why belt test?

PhotonGuy

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This has always been my view. And it doesn't change if the "test" becomes an informal evaluation over time. And it doesn't change if (in either of those cases) the belt doesn't even exist.

Well in some styles they do promote you based on your evaluation over time as opposed to formally testing you. From my experience that's how its done in BJJ, at least that's how its done where I do BJJ. As for the belt not existing, there are some styles that use other symbols to display rank, for instance, some styles use patches.
 

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In a perfect world where belt mills don’t exist, absolutely. In a world where there are no 4th degree black belts who aren’t old enough to legally drive, absolutely.

I saw one of those 4th dans at a TKD demo in a mall one time. I was giving her the benefit of the doubt and thinking she just looked really young. Then in the food court, I overheard her mother saying (they were sitting behind me) “I can’t wait until you’re old enough to drive so I don’t have to drag you all over the place for these things.” I felt sorry for her, as it wasn’t a great thing for her to have to hear. Way to support your kid.

Well you're right, unfortunately lots of martial arts schools are belt mills. I've visited various martial arts schools and observed classes and I've seen public demonstrations put on by certain martial arts academies and some of them were absolutely horrible. The black belts performing were so bad it just about made me cringe.

Now as for me and what I said earlier about earning rank. If I were to earn rank I would want to earn it at a good legitimate school where you have to work hard to be promoted. As for those belt mills and those TKD schools that you mention where they have 4th dans who are too young to drive, you will not find me wasting my time there.
 

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Well in some styles they do promote you based on your evaluation over time as opposed to formally testing you. From my experience that's how its done in BJJ, at least that's how its done where I do BJJ. As for the belt not existing, there are some styles that use other symbols to display rank, for instance, some styles use patches.
Agreed. And some use no ranks, at all, but there's still the same basic process. The instructor is evaluating along the way, judging what they are ready for next, etc. Belt, ranks, and formal tests are just tools to formalize that same process, and can have other uses, as well.
 

PhotonGuy

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So anyway, some of the posters here such as JR 137 have talked about pursing improvement instead of rank. Well, with pursuing rank and just pursuing improvement there is this major difference. This is assuming that you’re going to a dojo with good standards where you have to work hard to earn rank, so Im not talking about belt mills that hand 4th degree black belts to students who are not even old enough to drive as JR 137 pointed out. If you’re at a dojo where you have to work hard to earn rank than in order to earn rank you not only have to pursue improvement but you have to improve in specific ways that will meet your instructor’s standards for rank advancement. Lets say you’ve got a really good round kick but your reverse punch is lacking. You might want to work on your round kick even more and get it even better and get it the best as it can be. That’s all fine and good and I do think its smart to focus on your strengths and develop them to their greatest potential but if your instructor requires both a good round kick and a good reverse punch for rank advancement, you can improve your roundhouse kick until you’re blue in the face and you will not be promoted as long as your reverse punch is lacking. In order to earn rank you will have to improve your reverse punch so that its up to par. So that is how striving for rank is different than just striving for improvement.
 

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So anyway, some of the posters here such as JR 137 have talked about pursing improvement instead of rank. Well, with pursuing rank and just pursuing improvement there is this major difference. This is assuming that you’re going to a dojo with good standards where you have to work hard to earn rank, so Im not talking about belt mills that hand 4th degree black belts to students who are not even old enough to drive as JR 137 pointed out. If you’re at a dojo where you have to work hard to earn rank than in order to earn rank you not only have to pursue improvement but you have to improve in specific ways that will meet your instructor’s standards for rank advancement. Lets say you’ve got a really good round kick but your reverse punch is lacking. You might want to work on your round kick even more and get it even better and get it the best as it can be. That’s all fine and good and I do think its smart to focus on your strengths and develop them to their greatest potential but if your instructor requires both a good round kick and a good reverse punch for rank advancement, you can improve your roundhouse kick until you’re blue in the face and you will not be promoted as long as your reverse punch is lacking. In order to earn rank you will have to improve your reverse punch so that its up to par. So that is how striving for rank is different than just striving for improvement.
True, though I suspect the instructor at a similar school with no ranks will also require improvement of that reverse punch, if it is key.
 

