Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is well known for its instructors giving belts to their students without a testing process. In many schools a student shows up one day and gets a surprise in front of the class by being awarded his next belt. I should know, I used to do this with my students. I now test each and every student for their belts.
“The following is my experience only and should not be taken as how I feel about other instructors. So don't get all bent out of shape. “
Here are the problems NOT TESTING caused ME (you might be feeling this way as a student too).
1. A number of students would continually get angry and resentful when a student they deemed not worthy of a new belt got one. They didn’t outwardly show it but behind the scenes they wondered why I gave the other person one when they tapped that guy out or he didn’t win a tournament and they did, especially if they had been there longer than the one getting the new belt. The backbiting was amazing.
2. Unhappy students questioned my standards behind what I thought was a blue belt or a purple belt.
3. They thought that the guys who were my buddies got a belt quicker than they did. In other words, I played favorites. Not the case, but I lost a number of promising students because of this.
4. No one knew the same material in the school. Their foundation had holes in it.
5. Students felt like they were doing their very best but didn’t know the criteria for advancement causing them to get discouraged easily.
6. Injuries went up because they felt they had to tap people in order to show they were worthy of advancement. Death Matches were rampant.
7. People took getting tapped out as personal failure and thought it would hurt their chances for advancement. They never tried or shared new moves because winning was required to get noticed. Everyone’s ego was on the line.
8. Many students questioned whether they deserve the new belt once they got it because they didn’t know what they knew. They had no reference.
Here is what’s good about NOT TESTING for ME (I'm not proud of this):
1. I got a lot of control over people and they did what I told them because of fear I would withhold a promotion.
2. I could be lazy and not have to make people understand the details about the techniques. They would never have to show them back to me.
3. I didn’t have to keep attendance because it was based on you tapping everyone or winning tournaments. Advancement wasn’t based on coming to class. I didn’t even know how many classes you attended.
4. If I thought a high ranking student was going to leave because he felt he wasn’t getting promoted fast enough I had an option to surprise him with a belt promotion and he would stay.
5. I could give belts at tournaments to reward you and to show what an able and benevolent instructor I was to the world.
6. Many students actually got promoted faster because they were athletic or had a wrestling background and could power their way to submissions. Maybe they had a great night and I was in a really great mood so let’s bring up the moral of the school with a promotion.
The following is what I do now. It’s not perfect but It works great for me and it's very fair for students.
1. You have to have a certain amount of hours of training for “most” students to be “eligible” to test. The more you come to class the faster you can test.
2. Since Attendance is important, I now know when you do and don’t come to class. I call you if I don’t see you. This way you know I care about your training.
3. You have to know basic moves for each belt level and you have to show them AT a high level or you fail. It’s called “a standard of performance.”
4. We are a self defense school first and a competition school second, so if you “choose” to be a competitor you can get striped (yes I stripe) faster at my discretion because I do feel that competition is important for you to find out what you’re made of. If you choose not to compete then you go strictly by hours of training. Everyone tests for a new belt though!
5. This is where I come in. If I feel your technique is not good enough or you don’t know the material but you have enough hours I let you know that you won’t test until you improve. Just because you can tap people out with your athleticism doesn’t mean you are ready for your next belt. I let excess hours transfer to your next belt once you do receive it.
6. I also have better quality instructors who know what they should be teaching in class. We are all on the same page.
7. I find that the more a student comes to class the more skill he gets and the more he taps people out. It's an amazing discovery.
I have very limited back biting, clearly defined goals for promotion, a way for competitors to progress faster then non competitors, students that are motivated to attend class, less injury, people who are not afraid to try new things and I insure that everyone has a proper foundation thus creating a better and happier student.*
The only real downside to this is that some people who want to get promoted super quickly might leave to another instructor who doesn’t test and will promote them faster. I don’t really care because I’m trying to create masters of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and not some dudes with black belts.
Could you see Harvard ,Yale or a Military Academy graduate people with no testing or curriculum standards? The Dean just walks up one day and says..You are ready to graduate? Do you really want your next belt without meeting any kind of preset concrete, in writing standard? I guess only you can answer that.
*Keith Owen Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu recently won the Team Title at the Northwest Submission Challenge held here in Boise Idaho.
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