Taking a black belt test

Joel Winograd looks at the underlying meaning of black belt testing

When should you  take a test for any degree of black belt? A student should attempt to find a balance between himself and  the dojang community. He should consider his efforts, spirit and techniques when making this decision. She should also consider the example set by  her choice of  when to test. There is a natural tension between choosing to test  before feeling ready and choosing not to test until 'perfect'.  Neither is to be desired. A sincere effort to find the right balance is a hallmark of a serious practitioner. In choosing to test, the student is making an invitation to scrutiny. This is best done after consultation with one's peers and seniors.

The promotion test is a public demonstration and a demand to meet both public and private expectations. These expectations are those of the judging panel, your seniors, your juniors, your instructor(s), the audience, and yourself. Technique and spirit are challenged, both by the judges and the candidate. The candidate must be of open mind, ready and eager to learn from the experience of testing. Testing is a chance to show personal growth of the past and in the present.

Fear often accompanies us to a test. While uncomfortable, this fear can be valuable. First, it helps to minimize self-deception, for fear comes from the  awareness of incompleteness.  By practicing with perseverance and indomitable spirit we can translate this discomfort into improvement. This is our Do.

Advancement in black belt degree is a combination of relative and absolute requirements. The student's progress in the spiritual and  intellectual planes are crucial to the absorption of true martial art. Yet, technique must meet a recognizable standard also. Necessary elements include completeness, correct execution, centering and mental/physical integration.

The fundamental reason to test is to take advantage of an opportunity to grow and develop both as a martial artist and as a  well-rounded human being. We mature both as an individual and as a member of multiple communities. In doing so, our  test can teach and inspire others.

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Last update: 06/07/2016