What to add in a 1st Dan test

IcemanSK

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A lot of folks here have talked about what we don't like in a 1st Dan test (or what shouldn't happen). Let's talk about what should be in a 1st Dan exam.

What do you consider to be the reason for the test? (What do you want to accomplish in the test?) This says a lot about the test we have.

How long is your test & why?

What does your test consist of?

Written work required?

A big physical test (3-5 mile run? Some other item?)

Other skill (weapons? writing Hangul? something else?)

Is there anything that you do that you're thinking of eliminating in your current test? Adding?
 

dancingalone

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I think it depends on whether we subscribe to the theory that the student has already 'passed' in the months before the actual exam through his performance and attitude in class or not. If yes, then the BB examination will likely just be a demo or showcase of the skills the candidate has learned in his gup levels.

On the other hand, there are some who believe the black belt test should be a trial by ordeal of sorts, perhaps physically, mentally, or a combination of both. If so, then the test will likely be long and will include some exercises to exhaust the candidate physically and mentally. This might mean a lot of calisthenics, lots of sparring with high level of contact, perhaps even some elements of 'hazing' if that is something the dojo head believes in.

I've trained in dojo that have followed one or the other approach. They can both work depending on the culture of the school.

For my TKD class, the test will indeed be a long, exhausting one because frankly we have a lot of content to work through, and I'm a stickler for details, meaning I want EVERYTHING from white belt on up demonstrated to my satisfaction. We also have a stated goal of making people physically fit, so yes, we'll be running laps and doing push ups to prove fitness for the test.

And I haven't totally made up my mind about this, but the other instructors at my TKD class want to make community service a requirement for advancing in rank, particularly for BB. It's true enough that a few volunteer hours at the local soup kitchen would be very enlightening for many of the kids in our class...
 

ralphmcpherson

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Most of our testing is really done in class for 1st dan. Our instructor watches 1st dan candidates very closely over a 12 month period and when he feels they are ready they venture off into town for the formal testing in front of the GM. Our instructor will line up all his black belts (about 25 students ranging from 1st dan to 6th dan) and has a potential black belt candidate spar all of them, one after the other. He will make sure that their timber break is successfull at least 95% of the time, he will watch their self defence routine over and over and check they know all forms to a 1st dan standard. If all that is achieved you grade. Formal grading is not long, it consists of a timber break (down spin to thick timber) with 2 attempts to break. Then they spar one other student of the same rank and then spar a 1st dan. Then they do a self defence routine. Then they do koryo form and then a palgwe form is called (the student has no idea which one will be called) and providing they do all that and dont fail any of them, they pass. From white belt to this point is usually around 4 years continuous training.
 

Archtkd

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Our instructor will line up all his black belts (about 25 students ranging from 1st dan to 6th dan) and has a potential black belt candidate spar all of them, one after the other.

What kind of sparring are we talking here? Serious full contact? If so -- and assuming you use just 1-minute rounds -- we are talking 25 minutes of continous sparring. I find it hard to believe your Taekwondo system is routinely churning out 1st Dans who have the stamina and mettle to seriously spar that many rounds.
 

Balrog

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I always tell my students that they don't earn rank, the rank earns them. They'll promote when they are ready.

Our requirements are a minimum of 6 of the 9 colored belt forms, sparring and board breaks. They only know for sure 1 of the forms that I will ask them to perform. The other 5 are random, so they have to be prepared to show all the material from White Belt on up.
 

ralphmcpherson

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What kind of sparring are we talking here? Serious full contact? If so -- and assuming you use just 1-minute rounds -- we are talking 25 minutes of continous sparring. I find it hard to believe your Taekwondo system is routinely churning out 1st Dans who have the stamina and mettle to seriously spar that many rounds.
Full contact, rounds are between 30 seconds and a minute. Children are not put through this, and it is something my instructor does prior to sending his students to grade. He prides himself on having the fittest and most conditioned black belts in the club. My instructor considers physical fitness to be compulsory for his black belts. His students really shine at grading and that is his goal. The night I did it I was lucky as there were only about a dozen black belts there that night, I went home very sore.:)
 

andyjeffries

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A lot of folks here have talked about what we don't like in a 1st Dan test (or what shouldn't happen). Let's talk about what should be in a 1st Dan exam.

OK, I'll answer for our UK association (the BTCB) and our club.

What do you consider to be the reason for the test? (What do you want to accomplish in the test?) This says a lot about the test we have. 1st Dan proves that they know the basics and are competent in performing them. Neither our club nor our association has any requirement about being able to teach Taekwondo, but personally that would be in my criteria too if I had my own club.