JR 137

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So anyway, some of the posters here such as JR 137 have talked about pursing improvement instead of rank. Well, with pursuing rank and just pursuing improvement there is this major difference. This is assuming that you’re going to a dojo with good standards where you have to work hard to earn rank, so Im not talking about belt mills that hand 4th degree black belts to students who are not even old enough to drive as JR 137 pointed out. If you’re at a dojo where you have to work hard to earn rank than in order to earn rank you not only have to pursue improvement but you have to improve in specific ways that will meet your instructor’s standards for rank advancement. Lets say you’ve got a really good round kick but your reverse punch is lacking. You might want to work on your round kick even more and get it even better and get it the best as it can be. That’s all fine and good and I do think its smart to focus on your strengths and develop them to their greatest potential but if your instructor requires both a good round kick and a good reverse punch for rank advancement, you can improve your roundhouse kick until you’re blue in the face and you will not be promoted as long as your reverse punch is lacking. In order to earn rank you will have to improve your reverse punch so that its up to par. So that is how striving for rank is different than just striving for improvement.
You make some great points that I haven’t really considered. I like them, and agree for the most part.

But there’s a fundamental difference between chasing rank and chasing improvement IMO. During my 18-24 year old stint in karate, I chased rank. It was about learning my material for the current rank, and doing it to a “good enough” standard to be promoted so I can learn the next group of cool stuff. Repeat until black belt. I was quite good, and I exceeded the my teacher’s minimum standards. It certainly wasn’t a belt mill, and I genuinely earned each promotion.

During my 38-present (41) stint in a very close syllabus-wise school, I’m chasing improvement. I’m not looking to learn the next grade’s “cool stuff.” My goal isn’t a black belt around my waist. Whatever I’m doing, I want to do it better than I think I can. Wowing onlookers, classmates and my teacher is all fine and good, but it doesn’t do anything for me anymore. I’m more critical of myself than anyone else is of me; they see my flaws, but I feel them. Quite often they’re easier to feel than to see. Granted, they see flaws that I don’t see or feel, so I get it from both sides.

I guess chasing rank is a “good enough” mentality, whereas chasing improvement is a perfectionist mentality. It was and is for me, anyway.

Here’s a better way to put it: my first go round, I learned taikyoku 1-3 kata as a white belt. My mentality was do it well enough so I can learn Pinan 1 kata, as that looked cool. When I went back this time, I wanted to perfect taikyoku 1-3 before I started working on Pinan 1. All I know for certain is at 41 I’m so much better than I was at 21. I may not be as flexible and capable of jumping around as I was, but I’m better in every single other way. I’m sharper, faster, stronger, and can take a hit far better.

Oh yeah, I don’t recover like I did in my 20s either.
 
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Thisposthuman

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A lot if you seem to consider things the way i do, I really only are about getting better at my craft and as long as the belt testing (or not testing) doesnt keep me from getting access to the training I will likely skip it. However I understand from an instructors position how its helpful to identify which students have put in the hours.
 

JR 137

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A lot if you seem to consider things the way i do, I really only are about getting better at my craft and as long as the belt testing (or not testing) doesnt keep me from getting access to the training I will likely skip it. However I understand from an instructors position how its helpful to identify which students have put in the hours.
Absolutely. And it’s of greater benefit in a large school where there’s several different people teaching on specific nights. And of great benefit when going to a clinic/seminar/mass workout where multiple schools from the same organization are present; groups can be quickly and easily divided based on rank, ability, knowledge of the syllabus, etc.; or an instructor can modify things to get as many people simultaneously involved as possible.
 

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I'm going to speak from the perspective of a Taekwondo student and an instructor at my school. Yesterday there was a kid in our green belt class, of which we have ranks Green and Green I. The Green I is a higher rank, denoted with a black stripe down the belt. I told the solid green belts to have a seat while I had the Green I's perform their techniques. One of the solid green students was adamant that he knew their stuff, so he should be able to practice. I told him no, mainly because I wanted to focus my attention on the students who were at that rank at that point in time.

However, when it came time for his group to perform, his performance was terrible. His focus wasn't good. His stances were terrible, techniques were sloppy, and he kept forgetting his curriculum. I was extra hard on him yesterday, because it was clear he needed to practice his stuff more and pay more attention to what he was doing.

