Standing by your standards

Damian Mavis

Master Black Belt
Mar 21, 2002
Reaction score
Bangkok, Thailand
So last week one of my black stripes approached me about going for her black belt this November. (we have a black belt test in Nov. and May every year) Now last year I mentioned she could go in May of last year but she barely went to class so when May got close I told her she would have to wait until November. So she takes June, July and August off of training and comes back last week and immediately asks when does the special BB training start so she can get ready for her BB. (the test is 5 weeks away....) I inform her that prospective BB have to train regularly and at least solidly train for 5 months before the test and that I think she should wait for May. She looks like she might start to cry (keep in mind she's 16 or 17) and turns away and leaves without saying a word....I figure she just quit TKD.

So I'm thinking, do people really just want you to sell them a black belt regardless of their effort or attendance? Earning a black belt is one of the most thrilling accomplishments due to the hard work and pain involved, without that you have a black piece of fabric around your waist that means absolutely nothing. I realise that I could probably keep her from quitting if I let her test in November (even though she didn't put in the required time and earn it) and get her to stick around for years paying tuition but to me sticking to my principles as a good instructor that isn't after peoples money is way more important regardless of the consequences.

Well.... the reason I decided to post this was because doing the right thing worked out in this particular instance. She came back to class tonight saying that she told her parents what I said and they fully agreed with me saying that they didn't think she was ready for the testing yet either. Somehow coming from them it made her happy (as she was smiling when she told me this) yet coming from me she was miserable.... And on top of that her parents must have been impressed with my attitude/strictness as they sent her little sister to join TKD that very night. Was nice to see that I did the right thing and it didn't cost me a student after all.

Damian Mavis
Honour TKD
I wish there were more instructors around like you. Even if her technique etc had been up to standard she hasn't got the mindset to become a blackbelt. I have seen instructors let people through to blackbelt when they are clearly not ready both physically and mentally and it has backfired. Most of the students leave as soon as they've got itheir BB, with the attitude that they've got their BB now. And lower belts see these sort of students obtaining their blackbelt, and if they're really serious about their martial art, are likely to think that they've chosen an art that is not going to be challenging enough for them. I left a TKD club I was training in for exactly that reason. The standards and expectations seemed too low. I'd much rather an instructor say to me "not good enough, this is how you do it, keep practising" than "that's good enough". I don't want good enough - I want to get it right. I left and joined ITFNZ, whose examiners are not going to give you your BB without knowing your stuff. Your student will probably be more likely to stay now, once she gets her BB.
I highly agree with your standards and approach however, I was just wondering about the "dojo etiquette" in TKD.

In Okinawa and Japan and the styles connected to them asking to test or for dan ranks is just not done. Cultural reasons I guess.
Is it OK to do so in TKD?
Im not sure if there is a standard set throughout the TKD community, but in our club you must first recieve permission from the instructor (him telling you your ready) and then you ask to test on a specific date.
Normally they are not supposed to ask, but since I had told her the previous year when she could test (assuming she trained for it) she took it upon herself to "remind" me last week. It's kind of rude of her but the answer she got was obviously not what she wanted to hear.

As for myself.... I am in ITF and as an instructor running his own school I do not have anyone to tell me when and if I'm ready to test. This year I am eligible for testing for 4th degree, the only way that test will happen is if I "ask" for testing by applying for it with headquarters. To me that's not too bad because they can always deny my application if they feel I'm not ready for whatever reason. Usually that decision is based on time since they don't really have a way of keeping an eye on my ability or progression. Since I have the time put in I'm not too worried about my testing being denied.... however the testing itself I could very easily fail. In the past I wouldn't have worried but with the new president Master Choi possibly presiding over my testing...... he's very strict compared to other testers and he has failed many people. I'm confident about my skill in TKD but knowing he's failed other people that felt confident makes the whole thing a little more stressful.

Damian Mavis
Honour TKD
Good luck! Let us know how you get along with getting those stripes.

Damian, I honestly wish there were more instructors like you around here. Too many schools seem to think that they'll lose their students if they don't promote them fast, and will promote the students before they are ready or truely know the material (it's happened to me). Kudos to you for sticking to your guns, you're teaching a lesson that extends far beyond Taekwondo.

And good luck on the 4th degree test! I hope I'm at that point some day.
Good move!

As for your 4th, don't ask just stay a 3rd :)

Ya know I still haven't heard anything back on my ITF certificate either :( I think they forgot about me (and my evil ways)

Wow thanks for the positive feedback guys.

Klondike, honestly it's not the rank I'm after... although the black stripes on my leg and arms will be nifty... it's just that when you get 4th degree and take your International instructors course you can test your own students. As a 3rd degree I have to set a time and pay a higher degree to come supervise my tests. It's just a bit of a hassle I'd like to get rid of although the instructor doing it for me right now is a great guy.

Damian Mavis
Honour TKD
Originally posted by Klondike93

Ya know I still haven't heard anything back on my ITF certificate either :( I think they forgot about me (and my evil ways)

:asian: [/B]

I haven't forgotten you. I just haven't had time to take care of it. I'll be in touch in a few days.

Robert Martin
If more TKD schools would follow these honorable and strict guidelines it would make the awarding of a black belt that much more special and worthy. Good job, my hat's off to you.
At my own dojang the Sabumnim first tests potential black belt candidates in a pre-black belt test after they've trained for a sufficent period of time, and have shown they're ready to become black belts. If one passes this pre-test then you're required to attend special classes for black belt candidates in addition to the regular classes. The special classes are held over a three month period. If the candidates then pass the actual black belt test, students must wait another 1 1/2 to 2 months before actually being presented with their new black belts in a very special and memorable ceremony.
It truly makes it unforgettable and worthwhile to know how much and how hard you've trained and prepared for your new dan.
Standards are different. Even in the traditional standards where it is extremely hard to earn a black belt, they vary a bit. One instructor might stress sparring more, others might stress technique. However, I believe all standards should be high for earning a black belt. Going twice a week for two years and doing nothing more than some drills does not earn you a black belt.
In our organization (WTF/Kukkiwon), gup and Dan ranks can not ask to test. Recommendation is strictly on the Instructor's discretion, although unfortunately some are more lenient than others. We use criteria such as technical ability, attendance record, age, time since last test, availability of judges, and how you have helped your Instructor and the organization. 1st-3rd Dan is based a lot more on technical ability. Higher Dan level is based more on your contributions to the organization. But no matter what the rank, you may never ask to test. Your Instructor will recommend you when he/she feels you are ready.