We have a lot of students who will be testing soon, so today I’d like to offer some insight into how NWSMA handles rank testing/grading. I’m going to talk generally about the subject and at the end, I’ll offer some thoughts about what every martial arts student can do to make the most of their training.
How students advance through the ranks can be quite different from school to school and style to style. NWSMA instructors aim to tailor our approach to each individual student’s particular capabilities and situation.
At NWSMA, as a student satisfactorily learns the requirements listed on their sheet, we give them colored tape stripes (blue for kicks, yellow for hand techniques, etc). This allows any instructor to see what areas a student needs to work on, and it gives the kids a tangible mark of achievement.
When it comes to actual testing, though, the #1 school rule is that
students are not allowed to ask to be tested. However, they can ask what they need to work on in order to be ready to test. Usually we’ll approach them as they earn all their stripes and set a date for a pre-test.
In other words, we test NWSMA students when we feel they are ready.
What do we look for as students advance? We look for a combination of technical improvement, as well as positive development in attitude and effort. We take into account each students’ age, personality, and life situation.
Our expectations grow as students increase in rank. By the time they are reaching Karate green and brown and Tae Kwon Do brown belts (the belts right before black), we expect consistent 80-100% effort, humble attitudes, and high-quality technique.
Here are some things that everyone can do to work towards their next rank test:
-The road to black belt is long. If it was short, it would lose its meaning. Don’t get discouraged, don’t quit, and be patient with yourself. Rushing it will only cheat yourself out of mastering the basics and developing consistently high-level technique.
-Attend class, both physically and mentally. You get out of martial arts what you put into it. You are in control of yourself, so always put forth your best effort. Instructors can tell who is trying their best and who isn’t. We reward effort, and effort is the best path to developing good technique.
-Read your requirements sheet and know what you need to learn. Memorize your requirements. Ask (before or after class) for help if you are having difficulty.
-Don’t forget your previous requirements. Black belt degree tests are often comprehensive and cover the whole curriculum. You are responsible for practicing at home or requesting to go over old material in class.
-Find your passion for martial arts. Love what you do, or you will be unhappy.
-Don’t forget about other things in your life. We expect our students to be masters of their own lives, whether it’s schoolwork, family obligations, community/church activities, work, or other sports/hobbies.
If that all seems hard, good!
A tough path to a goal gives you a chance to become better. Your instructors are there to help you through, give you feedback, and to acknowledge your achievements.