Obviously, this is not the same situation as an adult who just wants to learn techniques and doesn't care about ranks, but I've seen the same thing in adults who want to learn how to do the fancy flying kicks before they have a firm enough foundation in the basic kicks. People who try to learn too many techniques at once are sloppy with all of them. This is part of why I think belt ranks exist, and even if it doesn't matter to your ego what rank you are, it can be useful to progress through the ranks so that your training will be at the level you expect it to be.

If another instructor comes in, or if new students come in, it would also be helpful for them to see you at a higher rank. From the perspective of another instructor, he should be able to see that you are ready for that stage of teaching. From another student's perspective, they shouldn't see someone else of their belt training in things they aren't ready for.
 

PhotonGuy

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You make some great points that I haven’t really considered. I like them, and agree for the most part.

But there’s a fundamental difference between chasing rank and chasing improvement IMO. During my 18-24 year old stint in karate, I chased rank. It was about learning my material for the current rank, and doing it to a “good enough” standard to be promoted so I can learn the next group of cool stuff. Repeat until black belt. I was quite good, and I exceeded the my teacher’s minimum standards. It certainly wasn’t a belt mill, and I genuinely earned each promotion.
I see what you mean, but for me when Im striving for rank I want to do not just well enough to meet the standards minimally I want to blow them out of the water. Achieving rank is all about meeting certain standards for certain levels that are set by an instructor that you've put your time and trust into. And if Im pursuing rank, while I obviously do want to meet such standards I want to go well beyond them if possible and be the best I can be. And 1st Dan, the first rank represented with a black belt is by no means the end. There's 2nd Dan, 3rd Dan, ect. Some people want to pursue higher Dan ranks. Some people don't care about further rank advancement after making 1st Dan. I've known people who don't care to advance past 3rd Kyu which is represented with a brown belt and then there are those who don't care about rank at all. Whatever rank somebody wants to earn or whether or not a student cares about earning rank is a choice and the way I see it, there is nothing wrong with making whatever choice you want in regards to what rank you want to earn or whether or not you want to earn rank as long as you don't try pushing your choice on others.

During my 38-present (41) stint in a very close syllabus-wise school, I’m chasing improvement. I’m not looking to learn the next grade’s “cool stuff.”
Well as far as the next grade's cool stuff, from my experience about 90 percent of what you will use in the martial arts you learn during your first few belts. To this day I would say most of the techniques that I emphasize the most and train in the most are techniques I learned as a white belt. Even the more complex combinations and forms are often just made up of basics that you learn as a beginner. After that, its all a matter of improving what you learned when you first started out. Both a beginner with just a week of training and an experienced practitioner with many years of training are going to know the reverse punch, but the more experienced practitioner will have honed it to a much greater degree of skill and effectiveness. So most of the cool stuff you learn as a beginner, than its just a matter of making it better.

My goal isn’t a black belt around my waist.
Well the physical black belt is not the actual rank, its a symbol of the rank. If your goal is to have the physical belt around your waist you can simply buy one as people on this forum have suggested. Some of the people have provided links to sources where you can buy belts although such links wouldn't be necessary, all you have to do is google martial arts supplies and find a site that sells belts where you can buy a black belt and put it on.
If your goal is to earn the rank of 1st Dan that's a different story. Earning 1st Dan means meeting standards that are set by an instructor, not wearing a belt that symbolizes that you've met those standards.

Whatever I’m doing, I want to do it better than I think I can. Wowing onlookers, classmates and my teacher is all fine and good, but it doesn’t do anything for me anymore. I’m more critical of myself than anyone else is of me; they see my flaws, but I feel them. Quite often they’re easier to feel than to see. Granted, they see flaws that I don’t see or feel, so I get it from both sides.
I agree in always trying to do stuff better. I also agree in doing stuff not to impress others but to give myself confidence and feel good about myself.

I guess chasing rank is a “good enough” mentality, whereas chasing improvement is a perfectionist mentality. It was and is for me, anyway.
You're not going to acquire rank without chasing improvement provided you're not training at a belt mill. But, like I said before I want to go above and beyond the requirements for rank not just squeak by.

Here’s a better way to put it: my first go round, I learned taikyoku 1-3 kata as a white belt. My mentality was do it well enough so I can learn Pinan 1 kata, as that looked cool. When I went back this time, I wanted to perfect taikyoku 1-3 before I started working on Pinan 1. All I know for certain is at 41 I’m so much better than I was at 21. I may not be as flexible and capable of jumping around as I was, but I’m better in every single other way. I’m sharper, faster, stronger, and can take a hit far better.