How long is your test & why? They probably only last 10-20 minutes. Slightly longer for higher grades, but not by a lot

What does your test consist of? 3 poomsae, step sparring, free sparring, break a couple of boards, self-defence.

Written work required? Not at first Dan, I think the BTCB requires it at 5th or 6th Dan (I didn't take my 5th Dan with the BTCB so I don't know)

A big physical test (3-5 mile run? Some other item?) No, and to be honest I'm not a fan of that. I'm not certifying that they are a competent runner so I don't care if they can run 3-5 miles. I care that they can do Taekwondo accurately.

Other skill (weapons? writing Hangul? something else?) Nope.

Is there anything that you do that you're thinking of eliminating in your current test? Adding? Nothing I'd eliminate, but as I wrote above - if I were promoting students, I'd like to see some evaluation of their teaching ability. If nothing else, get them to critique another students poomsae to see what things they point out. Maybe do this for another batch of candidates, have them write their thoughts down and then read them after the candidates are dismissed.
 

andyjeffries

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I think it depends on whether we subscribe to the theory that the student has already 'passed' in the months before the actual exam through his performance and attitude in class or not.

That's certainly the way we feel in all their tests from yellow-tag up. They won't be put in for a grading unless they're way above the standard required.

I've only ever know one student fail, a young teenager, who obviously figured out that the test was more of a formality than a process of deciding if they were good enough or not. He showed up sloppy, trying to prove a point that once he was asked to test he could pass when not even trying. He didn't ;-)
 

ralphmcpherson

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That's certainly the way we feel in all their tests from yellow-tag up. They won't be put in for a grading unless they're way above the standard required.

I've only ever know one student fail, a young teenager, who obviously figured out that the test was more of a formality than a process of deciding if they were good enough or not. He showed up sloppy, trying to prove a point that once he was asked to test he could pass when not even trying. He didn't ;-)
Our club prescribes to this theory also. Ive seen quite a few students fail though. It is usually the fault of the instructor for sending along a student who wasnt ready to grade. In some cases nerves just get to the student and they freeze or just freak out in front of a big audience of complete strangers.
 

andyjeffries

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Our club prescribes to this theory also. Ive seen quite a few students fail though. It is usually the fault of the instructor for sending along a student who wasnt ready to grade.

Out of interest, were the instructors educated as to why as well (so they don't make the same mistake again) as well as the students failing?

In some cases nerves just get to the student and they freeze or just freak out in front of a big audience of complete strangers.

That happens. We don't make as big a deal of gradings as we used to (something I'd prefer us to revive) so there aren't generally big audiences, it's normally quite a quiet/informal affair at kup level.
 

ralphmcpherson

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Out of interest, were the instructors educated as to why as well (so they don't make the same mistake again) as well as the students failing?



That happens. We don't make as big a deal of gradings as we used to (something I'd prefer us to revive) so there aren't generally big audiences, it's normally quite a quiet/informal affair at kup level.
In answer to your question, the instructors of students who fail do get a bit of a talking to by senior instructors from what I can gather. I know instructors dont like their students to fail. I have seen some good students just 'freeze up' on the day and its always hard to tell (if they are not from my class), whether they have failed through nerves or ability.
 

andyjeffries

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In answer to your question, the instructors of students who fail do get a bit of a talking to by senior instructors from what I can gather. I know instructors dont like their students to fail.

Damn right!

I have seen some good students just 'freeze up' on the day and its always hard to tell (if they are not from my class), whether they have failed through nerves or ability.

I don't know, I've normally seen a difference. Nerves normally make people make mistakes (they may do the wrong move, or wrong starting/ending position to a move) but the move still looks crisp and the mistake is not repeated in other situations during the test.

Sloppiness is generally lack of power/focus and the movements don't seem precise at all.

Just my 2p worth...
 

igillman

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You should test on whatever you want your black belts to be good at in class and in competition. If you focus the test on how well they perform the poomsae and have less focus on sparring then do not expect your black belts to excel in sparring and vice versa.

If you want your black belts to teach classes then make sure the test includes the colour belt poomsae, one-step and other things that the colour belts do along with some "how to teach" stuff.

If you want your black belts to win sparring competitions then make sure the test concentrates on sparring. Your black belts may not be able to teach classes very well but they will win trophies for the school.
 

Gwai Lo Dan

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I think it would be interesting as part of an essay, for the student to describe his/her perceived strengths and weaknesses in TKD, and how the student's style reflects those strengths and weaknesses. And of course, the student should comment on if/how they will develop their weaknesses.
 

StudentCarl

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Two things not mentioned above that are part of the 1st dan test at the school where I study are stance endurance and multiple opponent defense.

