I’m frequently asked “When will little ‘Johnny’ test?” I have many thoughts on testing but never enough time to share them! Coming up through the ranks myself I was always taught that it was rude to ask to test. I personally struggle with letting go of that mindset as asking to test feels akin to asking someone to buy you a gift, it’s a little “off”. I’ve always had this dream of having everyone throw away their belts and we just TRAIN! It wouldn’t fly in today’s society but it’s good to have dreams. Wouldn’t it be great just to focus on what might save your life someday and what will definitely improve your life?
Earning a new colored belt is nothing more than an outward symbol of the training you’ve completed. Focus should be on the training and not the belt. The training is what really matters. The colored belt is not the only goal or even the most important goal. It’s in the same manner that earning black belt is not the end of the journey, It’s just the beginning. It signifies that you’ve committed yourself, worked hard and become highly skilled in the basic techniques. It is time to really step up and help other realize their potential… but, I digress.
So what holds a student back from testing?
- Not knowing the material. I personally do not let students test until they’ve shown mastery of the required material in class.
- Time in rank. Occasionally we have students who are able to learn the material quickly but there is a time in rank requirement. True mastery takes time and repetition. Would you want to fly with a pilot who successfully flew one time? Nope.
- Behavior & Character play a role as well. Does your student disrupt class or interrupt the instructor while teaching? Is he/she disrespectful to the instructors or other students? I do not test students until improvement is shown in behavior/character. I’ve had parents ask me not to test their kids because of behavior problems at school and home. Since being a martial artist is a lifestyle not just another activity on the calendar I’m comfortable with waiting to test someone if their behavior outside of the dojo doesn’t match up with the requirements inside the dojo. Teaching someone to fight has to come with appropriate behavior and increased character.
- Age. A students age plays a big part. Our 4 and 5 year old students take longer to learn the material. This is to be expected and is consistent with their expected gross and fine motor skills. Older adult students sometimes take longer too due to injury and the time it takes to recover from workouts or meet physical requirements.
- Physical or Cognitive Disability. Students with disabilities often show amazing heart for the martial arts! They can take longer to achieve their goals but DO achieve them in time!
- Doing the bare minimum. If you only attend your class (and show up late), don’t practice at home, skip seminars and free special classes, don’t do tournaments and don’t make up missed classes it stands to reason that you will not advance as fast as someone who takes advantage of the extra training opportunities. Being a martial artist is a lifestyle not just another activity to fill your schedule. That said, not everyone can do all the special events and we know that. Just be patient with yourself (and your child) and know you won’t advance as quickly as someone who is able to make the special events and that is OK.
There is one other thing about belt testing I’d like to express. I think it’s important for all students to attend belt exams even if they are not testing. First, they are showing support to their training partners. It will be their turn soon enough. Second, if a child can learn to be happy for other people’s success at an early age instead of being jealous or indifferent they are learning to have a positive mindset. What a difference that can make! Third, there is learning to be had just by being present. Lastly, we always need fresh fighters at belt tests. Most of our students love sparring and making sure that other students “earn” their rank.
Earning your rank is not a race! It is a personal journey and not a competition with anyone else. Take time and enjoy the journey. Sensei will let you know when you are ready to test.