Oh yeah, I don’t recover like I did in my 20s either.
I want to perfect the katas I know now and make them the best possible. When Im ready, my instructor will teach me more. Today he just taught me some new sai techniques.

And Im your age and Im in the best shape ever.
 

PhotonGuy

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A lot if you seem to consider things the way i do, I really only are about getting better at my craft and as long as the belt testing (or not testing) doesnt keep me from getting access to the training I will likely skip it. However I understand from an instructors position how its helpful to identify which students have put in the hours.

If your instructor does use rank, you might have to go up in rank before learning more advanced material.
 

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Greetings Earthling.

Let me explain why we have belt tests.

Well, think about it this way.

In order for an instructor to know what your abilities are, and, wether you fit the requirements to move onto advanced training, obviously, he/she must formally test you to see what your abilities are.

If you pass the test, obviously, you get the next belt. We both know that.

Each belt signifies something. For example, white belt signifies that you are a beginner, while black belt signifies you are very advanced.

TL;DR: Reason we have belt tests is so that instructor can see what your abilities are and wether you can move onto next belt.
 

gpseymour

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Well as far as the next grade's cool stuff, from my experience about 90 percent of what you will use in the martial arts you learn during your first few belts. To this day I would say most of the techniques that I emphasize the most and train in the most are techniques I learned as a white belt. Even the more complex combinations and forms are often just made up of basics that you learn as a beginner. After that, its all a matter of improving what you learned when you first started out. Both a beginner with just a week of training and an experienced practitioner with many years of training are going to know the reverse punch, but the more experienced practitioner will have honed it to a much greater degree of skill and effectiveness. So most of the cool stuff you learn as a beginner, than its just a matter of making it better.
This is as it should be. The basic techniques should be brought out early, and then built upon. In some (maybe all) traditional styles, there are more complex and/or harder techniques and methods taught at higher ranks. These actually build upon principles started earlier (or should, anyway), and often have one or two purposes: having something difficult people must be able to do to qualify for the next rank, and giving folks something new to learn and work on to keep them curious.
 

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Greetings Earthling.

Let me explain why we have belt tests.

Well, think about it this way.

In order for an instructor to know what your abilities are, and, wether you fit the requirements to move onto advanced training, obviously, he/she must formally test you to see what your abilities are.

If you pass the test, obviously, you get the next belt. We both know that.

Each belt signifies something. For example, white belt signifies that you are a beginner, while black belt signifies you are very advanced.

TL;DR: Reason we have belt tests is so that instructor can see what your abilities are and wether you can move onto next belt.
This is the reason many use belt tests, but the bolded/underlined part isn't really accurate. It's possible to assess a student without a formal test. Formal tests are (IMO) the easiest way to make the assessment a bit more objective for some types of assessment, but there are other ways to assess.
 

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This is the reason many use belt tests, but the bolded/underlined part isn't really accurate. It's possible to assess a student without a formal test. Formal tests are (IMO) the easiest way to make the assessment a bit more objective for some types of assessment, but there are other ways to assess.

What are the other ways someone can assess a student without formal test?
 

gpseymour

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What are the other ways someone can assess a student without formal test?
I can watch them in classes, look for mistakes, systematic errors, and their level of progress. It takes longer to see everything I need (I want to evaluate every technique before they progress), but I can gather my information that way. This is how instructors who don't use ranks (something I considered) decide when a student is ready for new material. In BJJ, a common assessment method is simply to see how they fare against the next rank up when rolling. If a blue belt is holding their own with purple belts, he's ready to be a purple belt. That doesn't require formal testing - just noticing folks who are consistently doing pretty well against folks who outrank them.
 

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What are the other ways someone can assess a student without formal test?
Adding on to what gpseymour said, many teachers won’t test a student unless they’re confident the student is ready to promote and capable of passing the test. The only way the student in this scenario will fail is if the student doesn’t take the test seriously, does something truly disrespectful (including not taking the test seriously), gives up during the test, of flat out freezes under the pressure and can’t be brought back. If this is the case, the test isn’t really a test; it’s more of a formality, demonstration, etc.

