenses against common grabs, chokes, locks, etc were performed. No drills on the basics - those were to be perfected for brown. The black belt
     
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  16. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Black Belt

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    Sorry, my wireless mouse is ill trained and tends to wander when it feels like it.....To continue...

    The black belt "polish" or "swag" if you will, was shown in kata. All 8 empty hand katas in our style, plus the 5 Pinans for a total of 13. At the end of the grueling 1st night, Sensei told the two of us testing that we need to compose, and perfect, our own kata using 2 moves from each of the standard katas plus other techniques. We didn't get out of the dojo till after midnight putting them together. The next afternoon was spent trying to memorize the moves and get them to flow, come up with a name and the bunkai. We finished the test that night after the last 3 hr part.

    My Nidan test was much simpler. Two of us again, but my fellow test mate was another student, a tough little guy. The other shodan dropped out soon after he got his black. Advanced kata including bo and sai . As far as I remember, that was it, though perfection of form and delivery of power was expected. For sandan, another bo and sai kata was required, plus teaching experience.
     
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  17. JP3

    JP3 Master Black Belt

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    My ATA TKD 1D testing was pretty straightforward and would probably be familiar in format to anyone else who came up through TKD. You had to know all of the forms, one- & three-step sparring/SD drills, spar with several people and do three board break stations, 1 kick and 2 hand techniques, or vice-versa. Note, due to time constraints I didn't have to actually DO all the forms and other stuff, I was just required to know them, and be prepared to demonstrate them upon demand. My instructor chose our white belt, 1st blue belt & 1st red belt forms, then my black belt form. Sport-sparred 3 people, did a SD recreation, and that was it.

    The ATA trainee instructor testing demonstration was what most of you guys did for your actual 1D test, it was get up after each belt rank (if someone was testing for that rank), or by yourself if not, and perform that ranks forms and 1/3 step stuff. In other words, the entire catalogue from white belt to 1D. But, to be a trainee instructor you had to already be a black belt, so you didn't have to do the sparring or board breaks again. A time thing, I think. *shrug* I wouldn't have minded. Breaks have always been easy for me... except that blindfolded jumping spinning stuff written about above. Whew! Glad I didn't get asked to do that!

    The TKD 2d, 3D and 4D tests were similar to the above with the expanded material... and the added wonderful benefit of switching associations from ATA to WTF as there was no ATA school in my area of Houston when I moved down here in '92. Now there are of course, but since not back then, I made the switch.

    Then came Hapkido, with a new set of forms & techniques, but the testing paradigm was the same.

    After that was Muay Thai... which didn't have... rank tests. It had fights. Go fight, survive. Perhaps win? Cool. Now, teach someone else to do the same thing. Rinse, lather & repeat. After a while the instructor comes over and very unofficially-seeming says, "You're good enough to teach here now." And that's it. Not overseas of course, but for our wimpy Americans, sure.

    Then came Judo. In structure, similar to a TKD test except substitute out TKD forms for demonstrating individual throws, 1/3 step sparring is out with groundwork techniques, and sparring is the parallel to randori. Do that as you work your way up to black belt. For the Shodan test I was asked to demo all of the 40 basic throws of the old Kodokan system, demonstrate a plethora of holds, escapes from holds, chokes, armbars, working from one to the other in a sequence called out by the testing instructor, and once all of that was over then, while blasted tired, perform the nage-no-kata. Ugh. But, even wobbling around, got it done and it didn't look Too bad.

    My Judo 2D testing took the better part of 3.5 hours, as the three testing instructors were all cool people who I'd known for quite a few years and they got it in their heads to make sure that they "were going to make my demo an example of what they wanted to see." Again, Ugh.
    This time, so much fun, the Senior examiner was USJA 7D Jim Haynes, and he was actually giggling as he worked his way through the updated list of 60-odd throws from the USJA's "new" list of approved & recognized techniques. He had me do all of them several times, from several different angles & positions, different grip structures, some with only one hand... Did you guys/gals know it's very interesting to throw someone with uchimata with only one hand? It's certainly interesting for uke...

    So, finally done with throwing my testing partner/uke around for about 2 hours, then to the ground work, both of us exhausted and dripping, right into it, rolling around. Combo-flowing around, this technique to that technique... again, some giggles as they tried to come up with stuff hat my partner & I would have problems comprehending, not just demonstrating. It finally ended and now, once again we're blasted tired, nage-no-kata, then katame-no-kata and finish with goshin-jutsu. Once again I tell you, Ugh.