The stance endurance is 15+ minutes in horse stance, usually done while the lower belts do their forms during testing. It's a test of strength and will, and tends to tire your legs before the sparring and self-defense components of the test.

The multiple opponent defense has the student who is testing in no pads, fighting 3 black belts of similar size who do get to wear pads. It's considered self-defense, not sparring, so techniques are not limited to sport. It usually goes on 3-4 minutes which also makes it a test of endurance. Though it is clearly a demonstration that the student can defend themselves, it could be considered a kind of hazing as well. I haven't seen anyone knocked out, but healthy shots are exchanged around.
 

ralphmcpherson

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Damn right!



I don't know, I've normally seen a difference. Nerves normally make people make mistakes (they may do the wrong move, or wrong starting/ending position to a move) but the move still looks crisp and the mistake is not repeated in other situations during the test.

Sloppiness is generally lack of power/focus and the movements don't seem precise at all.

Just my 2p worth...
That probably is true most of the time, but there are a few exceptions. A guy I train with is just the worst Ive ever seen for nerves. In class he is a good student and quite profficient in his tkd. When he grades however, he absolutely goes to pieces. He breaks out in a cold sweat, he shakes so hard he can barely do form without falling over, his balance is all over the place and his muscles just freeze up. Its actually funny how low his kicks are when he grades, but its because he can barely lift his leg. I was exactly like this until about half way to black belt. I still get very nervous when I grade and have hundreds of people staring at me. A good grading for me is where I do my grading requiremnts to about 80% of my ability, Im far too nervous to get anywhere near 100% of my ability. I watched my 1st dan grading on dvd the other day, and it was about 70-80% of my best and it just frustrates me, but seeing the size of the crowd there and the fact you could hear a pin drop, Im probably not surprised.
 

Archtkd

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Full contact, rounds are between 30 seconds and a minute. Children are not put through this, and it is something my instructor does prior to sending his students to grade. He prides himself on having the fittest and most conditioned black belts in the club. My instructor considers physical fitness to be compulsory for his black belts. His students really shine at grading and that is his goal. The night I did it I was lucky as there were only about a dozen black belts there that night, I went home very sore.:)
I understand. I thought the sparring against 25 blackbelts was done at the test.
 

ralphmcpherson

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I understand. I thought the sparring against 25 blackbelts was done at the test.
No ,not at the test. Although thats exactly what a friend of mine had to do to test for 1st dan in zendokai. He was black and blue the next day, he sparred heaps of black belts, full contact, basically anything goes. Then when he was about to collapse they sent out attackers with baseball bats, he couldnt walk for two days after his test. They also had to do 100 push ups, 100 sit ups and 100 squats before they were even allowed on the grading floor. It freaked me out watching that, it made my 1st dan test look like a walk in the park:)
 

andyjeffries

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A good grading for me is where I do my grading requiremnts to about 80% of my ability, Im far too nervous to get anywhere near 100% of my ability. I watched my 1st dan grading on dvd the other day, and it was about 70-80% of my best and it just frustrates me, but seeing the size of the crowd there and the fact you could hear a pin drop, Im probably not surprised.

I think everyone's performance drops slightly when they test and that's natural. However, I'd say to work on it (by doing demos in front of people, mock gradings - with people watching, poomsae competition) would be useful.

I can't remember my coloured belt tests, but I've always felt happy with my performance at my dan tests. That's not to say I didn't make mistakes, but I've come off the floor feeling that I've given it my best shot and performed within my expectations of how I can perform.

The flip side of the coin is that I was always disappointed by my competition performances, but that may be a side effect of us not being a particularly sparring driven club (at least back in those days - we sparred but didn't focus on it as much as the other sports-driven clubs in the country).
 

ralphmcpherson

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I think everyone's performance drops slightly when they test and that's natural. However, I'd say to work on it (by doing demos in front of people, mock gradings - with people watching, poomsae competition) would be useful.

I can't remember my coloured belt tests, but I've always felt happy with my performance at my dan tests. That's not to say I didn't make mistakes, but I've come off the floor feeling that I've given it my best shot and performed within my expectations of how I can perform.

The flip side of the coin is that I was always disappointed by my competition performances, but that may be a side effect of us not being a particularly sparring driven club (at least back in those days - we sparred but didn't focus on it as much as the other sports-driven clubs in the country).
Thats good advice about doing forms etc in front of groups of people. The new class Ive started training at in the last year or so has an instructor who regularly gets you up in front of the whole class (about 50 students, most black belt or above) to do your stuff. From doing this over the last year it has really helped with my nerves, but I guess we'll see at my 2nd dan grading (in about 12 months time), how much it will pay off.
 

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