I’m a school teacher. In a smaller setting (such as not having 100s of students in a lecture hall) I don’t need tests to know where my students are academically and if they’re capable of moving on. It helps, but it’s genuinely overrated. The main purpose it serves is putting an actual number/letter that corresponds to their level of understanding that they and everyone else has access to. I don’t need number/letter grades to know which students are excelling, which ones are average, which ones are lower performing, which ones need extra help now and possibly at the next level, and which ones need to be held back. The grades are realistically for everyone but me; so they can see what I’m seeing without being there every day and so my opinions are justified. There have been a few students who’ve surprised me with their test grades, good and bad, but they’re the exception. And after a test or two, there’s really no surprises anymore.

MA really isn’t much different. Teaching is teaching. So long as you know your students, there’s no real need from an assessment standpoint. The only time I think they’re genuinely needed is if there’s a lot of students and multiple teachers teaching under the same roof. It’s also a great thing to have someone else within the organization test students as a checks and balances thing. My CI is allowed and easily capable of testing us for dan ranks. He has his teacher, which is our organization’s founder do it instead. It keeps the whole process far credible IMO. Not that that doesn’t have its own inherent flaws, but it’s a better way IMO.
 

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True, though I suspect the instructor at a similar school with no ranks will also require improvement of that reverse punch, if it is key.

Well its one thing to improve a reverse punch, its another thing to improve a reverse punch, along with everything else, to a level that would qualify you for an advance in rank.
 

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Well its one thing to improve a reverse punch, its another thing to improve a reverse punch, along with everything else, to a level that would qualify you for an advance in rank.
It is, but again, if those improvements are key, then they'll eventually be part of the expectations someplace where there are no ranks. Generally, the ideal (whether it's well executed or not) is that the ranks are meant to simply be milestones in development, so the requirements are meant to support that development, rather than being arbitrary.
 

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I see what you mean, but for me when Im striving for rank I want to do not just well enough to meet the standards minimally I want to blow them out of the water. Achieving rank is all about meeting certain standards for certain levels that are set by an instructor that you've put your time and trust into. And if Im pursuing rank, while I obviously do want to meet such standards I want to go well beyond them if possible and be the best I can be. And 1st Dan, the first rank represented with a black belt is by no means the end. There's 2nd Dan, 3rd Dan, ect. Some people want to pursue higher Dan ranks. Some people don't care about further rank advancement after making 1st Dan. I've known people who don't care to advance past 3rd Kyu which is represented with a brown belt and then there are those who don't care about rank at all. Whatever rank somebody wants to earn or whether or not a student cares about earning rank is a choice and the way I see it, there is nothing wrong with making whatever choice you want in regards to what rank you want to earn or whether or not you want to earn rank as long as you don't try pushing your choice on others.


Well as far as the next grade's cool stuff, from my experience about 90 percent of what you will use in the martial arts you learn during your first few belts. To this day I would say most of the techniques that I emphasize the most and train in the most are techniques I learned as a white belt. Even the more complex combinations and forms are often just made up of basics that you learn as a beginner. After that, its all a matter of improving what you learned when you first started out. Both a beginner with just a week of training and an experienced practitioner with many years of training are going to know the reverse punch, but the more experienced practitioner will have honed it to a much greater degree of skill and effectiveness. So most of the cool stuff you learn as a beginner, than its just a matter of making it better.


Well the physical black belt is not the actual rank, its a symbol of the rank. If your goal is to have the physical belt around your waist you can simply buy one as people on this forum have suggested. Some of the people have provided links to sources where you can buy belts although such links wouldn't be necessary, all you have to do is google martial arts supplies and find a site that sells belts where you can buy a black belt and put it on.
If your goal is to earn the rank of 1st Dan that's a different story. Earning 1st Dan means meeting standards that are set by an instructor, not wearing a belt that symbolizes that you've met those standards.


I agree in always trying to do stuff better. I also agree in doing stuff not to impress others but to give myself confidence and feel good about myself.


You're not going to acquire rank without chasing improvement provided you're not training at a belt mill. But, like I said before I want to go above and beyond the requirements for rank not just squeak by.


I want to perfect the katas I know now and make them the best possible. When Im ready, my instructor will teach me more. Today he just taught me some new sai techniques.

And Im your age and Im in the best shape ever.
I’m pretty sure we’re 99% on the same page, just different ways of saying it.
 
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