Black Belt testing formats

jks9199

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Some comments in another thread about the costs of black belt testing began to touch on the format of black belt testing. Rather than derail that thread further -- I figured I'd start a new one.

So... I see two areas worth discussing. The first is current testing practices; what are they, are they different for 1st black belt from advanced black belts, and so on. The second is what SHOULD they be...

In my system, I know of a couple of different formats for black belt testing over the years. The black belt test wasn't open to the public or non-black belts when I first started. You demonstrated your skills in front of the black belts, in the format that they felt was appropriate. You'd almost certainly already proven yourself sparring in various arenas, and were known. We were told that as you approach black belt, you're always being tested and assessed for suitability. Later, when I tested, the format was more open, and you generally could count on demonstrating your forms (stick, blade, and empty hand). Occasionally, the chief instructor would do something completely different out of the blue... like suddenly having forms performed in unison, instead of solo, or assessing you during a clinic. Some years it included some sort of panel interview, as well. Until recently, there was no testing for advanced rank; it was simply given when it was earned. Today, our testing takes place over 3 days, with a strenous PT test for all levels, and specified ways to test and demonstrate your skills.

Personally, I think some schools or systems are putting too much emphasis on stuff that has nothing to do with whether you know the stuff to be a black belt... They'll do things like firewalking, or crazy PT tests, or other stuff that just seems nutty to me. While I don't particularly agree with what he teaches, at least it seems like everything Rod Sarnosky (Combatki) tests is tied directly to his system. I think a reasonable PT test is fine, but the primary test of fitness should be in the skill demonstration.
 
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jks9199

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That's my thing... I've seen or heard tell of testings that had little to do with demonstrating skill in a particular martial art. Now, I'm not suggesting that there should be no toughness/spirit testing, but when the bragging rights aren't how much skill you show, but how much you endured in the testing... Maybe, just maybe something's askew. Balance the two; demonstrate toughness and fitness and spirit, but that shouldn't earn a pass unless, DURING THE TESTING, you showed the skill appropriate, as well. I emphasize the timeliness because I've heard people complain that "he had the skill in class, he just didn't test well" paired with the suggestion that the assessment of the person nominating them should carry more weight than how well they did at the testing. Hell, to me, part of a black belt is being able to do things properly (not perfectly!) when you're worn out and tired and when things aren't perfect!
 

newGuy12

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when you're worn out and tired and when things aren't perfect!
That said, I've seen some guys do some crazy stuff during testing, when they are soaking in sweat and totally warmed up, totally stretched out. The judges would say, "You do a running jump spinning side kick over these people." (who were crouched down) -- or something like that.

And then the Student would do that. I've seen some Students where would be so totally stoked during a black belt test that it would be amazing!
 

thardey

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That said, I've seen some guys do some crazy stuff during testing, when they are soaking in sweat and totally warmed up, totally stretched out. The judges would say, "You do a running jump spinning side kick over these people." (who were crouched down) -- or something like that.

And then the Student would do that. I've seen some Students where would be so totally stoked during a black belt test that it would be amazing!

But could they do the basic stuff well after the rush had worn off? Or even after the anaerobic burst was over? Can they keep their focus and do what they had trained to do?

That's how our tests are set up.

You do about 20 Minutes straight of forms, but you have to keep the intensity up for the entire time. We start at the most basic forms and go up from there. By the time you get to your most advanced form you're tired and you've burned up the anaerobic energy, so you have to work to stay focused and sharp. It's supposed to be your best form of the testing group.

Then you get a break while other people test. Then there's about 30-40 minutes of called out techniques - punches, kick, blocks, and combinations. These start kind of slow (as far as tempo), and slowly increase until you can't keep up. Then it's a mind game to remember what was called and in what order without having your brain shut down. At this point we lose people because they simply "quit" - they're going through the motions, but they've let themselves get overwhelmed. Again, what are they going to do when the blood sugar drops, and their brain starts to lose focus?

Then we have one-step punching combinations, which don't test endurance so much, but memory, after being under stress. The one-steps are designed by each student for Black belt.

Then we go into jump kicks, sparring and board breaking, during which the atmosphere lightens up considerably. Often fresh partners are brought in for the sparring, which is 3 or 4 2-minute rounds. You don't have to win, but you should be able to hold your own.

The Board breaking is for show and focus. It doesn't carry a lot of weight as far as promotion. I looked at it as a chance to blow off some steam after the stress of the test.

Our tests are designed to put a lot of peer pressure on the students. The testing board are in suits and ties, the other black belts in the school are encouraged to come in suits, families, friends etc, are encouraged to come, so there's a fear of public performance put on the student. It can be very intimidating. But only the board is allowed to judge the students - that is, no cheering or clapping during the test, the audience is supposed to be silent. (The only exception is for the board breaking, I'm not sure why.)
 

newGuy12

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thardey, your tests sound much like ours, except that the only people wearing suits are the judges. And, yes, the tempo goes up and down. Some answering questions, where the Students have a break.

And, yes, I remember seeing a Student test for 3rd Dan, and he was wore out. But yet he was able to do these breaking techniques that were very good. You see, I think that he wanted to really do the best that he could. He was very focused. I believe that he showed very good control of his mind.

I'm not sure how the scores are quantified for these tests. In our black belt tests, though, the result is stated at the end of the testing. We also have no clapping or cheering, except for breaking techniques.


Of course, 3rd Dan is no joke. No one will ever say, "Oh, but that is too hard." No. No matter what the judges say, there are no complaints. If someone wishes to give up, just give up, otherwise, the Student has to show good technique. No excuses. This is not testing for green belt, after all. Let's see it.
 

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