    The Aikido demos were... easier. No other way to say it than that. My early instructor, Ray, would always say "We call them demonstrations, not testings, because you don't get to demo if we've not already seen it in class." With that paradigm, a demo was actually less physically enervating than regular class. A couple of kata patterns, falls, rolls, throws, lock-em ups, and that's it.
     
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  18. Balrog

    Balrog Master of Arts

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    Our testings for 1st Degree are: forms, weapons, sparring, board breaks. We know the students know all the forms, because they had to present all of them at their mid-term testing. At the rank testing, they will present at least six of the nine colored belt forms. They just don't know which ones we will call them up for.

    Weapon demo is the basics and the short form for whatever weapon we've been training that testing cycle. Sparring is two rounds minimum of one-on-one, then at least one round of two-on-one. Board breaks are one hand and one foot.

    And then we have the dreaded Instructor's Choice. We've talked about this student beforehand and come up with something that will push them out of their comfort zone. Maybe it's a four-on-one sparring session. Maybe it's a board break against harder boards with a technique they haven't practiced. Whatever it is will definitely be a curve ball for them.

    And I would love for them to be successful with it, but what I am looking for is their attitude in accepting the challenge and that they do their best to succeed. That is the Black Belt attitude we want to see.
     
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  19. JP3

    JP3 Master Black Belt

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    You put that better than I did, writing from my student perspective, but I totally agree with that idea. Put the challenge out there, and watch to see how it is handled.


    You asked me in the side message about where I am, or was, in Houston, but I couldn't figure out how to reply there. *shrug*

    Right now, I'm in Pearland, which you know where that is since you live here. Been living here with my lady since graduating from law school in '97. I originally trained... well, shoot, this maybe needed to be in my "How Did You Get Here?" thread, ah well, I'm not the best linear thinker. Trained with now-Master Prosser in Rolla, MO, then with Master Tony Isaacs in Springfield. That's '92, then down to Houston after undergrad. I started out by living in my Dad's above-garage spare room until I got a job as a Paramedic in Texas City. Dad lived in Friendswood.

    Keep in mind, this is really before Google became a thing. I know it was out there... but not like today when I just Siri my question and Bam, Google hands it to me. So, i was asking around where martial arts schools, specifically TKD schools where, and the names I got were Iron Dragon TKD & HKD in Seabrook & in the Highlands, under Master Im. Mikhail Kuns was the instructor at the Seabrook location and I met him because I was driving... um... to a young lady's apartment (long time before getting married y'all) down NASA Road 1 and happened to see it alongside the road in, as most MA schools are, in a strip center. I noted the location, figured that nobody would be in there at 1:35 in the a.m., and went back the next day.

    It was quite a while later down the road that I found out that what was called USA Taekwondo, in Clear Lake (right off of Bay Area & el Camino) was an ATA school. I took my wife there, as a matter of fact.


    So, the story behind the story of the shifting associations was pretty simple, and if you're a longtime ATA instructor you'll remember... right about the time that the ATA instructors (as a group) were having PPCT introduced from Headquarters in Little Rock (Pressure Point Control Tactics), there was also that, it felt to me, sort of sudden shift in levels of tournament contact, rules for protective gear, all of that... had happened around '88 to '91, it felt like. I was just 1D to 2D during that time, so nobody asked for nore was interested in my opinion of the changes. But this young (read stubborn, headstrong, dumb, whatever) kid thought there should be more, harder contact, realistic engagement, and so forth. I really wasn't much of a fan, from a personal level (my training) of the Olympic TKD rules structure, though I loved watching it. So, anyway, I found myself wanting to keep going, but wanting to get something different at the same time.


    So... maybe I really didn't look really hard, maybe that's the thing. I don't really know. Maybe I convinced myself that I'd already found where I wanted to go, with Mike's school in Seabrook. I ended up moving from Pearland to Seabrook just to be closer to the school... and it worked out well, as it was closer to my work, first in Texas City, then in Pasadena, working in/on the ambulances.


    Did that clear that up for you, Balrog?
     
  20. Balrog

    Balrog Master of Arts

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    Actually, I live on the west side. But yes, Pearland has grown a LOT, especially after the completion of 288. Well, I should say "completion" - it looks like 288 is going to be like 45: always under construction. :D
    That was Master Beth Macdonald's school. She and I have the same instructor.
    Yes, it did. I'm glad you continued training and found your niche. If you're ever out on the west side of Houston, stop by and say hi sometime. We're at Westheimer and Wilcrest. www.WestHoustonATA.com123
     

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