How do you test at your school?

My experiences with belt testing in HKD and TKD were so similar, I didn't think anyone did it any other way. But, I'm learning now that some schools have vastly different testing styles. Obviously, I'm talking about lower rank testing, instead of tests for BB or mastery.

In TKD and HKD, there was a definite curriculum you learned, and when you felt you had sufficient mastery, you could ask to test. Sometimes, you were told you weren't ready. Tests were scheduled events and you could even have someone come watch, if you wanted. The tests themselves were very disciplined. Everyone quiet as students were called forward either alone or in groups and told to run through some portion of the curriculum. You might even have to answer some questions. In the end, you were either given a belt or not. This seems pretty standard to me.

In judo, there was none of this. Sensei would just get really picky with me during one class. He would tell me to run through a wide variety of throws fairly quickly. He would grill me on the names of throws or holds other people were doing. There was no warning or indication that you were being tested. At the end of class, he'd hand you a new belt in front of everyone.

In Eagle Claw (my fiance's school), you're told when you're going to test. The test itself is very informal, but no outsiders are allowed. Students mill around, work on forms, chat, and stretch, while individuals are called into a corner to be tested one by one on their forms. A couple of days later, they're tested on fighting. At the end of the fighting, you're told if you passed.

In arnis, I was given no warning. I was called to stand in front of everyone during class and run through my strikes, counters, and drills. Then, I was given a WRITTEN test of 20 questions. Afterward, no word on whether I passed. That was two weeks ago. Last night, I asked my instuctor if I passed and he laughed. Everyone laughed. One of the students informed me that after you test, it's often a month or more before you're told it you passed. Why? No clue.

So, do you know when you're going to test? Do you even know when you're being tested? Is it a formal event, or just a knowledge check? Do you find out results right away, or is your teacher completely insane like mine?

Kendo. Formal testing couple of time a year in front of a panel. One basic drill of several strokes, plus minute, minute-and-a-half of fighting. If you pass that, you do kata. If you pass that, you're in.

Do they tell you when you're ready to test, you decide, or everyone has to take it?
Do people show up to watch your tests, or are they closed? I never got rank in kendo, so I never tested.
I imagine it's a little like judo, in that you have to beat people of your rank or higher to qualify.

It just struck me that we often debate what a certain rank means from art to art, but we don't really discuss what you go through to get those ranks.

Well, sometimes you'll be told, but there's also the feeling that when you're eligible, you should show up. Even if you're not ready and you fail, you get a lot of feedback on what you need to be working on.

You don't have to win like in judo for rank, just demonstrate that you're consistently playing at the level for which you're going. They get progressively harder. The top spot - 8th dan - is harder to get than the Japanese bar exam. Fact!

I think that you are on double secret probation for two months. :-)

See the difference is some schools test to get rank and test again. That was the way it was with me in most of my later years in TKD. Most people needed a reason to come back to get a BB. Tesitng was done that way and some schools make a profit of that thinking even now. It was in the early 1990's but I kind knew better but it was not my place to say. I was 4th degree and my instructor is fifth so what ever he said was the law. Now in Judo on the other hand you test when he says your ready and we happen to have some amazing colored belts in the Judo Club that placed in the Arnolds a few weeks back.

I have a 4th kyu in judo. I tested for 5th and 4th. But I've also tried to win it at the promotional shiai. Haven't quite pulled it off, but come close!

In my direct experience:

Karate school #1 (member of reasonably-sized regional organisation): all gradings for all schools done by the chief instructor at regular intervals. Set time between gradings. The instructor didn't know you so it was all how you performed on the grading. No set syllabus for the grading (although you knew the general format).

Karate school #2 (member of small regional organisation): all gradings for all schools done by the chief instructor at regular intervals. Set time between gradings. Set syllabus for grading. For 1st dan and higher, the chief instructor knew you personally and would often surprise you with a grading when he knew you were ready, so it was somewhat of a foregone conclusion.

Karate school #3 (member of major international organisation): For under 1st kyu, gradings done by national grading officers, who probably didn't know you so it was all down to the grading. Set syllabus. Set time between gradings. For 1st kyu and up, the 10th Dan from Japan grades you. He doesn't know you and it's all down to the grading.

Kickboxing school - school instructor did the grading when you were ready (although the minimum times were specified). Set syllabus.

Combat ju-jitsu - school instructor did the grading when you were ready (although the minimum times were specified). Set syllabus.

In Capoeira, it's like a mini Carnaval. There are usually 10 Mestres from Brazil that come to graduate, or what we call "baptize" new students into Capoeira, and graduate current students up to the next cord level. There are also other Capoeira groups present during the Batizado (baptism), so you usually have anywhere from 100-300 people showing up to support another school's testing.

There is a week full of workshops where Mestres instruct courses in particular areas or styles of Capoeira (Angola or Regional). Since Capoeira is also a cultural art, there are music classes, Samba and Batucada classes as well. There are question and answer forums with the Mestres where eveyone has a chance to ask questions from some of the most recognized Mestres in the world.

On Friday night and Saturday afternoon, there are open rodas (demonstrations/games) for Capoeira. Sometimes there are so many people, we have 2-3 rodas going at the same time. During the evening, we have a huge party at a Churrascaria (Brazilian BBQ) at a restaurant, or, we have it catered. It's also party night when all the Brazilian hunnies come out and get freaky. That's my favorite part of the Batizado week!

On Sunday afternoon, we have the graduation ceremony. Because there are spectators and students, we usually have to rent a huge venue to accomodate everyone. The Batizado lasts about 4 hours, but time goes by fast. One by one, students enter the roda with Mestres to test. At my last batizado, I had to fight 3 Mestres in the roda for my cord. I survived for a while, but eventually had my ass handed to me.

Then, my instructor came in and just kicked my ass. He took me to the ground with a wicked double leg. What's cool is, no one gets pissed, it's all in good fun and it's an awesome opportunity to meet people from all over the world.