The first thing a student must do to prepare for a rank test is to make a critical assessment of his or her performance as a martial arts student. Assessment should be done with the assistance of your instructor. Your instructor will probably conduct his or her own assessment before recommending you for testing.
What to assess
- Assess your skills. Look at other students who began training at the same time as you. How do you compare? How do your techniques and skills compare with other students of your present rank? Are your techniques and skills nearly as good as students of the rank for which you are testing?
- Assess your strengths and weaknesses. Identify your strengths and build on them. Identify your weaknesses and deal with them, either by trying to improve them or by working around them.
- Assess your expectations. How quickly do you expect to advance in the belt system? The minimum time in rank requirements of your organization will affect the answer to this question. How high do you expect to advance in the belt system? How much time, effort, and money are you willing to devote to training? Due to family, work, health, or other considerations, at what points in time could you reasonably expect to ready for promotions.
- Set goals. Set goals that take your status, abilities, expectations, and time into consideration. Do not set goals that exceed these considerations, or you will fail to reach them.
- Monitor your progress. Each week and month assess your progress at achieving your goals. Adjust your goals, as necessary. Only lower your goals as a last resort.
- Reassessment. Make periodic reassessments of your status.
Sometimes your self-assessment, and the assessment of your instructor, will reveal a cold hard fact. You will not be recommended for advancement and you may never be recommended again. You have reach your highest rank.
The Peter Principle was developed to explain advancement in the business world, but it also applies to martial arts rank advancements. The Peter Principle states that people will advance either to their highest level of competence or to the level of their incompetence. Martial artists get promoted for their skills at their current rank and the expectation that they will be able to learn and perform the skills at next rank.
Most martial artists get promoted to the level of their competence. They can perform the skills of their rank, but they cannot advance any further. Everyone knows that these people can perform the skills of their rank but they also know that these people are not capable of performing the skills of the next rank; they have reached the level of their competence. They are great martial artists at their rank level and are respected for their expertise.
Some martial artists get promoted to the level of their incompetence. They reach a rank where they cannot satisfactorily perform the skills required of that rank so they are never recommended to test for the next rank. They should be reduced to the rank at which they were competent, but this never happens. They are incompetent at their rank level and are not respected by fellow martial artists.
When you have reached your level of competence or incompetence, you have a tough decision to make. Do I continue in the martial art I love and never be promoted again, or do I move on to another endeavor?